Tuesday, 12 November 2013

An evaluation of the Norse Beserker in bloodbowl

Player Type:                       Frothing Loony
Position:                              Blitzer
Starting Line Up:               Definitely
Strengths:                           Frenzy, Jump Up, Block, Skill Access
Weaknesses:                     Low AV, Frenzy

On the face of it, your Beserkers seem to fulfil a similar role to the Ulfwerener, indeed in earlier editions of the rules you could take 4 of them and Ulfs didn’t exist. There are significant differences between the two however and whilst their roles overlap to a point, if you try to play a Beserker like an Ulf then be prepared for them to die on you!
How to manage the downsides
Their biggest downside, as with all Norse players is their low armour, because if this guy ends up on the floor there’s a good chance he’ll be spending at least one more turn there stunned, or worse. They have an inbuilt management system for this though, and that’s the block skill, which helps them stay on their feet a little longer if being blocked by a skilled opponent (by which I mean one with block as well). It’s not much of an advantage though since often your opponent will make sure they get a two-dice block on you giving them a good chance of rolling a stumble or defender down result anyway. As with the Ulf, one way to mitigate their vulnerability to damage is to give them the dodge skill on a double, and more importantly for the Beserker they’re a player you might actually contemplate dodging with so it has even more use. Secondly, if you roll up an AV increase that’s worth considering too, depending on what other skills are on offer! Mainly though, the best way of mitigating damage to your Beserkers is to give your opponent more serious targets to hit, and try not to finish the turn in a position to give someone a free block on you. Threaten his ball carrier with an Ulf or a Yhetee and he won’t be too worried about blitzing a Beserker on the flanks.
Everything I said about mitigating Frenzy on Ulfs applies double to the Beserker. An Ulf can manage frenzy better on their own because of their above average strength. The Beserker at ST3 gets into trouble even if they frenzy block someone away from an offensive assist and end up with a 1-die block. You must think carefully therefore about where your supporting players are before you consider blocking or blitzing with these guys.
How to maximise the strengths
I’ll start with Frenzy because the last paragraph seemed a bit negative. Frenzy is a wonderful skill to have, and to have potentially 5 of your starting line-up with it is terrifying to your average opponent. It drastically increases the odds of you putting an opponent on the floor, particularly one with the block and dodge combination, as you’re only going to knock them over 17% of the time otherwise. Even with a 1 die block that takes you from 17% to 31%. I can’t tell you how many times my opponents have seen me sitting opposite them roll a two-dice block and get a couple of pushbacks, and you see the look of resignation in their eyes when I pick the dice up again and roll a down or stumble result on the second throw. Planning your move means you can chain block players around the pitch to either put them down or just shift them well out of your way, and Beserkers working together are key to that.
Jump up is a big advantage for your Beserkers, for two reasons. First, if they have been knocked down in a previous turn, they can block an adjacent player (most of the time) without using up your blitz move. And that leaves threats on the pitch that your opponent needs to consider seriously, either moving their player away after a blitz or potentially not following up a block. Second, it makes your Beserkers a threat to the endzone even if they’re lying on the floor at the start of your turn. Remember, when you start a league, your Beserkers and Runners are both equally capable of catching the ball, so you can potentially have four receivers in your opponent’s half, two of whom can jump up and get to the endzone even if they’re lying on the floor.
Block is the most universally sought after skill, and by starting with it, the Beserker has a much greater chance of putting their opponent down. What that means of course is that opposing linemen, throwers and receivers just painted a big target on themselves where your beserkers are concerned.
Finally then, the Beserkers other great strength is the fact that they have access to Strength skills, namely Guard, Mighty Blow and Piling On. These three are huge for the Norse team – their generally low armour means you do not want to be hit too much, so you need to make sure that when you put an opponent on the floor, you keep them there for as long as possible. Guard makes getting assists in a melee much more likely, the only downside being the guard player becomes a target. Mighty Blow and Piling On are pure damage skills, and that’s what your Beserker should be trying to achieve.
Do you start a league with one?
No. You start a league with two!
What skills can they take?
Dauntless
Dauntless is definitely worth considering, when you think that as I mentioned above, your Beserker is going to be hunting down ball carriers. In particular by this I mean high strength ones. If you’re playing Chaos Dwarves for example, that Bull Centaur is a nightmare, but for a Dauntless, frenzied player with Block, not so scary. In fact, I’d say anything up to ST5 is worth going at with a Dauntless player with a reasonable chance of success.
Dirty Player     
Not on a Beserker, you don’t want to risk these guys getting sent off, they’re too valuable.
Fend
Fend would be a good choice if your opponent is packing the Piling On skill, but otherwise the threat of Jump Up is usually enough to see them stay away voluntarily.
Kick
No need for this on a Beserker, you only need one player with it and it should be your Thrower really.
Kick off return
Can’t use this skill to enter the opposition half, so unless you fancy using your Beserker as a ball retriever on the kick off (excuse me? You what?) then don’t go there.
Pass Block
If you think you’re going to be in a position to use this skill then by all means take it, but I really wouldn’t bother, you’ll only be succeeding on a 6 anyway and you have more important skills to be taking.
Pro
Now pro is seriously worth thinking about on your Beserker, those pesky blocks after using Jump up will fail occasionally and you won’t want to use a team reroll on it.
Shadowing
As with most of the Norse team, they’re just not quick enough to use shadowing effectively.
Strip Ball
Definitely. Perhaps not the first skill you take, but your Beserker should be going after the ball carrier if at all possible, and if you can strip the ball from a pushback then block the opponent again you’re in a great position to make the pickup easier.
Sure Hands
My initial thought here was don’t bother, BUT. Assuming you’ve already taken the strip ball skill for the reasons above, if that blitz has broken the ball free and knocked over the opponent, then having a reroll to pick it up again with the same player makes a certain amount of sense to me.
Tackle
Definitely, definitely, definitely. Your Beserker will be hunting down the ball carrier, and often that means a catcher/gutter runner etc who almost always have dodge early in a league, if not right from the start, so tackle is vital to putting them on the ground.
Wrestle
Again, if you’re targeting someone with the ball then any way of getting them to drop it is good, and particularly later in a league many teams will give that ball handler block to keep them on their feet longer, wrestle makes a right mess of that strategy.
Break Tackle
Not worth taking on a ST3 player as you get no benefit from it over a normal dodge roll.
Guard
Guard is important in a Norse team. It’s slightly less important on Beserkers because they’re less involved in the melees that can develop, but if you’re struggling in those scraps, put guard on a beserker and keep them close by.
Juggernaut
Block generally negates the need for this, so I’d probably leave it at home, it’s better on an Ulf or a Yhetee who don’t start with Block.
Mighty Blow
Most definitely, as I’ve mentioned already, putting opponents in the dead and injured bin is how you win most easily with Norse (and actually given the Norse mindset, is 90% of the purpose of the game!)
Multiple Block
No, no, no. Don’t go anywhere near this. Treat it like it’s got Herpes.
Piling On
Yes, works best in conjunction with mighty blow (if only you could get claw as well) but it’s another definite skill I’d take on a Beserker.
Stand Firm
Useful enough skill, particularly if you’re going to be hugging the touchline a lot, but it’s not a high priority.
Strong Arm
Not really likely to be passing the ball with a Beserker are you? Hand it off instead.
Thick Skull
You might take it, and it’ll help with those injury rolls, but only a little bit, it’s one of those skills that could come in handy, but I never quite think it’s handy enough to want to take it over the other choices.

What are good options for doubles skill rolls?
As with the Ulf, don’t bother with the passing skills.
Diving tackle
If you fail to knock down the ball carrier, then Diving tackle makes it considerably more difficult for them to get away, and could break that ball free causing a turnover for your Beserker to jump up and score.
Dodge
As I mentioned earlier, dodge means less being knocked over, and gives you some scope to carry the ball or get to a ball carrier in a crowd.
Sprint
Lets the guy who sacks the ball carrier get that extra square of movement that could make the difference between touching down and not.
What are the best stat increases to take?
Actually, pretty much all of them are beneficial – Strength turns you into an agile Ulf, Armour makes you less likely to take injury, Movement makes you much more of a threat and Agility, well who doesn’t want AG4 players on their team, and as many of them as they can get!
What are the best skill combinations?
Looking at the comments above, there are two distinct ways of building the Beserker, the killer and the hunter.
Killer
1.       Mighty Blow
2.       Piling On
3.       Tackle
4.       Dauntless
5.       Strength increase
6.       Thick Skull
Hunter
1.       Strip Ball
2.       Sure Hands
3.       Dodge
4.       Tackle
5.       Wrestle
6.       Diving Tackle
Final thoughts
The Beserker on the face of it operates in a similar role to the Ulf, but when you dig into the detail, they are a very different beast indeed, the Ulf excels in a melee where opposing assists are cancelled and frenzy lets them make the most of their strength advantage. The Beserker is far more concerned with picking off isolated opponents who are either vulnerable because they’re close to the touchline, or a high priority because they’re carrying the ball.
I’ll be honest, personally I prefer the killer type of build, because whilst the hunter is a very useful addition for a particular situation, the killer can still operate well in that role with just a small adaptation in skill set.