One of Blood Bowl’s great strengths is that the core game can be played for fun as a standalone entity, or as part of competitive formats of different lengths and configurations, from resurrection tournaments with no development, to eternal leagues in which players and teams can grow and their stories pass into legend. Succeeding in these varying environments requires fundamentally different approaches to various aspects of the game, and we’re going to take a look at some of the most important below.
In League play, and even in shorter leagues, fairly conservative play and careful management of your team and player development are generally the order of the day. Many leagues run a regular season followed by a playoff, and often the optimal approach is to plan to win the playoffs rather than the league itself.
That means focusing on spending your starting and earned cash to obtain all of your key components; your Re-rolls, Apothecary, and your key positionals, and ensuring those key players develop and survive until the end of the season. You may even find in some games you are happy to play more conservatively and take a draw if it improves the survivability and progression of your squad.
If your league runs a straight league-only format with the top team taking the title, then you may have to adopt a more win-now approach with a higher appetite for risk in each game. You probably want to create your team with your best available players and higher number of RR’s earlier so that you can lean on these to give yourself more winning opportunities in game from the outset. While playing, consider carefully who is scoring your touchdowns and gaining other SPP’s so that the right players accumulate skills quickly to give you the edge you need.
Regardless of the format, player advancement is one of your primary concerns in league play. Ideally you should form a picture of how you want your team to develop before you begin. Who will fill the key roles of ball-handler, primary blitzer, etc? How will you skill these players to make them the best at that job? These answers will vary depending on the team you are playing, so research and discussion with your peers is a good idea to understand approaches to best play your team. With the arrival of BB20, player advancement is an area that has undergone huge change so you may find the consensus of the past is no longer valid.
If all of the above sounds way too try-hard, feel free to immerse yourself in the RPG-like world of levelling up and evolving your team more organically. In BB20, you can have a lot of fun by using the random skills option to get skills quickly (and cheaply!) and creating a diverse cast of players. One of the great joys of Blood Bowl is seeing your team’s identity change and grow over time and enjoying the development, exploits (and failures) of your players. If your league uses the new BB20 Seasons and re-drafting rules there are many new decisions to make that will determine your team’s journey.
Unlike in leagues, conservative play will not win tournaments. Draws will not win tournaments This can be a tough and somewhat unitutive lesson to absorb, especially if you come to the tournament scene as a veteran of league play. As someone who had cut his teeth on this game in online eternal leagues, I very quickly noticed that tabletop players were far more aggressive in chasing down riskier options and would not hesitate to take a 1d on the ball if it was offered, even if it meant rolling a few dice to get there. But in time I realised that in smaller tournaments, someone will always win all 3 or 4 of their games and you will never ever win a tournament of this size unless you do the same. That means taking advantage of any limited opportunity you have that may turn a draw into a win. In larger tournaments of 5 or 6 games you have a little more leeway, but the same is typically true.
(The exception to the above is when playing Team Tournaments. In this format, where you may have 4 or 6 matches across your team’s fixture, the odd win very often decides the whole matchup, and draws (particularly not losing if your team has an advantage elsewhere) are a very valid goal.)
A good example of the different approach to tournament play is in Apothecary use. In Leagues, apothecaries are typically reserved for one reason only: preventing deaths, niggling injuries and stat busts to our skilled players and most important positionals
In Tournament play, the apothecary has a completely different function: to give you the best chance of winning, whenever that means using it. That might mean using it to turn a KO into a stun on turn 1, so that you keep 11 players on the field and are able to contest all 8 turns. It might mean turning a badly hurt into a guaranteed return to the subs box so that player can definitely return for the second half.
Roster building is a huge area of focus in Tournament play as all tournaments impose strict limitations on cash and skills available. Be aware that there are a limited set of teams that are considered genuinely competitive in typical tournament formats, and that skills take on huge value given their rarity and utility against the opponents you may face. Even more so than in league play you should consider what your ‘tool box’ is of players who can perform the key roles in the game, and ensure you have positionals and skills allocated to fill them. Do you have a ball carrier with Sure Hands? Or Blodge? How will you knock over opposition blodgers and Dodgers? Do you have a Tackler? The list of problems and solutions is endless but normally tournament packs force you to make some tough decisions and compromises. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your build and then play to those at gametime.
Regardless of the format, careful scrutiny of the rules and the scoring format is essential. Many leagues provide bonus points or bonus cash for certain actions such as scoring multiple touchdowns or causing multiple casualties. Similarly many Tournaments give bonus points or provide match-specific goals to create their tie-breakers. Always ensure you are playing to win by the competition’s particular rules and you will give yourself the best chance to succeed. See you on the pitch - wherever it may be!