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The RPS Cup: The Raging Naturists

It's on.

The Raging Naturists versus the Blighters is the final game in the season. Unlucky 13 beat Kermit's Wonder Brigade 2-1. It's a Skull hammered the goblin Jokerz 3-1. And the Darker Red Tide conceded to the Green Mist, giving a standard 2-0 scoreline. The Red Tide, as the season has progressed, has had increasing problems with connectivity, beyond their ability to actually tweak with their router to fix themselves. In other words, anyone who plays them gets a free 2-0 win. To be honest, it's a little annoying. I had to fight for my own win, y'know?

Anyway – before the final match happens, this is what the league looks like...

Hmm. The order of the races doesn't exactly say much about the balance between the bashy and the not bashy.

I'm in fourth. If I win, I actually win the league. If I lose, I stay in fourth. If I draw... well, I'm not actually sure where I end up, because the game never mentions what ties are decided on. Looking around, the best opinion I could find was saying it's actually arranged not by goal difference – as you may expect – but Team Value. In that case, since my team-value – artificially depressed by injuries - will rocket when my injured gutter-runners return to play, it may still mean I come fourth. That said, the Mist and the Unlucky 13 have drawn TVs and the game's found a way to put them in first and second. So God knows.


Let's have a look at the Naturists.

Hello! I'm John Walker! Can I be Your friend?

My initial feeling is crushing disappointment with my peers. This team of agreeably hurtable elves have come all the way through a season with barely any stat-effecting injuries. What were people doing to them? Letting them stand up for more than two minutes at a time? On the other hand, the team – while highly developed – don't have many stat bonuses. Which may be lucky, because his team are grotesque anyway.

He's clearly stressed his Wardancers more than the Green Mist. Thatyth is his star, with Strip Ball, Tackle, Sure Hands and Dauntless. That means... well, he's an ideal ball retriever, able to go into a melee and have a really good chance of getting the ball off pretty much anyone. Mahtalyth is of a similar build, but with an extra move, Strip Ball and Tackle. The Catchers are also impressive skill players. Heven has Sidestep, Block and Sure hands – all of which means he's hard to get the ball off. Sidestep hasn't turned up in an opponent yet significantly, but means that rather than the enemy choosing in which direction you're pushed after a block, you get to choose. In other words, he's hard to push off the pitch or move to a place where someone else can hammer him. Elvanfel is another Catcher build, favouring speed over defences, as he's able to sprint an extra square, with a free re-roll on the inevitable Go-For-It roll (GFI). Amalendil is the team's thrower, but relatively inexperienced compared with the men up front, only having Accurate and Leader (A free team-re-roll) on him.

The rest of the skilled players are the Linesmen, who all seem to have gone for Guard. This means... well, in blocking, the person gets a bonus to their strength from every player standing adjacent to the target who hasn't got an enemy in their own area. In other words, if someone's marked, they don't get to help you hammer someone else. Guard removes that, meaning that you alwaysget the bonus of their presence, making them really good at supporting one another. Abstractly, my team is fightier than the Elves, but it really does depend on how much the Guard Skill come into play. The only joy is that their only player missing the game is a star Linesman with Block as well as Guard, who I'm sure would be the core of their line.

So, he's got 14 fieldable players from a roster of 15. I've got 10 who can play from a roster of 13. I buy a linesrat before the match, taking me to 11: Lucky Jim Rossignol, enter stage left. Your hour has come.

In short, I may be screwed.

Ah, caging. I remember when I never bothered with that. It was the glorious days when I HAD FOUR GUTTER RUNNERS I COULD PLAY

Well, yeah. In other ways, it could be a lot worse. Stricut the safety may be out, but his Strip Ball skill is actually useless against a team with so many players with Safe Hands. Instead, Wrestler Lhtzh will play the safety, paired with Stormvermin Kreeite Wrig positioning himself with Guard to make sure I'm rolling more dice. Wrestle is something which can bring down any elf, no matter how fancy his skills, at the cost of no chance of hurting either party.

Which I don't care about, as the second they're down, every Skaven within scuttering distance is going to steam over and make elf pate with excitable stomping. I have a Dirty Player ready to lead the charge – and I know I'll have enough money to bribe the ref to overlook some of this foul play.

What else? Well, Lhuit – the only Gutter Runner remaining – will try and position deep in his half for inevitable breaks, hoping that Janek actually takes pity on this lonely figure. I'll be hiring 3 mercenary Gutter Runners for the match, which will mean my usual sort of tactics will mostly work, if not nearly as flamboyantly. Well... if I slow down a little. I'm aware that Janek winds me up as a player. He's very careful in terms of risk taking. That his thrower is still relatively unskilled says a lot about him – Janek simply hasn't thrown the ball much, where the Green Mist's one was a star. He's so careful to the point where our previous matches I've found myself taking more risks than even I would normally, just as a philosophical statement. This has been a major contributor to losing every match against the team.

I'm not going to do that this time. I can't afford risks. I'm going to play a little bashier and slower than usual, and try and maximise my one big strength advantage I have. Literally big. Yes, John Walker is on the pitch and Hentzau mentioned that Janek was asking after his living/unliving status throughout our previous match. In other words, Janek is scared of him. I actually think he's more scared of him than he should be – and plan to take advantage of that. By positioning him a little out in the open, I think I can attract more of the team to him than really should go there.

That's all I got. Take it slow. Lock down the team. Win the game. And if I can't win the game, take home a Wardancer's head as a consolation trophy.

But there's a twist I wasn't expecting as I take to the field. I get a hefty 500,000 gold to buy things. I'm horrified to see that I can't actually buy any Gutter Runners Mercenaries, because even though my three Runners are lying in Skaven Hospital, I've got the maximum of four in my roster. We check the actual real Blood Bowl rules after the match and... yeah, you totally are meant to be able to hire people to cover your gaps. When teams are designed with those hard limits on certain positions for a reason of balance – i.e. The Skaven are meant to be played with 4 GRs – stopping me doing that is... well, it's painful. My Skaven offence is basically one, strength-1 guy. I buy a couple of linesmen and march off to war.

Between Cyanide and Hentzau fucking over my team, my normally cheerily optimistic disposition takes as much of a beating as the Blighters themselves.

I don't know why I always do a grab of the starting line-ups.

I receive the kick, wanting to try and get the first chance of a goal. With no speed any more, I can't play a chasing game at all. Also, if I dawdle a little, I decrease the chance of him being able to score before the halftime. Also, by the time he get to receive a kick, I may have beaten up a whole lot of elves.

It starts brutally, with an Lineself getting KOed and another injured. Lhuit is taken to the floor by Wardancer Mahtalyth, foreshadowing the game – the elves tackle negates a lot of Lhuit's skills. But still – I've managed to cage on the half-way line. The stars get hammered. Lhuit takes another nasty block, leading to an injury. I spend my Apothecary, as I can't afford him to be out for the match. I'm lucky enough to pull it off. At the same time, Thatyth – positioning lurking around my cage – gets tackled, and the whole cage moves to see if his head comes off. An injury, which he also luckily negates with the Apothecary. He hasn't a safety net now. From now on in, whatever injuries turn up, stick.

I've left my Rat Ogre away from the cage and, yes, Janek takes the bait. There's less people on the right where I'll be trying to punch through. The Stormvermin goes in, but I hit at the wrong place, getting the Catcher with the Side-step. This means he can move him to not open a hole. I advance the cage as much as I can, just within striking distance of the endzones.

Blows are exchanged ineffectually, and I can see the score. My ball-carrying catcher darts forward, and hands off to my Storm-vermin. I have the re-rolls to spare, so there's a 75% chance of him pulling this off. Then the Stormvermin blitzes the hole and runs in to score.

That hand-off fails, and Catcher Heven retrieves the ball, darting down the pitch, clear of almost all my line. Lhkitt manages to get back to him, but fails his block. He's bashed away and the Catcher moves elegantly in. Turn 6. 1-0, Elves.

(At which point, worth mentioning something that's been added in the new patch. It now says how many turns each player has played rather than just having one number, which is handy, as something that's tripped everyone up at least once.)

This isn't actually of the elves scoring but ganging up on a Wardancer. It was just a moment which put a smile on my face and I thought I'd share. YES.

Kick goes really, really, really deep. I work out a rough tactic for a 2-turn touchdown – basically it needs Lhuit a few squares forward from the half-way line, and standing at the beginning of my next turn. Well, he won't be standing in this turn, because of the amount of tackling elves around. On my eighth turn, I've no way to score, with a lot of elves deep in my half. I do something which I'm not sure is genius or impressive stupidity, and head my thrower back to my line, hoping that when the Elves get in, he and the ball go into the crowd and gets thrown on somewhere awkward. In fact, almost everywhere would be awkward and probably unscoreable. The Dancer arrives and just pushes him back, which keeps him on the pitch and the score-line remains at the 0-1.

I have to kick off to the Elves. Bar that hand-off, I've done okay at keeping the ball. The problem becomes how to get the ball off any of his specialists, as I simply don't have the staff. I kick deep, he dresses left and moves forward, KOing Lhuit. Good bye, Star! When your offence really is one person, moments like this prove somewhat embarrassing. The fouling continues in my turn, and a Frenzied John Walker rolls terribly badly, ending my turn. This is an active screw up, as my defence wasn't in position and the catcher can sprint in for a goal. It's totally 2-0.

He doesn't sprint in. This is Janek at his most conservative, and I think it could cost him. Because my wrestler is just in range. A Stormvermin can go in as a support. That's a two dice block, plus an available re-roll, trying to get... well, the chance is 80% that he's going down. Janek swapped (roughly) an 80% chance of a goal for an 20% chance of one. My thrower is nearby and able to retrieve the ball and move it back up field. This is a genuine chance for a splendid break. Hell, if I was feeling risky, I could be a couple of squares from his endzone if this turns up right...

Turns up wrong!

The Catcher dodges in and it's 2-0. Things are looking grim.

Elves. Or 'cunts' as they're more commonly known.

I prepare to receive the kick. Lhuit remains knocked out. And a couple of Blood Bowl's odder faults catch my eye. Janek's complaining that all his sounds has turned off. And I'm trying to work out if there's a way to turn down sound in game, as I'm trying to listen to music... but the options menu appears to be unavailable. Also, I'm forcing Janek to sit through the between-score cut-scenes, because if you're typing in the chat window when a cut-scene starts, you're unable to skip it. God damn us for trying to talk to each other.

The ball hangs high in the air. And... the dice have turned up a blitz, meaning the Elves get a free turn. Mahtalyth takes advantage, punching through my lines and delivering a hefty biff to my thrower. His team's own kick ends up in his own hands.

So that's what that feels like.

The wrestler goes in and takes him down, but the ball ends up in the hands of a rat who's already moved, meaning I can't start to advance. I form a tiny cage deep in my half, and the elves descend, stripping the ball loose. I'm thinking of literally giving up scoring and just stomping on the wardancers who are lying down... but I'd really like something on the score-line. The KOs are mounting elsewhere, and a wardancer goes down to one. Pressure mounts and it goes a little crazy, with a series of blocks ending up in the hands of people who've already moved until – finally - there's a break when an elf catcher fails a pick up. There's now enough rats downfield to actually arrange a defence, KOing the Catcher then pressing forward through a thinly populated pitch. Barely anyone is left standing. It's the last march of the Blighters.

The Thrower keeps the ball, heading within a scoring distance on the penultimate turn, the elves all being man-marked by the remaining Skaven – a task John Walker proves adept at with his prehensile tail. The only elf who's really within striking range gets blocked by Walker... but he fails a wild animal role. I choose not to re-roll it, but there's another momentary oddity. It says I need a 4+ to make the acttack. Well... no. For the wild animal of the Rat Ogre, which makes him somewhat unreliable, for a block, you need 2+ . It's only something not needing hyperviolence you need a 4+ on. Sounds like some manner of bug. I choose not to re-roll, saving it for the final turn, but am aware that if this remaining chap takes down my thrower, I'm going to be jolly cross indeed.

He doesn't. I'm left looking at the pitch, considering revenge blocks... but realising that risking the gods anymore would be foolish. The Thrower runs it in for a touchdown. And there's celebration and groaning from the elves, depending on whether they're standing up or not.

These chap's celebrations will be somewhat muted.

John Walker's the man of the match, and improves his skills, picking up the ever-handy block. He did do well, both in terms of pummeling the opposition and in terms of attracting attention. Well Done, John Walker. In the game! Only in the game!

The team value is back to 1910 and I end the season in fourth.

It's an interesting match. There's enough iffy rolls in it for me to see that I really wasn't the complete disaster that I was suspecting. Those two 75-80% failures would have (respectively) lead to a score by me and a stopping an (immediate) score by Janek. The first one especially would have lead to a game with a very different character. Elves chasing is a different thing from Elves leading. On the other hand, there's a couple of moments from Janek which could have turned the match – the thrower resolutely resisted being pushed into the crowd was clearly frustrating for him, though neither of them were TERMINAL SCORING MOVE positions. And while I didn't have much luck with actual injury rolls, I did as well with my fouls as Hentzau did to me – as in, the red stayed out the way and I didn't even use my bribe. And I think we both learned a lot about skills we've overlooked – Tackle in my case and Wrestling in his.

(My advice for anyone fighting him in future? Get a couple of wrestlers and do a one-two system I tried. Take him down and then foul. It's the only way to make sure the elves stay still long enough to meet Mr Fist.)

Mostly though, I regret trying that first handoff. I actually had the edge in a straight fight and – if I could turn back time – I would have advanced even slower and bashier. By the end of the match, I'd thinned him out considerably. If there were less recoveries from KO, it'd have been even worse. If any of the Wardancers decided to stay out of the match after I put them down... well, interesting, y'know? In the end though, the Skaven instincts proved too strong and I was unable to slow down as much as I required. And the play which lead to getting that catcher through to the position where I failed that 80% block was embarrassing. I suspect he'd have punched through anyway, but I didn't have to make it so easy for him.

But really, 2-1 is a perfectly acceptable score. This was Rocky 1 rather than Rocky 2. The Blighters did me proud.

Well, bar this guy, whose failure to pick up the ball is going to get him set on fire. Yeah, you scored that last goal, but that doesn't let you keep breathing privileges.

I'd like to end and say that I'll get my revenge in the next season, but I suspect my schedule in the next month or so is so packed that I don't have time to put towards playing organised games. In which case, the Blighters retire from the league, highly defeated unchampions.

They will, of course, be lurking around the Public League, looking for random revenge matches against all comers. Because – really – the Blighters matches are always gloriously random.

Congrats to Janek's victorious Raging Naturists and all the members of the league. You were glorious, noble opponents, except for Hentzau, who was a glorious ignoble opponent.

For those who are about to block, I salute you.

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Blood Bowl

Xbox 360, PSP, PC, Nintendo DS

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Kieron Gillen


Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.