Welcome back to another season of… no, wait, that’s the wrong script.
In the last post on the subject, I gave forth on my various failings at tabletop Blood Bowl, and attempted to lay out my love-hate relationship with this veteran’s choice board-game-you-can-paint. I may have mentioned that I am helplessly and utterly addicted to the computerised version of the game, which I (just about manage to) play on my (barely adequate for the task) netbook.
Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition is more addictive than it should be. Technically it’s an exercise in applied frustration. The AI cheats like a mad cheating thing, largely to compensate for its intermittent tactical abilities (it can play a halfway decent defensive game, but doesn’t tend to leave itself enough players for a counter-offensive; it exploits mistakes with technical accuracy, but with little in the way of variation), while the controls, even accounting for the netbook tax (I can hear my processor whining whenever the crowd sound goes AWOL, which is regularly) are chuggy, awkward and unresponsive.
I’m not up to date enough on computer games to tell you if the French are particularly renowned for making them or not, but if this is anything to go by, they bloody shouldn’t be. I’m particularly fond of the way that the controls often lock me out and freeze every aspect of the game EXCEPT the turn timer, and the need to make awkward-but-clever moves square by square to stop players taking the most direct route to their destination, by way of four enemy tackle zones. Cyanide get a few points back for the entertaining jibe at the expense of British football, but lose the lot of them for the ridiculous save system (a single-player game that you cannot pause and save at will is a bad single-player game) and the way in which the commentators cease to be funny after the first encounter with a new race. Oh, and your first season will be bloody hard work if you come up against a decent team, since they’ll probably have just the right combinations of skills on just the right players to frustrate you.
However, it’s still Blood Bowl, and it’s Blood Bowl without the nuisances of a Shop League (cramp – smells – kibitzers – the danger of buying models for a team only to find out that it’s plops and you can’t really get rid of it ’cause everyone knows it’s plops except you). Since the AI is quite lucky but can’t play too well, it’s more or less perfect for testing out the different teams against; you’ll see how well the team stands up to cold dice, whether it frustrates or withstands, and you’ll see how it manages against entry-level strategies like marking, caging and embedding of key players.
I’ve been doing a lot of testing recently – at first with a Norse team, since my previous experiences with the game led me to the conclusion that Block was great and that Block on every player was therefore doubleplusgreat.
This is actually the second incarnation of the Marauders, as the first (essaying forth on Easy difficulty, because I’m rubbish) proved to be a bit too easy to play with – as I’d suspected, Block on every player in the starting lineup went a long way, as it allowed me to toss around single die blocks with relative impunity and attempt some quite risky plays, particularly when the Berserkers kicked off and started barging their way two or three squares into the enemy team thanks to Frenzy.
The only teams that gave them any real pause was a Dark Elf team that ran rings around them and used their superior AG stat to dodge around, set up perfect assists, and then strategically slap down two players a turn and take advantage of the Norsemen’s poor AV. Dark Elves next, then. My Dark Elf team trundled along with slightly more difficulty, but eventually I got the hang of assists and started learning when it was better to attempt the dodge than go for the risky block, and all was well until I hit my first Orc team, who proceeded to tackle my darting Druchii down and kick them in their spindly elf shins until they regretted it, all while super-dodgy Goblins ran around and caught passes from suspiciously skilled-up Orc Throwers.
You can see where this is going, yeah? For the first few weeks I’d play a team for a run of maybe four games, then switch to whatever had given me the hardest beating and see if I could master the art of doing unto others what had recently been done unto me. Eventually, after I’d tried out maybe five or so, I felt confident enough to return to some extremely fearsome territory, to enter into the realm of no skills and expensive rerolls.
It was time to try another Chaos team.
The logic I’m operating on is this. When I can play Chaos well on Easy difficulty, as I now can, it’s time to move up to a stronger starting team on Medium, and experiment with that play level until I can play Chaos competently. When I can play Chaos well on Medium, time to move up to Hard with a stronger starting team, and when I can play Chaos on Hard, I might actually be able to play a stronger starting team against human opponents without completely embarrassing myself.
I’m under no illusions regarding the computer’s ability; it’s thick as two short planks and once you’ve worked out how to beat the two or three plays it knows, you’ll be laughing. However, as a means of learning the ins and outs of the board game mechanics, I think it’s working pretty well – even if I’m outplayed, I should know how I’m being outplayed rather than sit there fuming because I don’t understand the rules enough to comprehend the trouncing I’m receiving.
Coming up later: Von explains his logic in starting lineups and developing teams, including a case study in Chaos teams that can actually handle the ball.