Thursday, 6 December 2012

An evaluation of the Skaven Linerat in Bloodbowl

Player Type


Starting Line-up
Yes, at least 6 of them

MA, Cost

Low AV, average agility, only access to General skills

 Ah, the humble Linerat, fodder for the meat grinder that is the Line of Scrimmage when you’re facing teams like Orcs or Chaos. Playground bullies when you’re up against goblins or Halflings. The linerat is almost the quintessential Mr Average, with only his higher MA of 7 making him stand out from the crowd. But what Nuffle gives with one hand, he takes with the other, and in this case what he’s taken is a point of AV, meaning that of all the main races we’re down there with the Elves, Norse and Amazons as being the most vulnerable, without their agility or skills to compensate. Don’t get attached to your Linerats, they may not die, but they will miss games with fractured limbs, and like as not they’ll pick up stat decreases as well, most of which will result in you scratching them from the roster.

How to manage the downsides

Tricky really, unless you can roll doubles to order! Obviously if you roll an increase to your AV, jump all over that and just hope that your next injury doesn’t reduce it again, if that’s the case you might want to consider sacking them and starting again, after all you’ve now got a player that’s worth an additional 30 TV points, but isn’t any better than a rookie. The best option I can really suggest for minimising the impact of this is to minimise the number of blocks your opponent can make each turn, after all there’s a 42% chance that if you’re knocked down, you’ll be injured (compare that with 17% for the dwarf equivalent player!). Place the minimum of three guys on the LOS when you’re kicking off, and make them your least experienced players. Odds are that even skilled players will get knocked back or over when your opponent gangs up on you, so minimise the impact it has on your team.
I often find that there is a tendency with Skaven teams towards assuming that because they’re quick, they’re agile. Make no mistake here, they are no more agile than your average human lineman. Sure, if you’re dodging out of a tackle zone there’s a good chance you’ll make it, but never forget that 1 in 3 of those rolls will fail, and it could be the first one you try. Against power teams I would tend to make my normal moves, then any Linerats that are in base contact and don’t have the blocking advantage will try to dodge free to limit the opposition to just their blitz.
Be a bully, if you’re playing against a Halfling, Lizardman, Ogre or Goblin team, punch the little guys, hard! These teams tend to revolve around the little guys carrying the ball, and their bigger players tend to have limited mobility so take out the little guys and the odds of them scoring against you drop like a stone. Gang up on them too, there’s nothing wrong with using three Linerats to get a three dice block, even at the cost of making fewer blocks per turn overall.  As an example, I used this strategy recently against Halflings, and played the entire second half against a team of just five players, two of which were Treemen. Needless to say it was a handsome win for the guys with tails.
Only having access to general skills is a bit of a bummer, but you’re hardly alone here, only Elves, Dwarves and Chaos teams get access to more than one skill table on their 0-16 band players. On the bright side, the general skill table contains some exceedingly useful skills for Linerats that can really mess with your opponent’s plans, especially with a sprinkling of the more exotic skills that doubles rolls will give you. For this weakness then, your game plan and the skills you do take are the best way of addressing the Lineman’s shortcomings.

How to maximise the strengths

Only Wood Elves and Lizardmen have non-specialist players that can keep up with your Linerats, and in the case of Lizardmen it’s skinks we’re talking about, which pack less of a punch anyway and need to double up on you to get a two-dice block. What that means is that if you can break through the defensive line in the central part of the pitch, your supporting linemen can flood through the gap and support your receiver or ball carrier almost wherever they are. It’s also very helpful in terms of scrambling a defence, with your entire team able to shift emphasis from one side of the pitch to the other in a single turn.

Do you start a league with one?

If you want a full team, you’ll have to! I’d go with 6 of them to start with, buying a few more later on as and when you can afford them.

What skills can they take?

Extremely useful skill for a Linerat, I’d try and aim to take this on most of them in your team as it develops, it really helps to keep them on their feet (and hence exerting tackle zones) and prevents big holes opening up in the centre of the pitch.

Not a bad option, though the bigger the gap in ST values, the less effective it becomes. I’d certainly consider taking this on Linerats that are likely to be facing Black Orcs or Chaos Warriors on the LOS.

Dirty Player
You want at least one, preferably two in a full team, as it’s inevitable that when you want to foul someone, your dirty player is somewhere else. Fouling is always a calculated risk, this skill makes success more likely but you still need to think about what you’re doing, there’s little point fouling a Treeman without a lot of assists due to his AV10 (there’s only a 9% or 17% chance you’ll beat his AV.)

Again if you’re playing a power team this is worth considering, as it means their blockers become ineffective next turn with them only having access to one blitz.

One to be approached with caution, on the face of it, it’s a brilliant skill that vastly increases your chances of putting your opponent down. Used carelessly though, you end up with a 2-dice block against you and it’s turnover. More worthwhile if you’ve got one or two guys with Guard or the Linerat you put it on has a ST increase.

Well by definition, you can’t use it if you’re on the LOS, which is where most of these guys will be. It’s not going to provide great value for a Linerat and I’d recommend leaving it for your Thrower.

Kick-off Return
Again, it can only be used by a player not on the LOS, and its purpose is rendered irrelevant by the Skavens high MA. Don’t waste your time!

Pass Block
A very useful skill for achieving interceptions, the average AG of your Linerats rules against you trying one with them unless there are no alternatives.  It’s a waste of a skill increase.

I’ve mixed feelings about Pro. On the positive side it does mean you don’t burn your way through the team re-rolls in the way that you might otherwise. The downside is that it doesn’t work all the time. It’s really a skill that I’d consider using on a couple of Linerats at most, you won’t be making many more block than that with them most turns.

I like this skill. Granted, it’s more useful against slower teams, but the chance to force multiple dodge rolls is worth the pricetag. As with Frenzy though, you will need to take care when you use it (and remember you can choose not to) as otherwise you can find a big gaping hole in your defence.

Strip Ball
Particularly useful early on in a league, before your opponent’s ball carriers have gained Sure Hands. It can still be useful later for those Coaches who’ve eschewed that particular skill.

Sure Hands
Makes picking the ball up much easier. But why are you using a Linerat for that job? Sure, if you’ve gone without a Thrower and your Gutter Runners are busy elsewhere it’s useful, but I’d be very cautious about giving this to a Linerat unless you plan on them carrying the ball in places where they might get blocked by someone with the Strip Ball skill.

Ah, one of my favourites. This is particularly useful against those annoying Amazon teams, both in terms of putting them on the floor when blocking them as it prevents them using Dodge on a defender stumbles result, and also from re-rolling any failed dodge rolls when running through your backfield. In the long term, Tackle and Block are the two skills I’d want on most of my Linerats.

Affects the same block dice result as the Block skill, so what’s the benefit? Simple really, if your opponent also has the block skill and is carrying the ball, wrestle will break the ball free whereas Block won’t. So it’s got limited use really, mainly in terms of blocking a ball carrier, which is really your Stormvermin’s job. Might be worth giving to a Linerat as a backup, but it’s definitely not high on the priority list.

What are good options for doubles skill rolls?

Your Linerats are the workhorses of your team, getting in the way of the opposition and taking a beating so your Gutter Runners and Stormvermin can win you the game. So, anything that helps them in this task is going to be useful.

Diving Tackle
Very useful in combination with Tackle for those players that form your first line of defence, especially if you can also roll Prehensile Tail to give you a -3 modifier to opponent’s dodge rolls.

Your Linerats are going to get hit, it’s what they’re there for. If you’ve got both Block and Dodge, then you’re only going to end up on your backside (or face!) once for every six attempts on average, so for those LOS fodder it’s a Godsend. As such, I’d snap your hand off if you offered me Dodge on three of my Linerats.

Jump Up
Well I wouldn’t take it before Dodge, but Jump up really helps you against those tougher teams, meaning that getting off the floor doesn’t cost you your blitz action for the turn if you want to Block the opposing player.

Sneaky Git
Definitely worth  considering if you can get it on your Dirty Player, and may even be worth picking as your first agility skill before deciding who your fouler is going to be, it will reduce the chances of getting sent off from one in six, to at worst 1 in 12 against lower armoured teams, and 1 in 18 against Dwarves and Chaos Warriors etc.

Guard is priceless, you can’t have enough of it on the Linerats, particularly those on the LOS, and works particularly well with Dauntless to give you 2-dice blocks.

Mighty Blow
Useful for cracking armour, on the block, even better when it’s combined with Claws to reduce their AV.

Stand Firm
This is a particularly useful skill on those players you’re looking to use to delay your opponent’s cage, if they can’t push you back when they block and you can stay on your feet, they won’t be advancing very far.

Works best against higher armoured opposition as it doesn’t just reduce your opponent’s armour by a set figure but means you break it on a roll of 8 or more. As you can imagine, against players whose armour is less than 8 it has no effect whatsoever. It should be noted that as with Mighty Blow, the skill only works when making a block, so it’s not useful on your Dirty Player.

Disturbing Presence
Has good synergy with shadowing to mark opposing receivers, and make it more difficult for them to keep catch any passes that come their way. These modifiers do stack though, so if you’re planning on having two or three defenders to distract receivers and intercept passes this is definitely a skill worth considering.

Foul Appearance
Another spoiler skill, it’s likely to be more of an annoyance to your opponent than a problem. Should further reduce the number of blocks made against the player though, and the team in general unless you’re facing a shrewd Coach who simply blocks other players instead.

Only works when you’re making a blitz, so is definitely worth taking for any players you’re considering using in defence who might have to make that last ditch blitz to prevent a touchdown as it could make the difference between a 1-dice and 2-dice block.

Prehensile Tail
Shadowing, Diving Tackle, Prehensile Tail, Tackle. A four-skill combo that’s an absolute nightmare for agility teams to cope with. Just be aware that if you’ve got one of these guys, he’ll be a prime target for a blitz so either give him backup, or build two and keep them together to force your opponent down the opposite side of the field.

What are the best stat increases to take?

I’d be particularly keen on AV and ST increases. AG could be useful, but MA is probably not worth it.

What are the best skill combinations?

Ok well this is very situational and depends on what role you want that particular Linerat to fulfil, as there are options. I’ll stick to picking three skills only for each option as gaining any more experience than this is going to be very difficult for them.

Backfield Defender
1.       Diving Tackle
2.       Tackle
3.       Shadowing
This build is mainly aimed at stymieing those annoying teams like elves, amazons and stunties, when in their first turn they send 3-4 receivers deep into your backfield to give you too many players to mark effectively. A couple of these guys are great for making it difficult for them, particularly if supplemented by a couple of appropriately skilled up Gutter Runners. Best case scenario, they have no choice but to try and dodge past your defence, failing miserably and face-planting themselves with some style.  The likelihood is that one or two might get through, though possibly with a shadowing player in attendance, and the third guy to try makes a mess of it. If you do build these guys and get a second double, I’d recommend Prehensile Tail for a -3 modifier to their dodge roll, which makes even a Wood Elf think twice. These players need backup though or you’ll be blitzed out of the way and next thing you know your backfield is full and you might as well have not bothered.

Line of Scrimmage Fodder
1.       Block
If they get any further than this, give them Dodge, then Guard (if you can). These are the guys you put in front of Treemen though so if they do keep accumulating SPP’s either consider promoting them above the rank of Fodder, or retire them. You want a maximum of three of these guys to put out against really tough opponents.

Line of Scrimmage Blocker
1.       Block
2.       Guard
3.       Dauntless
Guard is the key skill here, and if you roll doubles as a first skill for any of your Linerats, pick guard, you won’t get many chances. Other options after that might be dodge or Mighty Blow, but try to avoid inflating their value too much or you’ll suffer later on with spiralling expenses.

Dirty Player
1.       Sneaky Git
2.       Dirty Player
3.       Pro
If he’s going to be running around kicking people when they’re down, this is the exception to the rule of give Guard to your first double. Taking Sneaky Git first means you’re not wasting other skills on the player, and drastically cuts down the regularity of being sent off. Dirty Player makes it more likely you’ll do damage, and Pro allows you to re-roll half of your failures. Unless you give him block to keep him on his feet a bit more, that should be the limit of development of this player, there are no other skills that increase his ability to hurt the opponent when fouling, so don’t waste SPP’s on him.

All rounder
·         Block
·         Mighty Blow
·         Frenzy
·         Horns
·         Fend
·         Strip Ball
·         Tackle
·         Jump Up
·         Leader
·         Guard
·         Disturbing Presence
This isn’t a particular player build so much as a list of useful skills to give to Linerats that have to fill in the extra gaps in your teamsheet.

Final thoughts
Cheap and easy to replace, the only downside to the Linerat is that his AV is lower than average. Sadly the only upside to them is they’re faster than most players in the same category.