Tuesday, 24 September 2013

An evaluation of the skaven gutter runner in bloodbowl

Player Type

Gutter Runner (Don’thitmedon’thitmedon’thitme TOUCHDOWN!)


Starting Line-up
Yes, as many as you can afford (3 in all probability)

MA9, Dodge, Agility access, One-turn Touchdown.

ST2, AV7

 The Gutter Runner is the true star of the Skaven team, despite what those arrogant Stormvermin will tell you, and they are the player that really gives rise to most of the fear felt by teams facing them. Just a couple of level increases and these guys can reliably score in one turn, without having to resort to being crowd pushed into the opposition half.  Sadly everything comes at a price and chances are just when your prize Gutter Runner gets that extra skill you wanted, he’ll get crushed by some troll and die. Life is cheap, it’s the Skaven way, get used to it! Actually I’m writing this the day after my star gutter runner got mashed by a tomb guardian, 140+ SPP’s down the drain. L

How to manage the downsides

As with all Skaven, their armour value is amongst the lowest in the game, with only Halflings being worse (and let’s face it, they barely count).  What that means is that you really really want to avoid your Gutter Runners hitting the dirt at all, so Block is probably going to be your first skill choice, meaning only 1 in 6 blocks (unless the blocker also has tackle when it drops to 1 in 3) result in you going down.  You’ll want to avoid players with tackle therefore, they’re almost certain to get a 2-dice block against you, and they can put you down scarily often. Frenzied tacklers are even worse! To avoid this however, you’ve got speed on your side, no other rookie in the game starts with MA9 so you can get right into the corners of the pitch and lurk. Always make sure you’ve got an escape route though, if you’ve got the ball then your opponent is likely to try and man mark you gutter runners, so you want to be in a position where you’re dodging to a square without a tackle zone to give yourself the best chance of getting away.

Similar tactics apply to managing your measly ST2. You don’t want to waste a doubles roll on upgrading your strength to 3, Gutter Runners are attacking players so besides block you want to be giving them attacking skills. You’ve therefore got two options, you can hide them behind a stronger character to give them an assist in the block, or as above you can run them into the corners of the pitch so your opponent has to mark them.

Alternatively, and a very Skaven way of playing is to give your opponent too many choices, take 4 Gutter Runners in your team and run them all into your opponent’s half, he can only blitz one of them and mark the others, something that would be acceptable to any Skaven Coach.

How to maximise the strengths

Well their main strength is their speed, so getting them in range of one of those long runs in to the endzone is key. Realistically, Gutter Runners are the only player in the game that can reliably score in a single turn (the odds of any other player getting to MA10 with sprint are minimal), they just need a movement increase and the sprint skill (which they have ready access to). Once you’ve got this guy, you only need to blitz an opponent out of the way and it’s a free run-in to the line, his agility of 4 actually means that he’s got a decent chance of making it even if he has to run through an opponent’s tackle zones.

If you’re kicking off, then have one Gutter Runner positioned midway into your opponent’s half, and another near the LOS, if the ball breaks free, you can pass it and hand-off to score in a turn even if it comes loose near your own endzone. This ability to score quickly means a game is rarely out of reach of the Skaven unless you’re at least three TD’s behind.

Skaven are known for being a fast team, but most of them are no more agile than your average human/beastman/orc and so can’t pull off quite as many of the finesse plays you’ll see from Elvish teams. Gutter Runners are your exception to this, AG4 and Dodge from the start means you shouldn’t have too many problems weaving your way through most set-ups (watch out for Dwarfs though!), so don’t be too conservative. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen a Gutter Runner pick up the ball from a couple of enemy tackle zones , dodge back out and touch down in the corner of the pitch. Generally speaking (and it’s true for the Skaven as a whole, not just Gutter Runners) the more impossible the play, the more likely it is you’ll pull it off. Ask him to dodge out of one tackle zone and move one square to score and Nuffle will send him tumbling. On the other hand, pick the ball out of a cage, pass over the heads of some Wood Elves for a catch in a couple of tackle zones and needing to Go For It to reach the line and Nuffle will respect your audacity, sending you a string of sixes (sorry, I don’t provide a guarantee on this, you may have offended Nuffle in some other way already).

Access to agility skills just enhances all of the above. Sprint and Sure Feet help you create the one-turn touchdown master, catch and diving catch help you make sure you get hold of the ball if the pass is off target, the list goes on, and it’s the only category where I’d happily take every skill available (if only you could!)

Do you start a league with one?

Erm, yes. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you don’t, your fellow coaches would be entitled to point and laugh at your exhibition of extreme stupidity. It would be nice to start a league with 4 of these guys, and it’s possible, but I’d be more tempted to take 3 and get an extra linerat, save any spare cash to buy the 4th Gutter Runner as your first purchase once the league is underway.

What skills can they take?

 As I mentioned earlier, Block is important for keeping your Gutter Runner on his feet, and as they can’t score if they’re not standing up then it’s a very good choice early on. The only downside is it’s not as attacking as some of the other options available to them.

This skill synergises well with some of the other options available to the Gutter Runner (see the combo’s section later) and can help to overcome their low ST on offence. That being said, it takes up a vital slot so I wouldn’t say it’s as universally necessary as Block.

Dirty Player
If you’re going to foul (and as a Skaven Coach you should, after all, it’s safer to kick ‘em while they’re down than when they can kick you back!) then you should really be doing it with a player you don’t mind being sent off, so don’t do it with a Gutter Runner!

Now this poses some interesting difficulties. It’s not an offensive skill on the face of it so I’d tend to leave it in the bag, but upon closer examination, is your opponent going to block a Gutter Runner with this skill, potentially leaving him outside any tackle zones and free to receive the ball with an unmodified AG roll? Probably not (at least, not if they’ve got any sense). So it’s well worth considering on your catching Gutter Runners. Doesn’t have the same impact with blitzes unfortunately, as they can just use the rest of their MA to stand next to you again. On the whole I’d probably leave it (in favour of Nerves of Steel).

For the most part, I love this skill, and sure, if you’ve got a Gutter Runner with Strip Ball that you use to sack the opposition’s ball carrier then why not, just make sure you have Dauntless first so it’s not a 2-dice block against.

I like to have a player with this skill on the team, but I wouldn’t waste a Gutter Runner’s skill slot on it. Give it to your thrower or a linerat instead.

Kick-off return
It’s just not necessary in a Skaven team, you don’t need the extra movement to reach the ball so it’s really just stopping you from taking a more useful skill.

Pass block
If you’re going to build a specific player to defend against agility teams throwing the ball, this is a must, and combines particularly well with Very Long Legs to ruin a High Elf’s day.

No doubt it’s useful, particularly if you had to burn a team re-roll early in the half to get the ball free, but as with other options, the Gutter Runner has so many choices it’s hard to justify using this here particularly seeing as you’d mainly use it to dodge or catch with, actions you can get specific re-rolls for that aren’t wasted half the time. You’re better off putting it on your linerats to stop you needing that re-roll earlier in the turn.

If you plan on developing a defensive Gutter Runner this skill is great. Your high MA means they’ve got to roll well to avoid him, and combine it with Tackle, Diving Tackle and Prehensile Tail and you’ve got a monster those opposing catchers will do anything to avoid. Only problem with him is, he’ll be targeted for a blitz/foul early on to get him out of the game so you might have to develop two for this tactic.

Strip Ball
Works well with Leap, Dauntless and Frenzy to get the ball off your opponent, if only you could leap twice in one turn, sadly if you leap in you’ll have to dodge out, but it’s worth considering.

Sure Hands
This is a great skill for ball carriers and retrievers, but before you decide to take it consider this, with an MA of 9 and a thrower who comes with it included, do you need to give it to a Gutter Runner who shouldn’t get blocked with the ball in his hands?

As noted earlier, this works brilliantly with Diving Tackle, Shadowing and Prehensile Tail to cause major problems to opposing receivers, and if you want a player to cause those kinds of problems, it’s practically a necessity.

I wouldn’t normally use it, if you do develop a Gutter Runner to sack the ball carrier the last thing you want is to get it free but your best player for extracting end up lying on the floor unable to move until next turn. Take Block instead.

Great skill for a Gutter Runner. Saves you needing to use team re-rolls, it’s effectively therefore worth 60,000gp, for a 20,000gp increase in player value. Good synergy with Diving Catch, Nerves of Steel and Leap to create a player who can receive the ball in a crowd and still escape to either score himself of hand-off to another player in range of the endzone.

Diving Catch
Very useful skill, particularly early on in a league when the throws to him might not be accurate. It can still come in hand later on though to enable you to use other players to pick up SPP’s for completions to boost their level.

Diving Tackle
-2 modifier to dodging out of a tackle zone? Yes please. If you decide to go down this route, I’d build two the same, one for each side of the pitch to link your LOS and the wide zones.

Jump Up
Your Gutter Runners will spend a fair bit of time on the floor, so this is definitely worth taking, particularly for those you’re intending to use in the transition zone of the pitch, where they might need to take a longer route to avoid tackle zones.

Useful in two different situations, first for leaping into a cage to strip the ball from the carrier, and second to leap out of a crowded zone with the ball without having to take modified dodge rolls.

Side step
I’d say this is almost mandatory for Gutter Runners, as they’ll often start in a wide zone and can play chicken with the touchline with confidence if they’ve got this skill.

Sneaky Git
Well you shouldn’t really be fouling with your Gutter Runner, so not really much point in taking this skill is there?

I’d definitely include this in at least one Gutter Runner, possibly two. It’s essential if you’re building a one-turn touchdown master, and if you can’t reach something with 12/13 squares of movement, you’ve done something wrong somewhere.

Sure Feet
I’d definitely use this skill on the one turn touchdown guy, statistically speaking the odds of falling over increase for each extra Go For It you attempt, so being able to re-roll one failed attempt each turn is important.

What are good options for doubles skill rolls?

Nerves of Steel
Any Gutter Runner you want to use primarily for catching/intercepting should try to take this if at all possible, as it negates the impact of tackle zones on these actions.

Big Hand
It’s inevitable at some point that there will be a ball in a tackle zone (or several) that you want to pick up. Similar to nerves of steel in many ways, this means that you’re going to be picking the ball up on a 2+. Combine it with sure hands and you’ve got a guy who should save from those horrible moments in the last turn of the half or game when the endzone is open and you fumble the pickup with no re-rolls left.

Disturbing Presence
Good for harrying the opposition thrower or putting off their receivers, it works best when it’s on multiple players though so a simple move won’t take them out of its influence (ever played a nurgle team? It’s annoying!) It also has the advantage that it works from distance so you don’t have to be in blocking range, and also even if your player is on the ground (which Gutter Runners often aren’t!

Extra Arms
Good for anyone that’s going to be handling the ball in any way, it’s a great skill for a Gutter Runner and should be considered for most of their building types (except the defenders of course)

Foul Appearance
This is one of those skills that you tend to overlook, till your opponent has it and it stops you from blitzing their ball carrier! I wouldn’t discourage you from taking it on a catcher, but it’s not a skill you can rely on and is highly unlikely to win you the game.

Prehensile Tail
Best on your defensive tacklers, combine it with Shadowing, Tackle, and Diving Tackle and you’ve got a tackling monster that your opponent is going to have to deal with somehow.

It’s a Strength based skill so not hugely useful. Put on a Rat Ogre however stood next to one of your defensive tacklers  and that opposition player is not getting away from you!

Two Heads
Best on a touchdown master, it effectively gives you an agility of 5 when dodging opponents.

Very Long Legs
This is a great skill for an interceptor, especially when combined with Nerves of Steel to mean you should succeed once for every two attempts, and Pass Block to give you more opportunities to attempt interceptions.

What are the best stat increases to take?

AG wouldn’t be a bad option, though your basic AG4 is still very good. There are probably better options by taking a skill at this stage however. MA is essential if you want to threaten scoring in a single turn (Tied game with one turn left? Skaven are the only team likely to be able to pull a win out of that situation!) AV would definitely be useful to keep them on the pitch, but I’d only consider it once I’d got MA10, and all the basic skills for that particular player build, so maybe as a 5th/6th choice. ST I would really bother with, you won’t be blocking much with them and your opponents are likely to be able to get a 2-dice anyway most of the time.

What are the best skill combinations?

So many possible builds it’s hard to remember them all!

Defensive tackler
1.       Diving Tackle
2.       Tackle
3.       Prehensile Tail
4.       Shadowing
These are the basic four skills I’d give to a player in this role. As I touched on earlier, they’re best developed in pairs and only used when you’re the kicker, and they provide the link between the players on the LOS and the wide defender. If they progress beyond the four-skill level then there are plenty of other options that can complement this set, which are Disturbing Presence, Pass block, Block, Strip Ball.

Touchdown Master
1.       MA increase
2.       Sprint
3.       Sure Feet
These are the basic three skills to create a player capable of scoring in one turn. You can add a whole host to these to make scoring in general situations much easier, such as Nerves of Steel, Catch, Diving Catch, Leap, Extra Arms, Extra Head, Block, Pro, Jump Up, Pass Block and Very Long Legs. The basic principle remains the same though, when receiving the ball, set him up in one of the wide zones, use your blitzer to push one of his defenders out of the way and then storm up the touchline using your re-rolls as necessary. Can be used to great effect in the last turn of a tied game to pull off a last gasp win that’s very demoralising for your opponent. If you’re going to try that though, best to keep this guy on the bench for as long as possible, you don’t want him badly hurt in the opening few turns! Alternatively you can use it in the first turn of a game to hopefully give you a 2-1 half time lead, then share the second half 1-1 if necessary to take the win.

1.       Pass Block
2.       Very Long Legs
3.       Nerves of Steel
4.       Extra Arms
Again these are the 4 basics. Complementary skills would be Fend, Block, Disturbing Presence, Shadowing, and the player would be best marking the receiver or hovering around the centre of the pitch to make pass block most effective. You should also take any agility increase you might get on this guy to make your interception easier. Probably best used alternately with the touchdown master, as this guy is most useful on your defensive drive.

Goal Hanger
1.       Big Hand
2.       Sure Hands
3.       Extra Arms
4.       Leap
This guy’s sole purpose is to hover near a cage, and when you break the ball free, hop in, pick up the ball and dive back out again before either scoring, passing or handing off to one of your other players. Similar to the interceptor, any agility increase you should snap up, even if it takes him to AG6 as it makes it much easier to get into and out of a cage this way. Complementary skills would be Two Heads (though it’s unlikely, as you need two doubles for the basic 4 skills above), Strip ball, Dauntless, Tackle, Wrestle (although these are more designed for the next build below), Jump Up.

Ball Sacker
1.       Leap
2.       Dauntless
3.       Strip Ball
4.       Big Hand
5.       Extra Arms
If’ you’re building a Gutter Runner to fulfil this role, bear in mind he’s going to spend a lot of time on the floor. I wouldn’t get too attached to be honest, and if you get to 5 skills I’ll be very surprised. Every so often though he’ll pull off the impossible and not only leap into a cage of opposition players, but you’ll also roll a three dice block against that comes up with three pushbacks, steal the ball and make good your escape before handing off to your goal hanger who  takes the score.

Final thoughts
Gutter Runners are the undoubted stars of your team. Don’t get attached to them though as their low strength and armour means they’ll get hit plenty, and take damage when they do. Don’t underestimate their speed, they are the only players in the game to start with MA9, and there’s nothing more demoralising for your opponent than having spent 4/5/6 turns driving the ball up the pitch to get a touchdown only to watch you receive the ball, drive his wide defenders out of the way for your star GR to run the length of his half of the pitch for the one-turn TD.