Thursday, July 20, 2017

Squish the elves, again

I finished the second week of my new Blood Bowl league and it was shockingly similar to the first.  I played against a Dark Elf team for the second week in a row, won 2-1 for the second week in a row, and injured three elves for the second week in a row.  The injuries this week were less punitive because none of the elves died or took permanent penalties but all three are skipping next week's game to recover, same as last week.

I have had an easy ride of it so far.  Dark Elves are a good match for me, especially in the early going.  They rely on their Dodge ability heavily, and since Dwarves get to cancel Dodge at low cost the elves have a rough time of it.  This opponent in particular had a ton of Dodge on his team and it was not particularly helpful.  My next few matches are going to be rougher, I am sure of that.

One thing I have that nobody else in the league has (that I know of) is an upgraded stadium and an enhancement.  There are lots of enhancements available, though each team can only get one of them.  They are symmetrical in theory, but that doesn't quite work out in practice.  For example you can get soft turf that makes people less likely to get hurt if they fall down by running too far, or both sides can get a wizard.

The two enhancements that were most interesting to me were the ones that grant both sides a Bribe during the match and the one that reduces the cost of Star Players by 50,000.  Note that you have to be playing in your home stadium for the enhancement to matter so you only get the benefit half the time; this will be important.

Dwarves have a really powerful unit called a Deathroller.  It is the strongest unit in the game and is a total wrecking ball when it is on the field, but it gets sent off by the ref after the drive when it is on the field.  You can use a Bribe to try to get the ref to ignore the Deathroller once, but the Bribe only works 83% of the time.  A lot of people seemed to think that the Bribe enhancement combined with a Deathroller on the team would be really good but I don't think it works out that way.  The problem is that the combination of only playing in your stadium half the time and the 17% failure rate means that the Deathroller gets sent off 58% of the time anyway.

Also in many cases you field the Deathroller and use the Bribe, but the opponent has one turn left before halftime and the Deathroller ends up on the field and gets kicked out again immediately.  You can fix this by having lots of dwarves on the bench so you make sure the Deathroller doesn't *have* to be put on the field, but then you have a ton of Team Value devoted to dwarves on the bench, which sucks.  I think the consensus is that the Deathroller costs too much and you would be better off with more skills on your other dwarves than an unreliable trick like the Deathroller.

Dwarves are also in a uniquely good position to use the Star Player cost reduction.  Most Star Players cost 300,000 or more gold to hire, and they are generally badly statted and overcosted.  Reducing their cost by 50,000 is irrelevant; nobody wants them anyway.  However, dwarves have a Star Player called Berik Farblast who only costs 60,000.  He is good at picking up and throwing the ball, but this isn't especially useful as I don't want him to get the touchdowns because he will leave the team at the end of the game and the experience will be wasted.  Berik's abilities really are generally bad and I would never pay 60,000 for him, especially because he has a secret weapon and gets sent off at the end of a drive just like the Deathroller.

But I would pay 10,000 for him!  At 10,000 Berik is a steal.  Not because you use him to play the ball, but because he can foul.  The problem with fouling normally is that you often lose the player you are fouling with to the ref.  Berik is getting sent off anyway and cost almost nothing to hire so I lose very little when he exits the game.  I can run him around and foul like crazy and I don't care if he gets sent off.  He is also useful as a speed bump.  Dwarves are tough but I still don't want them to die.  If there is someone really scary then Berik can just stand next to them and get punched.  If he dies, I don't care.  If he lives to get punched again, then my 10,000 value loser is tying up 100,000+ worth of enemy.

Really, the point of Berik is not his unique abilities but just that he is a dude.  A dude that can stand places and step on necks.  It turns out that a dude like that is really useful if they are cheap enough.

And to give Berik credit, he does have some cool stuff.  If I desperately need a long pass gambit he is actually really good at that.  If I need to throw the ball to the other end of the pitch to keep my opponents from scoring, Berik has the Hail Mary Pass ability, which I would never actually select, but which could come up.

I will only buy Berik when I am playing at home and have the 50,000 cost reduction so half of the time I will just be a normal dwarf team.  The other half of the time I will have a cute little benefit that makes my team just a little better.  The best part about this plan is that I can play completely normally if I want to - I don't really commit anything, and it will never help my opponent.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Eternal destruction

While playing against people is a much better contest of skill I still really enjoy playing against AIs in Blood Bowl.  AIs don't mind if I pause the game for half an hour.  They will start the game whenever I want, and they never take time to figure stuff out while I sit there - it is Go, Go, Go!  I like those things.

The thing is though after you play a team for awhile your Team Value gets enormous and you begin to have issues with having no money.  Also if you are good at keeping your players alive you eventually face down the day when they will all get too old and retire en masse.  It is possible to end up in a situation where a bunch of players retire and you struggle to even field a team because you can't make money because your team has such high value even though you don't have eleven players to put on the field.

I have played a little over 80 games with my Chaos team against a variety of AIs and I am approaching the point where player retirement is a real problem for me.  I had five players who were all originals and who were marching towards retirement together so I had to put together a long term plan.  The real problem with my team was that I had a player on the team who was specced to be good at picking up and carrying the ball.  He had +1 Agility, Dodge, and Sure hands, which is the basic package you need to be a strong ball carrier.  However, every time a player died and I had to replace them Mr. Ball Carrier ended up either riding the bench or trying to punch people badly because I needed the new replacement player to get all my touchdowns to earn experience.  There is no point in having ball carrying skills if you aren't the one carrying the ball, so Mr. Ball Carrier got fired.

Firing a player with 170 XP who is almost going to collect his last skill is a strange thing.  It is especially strange when the team consists of ten murder monsters and one ball carrier and you fire the ball carrier anyway.

Thing is, I can win games without a good ball carrier.  I win by injuring the great majority of the enemy team and casually walking the ball into the end zone.  Picking up the ball reliably and being hard to knock over simply doesn't help with my plan.  Plus every additional knockdown or injury I inflict really helps both forward my plan and also keep my dudes safe.  Opponents find it hard to hurt me when their team is all sitting in the injured box or facedown on the turf.

In this case the best defence is a good offence, and murdering my enemies is by far the easiest way to both score touchdowns and protect myself.

So my new team has only four of the original eleven monsters playing.  It has 11 copies of Block, 11 copies of Mighty Blow, 11 copies of Claw.  The basic murder package on every single player.  8 players have Guard to make it nearly impossible for the opponent to get decent blocks and 3 players have Piling On to pile up the injuries on key targets.

It is a silly game, this one.  But I am enjoying it a great deal and thinking hard all the time about how to optimize my play so it is hard to criticize - what more is there to life than thinking about interesting puzzles and having a blast doing it?

(I know I know, Conan would say that there is "Crushing your enemies, driving them before you, and hearing the lamentations of the women."  I do the first two things, but they didn't implement the cheerleaders weeping when the players on their team die, so lamentations will have to wait.)

A foul move

Last night my new Blood Bowl league got started.  It was a bit rocky because several people ditched at the last minute so it seems that we have one dummy team that will just concede to everyone who plays against it.  That is something of an advantage for the teams in that half of the league as they will get some extra cash and rest, but long run it isn't a big deal, and I am glad to have someone running the league who will just step up and make it work rather than engaging in a pointless pursuit of perfection.

I got a started off with what I think is a good matchup for my dwarves - Dark Elves.  We are early on in development so most teams only have a half dozen skillups and I have Block on my entire team as well as 3 copies of Guard and 2 of Mighty Blow.  That makes it basically impossible for the elves to fight my dwarves because if they stand toe to toe I will destroy them, and if they try to dodge everywhere I have just enough Tackle to counter their Dodge.  Dark Elves don't have enough speed to be able to dance circles around me, and their dodging isn't reliable, so they are really stuck.

My opponent also only had 10 dudes on his team so he had a journeyman join him.  On my first turn I killed the journeyman, so his 30 seconds of fame really was about 30 seconds.  "Hey Mom, guess what?  I am going to play for a real football team!  Watch me go!"

Crunch, splat, dead.  One can only imagine the Dark Elf parents weeping over their child's mutilated body.  Of course the 70,000 gold he got paid to play for 30 seconds will probably console them because if I recall the Warhammer universe correctly that would be enough for them to live in opulence for their entire lives.

I logged a pair of other career ending injuries on actual team members and won the game handily, 2-1.  What basically happened is that my opponent tried to block me but burned through rerolls when he rolled 2s.  When my opponent tried to dodge away he burned rerolls when he rolled 1s.  This was fine for a couple turns, then he ran out of rerolls and his elves spent a lot of time on the ground with angry dwarves standing over them, taunting them to get back up.  This is the standard dwarf plan against elves, I think, and it worked well.

My opponent managed to buy a new player at the end of the game but still has two other players missing their next game to heal up so he will only be fielding nine players next game.  That is a rough spot to be in.  His next opponent is pleased that I left him so beat up, but I had an option to make it even worse and I declined it and I am not sure what the right choice is.

In the closing rounds of the game I was passing the ball from one dwarf to the other trying to earn experience and bashing whatever elves I could catch to get experience from hurting them.  Obviously I should try to get as much experience as possible, no one doubts that.  However, once I was assured of the victory I could have fouled an elf or two on the ground to try to inflict some extra pain on my opponent.  It wouldn't change my victory and it wouldn't get me more experience but it might make opponent's team worse if I could inflict extra injuries.

So do I want to kick an opponent when they are down?

If I end up playing off against this opponent in the semifinals the answer is yes, I should hurt them.  However, a team that isn't even fielding a full roster and has one of their best players with serious injuries on them isn't looking like a big threat.  If I bash them even more I am probably just making it easier for the next few teams to beat them up, and I want all the games that I am not involved in to be tight slugfests where lots of injuries are handed out.  I certainly can't play them again for a long time, so any injuries I inflict now are unlikely to be helpful by the time we face each other again.

However, all of that assumes a lot.  Maybe my opponent will go on a tear through the league and I should do all the damage I can whenever I can.  I know that if I could hand out random injuries to teams throughout the league I would do that... heck, I would even do that if my team was included because I have tons of money and healthy dwarves so I can buy new ones if I need to.  Other people can't because they are squishy and broke.

The last thing to consider is the social factor.  Maybe me not stomping on my opponent's elves at the end of the game will convince him to do the same later.  It won't buy me any other form of mercy, certainly, but maybe avoiding a mutual destruction pact surrounding last turn fouls is a worthwhile thing.  If the league is full of murderous bastards then I may have wasted my chance, but if people mostly play nice then I don't want to be the one person everybody guns for.  I am actually pretty happy to be in a foul heavy league though because of my current situation of having money and healthy dudes... and of course dwarves are tough and generally don't break even when you step on them.

In any case I wasn't sure if I should foul on the last turn so I just didn't and pressed End Turn.  The game was great for me as I suffered no losses, got 17 experience, and won the game.  No need to push it, was my thinking in the moment.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

More blood, and more bowling

I finished my 7 games on the open ladder to get ready for my new Blood Bowl league.  I previously wrote about my first 3 games in which I was conceded to twice and then tied with an unpleasant jackass who spent the last three turns of the game whining at and insulting me.  The open ladder seemed pretty bleak.

I logged 4 more games since then and things picked up considerably.  I got another 1-1 draw against a Chaos team and was pretty happy with that result.  Then I played a game against a Human team that I beat 2-0, and won a super tight game against a Chaos Dwarf team 1-0.  All three of those teams were 200-300 Team Value ahead of me, which made me feel really good about my skill.  Being able to collect a number of wins and a couple of draws against teams consistently much more powerful than myself says I know what I am doing.

Just as importantly all of these opponents were pleasant.  At worst they said hi at the beginning and gg at the end, and nobody fussed about anything with more than a /sigh.  A great change from my earlier rounds, for sure.  I don't mind being sociable or being silent, either is fine, but it is irritating to put up with abuse and complaining.

My last game was in the middle between my toxic first 3 games and my happy next 3 games.  I was playing my Dwarves vs. Undead and got lucky off the bat by injuring my opponent's Mummy, their best unit.  I quickly took control of the game, injuring another one of their players and setting up my touchdown.  My opponent grumbled about the unfairness of the dice and I can't argue that; I got luckier.  However, my opponent definitely tilted some after losing their Mummy and made some poor plays that set me up to continue my dominance.  I injured another player of theirs, got a TD, and they conceded.  It was a perfectly reasonable concession - they were only fielding 8 players to my 10, and I was up 1-0.  Their chances were not good.

Part of Blood Bowl, like many dice games, is keeping yourself regulated when things go badly.  My opponent in the last game basically gave up after having their best player taken out and while they were certainly not favoured to win it doesn't make sense to pack it in that early.  In my game prior to that I led off by rolling 1,1,1,1 and my attacker fell down.  Then my opponent immediately injured my best player.  It was a disastrous start but I held it together, got lucky on two specific attempts by my opponent to knock over my ball carrier, and won 1-0.

The lesson is that you lose all the games you give up on, and only most of the games where you are at a disadvantage.

Much like the rest of humanity the open ladder has some people who are impulsive and rude as well as some people that are perfectly pleasant.  It also is largely comprised of people that aren't that great at board games.

I am ready to fight some people who are really good at board games though, and also people who hopefully won't pack it in when they seem at a disadvantage.  Dwarf smash!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Anger Management

Last time I wrote about getting conceded to on the Blood Bowl ladder.  It happened twice in a row and I was wondering what was going on.  It turns out I was in the casual league where there are a LOT of concessions.  I built a new team for the real league where concessions are limited and started again.  This time I will get some real games!

In my first outing I was in some dwarf on dwarf action.  Normally dwarf games involve a seething mass of hairy balls rolling around in the middle of the field, and this was no exception.  My opponent took a bunch of really risky, aggressive plays and they paid off by taking out 3 of my dwarves.  Then they walked the ball right to my goal line and sat around beating up my team until the end of the half.  On my opponent's last turn, on their last opportunity to score with their dominant position, they decided to take some time first to bash my dudes.  Each bash had a 2.8% chance of ending their turn and costing them the touchdown they had worked so hard for.  On the fifth bash they rolled badly, fell down, and ended their turn.

Before I could click anything my opponent had conceded in a fit of rage.  It was kind of hilarious because they were still in a dominant position with me down multiple players but they were apparently so angry they couldn't stay to beat me up for awhile and win the game.

I queued up again and ran into a Chaos team so I was due for another round of bashing.  This time luck swung my way and I KOd some Beastmen and scored a touchdown, so we started the second half with me winning 1-0 and up 3 players.

And my opponent immediately conceded.

I am finding this a bit ridiculous.  So far my team hasn't even managed to injure an opponent, I have scored 1 touchdown, and I have 2 victories to my name.

I queued up a third time and got another slow bashy opponent - Nurgle.  We bashed each other around a lot and ended up in a 1-1 draw.  When I stopped my opponent's final drive they decided to spend 3 turns telling me how horrible I was and bemoaning how all of their opponents get so lucky.  They told me that people like me should be banned from the competitive ladder.  They also said that they were going to immediately delete and restart their team after the game because starting off with a tie is completely unacceptable, and then complained about me wasting both of our time.

I tried to explain that my team got some experience and I had fun, but they told me that the point of the competitive ladder is not for fun and I should go away and play in the fun ladder.  I guess the point of the competitive ladder is suffering and whinging?  Also restarting teams over and over until you get a bunch of wins in a row.

Blargh.

I am glad I will be done with all of these sore losers soon.  After my 7 starting games here I can join my friends in a private league and play against people who won't spend all their time quitting and complaining.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Run away, the dwarves are coming!

I am getting ready for a new season of Blood Bowl.  I decided that I should play dwarves because I apparently love the idea of being incredibly slow and bad at football.  My league allows us 7 preseason games on the open ladder to get levelled up a bit, so I started up a new team and queued up for a game.  My first game was against Chaos, a team that is slightly faster than my dwarves and about equally terrible at actually doing anything with the ball.  Bashy team vs. bashy team.  Bash!

Both teams are pretty heavily armoured so we spent the entire first half bashing into each other accomplishing very little.  Beastman knocks dwarf down, dwarf stands back up.  Dwarf knocks beastman down, beastman stands back up.  However, I managed to control the left side of the board and with a little luck I injured one enemy and ran my ball carrier to one space shy of the enemy goal line.  My opponent made a desperate play requiring 3 rolls of a 6 sided die where each roll needed to be 2 or above, and made a block hoping to knock one of my dwarves down.

On the second 'please please not a 1' roll my opponent rolled a 1 and his player fell over, ending his turn and guaranteeing me a touchdown just before halftime.  I was in a good position at this point with one enemy player out and me being up 1-0, but my opponent was going to receive and certainly had chances.  I went to move the ball into the zone and score... and I couldn't enter the command.

Then I noticed that my opponent had disconnected, which prevents me from taking any actions.  I had to sit for 5 minutes waiting for them to come back, and I couldn't just do something else because if the opponent did return I would need to be there to play the rest of the match.  For the entire 5 minutes I looked at my ball carrier who had been told to score the TD but who was eternally stuck, waiting for an opponent that I did not need.  Finally the clock wound down and I got the victory, and all of my opponent's bonus cash and experience that comes at game end.

Now it is possible that my opponent just randomly disconnected, but that seems extremely unlikely.  Having just tried a desperate gambit to prevent me scoring and having failed it seems that my opponent not only wanted to concede the match but also wanted to annoy me by having me wait around for 5 minutes too.  Either that or they just ragequit without any thought, hard to say.

I was credited with a 2-0 win but I didn't get the experience for scoring those 2 touchdowns.  I did get 5 extra experience because my opponent conceded, but I would have gotten 3 experience instantly as soon as my dwarf scored the TD, so 5 isn't much of a reward.  I got all of my opponent's winnings though, and at the outset like this a big chunk of cash is actually quite useful.

I netted 12 experience and 80,000 gold.  That isn't amazing, but I didn't collect any injuries and I got a fairly normal amount of experience and a windfall of gold, so I shouldn't complain... but I am going to complain anyway.  It sucks to have an opponent ditch on the game.  I wanted to play!  I fought for an advantageous position and I wanted to see if I could maintain it.

What really got me is that if I had realized my opponent was likely to quit I would have clicked really fast to get that TD first.  I could have grabbed the points for the TD and then got all the bonuses for a concession too.  Next time I am in that position I will make sure to be faster to avoid getting screwed.

In any case it was time to queue up for game 2.  This time I was matched against orks, so it was bashy team vs. bashy team again.  Round 2, bash!  This game was a morass of orks and dwarves bashing each other in the middle of the field, and by the time the first half was over the enemy troll had injured itself trying to push over a dwarf and the fans had knocked one of the orks out cold.  The ball never moved more than 1 space from where it landed on turn 1, so it was still 0-0.  Lots of game left here, I thought!

Then the victory screen popped up as my opponent had conceded.  At least this time they actually conceded instead of just disconnecting so I didn't have to wait for 5 minutes, and I wasn't about to score so I didn't miss out on much, but it was still frustrating.  Again I had played well and gotten myself into a strong position and I wasn't able to have fun leveraging the advantage generated.

Don't get me wrong, having people concede to me on my first 2 games has been pretty good.  I have no injuries, I have lots of money, and I have a reasonable amount of experience for being 2 games in.  But it sucks to play chunks of games like this, and it makes me wonder if this is just a feature of playing on the open ladder.  I would totally get it if a team was getting butchered and they wanted to get away from the bashing they were taking but both concessions had only one injured opposing player and they had real chances at winning the game.

My victories also just don't feel REAL.  Sure I logged 2-0 both times, but I feel like I didn't actually win.

I was trying to figure out if conceding made sense when you were losing the game at halftime.  You get nothing from the concession but you do get to queue up again right away and hope for better luck or weaker opposition.  If you play another half game you get 35,000 gold and roughly 7 experience, 5 from the automatic experience and 2 from random stuff you accomplish.  That also assumes you lose the game, and you could win and do better than that.  If you quit and requeue you get 40,000 gold and 11 experience over a whole game.  That requeue option takes twice as long and doesn't get you anywhere near twice as much stuff, so at first glance it seems terrible in terms of reward per unit time.

But!

Requeuing could make sense if you are in a league where lots of people concede.  If you think you have a reasonable shot of being clearly in the lead at halftime then you stand a chance of your opponent conceding and giving you all the money and stuff in only half a game.  In a heavy concede based metagame you are really incentivized to duck out of a losing game to try to get into a game where you do well early and get conceded to.

Conceding also helps you get out of games where you are being dominated, and that probably means lower injury rates for your dudes.  Not a guarantee, but it helps.

In any case I hope that this conceding thing isn't a widespread thing.  I want to play!  I know that there is some restriction on conceding, something like 5 concedes per season, but I don't know what happens if you violate that limit.  Are you kicked out of the league?  Just can't hit the concede button but can still disconnect?  I don't know.  I definitely won't concede myself unless things are truly absurd.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A little bit of thievery

Lately I have been thinking about what I could do if I had a normal Blood Bowl team that could steal just one type of unit from any other team.  This includes the number of those units, so normal Skaven can field 4 Gutter Runners, and any team that steals Gutter Runners can similarly have 4 of them on the roster.  What is the best or most interesting thing you could do using this?

The obvious place to start is to pick a team that has glaring, nasty flaws and see if you can prop them up some.  Blood Bowl restricts team to having either players with 4 Agility or 4+ Strength, but you don't get both.  (Barring a single Big Guy).  Adding high Strength players to an already high Strength team probably won't help much because you won't be able to afford them all and by the time you can your team value will be enormous and you will lack Block.  You can surely make a better team this way, but not much better.

The real trick is taking a slow team that is awful at football and making it suddenly a terrifying threat for scoring.  Gutter Runners are certainly the first unit I thought of stealing because they are maximally fast, have 4 Agility, and you get 4 of them.  Dwarves are normally tough and slow but have no quick scoring threats and are unreliable at playing football.  A dwarf team with 13 players including 4 Gutter Runners on it can still field 9 brawling type dwarves on defence and bench 2 Gutters and have plenty of punching power if they want, or switch it up and field all 4 Gutters to create some crazy passing plays if they don't have much time to score.  That team would be terrifying, because they still have the normal slow cage progression tactic available but you have to break that cage FAST or a Gutter will dash in for a touchdown.

On the other side you have teams like the elves or skaven who are great at scoring and have lots of potential for big plays but they have huge problems with getting pushed around.  They also have the struggle that their linemen are fragile and all units need constant replacement.  There are a couple ways you could go there - you could grab Chaos Warriors to have 4 copies of 4 Strength and 9 Armour which would solidify their line immensely, or you could use 6 Saurus instead, which provides absurd amounts of Strength, though it is hard to develop all those Saurus due to them being clumsy.

If you want to go totally nuts you could recruit Ogres and get 6 hitters with Strength 5.  That is the absolute pinnacle of beatdown but does have the huge issue of cost.  At 140k you will only be able to add in 1 Ogre at most to a normal team so it would take a really long time to purchase them all.

When I try to figure out how I would add units to a midrange team like humans I come up short.  They would like both Gutter Runners or Sauruses, as they could develop into a real scoring or bashing team depending on the pick, but no configuration is particularly scary.  To do something awesome with this setup you really want a team that already has one thing they do really well, not a team that is mediocre at everything.

There are actually some teams out there that would make me consider taking linemen on as my choice.  Ogres, for example, are super expensive and you can normally only afford them because they are accompanied by worthless Snotlings.  However, if you grabbed Ork Linemen instead of Snotlings your money problems are worse (they cost 50k instead of 20k) but they actually have 3 Strength so the opponents can't just massacre them effortlessly and they still have 3 Agility so they are capable of playing the ball.  They can't play the ball *well*, mind, but they can play as well as a Snotling and instead of being made of paper they are tough as nails.

On a team like Lizardmen I would be tempted to grab Dark Elf Linemen as my pick.  They are good at playing the ball and have midrange armour so you could play a really serious bashing game with your Sauruses without worrying that every turn one of your squishies is going to die.  You might use a pair of Skinks as dirty players or scoring threats potentially (because your elves can throw the ball) but mostly the team would be just Saurus beatdown and elf football.

In any of these configurations the trick is to make sure you don't commit to more cost than you can afford.  Dwarves are expensive, for example, so swapping some of them out for Gutter Runners or even Elf Linemen is no problem.  You can't just swap out cheap units for expensive ones though, so fixing up teams like Nurgle or Ogres takes more care.

Off all these options I think the dwarves with Gutter Runners scares me the most.  They slot in easily because you can just skip out on buying Dwarven Runners at identical cost, and if you want 4 Gutters to start you just drop 1 Troll Slayer and 1 Lineman to start and you are good to go.  You have a tremendous beatdown game and a sturdy core of players so when your Gutters die you should have spare cash around to buy new ones.  You have a legit quick scoring threat, great caging ability, and a rock solid financial plan.