Tuesday, 12 March 2013

An evaluation of the Skaven Rat Ogre in Bloodbowl

ok, who's got my my ball?
Player Type: The Rat Ogre (Beefcake, BEEFCAKE)

Position: Big guy (0-1)


Starting Line-up: No


Strengths: High strength, good MA, potential to become a real killer.


Weaknesses: Low agility, low armour, no ‘block’, wild animal


You won’t love him or hate him. You’ll love him and hate him.

This is due to the fact that he’s a wild animal, and he doesn’t have block. Let’s face it though, none of the big guys come with block, or have ready access to it, and at least wild animal is not quite as annoying as really stupid, and you can rely on him retaining his tackle zone even if he fails the test to take his action. The bright side is that what you really want to do with this guy is hit isolated players, and by blocking or blitzing you’re giving yourself the best chance possible of doing that (failing only on a 1), added to which with an MA of 6 he’s the fastest of the big guys, level pegging with the Kroxigor. As always, lack of block won’t affect the damage you do to your opponent, but it can hurt you in terms of turnovers and re-rolls if you’re not careful.

How to manage the downsides

First, and I can’t stress this enough, DO NOT place your Rat Ogre on the LOS, especially when you’re kicking off. I’ve done this before and watched him get badly hurt in the first turn of the game, and it’s a waste of his talents. There is only one acceptable situation where you put him on the LOS, and that’s if you’ve only got three players to set up at the beginning of the drive (squeak!). Seriously, I’d put a Gutter Runner there before this guy.

Secondly, as briefly mentioned above, ‘Wild Animal’ will cause your Rat Ogre to stand still fuming half of the time unless you’re blocking or blitzing with him. To give you an idea of the difference that makes, if you don’t declare a block or a blitz action and just move/foul instead, your 150,000gp ST5 wall of raging muscle will spend one entire half of the game doing nothing (on average). If you decide to hit something with it, that drops to 3 turns per game (ish).  If you don’t want to waste your investment therefore, hit something with him!

Thirdly, don’t get involved in a melee with your Rat Ogre! ST5 he may be but you’ll soon find that if he’s involved in a big brawl his supporting players are pushed out of assist range or knocked over, and he’s facing a two dice block against. This spells d.o.w.n. and with only AV8 it’s entirely possible you’re going to be KO’d or worse. You REALLY don’t want this to happen in the first quarter of the game and watch your expensive asset spend the rest of the game unconscious.

Pick your targets, ok so he’s ST5, but against most players that’s still only a 2-dice block. If you can pick on a ST2 player to get 3-dice or use a couple of assists to get one against a ST3 then do so. Preferably you should hit someone without block/dodge if you can to maximise your chances of putting them down, but with the number of dice you should be rolling, combined with frenzy I’d be inclined to go for the more dangerous target even if they have one (or both) of those skills, they’re not going to affect whether you end up on your backside after all.

Skills such as Block and Pro can help minimise a Rat Ogre’s weaknesses, but if managed properly as above, he shouldn’t lose you the game – you’re skaven after all and no other team can score in one turn as easily as we can. Used properly, he’s a scary backfield enforcer that eats agile but weak receivers for breakfast.

How to maximise the strengths

You can cover a maximum of 79 of the 195 (about 45%) available squares in your own half with tackle zones during set-up, along with 9 of your opponent’s squares.  The bottom line therefore is that agile teams (and stunty teams) are going to get players in your half in their first turn, particularly if they’re receiving the kick off, and they won’t necessarily be in a tackle zone. Consequently, it’s best to manage where those players are going to be. I personally favour leaving the central column of three squares free, forcing your opponent to overload this zone or place their players in a tackle zone on the flanks.  My preferred role for the Rat Ogre is to hit one of these players, hard (or both if you’ve got multiple block and they’re close enough together). If your opponent has been unlucky and only has one receiver, then by all means move one or two players to assist and make a three-dice block, just don’t forget to position them so they can still provide the assist if you need to use frenzy. If there’s more than one receiver, then move players to cover the other receivers with tackle zones then make your blitz with the Rat Ogre. It’s important here that the blitz is the last action you take, and you don’t let anyone in your backfield without a tackle zone, your Rat Ogre could get struck by Wild Animal and refuse to do anything, or (worse) get a double down on the first roll and leave you with a turnover and an open receiver in range of the endzone. The Rat Ogre’s big advantage over other types of big guy in this role is his mobility, by starting in the central column, he can blitz anyone in your half with a single Go For It (which is only required if they’re foolish enough to leave their receiver next to the touchline, I’ve never seen anyone that clueless!).  I’ll talk about skills later, but basically your Rat Ogre is a bully, don’t let him get into a fair fight and he should do wonders, mine has hit the heights of four and five casualties in a single match with just a couple of skills (ok they were goblins and Halflings, but it still counts!).

Do you start a league with one?

I have, and in a one-off match there’d be a definite benefit to it, but in a league I’d say steer clear for a few games. It’s Nuffle’s law that if you push yourself to include one of these in a 1,000,000gp team then you’re going to have to rely on him making that two dice block to prevent a touchdown, and that’s when you’re hit by;
a)      Wild animal, and your opponent has an uninterrupted run to the endzone, or
b)      Double skulls, it’s turnover unless you’ve got a re-roll and can pass your ‘loner’ test. Bear in mind that even if you do manage to re-roll it, Nuffle is sadistic enough to give you double skulls again – believe me, I’ve done it!

What skills can they take?

A lot of people will tell you that block should be you first port of call for any player without it, in particular big guys. Most big guys tend to be on the LOS however and I maintain that block is a defensive skill, there are better options for a Rat Ogre who should be your backfield bully. His basic skill set gives him access only to strength skills, so let’s have a look at his options.

Break Tackle
Well your Rat Ogre has an agility of 2 and a strength of 5, so this is a pretty good choice to be honest. Bear in mind though, that you can only use it once per turn so it doesn’t turn him into a dodger, best used when you ‘re in a tackle zone or two and need to break out to blitz the ball carrier. If the square you’re dodging to also has a tackle zone on it, make this the last move of your turn, odds are you’ll end up on the floor.

Great skill, but best used in melee situations or on the LOS, and your Rat Ogre shouldn’t be there. Only take it if there’s nothing else to choose from.

I prefer this skill to block, all the big guys have access to it, but it’s more offensive than block and can help you to push players into the crowd – if you can narrow the pitch by two or three squares and your opponent is reluctant to place players in these zones then your defence becomes much easier.

Multiple Block
I can see odd situations where this could be useful, but without being on the LOS (he’s not there, right?), its use is very limited, and still relies on you being able to provide assists to get 2-dice blocks (except ST2 players of course). I’d personally leave it in the bag until the end if you’ve not picked up any doubles. Becomes more useful if you roll a strength increase early on.

Piling On
My personal favourite for the Rat Ogre. Be warned though, if you’re playing the computer game version rather than the tabletop game, the default response is to always use this unless the opponent is badly hurt, I’ve rolled knockouts with a block that have been re-rolled when piling on to result in the player only being stunned. You can’t be sent off for using this skill, it doesn’t count as a foul, so the only drawback is that your Rat Ogre starts the next turn lying on the floor, limiting his reach for blitzing again.

Stand Firm
This is a good option to take at the fourth/fifth skill level if you’re not rolling doubles, you can often end up next to the touchline if you’re pushing an opponent out and this skill stops you being vulnerable in your opponent’s following turn.

Strong Arm
No. No no no no no. There is absolutely no point wasting a skill by giving this to your Rat Ogre, who should never be trying to pass the ball (not counting hand-offs, which are unaffected by this anyway).

Thick Skull
Could be useful for keeping him on the pitch a bit longer, but I’d leave it, there are more useful options unless you fail to roll a double at all when advancing a level.

What are good options for doubles skill rolls?

I’ve put this in first because most people will tell you this is the best skill around. I disagree, your Rat Ogre should really focus on offensive skills and I’d rather take Juggernaut and save the double for something that enhances his offence.

Not a bad option, perhaps better than using team re-rolls when you fail a Wild Animal test. Worth considering if you keep rolling doubles, but it wouldn’t be my first choice.

Definitely an option. As with Pro, it wouldn’t be my first choice, but if you get another double roll, use it, it will help you put down those pesky dodgers, and anyone trying to run through his tackle zone may get a nasty shock when you combine this with prehensile tail.

Diving Tackle
If you’re trying to turn your Rat Ogre into a tackle zone monster, then this combined with prehensile tail and tackle form the holy trinity, causing a -3 modifier and preventing the use of dodge to re-roll failed attempts.

Jump Up
This would be my first choice for a doubles roll. I tend to blitz a lot with my Rat Ogre and use Piling On to rack up the casualties. Jump up has great synergy in this case, particularly if it means saving a blitz for elsewhere.

Goes well with Mighty Blow and Piling On to cause more casualties.  If you want him to hit harder, this is a great option. Ironically though, it’s less effective against the more lightly armoured targets you should be picking on, so I’d save it for the LOS and those pesky AV9 guys.

Disturbing Presence.
Well it’s appropriate, I’d be pretty disturbed to have a ten foot tall slab of drooling, slavering muscle-bound rat-man looming over me. It is certainly useful (in theory) if you haven’t managed to put that blodging receiver down, but  I’d go with Tackle first, as it’s more likely to result in them on the floor and not even being able to attempt a catch.

Has some synergy with multiple block, but as with the description of that skill it has very limited actual game use. The rest of the time, the only real benefit would be if you’re blitzing other ST5/6 big guys.

What are the best stat increases to take?

Tricky one this, I’d definitely take AV and would certainly consider MA if I’ve not already managed to get Jump up. ST6 isn’t going to alter the situation against ST3 players though (unless you can get an assist) so I’d be tempted to take the double instead. AG3 is only average, and with break tackle readily available that gives you an easier roll once per turn, which should be all you really need.

What are the best skill combinations?

My ideal would be the following, using the Rat Ogre as a bully to pick on the opponent’s ball receivers.
1.       Piling On
2.       Tackle
3.       Juggernaut
4.       Jump Up
5.       Break Tackle
6.       Stand Firm/Thick Skull

Alternatives however for a more specific purpose could be.
1.       Juggernaut
2.       Horns /Strength increase
3.       Multiple block
4.       Claws
5.       Guard
6.       Tackle
This build would be specifically to bludgeon a hole through the LOS to provide a route through for your ball carrier. Bear in mind though that you need three clear squares to avoid any tackle zones, so Guard is in there to provide an assist to your remaining linerats to shift the last opponent. This is a less than ideal build though as it is quite high risk, the chances of you opening up a sufficiently large hole are stymied if your opponent has Stand Firm or your dice rebel against you. Added to that, Skaven have better options for running round your opponent rather than trying to go through them (I mean seriously, do you want to play like a dwarf?).
1.       Tackle
2.       Diving Tackle
3.       Shadowing (limited usage as most receivers will have a higher MA)
4.       Tentacles (You’re rolling a lot of doubles here…)
5.       Stand Firm
6.       Break Tackle
This build would be to put pressure on a ball carrier, but requires a lot of doubles rolls so is very difficult to achieve with a Rat Ogre, much easier with one of your Stormvermin, though they suffer from only being  ST3 in this role.

Final thoughts

Just as a final note, if you’re receiving and roll high kick on the kick off table, why not stick your Rat Ogre under it and roll him up the pitch to get a touchdown – your opponent definitely won’t be expecting it and if he doesn’t catch the ball, it’s not a turnover. The downside is you’ll need at least four turns to do it because of Wild Animal, five would be safer.