By Kieron Gillen on September 18th, 2009 at 9:37 pm.
Violence, treachery, controversy, cheese-on-cocktail sticks. You can be sure of all of the above if you put two teams of Skaven on the same Blood Bowl pitch. We got it all, but doubled up on the controversy and left the cheesy nibbles behind.
More’s the pity.
Before we get to all the on-pitch horror, a quick plug. If you bought the game with its release now, and are interested in joining one of the new RPS leagues, they’re currently recruiting in the forums. The first has been filled, but another is filling up now. Part of me suspects there may end up being a third, depending. And I double-double stress, while it’s clear I like the game a lot, do remember the down-sides I’m talking about. If I didn’t like the core game as much as I do, I wouldn’t be as forgiving as a lot of the elements. I haven’t even done the Tackle Zone Rant yet.
Anyway – Unlucky 13 and their coach Axler. They’re unknown to me. I haven’t played Axler before. They’re a newish team – not totally inexperienced, but nowhere as near as skilled as the Blighters. This should abstractly be a walkover. There’s a couple of things which put me off thinking that. Firstly, over-confidence kills. Secondly, Axler is actually third in the league before we play the game. He’s won matches. He clearly knows what he’s doing.
The Unlucky 13 are an interesting team too. He’s developed them far less Gutter-runner-centrically than I have – which implies that he’s been playing them smarter than I was in the earlier days. He’s also named most of them amusingly. Rabies is the star Stormvermin, who has Mighty Blow (In short: Good for hurting people) and Guard (In short: Good for letting other people hurt people), which suggests a certain brawling style. There’s two more injured stars – Stormvermin Typhoid and two-headed Gutter-runner Syphiylis, which saddens me, because I won’t be able to write “I managed to catch Syphilis” in this write up. The other two star Gutter Runners are The Brothers Scratcha (Ball and Arse, who have agility 5 and Wrestle respectively). The former I expect to be a runner, and the latter a safety of some kind. Finally, there’s Bubonic Plague, the star thrower, who’s picked up Accuracy, implying a little more attention to moving the ball aerially than me.
What to expect? A little more violence? Some manner of aerial game? All I know is that it’ll be fast, because when you have 22 skaven on a pitch, the game fucking motors.
I’m right on all counts.
He gets just shy of 670,000 gold on inducements, which he spends on mercenaries, re-rolls and – important for the course of the future game – referee bribes. He loses the toss and kicks to me. I try to steal a quick one. My Wrestler Lhytz drags a hole for Nurgut to run through, deep into the half. Despite a little support, a block comes in and ends up in Nurgut getting knocked down… and killed. In the first turn, I’m forced to use my apothecary re-roll, which ends up in giving a serious injury, meaning he’d miss the game. I have to play the rest of the game without the luxury of any cushion against decapitation. Erk.
Ball bounces of play, and is thrown to the far left by the crowd and retrieved by the Unlucky 13. He cages on the half-way line and safety-gutter-runner Stricut goes in and punches the ball free, which goes out of touch again. This time it gets thrown towards the touchline, which allows Sneek to retrieve the ball and run it in. It’s a two turn touchdown, despite the turnovers. That’s a Skaven game for you.
I set up aggressively and roll a lucky perfect kick to his bottom field. Bubonic Plague does something that completely puzzles me – rather than working forward, he runs towards his own touchline. Isn’t that a touch risky? The melee in the center kicks off, with some brutalisation on the left. That said, my macho Linesrat Rhiite Wring manages to get a scalp for his belt and Sneek uses his extra-speed to actually reach – though not attack – Bubonic Plague.
It doesn’t matter. He dodges around it and passes it beautifull upfield, only for the Gutter-runner to have a bad moment and drop the ball. Stormvermin Kreeite Wring retrieves it and leads the charge back up field, managing to get the ball in. 2-0.
I kick again, though without my kicker – because he had his head kicked in. The ball ends much nearer the centre-line this time… but Bubonic Plague still runs back away from me. I finally realise what the tactic is. You can throw once and pass off once in a turn. So if you have someone on the half way line, someone half-way into my half and someone at the baseline, you can chain the moves so the ball heads from one end to the other. You need to be able to throw and able to hand of – and since he’s got a better thrower, it’s less of a risk. I try to counter, catching the thrower before he can throw, but the rolls fall apart. I turn over, and then Sneek takes a fist to the head. Or, perhaps, through his head, because he dies. Scorer-and-speedster, the youngest rat on the team Sneek is the first of the Gutter Runners to suffer a fatality. I barely notice when the ball’s ran in.
The match goes even darker. With two turns until the half, I receive the kick and punch through to the left, setting up a pocket on the right to defend. But before I can actually advance the ball there, I hit the end-turn. Once again, I pray to Khorne for a bloody revenge to whoever at Cyanide who thought the idea of floating that button over the playing area was a good idea.
Axler offers to end his turn. I say no. Before I can explain why, he ends his turn without moving anyone. It’s the last turn in the half, so I calmly move the ball forward, hand-off and run the ball in.
WTF? asks Axler, understandably.
“I said you shouldn’t move anyone you’ve already moved in the turn you ended” he said (I paraphrase).
I say… well, I didn’t agree to it. In fact, I didn’t even understood what he had meant. I don’t know what I’d have done if I had saw it. Me not to move anyone I hadn’t already moved would be ending the half with giving up my chance to score. I’d rather he had took his turn, because there was a chance I could have got the goal. By paralyzing my players for another turn, that was gone.
On the other hand, it was a generous act. As the half ends – with Rat Ogre John Walker getting a gouged eye, so missing the next match – I try to offer a compromise. It ends up with me letting his team to run in a touchdown in a couple of turns, bringing the score to 3-2 in turn 10.
Who was right? I don’t know. I suspect no-one was in the wrong, except the person who put the button there. Who is very wrong indeed.
The kick is hilariously short – as are the number of competent players I actually have on my side, I realise, as every single able vermin is on the pitch. It’s retrieved by Stricut, and thrown a whole square which – even with a re-roll – the high-agility Gutter-runner manages to drop (It’s meant to be a 1-in-36 chance, but is it really? My betailed posterior). Herpes gets the ball, but Stricut – who’s working really hard this match – strips it from him, allowing the two-headed Lhuit to retrieve it. The strength-one hero gets blocked by a chain of six people, none of who manage to bring him down. He zooms to the other side of the pitch, picking up a couple of protective guards.
Axler’s turn ends when someone’s tripped earlier, and I’m in the position to score. I’m hungry for blood though – there’s so many hurt skaven, it’s getting embarassing – so throw some punches before I do so. Greed doesn’t pay as a linesrat breaks his own ribs when starting a fight, allowing the Lucky 13 defence to catch up with my attack. They fail to get the ball, but I end up having to hand-off the ball back to Lhuit – he’d given it a linerat the turn before, so he could get the glory – so the nippy chap could show off his nimble skills. Still 4-2.
The delay actually was probably for the best – it ate a little more off the clock, as Lucky 13 receive the ball on what’s probably going to be last drive of the game. He’s only got one turn to claw back a score and – through a series of blocks which he uses to indirectly push his gutter runner near enough my goal to run and score, would have pulled it off if it wasn’t for a failed pass not ending up the ball.
Whistle blows. It’s 4-2 to the Blighters… but 5-2 to the Unlucky 13 in terms of ratling pain.
The luck division was interesting to watch – any injury rolls, he did spectacularly. Any rolls other than injuries, he faltered. To give an idea of how badly the Blighters were hammered, before I advance my players, the team value is 1310. At the beginning of the match, it was 1810. He’s dropped me 500 points in hurtage. Still, the fragile-yet-fabulous Lhuit hits level 5, making him a star, and picking up Sure Hands – as I feel I need someone better at retrieving the ball. Oh – and I hire a Gutter Runner to fill the hole caused when Sneek got buried in a hole. After this bashing, I decide I have to toughen up. Kreeite Wring, Strormvermin Scorer, finally hits level 2, picking up Guard and the already-strong Rhiite Wring picks up block, basically turning him into a strong, slow Blitzer.
I regret those choices when I have a glance of the team roster of who’s next. It’s the Wood Elf Green Mist and they’re really not the skills I should have brought.