Tuesday, 11 December 2012

What's in a name?

So what's this all about then? Well, I figured I'd set out my ideas on how to go about developing the background for your dark eldar, and to my mind the first step to doing that is by naming the main characters.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

An evaluation of the Skaven Stormvermin in Bloodbowl




Player Type

The Stormvermin (Drooling psychopath)

 

 

Position

Blitzer (0-2)

 

 

Starting Line-up

Yes, take the maximum 2

 

 

Strengths

Block, High MA, AV8, Access to Strength Skills

 

 

Weaknesses

Cost, ST3, Can only take 2

 

 I love my Stormvermin. They’re the closest thing the Skaven have to an ‘enforcer’ type, and starting with block gives them a unique place in the team.  They’re very much team players though, put one of these guys out on his own and it’s going to hurt, AV8 is really only average and ST3 means it doesn’t take much to get a 2-dice block against them. Fortunately, they’ve got good MA, meaning they can keep up with most other team’s receivers, and cover the whole pitch from a central position of safety.

 

How to manage the downsides

 

Sadly there’s nothing you can do about one of the weaknesses, you’re only ever going to be able to have 2 Stormvermin and that will make you sad, especially when you think that Amazons, Dark Elves, Humans and Orcs all get 4 Blitzers. Speaking of human blitzers, this guy is exactly the same as them until you roll doubles, when you can take mutations and they can’t. Their position within the team dynamic is very different however, they need far more protection than human blitzers because you can only have two of them so can’t really afford to lose one.  There are three ways to do this therefore, give the opponent something bigger or faster to worry about, give them plenty of support or just don’t let them hit him.
 

If you’ve got a Rat Ogre on your team the first of these is dead easy, place it on one wing and your opponent is going to worry far more about what it’s going to do to him than your Stormvermin. Similarly, give the ball to a gutter runner on the other side of the pitch and you’ll notice the defence bulks up on that side.
 

The second is not so easy, sure you can put your Stormvermin on the LOS with linerats either side, but like as not they’ll get pushed out of support range and then your Stormvermin gets clobbered by a multi-dice block. Placing him one square back can help this, but it’s still not a sure fire way of keeping him safe. This really only works well once you’ve got a few skills like stand firm and guard on your linerats (which isn’t easy either).
 

Thirdly then is to be the one doing the hitting. Well he’s a blitzer isn’t he, he should be blitzing! Place him in the second row of your defence and your opponent is unlikely to be able to attack him in their first turn. By contrast, you should be able to make a blitz with him in your first turn without having to dodge anywhere. This can be supplemented by placing him in the wide zone at kick-off, as this tends to be where the opposition puts their weaker players (note, this doesn’t work with teams like chaos as they don’t have any weaker players!) Make you opponent make a choice, they only get one blitz per turn so if you give them a better target they won’t be hitting your Stormvermin.
 

The second weakness is their average ST of 3. They’re not going to be bullying the opposition on their own. There are a couple of ways to combat this, you can either roll a double when you’re skilling up (really, you can do that on demand? Please tell me how!) and take Horns, or if you’re really lucky, a ST increase (not going to happen that often is it…) or you can make sure they’ve always got a buddy to help when they make a block.
 

Keeping them in the wide zones at kick off helps, as your opponent generally has fewer players out wide. You could also try making your guys operate in a pair, after all they’re two of the only three players you’ve got who can take guard without rolling a double when advancing a level. Hopefully I don’t need to tell you to be really careful where you place your assisting player if the Stormvermin doing the blitzing has frenzy, he must be able to provide an assist if you need to make that second block!
 

Timing your actions can also help here, it’s no good you really needing to succeed with your blitz and blazing away first up only to see the defensive assists rack up and you either get a 1-dice block, or worse. Play your other actions first and you could be moving some of those defenders (push backs are fine here, just don’t follow up) and hey presto all of a sudden the dice are in your favour (until Nuffle takes a dislike to you that is).
 

Finally, their cost. Again, you can’t do much about it, but 90,000gp is a lot when you’ve also got gutter runners (you’ll want at least three), throwers, a rat ogre and re-rolls to spend your pennies on. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’d advocate doing without the Rat Ogre to start with but you really want to have your full complement of Stormvermin as early as possible in a league.

 

How to maximise the strengths

 

Well the biggest advantage of Stormvermin is that they’re your main access to Strength skills. True, they may be no more likely to get a strength increase than any other member of your team, but with frenzy, juggernaut, mighty blow, piling on, horns and claws they become a real killing machine, or with guard, stand firm, tentacles, grab, fend and wrestle they’re great for protecting a ball carrier.

 
If you’re playing in a league then early on they’re your most reliable ball carriers (block combined with their ST3 means they get knocked down less often than gutter runners do) and can advance quite quickly by scoring touchdowns in the first few games. After this, your gutter runners are likely to be more reliable and so you can concentrate on accumulating SPP’s through casualties (you gave him mighty blow and piling on didn’t you?).

 
Similarly in early games they represent your only players with the block skill, so you make your blocks with them first as they’re least likely to burn a re-roll or cause a turnover.

Thirdly, only these guys and the Rat Ogre have AV8, which means that they’re also the players that are least likely to die in your team. This means that you can more confidently invest SPP’s in them without worrying that they’ll be in a coffin by the end of the game.

 
Finally, they’ve got decent mobility, so of all the blitzers in the game, only Elves and Humans can keep up. This means that a Stormvermin with Frenzy (and Horns) can make a very effective sweeper, set up centrally it can reach any player in your half of the pitch.

 

Do you start a league with one?

 

Oh yes, unless you really don’t want to be saving for re-rolls later in a league and start with pretty much a full team of linemen.  If you do decide to do without to start with that’s ok, but make them a priority purchase and try and give them a touchdown or two early on, it skills them up early and with block/mighty blow/horns they can really start to rack up the casualties. Needless to say if you manage to roll a strength increase for him early on then he’s going to become a prized asset!

 

What skills can they take?

 

Dauntless

Just to make it clear, Dauntless and Horns won’t combine to give you a two dice block on anyone (as you count the strength bonus from horns first), only assists can take you into that territory. On that basis, I consider that it’s got only a limited use in maybe 3 situations;

1.      One of your players begins your turn isolated next to a treeman (or similar) and you want to try and blitz him free (careful, as  Stand Firm is standard on treemen and quite popular on other big guys on the LOS)

2.      You’ve got players with Guard putting tackle zones on the opponent to get you a 2-dice block.

3.      You’ve got one last chance at a block before a higher strength player scores, and your Stormvermin is the only player in reach.

So bearing that in mind, it’s not a high priority for a Stormvermin given all the other potential skills they can have that are more useful.

 

Dirty Player

My advice would be don’t bother, it’s useful to have dirty player on your team, but you don’t want to risk one of your two Stormvermin getting sent off, fouling doesn’t get them SPP’s  and they’re far more useful on the pitch than on the sidelines watching.

 

Fend

A good skill, but I would tend to consider this best on the LOS, and I don’t generally put my Stormvermin there very often. Worth considering if you’ve no better choices when they’ve already got several other skills, as it can be quite useful at delaying an opponent’s cage.

 

Frenzy

I like Frenzy, gives you extra chances to put down a stubborn opponent, the only downside is it can sometimes lead to a turnover by putting you in a disadvantageous position on the second block. I like to have frenzy on one of my Stormvermin, though this does generally lead to frustration that when I want to use it, that player is on the other side of the pitch as I like to use my Stormvermin in the wide zones.

 

Kick

Don’t bother, you want this skill on two players at most, but it can only be used by a player not in a wide zone and not on the LOS so it doesn’t synch well with the Stormvermin.

 

Kick-Off Return

As with kick, it can’t be used by a player on the LOS, nor by a player in a tackle zone. It’s mainly useful for retrieving the ball but to be honest, Skaven MA’s are high enough that you don’t need it as your kick off receiver can reach the whole pitch from a central starting point.

 

Pass Block

Useful skill, but interceptions are best attempted by high agility players, so save this skill for a gutter runner. Might be worth considering if you roll an agility increase early on with your Stormvermin, but I wouldn’t bother.

 

Pro

It’s always worth having a few Pro’s in the ranks to cut down on the number of team re-rolls you need to buy, but I always seem to find other skills I want more. This is especially true of Stormvermin as they have some of the limited strength access in the Skaven team.

 

Shadowing

Guess what? Yup, you got it, good skill but there are better options for a Stormvermin, this generally ends up either not working, or resulting in the shadowing player following for a couple of squares, and can actually pull holes in your defensive line if you’re not careful.

 

Strip Ball

Now we’re talking, you ideally want one of your Stormvermin to be blocking the ball carrier at some point so strip ball is going to come in handy! This is possibly an occasion where you might want to combine with horns to give you an even better chance of getting the ball off the opposition.

 

Sure Hands

If you’ve decided to make one of your Stormvermin into a sacker of the ball carrier then this is going to come in handy, as more often than not if you can strip the ball off the opposition there’ll be a few tacklers around, so a free pickup re-roll is most useful. Similarly, if it’s early on in a league and you’re using the Stormvermin to carry the ball, then it keeps you safe from a player with Strip Ball.

 

Tackle

One of my favourites for my Stormvermin, prevents opponents from using dodge. At all. So as an offensive skill it increases the chances of you putting your dodging opponent on their backside (or preferably, their face) and it also results in a few turnovers when they’re trying to get through tackle zones at the start of a drive.

 

Wrestle

You probably don’t need this on a Stormvermin, as they already come with block, which saves you from the only block dice result that wrestle is used with.

 

Break Tackle

This skill is only really useful for high strength players breaking away from the opposition.  As it’s far more likely you’ll an AG increase rather than a ST, I wouldn’t bother with this skill.

 

Grab

Can’t be learned if you’ve also got Frenzy, it can be useful to create gaps in a defence, and is definitely worth considering if you’re thinking of putting your Stormvermin on the LOS or anywhere the opponent is relying on overlapping tackle zones.

 

Guard

As with the above, if your Stormvermin is going to get stuck into a melee, it’s definitely worth taking this skill, particularly since it’s one of only three players on your team who doesn’t have to roll a double to get it.

 

Juggernaut

This is best used in conjunction with Frenzy as far as I’m concerned, allowing you to use your blitz to push the opposition player into the crowd by giving you another option on the block dice that results in a push back.  As with the general considerations on trying to achieve this, watch out for players with Stand Firm.

 

Mighty Blow

Yes, yes, yes, your Stormvermin should be blocking a fair bit so any way of helping them cause casualties and gaining SPP’s is very useful, you’ll probably find that this becomes their main route for advancement  further into a league.

 

Multiple Block

Don’t bother, you’ll only end up making two 2-dice blocks where your opponent gets to pick the results. I wouldn’t choose this on any player below ST5.

 

Piling On

Good synergy with Mighty Blow and if you’re looking to cause casualties with your Stormvermin then it’s extremely useful. Be careful with it though, as it means he ends up prone at the end of your turn, which means he’s vulnerable to a foul and isn’t exerting tackle zones so can open up gaps in your defence for your opponent (and the computer game version piles on by default unless you cause a casualty, even if the opponent is knocked out!)

 

Stand Firm

I’d say that if you’re planning on pushing opponents into the crowd then this skill is a necessity, as it prevents your opponent from doing exactly the same to you in their turn.

 

Strong Arm

Can’t think of too many situations where I’d find this useful, your thrower doesn’t have easy access to it though and if you roll an agility increase for your Stormvermin early on then it’s worth thinking about. Your opponent certainly won’t be expecting it!

 

Thick Skull

Could be useful for keeping him on the pitch a bit longer in a few situations, but it only affects 14% of the results, so once again I’d think there are better options to take.

 

What are good options for doubles skill rolls?

 

Doubles skills are very dependent on the role of your Stormvermin, so can vary wildly. Here are some I’d consider along with the reasons why.

 

Pass

Really only worth it if your first roll was increased AG, I often find my Stormvermin are in the vicinity of the ball when it comes loose, and being able to pass it out of a crowd is like gold, especially as gutter runners are so fast. The downside is it means you’ve used two upgrades on your Stormvermin for skills/increases that don’t directly benefit their main role.

 

Dump off

If you use a Stormvermin as your main ball carrier, this could be vital, keep a gutter runner handy to receive the pass though, preferably with diving catch if you can get it.

 

Dodge

Good option to keep your guy on his feet more often, cuts the odds from 1/3 to 1/6, which means he’s more likely to be able to block instead of blitzing or just standing up to get hit again.

 

Side step

If you like to keep a Stormvermin close to your ball carrier, or like pushing other players into the crowd, then this skill is a good option.

 

Claws

Ideal skill if you like hitting AV9 players. Useless if you play against a lot of AV7 teams. I wouldn’t take it before Mighty Blow.

 

Horns

Makes your blitzes ST4, which can be crucial for not having to use another player to make an assist, or getting 2 dice to block against ST4 players with an assist.

 

What are the best stat increases to take?

 

First choice would be ST, I’d also take AG and AV increases, though MA is probably not necessary and you’re better off taking the AV or skill, especially if it’s a double.

 

What are the best skill combinations?

 

Blitzer

1.       Block (G) (starting skill)

2.       Juggernaut (S)

3.       Horns (M)

4.       Tackle (G)

5.       Mighty Blow (S)

6.       Frenzy (G)  or Grab (S)

7.       Dodge (A)

Well my two preferred options are as follows. The way my team has developed, on offence the blitzer’s primary role is to clear a channel in the wide zone for one of my gutter runners to blast through for the one turn touchdown (see the gutter runner analysis for how this works) so juggernaut is his primary skill to allow me to take ‘both down’ results as pushbacks. Horns would be my second choice if possible to allow me to count as ST4 when doing this and get a 2-dice block against the average opponent. If you’re lucky enough to roll a strength increase before taking this, then take it, as that way you won’t have to blitz to get the extra ST point. Tackle comes in next, as it’s a great offensive skill and helps getting those pesky catchers on the ground because it completely negates dodge so a defender stumbles result ends with their face in the dirt. I’d always give them Mighty Blow as well, your blitzer is trying to put the opponent down so keeping him there or getting him off the pitch entirely is always useful. After this it’s pretty much down to personal taste. Pro could be useful on this player, as is Frenzy, Grab, Strip Ball, Wrestle and Piling on.
 

Blocker

1.       Block (G) (starting skill)

2.       Tackle (G)

3.       Mighty Blow (S)

4.       Claws (M)

5.       Piling On (S)

6.       Dodge (A)

7.       Guard (S)

8.       Stand Firm (S)

9.       Shadowing (G)

The second build is similar to the first, but aimed more at hurting the opponent from a static base than being a mobile blitzer. His primary objective therefore is to get the opponent on the ground, so your first skill should be Tackle to enable him to take out dodger types.  Mighty Blow or Claws if you can roll a double should help you penetrate their armour, and Piling On lets you re-roll either the armour roll or injury roll. Again after this point you have some choices depending on how you like to play, Guard and Stand Firm help you to provide assists to adjacent players, whilst shadowing makes it more difficult for your opponent to get away (don’t forget, you’ve got Tackle as well by now). Dodge is kind of a luxury if you roll another double, though if that’s the case you may want to try Tentacles, Prehensile Tail, Jump Up or Diving Tackle if you’d prefer as these all have benefits to a player in this position.

A couple of slightly more wacky options that your opponent may not expect look a bit like this.

 
Carrier

1.       Block (G) (starting skill)

2.       Agility Increase (stat)

3.       Sure Hands (G)

4.       Fend (G)

5.       Pro (G)

6.       Dodge (A)

7.       Two Heads (M)

8.       Extra Arms (M)

9.       Big Hand (M)

 

This build relies on several doubles to be at its best, though your first four levels (51 spp’s or more) are all readily available. Fundamental to this though is the Agility increase very early (preferably the first result as you wouldn’t really use any of these skills with the exception of Pro for a different type of player.
 

Sacker

1.       Block (G) (starting skill)

2.       Strip Ball (G)

3.        Tackle (G)

4.       Grab (S)

5.       Wrestle (G)

6.       Frenzy (G)

7.       Leap (A)

8.       Agility Increase (stat)

9.       Very Long Legs (M)

Designed to blitz in when the opponent’s ball carrier is open and gain possession through either knocking the ball carrier down, grabbing him and putting him in a position where you can better block at him or simply wrestle him to the ground, this is a build your opponent won’t expect to see. That’s mainly because the only difference a Stormvermin makes to this build over and above a linerat is the ease of getting grab. Gutter Runners have better access to leap, though they really need a ST increase to become good at this role.

 

Final thoughts

They're the closes thing the Skaven have to a reliable basher, but their limited numbers mean they're best kept for picking on things rather than getting stuck into a melee.

 

 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

An evaluation of the Skaven Linerat in Bloodbowl

Player Type
Linerat


Position
Fodder


Starting Line-up
Yes, at least 6 of them


Strengths
MA, Cost


Weaknesses
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?

Block
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.

Dauntless
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.)

Fend
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.

Frenzy
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.

Kick
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.

Pro
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.

Shadowing
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.

Tackle
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.

Wrestle
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.

Dodge
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
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.

Claws
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.

Horns
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.