Why do we up our game against a good opponent?

You probably already have experienced this phenomenon: when you respect your opponent, you naturally up your game. But why?

In the blood bowl world, almost every coach’s development follows a very standard progression. We all start our career by compulsively trying the most foolish plays because, well … we do not know better. Over the years, we transition to a more conservative coaching style aiming to minimize our risk taking while maximizing our opponent’s. Once we transcend this (sometimes very boring) level, we fill up with an infinite divine wisdom that inspires us new follies, with the big difference that we now know why we indulge!

For example, a legendary coach will often play messy against a rookie because he will win more games this way. If he defended in neat columns while letting his opponent cage up and enjoy a meager Blitz per game turn, well … in this scenario, just about every coach will read the game correctly. He minimizes the rookie’s risks for him. Or in short, he plays the game for him. He then just has to absorb a bad casualty or roll a disastrous “snake” to find himself swimming in warm water, exactly as he would have been against a tougher opponent.

It is not true that a good coach should always be predictable and conservative. If the same legendary coach replays the scenario above and instead chooses to indulge in methodical follies *, the rookie will have to take more decisions. The odds are then high that he will cripple himself exponentially with bad moves because at blood bowl, the number of bad decisions you can take is infinite.

It’s all between our ears

It happens regularly that a traditionally shaky coach suddenly starts to play well against a quality opponent. Maybe he approaches the game as a “test” that requires more seriousness? Maybe the opposite coach influences his attitude to risk? Maybe there is the sudden realization that he will swiftly end up under a roller compressor if he tries funny things? Maybe his options are so reduced that he only has good ones left?

In the end, this may explain the phenomenon; We up our game against a competent coach because the game situations are more “legible”. It does probably also help that our better counterpart is feeling under pressure by having to fend off in advance all the stupidities we could attempt.

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* However, I admit that there is always a small discomfort when chaining up clever “all ins”. It is probably because we were all once traumatized by being swept clean off the pitch.

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