Western Australian Open 2019, Day Two

I woke at 7:30 this morning, tired of life and tired of Blood Bowl. I crawled from the bed to discover there was no hot water in the shower, and then went down to breakfast. Flat whitened, I felt a little better, and with a good bit of food in me, I packed up, checked out and took an Uber to the John McGrath Pavillion where the tournament was taking place.

I had three more matches today: two against Dark Elves, and Chaos Dwarfs to finish the day. (Again, you don’t get time to prepare; you discover your opponent at the same time as you start playing them, in a flurry of team rosters and trying to figure out which player is which.) 

My first opponent had Dark Elves and had never played against Skaven, which meant he wasn’t prepared for the horror of playing against Stuart Little, my Rat Ogre. He also made what was probably a tactical error in choosing to have the ball kicked to him to start; if you’re a heavy bash team like Dwarfs or Chaos, it makes a lot of sense to beat up the opposition, but Elves are a weaker proposition, needing finesse. Worse, my kicker, Angelina Ballerina, is deadly accurate on kick offs, and placed the ball deep in his half, making it hard for him to collect it and go forward. The fans cheered, jeered and then threw a rock that injured one of his players before the match had even begun, and he used up his apothecary on a player that wasn’t going to be much use until the second half anyway.

Then I went to work on him; Stuart Little was a very effective blitzer in this game. Generally it’s advisable not to blitz with somebody where there’s a 1 in 6 chance they’ll be too dumb to actually move, but when Stuart got going, as he usually did, he was a terror on the pitch. With rats running amok in the midfield, it wasn’t hard to chase down his ball carrier and knock him over. I couldn’t manage to score in the first half, but I’d wrecked a good third of his team and Dark Elves are expensive players, so he had no reserves to fill the gaps.

They fluffed the kick – it went high so a runner grabbed it, handed off to Geronimo and he ran up to just by the end zone. Everyone got one player with a stat increase for the tournament, so I gave Geronimo a bit of extra speed. He’s fast enough to be able to run from the touchline to score in a single turn, with a couple of good dice rolls (2+ twice on a D6, which means with a reroll he’ll score 175/216 times, or better than 2 in 3). I didn’t fancy scoring straight off, because a few of his KO’d players might wake up. (This should not have been a concern, because with appalling bad luck, none of the 4 players I knocked out ever woke up – and that was a 1/256 chance, stats fans.) 

So I scurried up and down the pitch, until he got a player close enough to blitz me… and just pushed me into the end zone to score. 1-0.

With five turns to go, he had 4 players still knocked out and two injured. Angelina Ballerina kicked deep like she always does, we stormed in and despite a dump off, blitzed the ball carriers and then Mr Jingles ran it in for our second touchdown. All over in turn 7.

After lunch, it was my second batch of Dark Elves. These were much scarier, because they had two assassins, who get to stab you (Skaven have dreadful armour) and one of them could stab twice per turn. He had a frenzied Witch Elf who was almost as strong as Stuart Little, and whene he started the match by stabbing two of my rats straight to the injury box, I was appalled.

Stuart pulled himself together and injured both the assassins in short order, before getting taken down by the Witch Elf. We committed enough butchery to reduce his team’s viability too though, with some fouling that made it clear if he tried to stall and delay scoring to deny me the chance to retaliate, he wouldn’t have many players left.

So in the second half it wasn’t hard to get through him and score.

Now it was a matter or stopping him going 2-1 up. This was a ragged affair. He had two players ready to receive a pass, deep in my backfield, one of them shoving one of my rats perilously close to going off the pitch. I’d kicked deep again, and the joy of fast rats is that we could knock him up against the side of the pitch and sack his ball carrier. Stuart Little finally ran back and surfed the nasty blitzer who’d been menacing my Gutter Runner, straight into the crowd, and if we’d been just a little luckier, we might have pulled out a second touchdown. He was too good though, so the match ended 1-1.

Odd, because both of these teams should have generated high scores on both sides. I guess everyone was trying to avoid a 5-4 loss.

And then Chaos Dwarfs. Chaos Dwarfs are one of those bogey teams that I can’t deal with (at least online) because they stop you dodging, and then they beat you up, and then they run past you with the ball.

What I hadn’t realised is that I have predominantly played my Goblins against Chaos Dwarfs, and Goblins are crap at dodging. Well, they fail 1 in 3 dodges. My lovely rats, on the other hand, are good at dodging and fail only 1 in 6 dodges, and it turns out to be very hard for a Dwarf player, with limited speed, to catch Skaven when they have knocked a hole in a defence and Geronimo Stilton has the afterburners firing.

Also, I play a lot in leagues against teams which have experienced, developed players. That means there are lots of up-skilled players. In a tournament, it’s different. You get some benefits (a +MA rat like Geronimo is harder to find) and some downsides – no player gets more than one extra skill, and there’s limited numbers of skills available. This also reduces complexity – trying to understand a roster and play against it would be commensurately harder – and probably adds more variance, and therefore more excitement to the games.

So: I kicked deep. His player was incapable of picking up the ball at least twice, which meant both times his turn ended early and I could press forward. His minotaur was very much the equal of Stuart Little, but slower, so we had a bit of an advantage there, but he still managed to do a lot of damage and break out of the flank I’d forced him onto, scoring in turn 7. Rats are pretty fragile.

At least one of his two fastest players, the bull centaurs, was knocked out. The biggest frustration for me was that Stuart Little was in blitzing range to prevent this, but I failed his Wild Animal roll and he stood there seething. To even be able to reroll the Wild Animal, I had to roll 4+ on a D6. 

I rolled a 4.

And then I rolled another 1, and failed the Wild Animal a second time. I hate you, probability. 

I wasn’t close enough to score a 1-turner before halftime, but I hit a few more players. Then at the second half start, I went straight through him and scored fast (it was a bit of a blur, but this was a match where he had too many strong defensive players for me to hang about in the backfield)

Fourth kick off of the match. Angelina Ballerina took it again, and with deadly accuracy put it in exactly the square I wanted. 

I had the fans on my side, which meant I got more rerolls, while he had a player injured by a thrown rock. (This seems to be one of the leitmotifs of the weekend. Until today I’d hated seeing rocks be thrown by the fans, as they invariably killed my best players, but when they’re raining down on your opponents, it’s easier to bear.)

He got some hits in and then rolled some dreadful dice, turning over. I sent in Stuart Little to batter a hole through his front line, which made enough room for a rat to sprint through and score.

That wasn’t to be, though; I was out of range to get the ball and he ran to the other side of the pitch. Stuart Little knocked out another dwarf to get close to him, but I made a mistake marking the ball carrier too closely, and he broke out and ran to the other side of the pitch again. 

Trying to avoid future mischief, he tripped and fell down, losing the ball. In the last turns of the game, I got a rat on the ball and might have been able to pass it to a player who was out of range of the end zone, but I contented myself with a last turn foul of his minotaur, which did nothing apart from get a player sent off. 1-1.

All the matches were quite stressful and required a lot of thought, but I particularly enjoyed the last one. Everyone was very sporting and allowed for errors (including when I put Geronimo Stilton on the pitch when I should have kept him in the reserves box – the irony was, if I had kept him out, he could easily have scored a match winning touchdown…) 

So I didn’t leave as the winner, but I didn’t come last. I had been hoping to not lose every game coming into the tournament, so to have a win and only one loss was a nice way to end. When I saw the last match was Chaos Dwarfs, I had expected to go out on a sour note, so it was nice to get a draw instead.

One thing I realised is how much harder it is to go to time. When I play online, a game never usually goes beyond 90 minutes. Of the six matches I played, we managed a full 16 turns in four of them (I guess it accelerated the less players were on the pitch) but it was hard to get there. Keeping track of scores and injuries and even what turn it is was much harder, but one unexpected bonus was how many casualties could be inflicted – I guess with the number of unskilled team mambers, it was easier to get players on the floor and therefore more casualties would come. Plus I had at five fragile teams to play, of the six.

I learned a lot about Goblins, I think. I’m certainly very happy with my Skaven (now veterans of 7 games) and not quite sure how I managed to get my wife to sign off my weekend away. I’m truly one of the lucky ones. 

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