Thursday, 7 November 2013

An evaluation of the Norse lineman in bloodbowl

Player Type:                       Lineman (Fiiiggghhhttt!!!)

Position:                              Lineman

Starting Line-up:               Yes

Strengths:                           Block.

Weaknesses:                     AV7, no S access (but that’s not all that surprising)

How to manage the downsides

A lot of advice on Norse teams will tell you to take skills like Fend to enable you to keep away from opposition blockers as much as possible to avoid injuries. I can’t tell you how wrong this is to the Norse philosophy I play, it’s pretty much diametrically opposed to everything I think you should be doing with these guys.

In my opinion, you manage the downside of the Norse team by putting as many of the opposition team in the hurt/dead/KO’d/reserves bins as you can. When it comes to linemen what that means is make sure you build two types – fodder, and skilled. The fodder guys you put on the line when you’re kicking first. Your opponent will get the first shot in but so what? They’re only going to be knocking down three guys, four if they get lucky with their blitz, and those guys are cheap and unskilled. Of those guys that are on the floor, there’s a 42% chance that they’ll get their armour broken, and then another 42% that those players will be removed from the pitch. The upshot of that is that if one of your players is knocked over, there’s roughly a 1 in 6 chance that they’ll end up off the pitch. What you lose however is a basic lineman. Add that to the fact that those linemen come with block as standard, meaning one of the block die results that sees them knocked over is negated and I think you’ll agree they’re not bad odds. Compare it to a human lineman for example:

1-die block (assuming any result that knocks over your player is taken).

Norse knocked over 1 in 3, Human knocked over 1 in 2.

Norse armour broken approximately 2 in 5, Human armour broken approximately 1 in 3

Injuries are the same, meaning from a 1 die block, chance of a Norse lineman ending up off the pitch is 6%, whereas a human lineman is 7%.

With MA6 and average ST and AG stats, there really aren’t any other downsides to the Norse lineman, with the number of specialist positions the Norse have available to them, you don’t even have to take that many (If you have a fully specialised team, you need to start with 2 linemen on the pitch).

How to maximise the strengths

What these guys really excel at is hitting stuff (in comparison to most linemen), they’re an odd combination of low armour players who actually like to scrap. The important thing to remember though of course is that they don’t much like being knocked over. One of their key strengths is that they start with the block skill, so have an advantage on most other line players right from the start. You can really maximise their strengths therefore by blocking with them, knocking opposition players over and gaining numerical superiority over your opponent. You can even take a bit more of a chance with these guys than most other linemen, by making 1-die blocks as the chance of falling over yourself is only 1 in 6. I’d strongly advise not rolling these till the end of your turn though, or if you’re desperate. Ideally, try and outnumber your opponent at one end of the Line of Scrimmage, to let you block all the way down the line with two dice. If you do that, you should see that several of your opponent’s players start the turn on the floor, and that limits what they can do, if only because it slows them down a lot.

I mentioned earlier though that you have two types of linemen. On your drive is where you use your skilled players on the LoS. Their biggest advantage is that they start with block, meaning you’re only 6 SPP’s away from a second skill, and you don’t need to worry about taking block. A lot of advice you’ll get will say take Fend to help them stay alive, but this is your offensive line, so I say take skills that will help you put the other guy down, by which I mean Frenzy, then Tackle (or vice versa). You’ll rarely see advice advocating taking Frenzy, and I’ll agree it takes a bit of experimentation to get its use right, since you could potentially be following up a block into a crowd of players such that your opponent gets to choose the dice result, but the ability for your LoS players to block twice, potentially with two dice on each occasion, is magical in terms of clearing the pitch out. Throw in some support from your Ulfwereners (more on these guys in another article) and you have a LoS that will scare most opponents.

The second main strength of the Norse lineman is as a result of the team makeup, and that’s that you don’t need to start many of them each kickoff. Norse teams come with the option of up to 9 positional players, all of whom can be useful on both offensive and defensive drives, and what that means is that specialising your linemen is extremely practical. You’ll have seven linemen if you max out your team, meaning that you can create 3 defensive fodder players, 3 offensive blocking players, with one spare to skill how you’d like according to your needs, I’d personally recommend building this player to be your defensive sweeper, taking skills designed to help him get the ball off the opposition.

Do you start a league with one?

You have to, and I’d recommend at least 6.

What skills can they take?

They only have general skill access without rolling doubles, and they start with block so I can understand why some people would suggest they’re about as good as they can be straight from the box. It’s a point I’d disagree with though, let’s look at the options:

Dauntless

A great skill for those offensive linemen when you’re playing any of the stronger teams (Ogres, Undead, Khemri, Chaos etc) as it lets you get that first block in and make it count without needing excessive numbers of assists. Don’t waste it on defensive linemen though, as they can only use it when they do the blocking, not when they’re being blocked.

Dirty player

There’s always space on a team for a dirty player, that’s probably what the seventh lineman is for, though I’d say (with my dice rolling) that you’re best fouling late in the game to minimise the impact if you get sent off, but by then it can be too late to make a huge difference.

Fend

Without doubt, if you’re being blocked this is a good skill, particularly if the blocker has piling on. In my opinion it’s best used if you’re trying to stall a cage, as it prevents the blocker from moving up and making you have to dodge away.

Frenzy

Yup, you guessed it, frenzy is my personal favourite offensive skill for the Norse Lineman. Vastly increases your chances of putting someone down, it still needs to be used with care though, and you can be better off not blocking at all if a poor result on the first roll would leave you in the mire.

Kick

Not for a Lineman, there are so many more useful things they can do. The only time I’d consider this is if I were playing without a thrower (which I don’t)

Kick Off Return

Usually pretty wasted on a lineman unless you don’t use throwers, its main use is for retrieving the ball since you can’t use it to cross the LoS.

Pass Block

Limited scope for usefulness on a lineman, unless they gain an AG increase, in which case you might want to consider it. Won’t come off very often but when it does it’s magical 

Pro

Some people really like Pro. My dice rolling is just bad enough though that it’s not worth the extra TV in my mind. Could be crucial to minimise paying out for re-rolls you can’t afford and re-rolling the less important stuff (if it’s a block you absolutely must make and need to re-roll it, use a team one, you don’t want to fail your Pro roll, use a team one to re-roll it and then fail again).

Shadowing

Linemen generally aren’t fast enough to use this well, except against the slowest (and therefore usually strongest) opposition. Against those players, you really don’t want to be stood next to them too much anyway and they’re not likely to do much dodging except in dire circumstances!

Strip Ball

Great for that sweeper roll. I wouldn’t bother putting this on anyone likely to be on the LoS because it’s very rare that the ball ends up where they are.

Sure Hands

Not worthwhile unless you’re looking at making him your main ball carrier, and you’ve got better options for that elsewhere so I wouldn’t bother with this.

Tackle

Absolute gold if you’ve got a lot of dodge in your league. It’s my go-to skill after Frenzy for just about everyone in this team.

Wrestle

Worth considering on your defensive linemen if for some reason they manage to skill up. Can create big holes in a defence when used en masse.

What are good options for doubles skill rolls?

Diving Tackle

Magic in that sweeper role – it will force most opponents to try and blitz away from you, and a lot of catchers are weaker meaning you’re picking the result.

Dodge

Always a good option, as it limits the number of occasions your linemen end up on the floor. Not worth it on your offensive linemen though as in this instance it’s a defensive skill. Added to that, if you’re stalling a cage and dodging away each turn, dodge makes it much more reliable.

Sneaky Git

If you build a fouler and roll a double, Sneaky Git will make sure you get the best value for those stamps.

Leader

An extra re-roll is always good, and it comes in at half the price of the others, but if you’re splitting your linemen into offensive and defensive, you might be better taking it on a player who’s always on the pitch.

Grab

Manoeuvring opposition players into better positions for blocking them? Yup, good plan, but it’s not the most useful doubles skill.

Guard

This is. Even if you use your Ulf’s on the LoS, players with Guard make blocking on the LoS or in a scrum so much easier. Take as much as you can, you’ll need it.

Mighty Blow

Always very useful, if you’ve already rolled a ST increase and Frenzy, taking this skill really multiplies your team’s power, you’re effectively building your own extra Ulfwereners!

Stand Firm

Great for stymieing that cage, but its big disadvantage is that there are several preferable double skills to take on linemen first.

Thick Skull

Suffers from the same problem as a lot of the double skills, there are better options. Added to that, Nuffle’s Law means that if your opponent does break the armour on this guy, they’ll roll 9 or more for injury.

What are the best stat increases to take?

Strength, strength and strength. There’s an argument for taking armour, particularly if you’ve got that Frenzy/+ST/Mighty Blow guy already, but four skills is a lot to get to without them dying first. Alternatively, if you roll Armour first, you could take it to make sure that player stays around long enough to get those other skills. I’d be inclined to take the skill above anything but strength though in general.

What are the best skill combinations?

Depends on the role you want them to fulfil, but I have two general paths I try to follow.

 

Offensive Lineman

1.       Frenzy

2.       Tackle

3.       Dauntless

4.       Mighty Blow/Guard

Defensive Lineman

1.       Guard

2.       Fend

3.       Wrestle

4.       Dirty Player

5.       AV+

The Offensive Lineman is basically there to become another blitzer (or several more since the basis of the player only requires general skill access – Mighty Blow and Guard are useful additions but the block/frenzy/tackle trio is the most important part.

The Defensive Lineman is only created when I roll a double for the first skill, because regardless of whether I’ve got any of the other skills, I want my defensive linemen giving assists to each other. I’ll cover turning defence into attack in a later article, but it’s enough at this point to know that you only really need 1 Defensive Lineman to start with. If you roll a second double for this guy, take Dodge above any other consideration, as it cuts the odds of knocking him over right down to almost nothing.

Final thoughts

The Norse Lineman is a great player right out of the box, in fact I’d say that for the price they’re absolutely the best lineman you can buy, only Dwarves are better in absolute terms, but at 20k more each and with very restrictive movement the Norse still gets my vote.

You’ll often hear that the Norse linemen are best without getting that first skill but personally I disagree, I play Norse as a very aggressive team needing to put the opposition down on the floor to prevent too much damage, so by skilling them with offensive skills like frenzy and tackle I can turn my Norse team into a real beatstick that can really keep more expensive players out of the game for long periods. If only they had access to Mighty Blow without needing to roll a double…