Tuesday, 19 November 2013

An evaluation of the Norse Ulfwerener in bloodbowl

Player Type:                       Ulwerener (come ‘ere so I can hurt you)
Position:                              Specialist blitzer/blocker
Starting Line Up:               Oh hell yes
Strengths:                           ST4, Frenzy, AV8 (in a Norse team, that’s good!)
Weaknesses:                     No block skill, Frenzy, low AG

The Ulfwerener as the brutalisers of the Norse team, and any opponent that tells you he’s not scared of them is lying. Or Naïve.  They’re right up there in the bullying stakes, and with a decent movement stat there’s not much than can’t be hit by them either if you’ve taken two on your team. Their biggest weakness is the speed with which they gain experience due to their skill set, but they don’t need many skills to make them utterly terrifying to most teams
How to manage the downsides
Well their biggest weakness is the lack of the block skill, so the best way of managing this is by giving them block for their first skill increase. Seriously, ignore anything else, just take block. The only exception I would make to that is if I roll a double, when I would take dodge. Your opponent is going to be gunning for them to get them off the pitch, so it’s crucial to minimise the results that will see that happen – if you’ve ever tried to knock over a wardancer or amazon blitzer, you’ll know exactly how annoying the blodge combination is, then make them ST4 and watch your opponent weep!

I know what you’re thinking next though, how can frenzy be a weakness as well as a strength? Well simple really, frenzy can get you into hot water if you block the wrong person and don’t get the result you’re looking for, as you follow up, and have to block again, regardless of how many assists your opponent gets. I’ve been there, it’s not a nice feeling when you realise you’re rolling two dice and your opponent gets to choose the result. Of course last time it happened to me, they both came up defender down, but you can’t rely on that happening! Seriously, Frenzy is a double edged sword if ever there was one, probably with nasty little thorns all over the handle too – used properly it can win you the game, used thoughtlessly and you’ll hurt yourself. Managing Frenzy well is entirely down to who you block and when, if you clear out the supporting players first you’re onto a winner but take your frenzied block first and you’re asking for trouble.

Low agility is just something you’ll have to get used to, there aren’t many S4 players that are particularly agile (Vampires immediately spring to mind, but they’ve got plenty of other drawbacks). It’s a weakness for the Ulf because you’re relying on him increasing his skill selection to become a real game changer, and for that you need experience points. Gaining experience points, unless you get lucky with your MVP, is all about casualties and touchdowns, and with AG2 he’s not going to be picking the ball up and waltzing his way through the opposition lines to score a finesse touchdown. Added to that, to start with he doesn’t come with block so isn’t as likely to be able to put opponents down and he’ll skill slowly. There are several ways to manage this, and the first is something you won’t see many people think of. Touchbacks. It’s a free way of giving the ball to a player who otherwise would struggle to pick it up, Norse aren’t best adapted to passing anyway so use your other Ulf and beserkers to clear the way and get that touchdown with this guy, you’ll thank me when he’s already halfway to that first skill!
How to maximise the strengths
Well ST4 is a great start, against most people you’ll be rolling 2 dice and choosing even in the midst of a melee. Suddenly your chances of putting your opponent down went from 1 in 3 to 2 in 3. It’s perfectly acceptable therefore to put your Ulf on the Line of Scrimmage, though I would tend to do that only when I’m setting up second, otherwise your opponent can either avoid him or attack him with stronger guys. ST4 is good, but it’s not great, you’re only 1 assist away from a 1-die block, and with frenzy and no block that’s a bad thing. Don’t get carried away therefore, by all means use your Ulfs to push a hole through the centre of your opponent’s line, or put them on the flank to really bully his receivers (after all, you’re then only 1 assist away from a 3-dice block against a ST2 player. I’d also seriously consider not always taking the down result on the first roll, especially if you’ve managed to give him Block, as sometimes the extra space you create from pushing your opponent back that extra square makes things much easier for your ball carriers. On the flanks, Ulfs are great at shoving opponents into the crowd (ideal for those high armour teams – instant Injury roll yes please!) or into the path of your beserkers, it’s perfectly plausible to get four blocks on the same model this way (in fact I’ve done it, the down side being that even with 4 two-dice blocks I failed to knock them down – bloody Amazon Blitzers!)

I’ve already touched on Frenzy, so I’ll keep this brief, by using it to get an extra block you’re drastically increasing your odds of putting that other player down, and if he’s down that means he’s not likely to be blocking you next turn. It also helps you get more chances of picking up Star Player Points for causing Casualties.

Finally then AV8, it’s basically average more most teams, but for the Norse, this is as good as it gets, but don’t get carried away, put these guys in where the mummies are and they’ll come off worse for it – any opponent with mighty blow has the chance to effectively consider you AV7, and you don’t want that. Positioning is everything therefore, and if you’re in the wrong place that extra point means nothing. Think very carefully before you place your Ulfs, particularly if your opponent is going first.
Do you start a league with one?
I would yes, though depending on the league you might want to keep it at one (my club’s current league I started with one and bought the second after my second game). You certainly want to be increasing their presence to the maximum as soon as you can.
What skills can they take?
Gold, absolute gold, it’s the first skill you should take with the Ulf, unless you roll a double, when you should take dodge instead.

Pointless, unless you fancy attacking a really strong player – your runners already have dauntless as standard so really don’t waste your time here.

Dirty Player
Again, pointless, the last thing you want to do is risk one of your prize assets being sent off. I don’t advocate not fouling at all, but what I do strongly suggest is that if you do foul, do it with the cheapest most disposable player on your team, and the Ulf certainly isn’t that.

Very much a defensive skill, it has its place to prevent someone from blocking (or frenzying you) in subsequent turns, but quite frankly you want this guy to have as many offensive skills as possible (dodge excepted) so I’d leave it in the box.

If you want a kicker, give this skill to a thrower, you certainly don’t want to waste an advance on an Ulf by giving them this skill.

Kick-off return
Very similar to kick really, the only benefit would be to get into base contact with an opponent and if your placement is good then you should be able to do that anyway. This would be wasted on an Ulf (or more accurately, an Ulf would be wasted with this skill!)

Pass Block
You think it’s worth trying an interception with an Ulf? Try playing Elves instead, and don’t even think about taking Pass Block on an Ulf!

Could certainly be useful, particularly if you’ve skimped on re-rolls at the start of a league to afford 2 Ulfs, but I’ve never liked the potential for Pro to go wrong, particularly since you can then waste the re-roll you were trying to save to re-roll the Pro only for it to fail again.

Ulfs aren’t quick enough to make this worthwhile, most times you’ll want to be shadowing a receiver meaning you’ll be at a natural disadvantage so as appealing as it might be to watch your Ulf shadow that Gutter Runner so that he can block him next turn, it’s not very likely to work out that way.

Strip Ball
Actually not a bad idea, often the problem with the Strip Ball skill is that the player who drops the ball ends up standing next to it in the next turn anyway, making the pickup more difficult, but as the Ulf is frenzied you can pretty much ensure that doesn’t happen. The biggest issue is getting them through a clutch of player to block the ball carrier because of their low agility.

Sure Hands
Well if you roll an agility increase early on with your Ulf and decide to take it, this could turn him into a pretty mean player for picking on any lose balls in your opponents half, it’s a highly speculative option though, and doesn’t play to his strengths particularly.

Ooh, now here’s a skill I love, if they weren’t so slow I’d play Dwarves just for this. As you may have noticed, I do hate blodgers, and to be able to look them in the eye and point out that their dodge skill is worthless makes me feel all warm inside.  Definitely one to take around skill two or three, depending on the teams in your league and where you use your Ulfs.

Not really worthwhile, with AV8 Ulfs make a very tempting target on the ground (believe me if you gave me a chance to foul a 110000gp player and get him out of the match I’d do it, even if you could guarantee my guy would be sent off) and as you’ll have given them block anyway, the occasions when you’d use it are rare. Generally the only time I could see myself using this skill is very far on in a league when most of the opposition players have block.

Break Tackle
Not a bad choice actually, particularly if you need to move your Ulf around a group of players. Not a priority, but certainly worth considering if you tend to find them boxed in by tackle zones a lot.

If you put your Ulf on the line, this is gold. If (like I do usually) you have them start out wide then not so good, but getting two-dice blocks with Norse is the key to winning so it’s worth taking on anyone you can. Don’t take it before Block though.

Late on in a league I’d definitely consider this depending on what other skills I’ve got. There’re a lot of other skill ahead in the queue though.

Mighty Blow
Oh. Hell. Yeah. Casualties are going to be your main source of SPP’s, so take Mighty Blow early. My second normal choice after Block.

Multiple Block
Ulfs aren’t strong enough to make this work for them and it will just get you into trouble, and it also cancels out the use of frenzy, which you want to make the most of.

Piling On
Despite what I said earlier about Ulfs on the floor, Piling On is always worth it, even if you only take it on one of them.

Stand Firm
If you deploy the Ulfs on the flanks, then yes it’s definitely worthwhile, particularly if you like to crowd surf opponents, as you can end up stood next to the touchline yourself and vulnerable to a canny opponent.

Strong Arm
I wouldn’t consider this on an Ulf at all, if he’s got the ball, he should be heading for the endzone, not thinking about passing it to someone else.

Thick Skull
I’m never convinced by Thick Skull, I always feel that on the occasion I really needed it to work, my opponent would just roll a ‘9’ anyway, but it can be handy for keeping them on the pitch if your dice rolling (or more appropriately, your opponent’s) is better than mine.
What are good options for doubles skill rolls?
I’d completely ignore the Passing skill set, the Ulf’s natural agility (or lack of!) mitigates against trying passing actions with them anyway, and hand-off’s are unaffected by these skills.
It’s a great defensive skill, and not many expect it on a big lump of a player like the Ulf, who knows, it could even mean you attempt an occasional dodge knowing you’ve got a free re-roll.

Jump Up
Only take this if you already have Piling On, as otherwise you won’t (deliberately) be spending much time on the floor.

What are the best stat increases to take?
Well you’re mainly going to be hitting stuff, so ST is definitely worth thinking about, after all it does mean that those weedy ST2 receivers will be suffering a 3-dice block unless they’ve got an assist.

Similarly a MA7 Ulf is going to scare people, not many ST4 players will move that far.

AG is probably the one I’d definitely leave behind, as making an Ulf average agility isn’t going to make him a star receiver. Of course, if you’re confident then you could take it and hope for a second, making him AG4, but that’s two big increases when your runners only need one to get that ability.

AV, making your prize hitter AV9? You’d be daft not to at least think about it, after all, it knocks the chances of breaking his armour down from 28% (42% if the hitter has mighty blow or claws, 58% with both) to 17%
What are the best skill combinations?
Bearing in mind you’re going to be looking to get players off the pitch with these guys, I’d tend to build them this way:

1.       Block
2.       Mighty Blow
3.       Tackle
4.       Piling On
5.       Guard
6.       Stand Firm
(Insert dodge at any point here if you roll a double)

Alternatively, if you’re going to try and create a rock on your Line of Scrimmage:

1.       Block
2.       Guard
3.       Mighty Blow
4.       Stand Firm
5.       Thick Skull
6.       Wrestle

Finally, there’s that guy who hunts the ball carrier down:

1.       Block
2.       Strip Ball
3.       Break Tackle
4.       Juggernaut
5.       Wrestle
6.       Mighty Blow
Final thoughts
Until you get a Yhetee, this is the guy that your opponents will be scared of. You’ll have two, but even so they can be vulnerable. Successful Bloodbowl teams minimise risk and therefore when you play with these guys, never leave them to operate on their own. Properly supported, they’ll put down player after player and shred your opponent’s team to the bones (deployment of a pair of these guys got 5 orcs off the pitch in a single drive in an early league game, they can even encourage your opponent to try the foul just because they want them gone). If you leave them to win the game by themselves, they’ll roll double pushbacks and end up frenzy blocking a player who’s now got enough assists to pick the result, you’ll end up on the floor and they’ll break your armour (or foul their way through it).