Western Australian Open 2019

Stuart Little, going for a warm up between games.
After showing promise in his first two matches, reverted to disappointing form in his third.

This morning I got up early, feeling some trepidation, and had a quick breakfast before getting a taxi to South Perth. I was heading to a community building in the middle of a large sports field, to play Blood Bowl all day.

When I had nothing better to do to celebrate my 42nd birthday (the family was away in London and I had a bum knee) I could at least hire a loud car and drive around Western Australia. In between revving the engine too loud in residential areas, I got to play a game of Blood Bowl in a large shed north of Perth. The guy I played with was organising the Western Australian Open for 2019 and told me I should sign up, and somehow my wife gave me the green light for this. I think that was before we realised I was flying to the US next week for work, but I still managed to get this past the Ultimate Family Authority.

I booked a hotel that looked cheap, but not too cheap, on Expedia. It turned out to be ‘an upmarket, five star hotel’. It also had a man in the room next to me yelling about how his room was ‘total bullshit and everything was fucked’ but my room was quite nice, apart from that.

Anyway, the matches:

For the tournament, there are special rules about how large a team can be, and what skills and upgrades players can have. You don’t know until the draw what your opponent will have, and then for the following games the draw is ‘Swiss’ – which is like a dynamic seeding. Players who do well early get drawn against other coaches who have also succeeded, coaches who do badly get drawn against other unlucky ones, and so on.

In my first match, it was my ratmen, the Tiny Nightmares, against a bunch of elves. These are both fairly brittle, agile, fast teams so you would expect a lot of passing and scoring. We ended up 2-2, partly because I hadn’t reckoned with a thrwoer with the Hail Mary skill being able to throw to somebody at the other end of the pitch, and for him to be able to catch the ball and dodge into the end zone. Still, a draw was better than a loss, and by the end of the game he had three players on the pitch and the rest injured or knocked out.

For my second match, halflings. Often known as a joke team, when they have three enormous treemen and can steal your ability to reroll your dice, they turn out to be quite nasty. My opponent was very serious and hardly said a word for the first half of the match, and stomped all over me. I was rather stressed (probably coming down from the first match, and too much coffee) so wasn’t sure what to make of this taciturn nature. In fact, I was so distracted that after he went 2-1 up, I forgot that I’d scored just after the second half kick off. Staring down the barrel of a 2-0 drubbing to hobbits of all things, I set up my fastest rat, Geronimo Stilton, on the halfway line on the pitch. The halflings kicked the ball, we got a quick snap and Geronimo moved forward, and then in one glorious turn one of my other rats picked up the ball, ran it to Geronimo, who ran through tackle zones with aplomb. I only needed (and made) four 2+ rolls on a D6 to score.

After that sort of one-turn bullshit, there was just one turn to go and I think I’d broken his spirits – he’d been hoping for a win and had it snatched away from him. In the last turn Angelina Ballerina kicked the ball so deep that he couldn’t retrieve it to feed to his other halfings to be thrown down the pitch to score a winning 1-turner himself, and the draw was secured.

I was beginning to wonder if this was the rule for tabletop. I’ve played over a hundred games online and lost most of them, but of the four games I’ve played this year, they’d all been draws, either 1-1 in Bromley or 2-2 in Perth.

Then we had my third game, against goblins (another potentially joke team).

Once again Hail Mary was my nemesis as it let his bombardier goblin throw hand grenades all over the pitch. He scored two one-turners with his doom diver (a goblin strapped into a hang glider that I had never encountered before and didn’t know how to stop – I realise now I could have set up very deep, but then he was already a few touchdowns ahead of me and probably would have walked down the pitch instead. At least I got his chainsaw-weilding looney sent off, and injured the doom diver eventually. Stuart Little, my Rat Ogre, who’d been so productive in the first two games, spent most of his time roaring in incoherent rage and not going anywhere. So the third game, which was a long, long process of being thoroughly brutalised by a superior opponent (made worse by the fact that it was arguably not a superior team, because goblins, but that’s not an excuse, it’s just a reason to feel worse) was a hard one to bear.

Still, we’re halfway through the tournament now. If nobody else scored for the next three games and I won all of my fixtures, I think I might be in a draw for first place. Hopefully (and I may be damning myself by this) I won’t leave the country in last place. But you never know. You never know…

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