Tomb Kings push the one-trick poney concept to Blood Bowl’s furthest extreme. Yes, it is true that they are very muscular with up to 41 strength points on the pitch. However, this extreme has its polar opposite because their deficient agility complicates an action as easy as picking up the ball. Moreover, once the ball is finally in their hands, accidentally dropping it often leads to defeat due to their geriatric reactivity… Especially when playing under the rain because there is nothing more clumsy than a rehydrated Khemri!
With a roster devoid of any agility greater than 2, Tomb Kings are not Undeads. As proof, they ooze far less and do not employ necromancers to raise the dead and hire them. Strangely, they behave far more like some poor man’s Dwarves because when something goes wrong, they find it extremely difficult to straighten up the situation. They are also like some poor man’s Elves because they are not really cut for wide frontal offensives or even hermetic scrums. Instead, they must patiently control the pitch, wisely choose their battles, and surgically hit where it is the most helpful.
The strength 5 Tomb Guardians are Tomb Kings’ flagship players. Unlike any typical Big Guy, they do not have a negative trait decreasing their usefulness on the pitch, and there are four of them! This muscular multiplicity excels at controlling the field and skills such as Guard and Stand Firm reinforce this natural ability. Unfortunately, these great players gain skills as quickly as an Alzheimer-ridden Troll and, when they finally are competent, a bad Decay casualty roll reverts you back to square one.
“In a laid-back league where four fully developed Tomb Guardians can ruin the fun, a recycled behemot is a relief. Conversely, in a violently competitive league, a retired Tomb Guardians is a tragedy that prevents Tomb Kings from strongly competing.”
THE OTHER POSITIONALS
As their main blitzers, the Tomb Kings employ two overpaid Blitz-Ras possessing the Block skill and an armor of 8. Sadly, the rest of the team mostly consists of lightly armored and incompetent dry wood. This overall lack of stabilizing skills such as Block and Dodge coupled with a fragile armor is harmful when you live and die by the numerical advantage. It also increases the team’s reliance on rerolls – which are abominably expensive! This prohibitive cost combined with a subscription to a minimum of three rerolls prevents Tomb Kings from hiring all their positionals when creating the team at a budget of $1,000,000.
Speaking of positionals, the two Thro-Ras are a bad joke as they are the worst dedicated throwers in the game. Their meager agility of 2 also makes them slightly overpaid when compared to their peers. At least their movement is correct and can simultaneously cover both wings when positioned mid-field. One Thro-Ra can develop as a Sweeper to grapple ball carriers with the Wrestle and Strip Ball skills. His twin can concentrate on carrying the ball where his Sure Hands skill is very useful to preserve rerolls during pickups and to discourage roaming strip ballers.
For their part, Skeletons are lowly paid and there is no remorse into duplicating them on the reserve bench. They sport an armor of 7 as well as the Thick Skull and Regeneration skills. Even though it is not very trendy at Blood Bowl, it is not that bad as they are still more resistant than a Wood Elf linemen, and far less expensive! Talking about resistance, the Regeneration skill wholly covers the Khemri roster. This is unique at Blood Bowl.
On paper, Tomb Kings look like a team of lumberjacks. However, it would be a mistake to coach them as such because, out of the box, they only have two Block skills in stock. This weakness generates an allergy to scrums and explains why a Khemri coach should rather patiently enforce a muscular pitch control.
To complicate the coach’s task, Khemri offensives are far from explosive and finesse is unheard of. They almost always score their touchdowns after long ball control sessions in low points games. Defensively, their game plan relies on shutouts and enforced touchdowns.
Written like that it all looks very flowery, but controlling the pitch and the tempo is difficult for Tomb Kings. Factually, they are not particularly violent and have difficulties ejecting players off the pitch. Skilling up players does not really solve this problem because Tomb Guardians only develop using Strength skills, which excludes the reliable Block skill. Nevertheless, it is through development that they acquire skills such as Stand Firm and Guard that radicalize their ability to control the pitch.
THE ARTIFICIAL NUMERICAL ADVANTAGE
Tomb Kings live and die by the numerical advantage. When you hear about numerical advantage, you may think of the traditional one consisting of having more players on the pitch than your opponent. Sometimes this is exactly it but, more often, a Khemri coach must instead work with an artificial numerical advantage. The idea is to use the Tomb Guardian’s massive strength to paralyze players in their tackle zones. For example, if each Tomb Guardian paralyzes two opposing players (4 Tomb Guardians X 2 opposing players = 8 paralyzed players), it leaves 3 free players to counter your own 7 remaining ones. This is, of course, a theoretical basis.
The task is more complicated than it seems. Since your Tomb Guardians do not have the Block skill, you must ideally tag players as naked as yours. After all, tagging a Blockless player is almost like having it yourself. Conversely, tagging a player with the Block skill is an invitation to test the quality of the lawn. Worse still, seasoned coaches know that blocking a Tomb Guardians at -2 block dice with Block and a reroll has 1 in 10 chances of turnover versus 1 in 4 chances of laying down your Big Guy. This is to say the fragility of a player without the Block skill, regardless of his strength.
On the other end of the pitch, if your opponent is a tiny bit experienced, he will try to counter you by scotching a single stupidly resistant player to each of your Tomb Guardians. The logic is obvious; your behemoth will not dodge away with his agility of 1. This is why a lot of the Khemri art of coaching lies in the wise preservation of the Tomb Guardians’ mobility until their decisive involvement or, failing, their reinstatement in the game.
“A rule of thumb to evaluate if you are doing a great job with your Tomb Guardians is to compare their salaries ($100,000) to that of the players they are paralyzing. For example, immobilizing a $130,000 Bull Centaur with a Tomb Guardian is an excellent deal. You are doing fine if he immobilizes two $40,000 Zombies. At the other end of the spectrum, a $180,000 Block, Dodge, and Stand Firm Tomb Guardian paralyzing a single Zombie is a disaster.”
THE ESSENTIAL SKELETONS
Simply put, do not coach Skeletons as consumables! Yes, it is the four Tomb Guardians and not the Skeletons that excel at controlling the pitch. However, these Big Guys can not do their job properly without their skeletal teammates. Some passively well-positioned old bones apply tackle zones that negate supports and avoid gifting easy blocks and blitzes. They also help to keep players tagged, and maintain the screen’s tightness when a Tomb Guardian bites the dust. Yes, all this at once.
Remember that a single block die can easily down a lone Tomb Guardian. The subsequent armor roll can be disastrous and losing one or two big guys this way is catastrophic. Wasting Skeletons gifts more of these freebies. This is why a Khemri coach must minimize the frequency of these disasters by keeping his Skeletons on the pitch. In fact, the only Skeletons worth wasting are those tagging clawed terrors. It always makes sense to sacrifice a Skeleton to save a Tomb Guardian.
“Each Skeleton is very important to the Khemri synergy. Always work to extract as much juice as possible from them.”
Some coaches wrongly suggest to aggressively foul with Skeletons. Admittedly, they should eagerly foul targets of opportunity, especially if the armor can be lowered to 5 without sacrificing the team’s positioning. However, Tomb Kings work well only under a numerical advantage obtained by methodical and risk-free coaching. Sadly, fouls are gambles adding volatility to a team that really does not need it! In short, there are few good reasons to foul more frequently with Tomb Kings than with any other team in the game.
Up until now, it has only been implied. But here it is, coaching Tomb Kings is to score really few touchdowns and to grant even less. The only way to succeed is to seize control of the tempo of the game, and it is the Grind strategy that offers the best chances to achieve this goal.
THE STRESS of PICKing UP THE BALL
An agility of two is the best you have on your roster. Picking up the ball on a 4+ rightly scares a lot of coaches. It is exactly like playing heads or tails! Fortunately, the attempt succeeds three times out of four with a reroll and those odds, somehow, are respectable. Nevertheless, you will realize that this fateful die roll often succeeds in one or two game turns but that it sometimes stretches to three or four. Waiting longer is not even unheard of! This reality requires to carefully cover the ball with at least half the team before attempting to pick it up.
Once the ball is in your hands, you must protect it flawlessly until it crosses the touchdown line. And this is where it is complex because the Khemri ball carrier is neither fast, strong, nor agile. This means that you can not handoff, pass or dodge at the risk of dropping the ball and being unable to recover it. This explains why the Khemri offensive does not like to be hurried. Rather, it scores touchdowns by being patient, methodical and disciplined.
RUNNING AND NOT CAGING
Typical cages do not suit Tomb Kings well. The reason is that when a defensive blitz tags their ball carrier, it is obvious that he will not dodge away on a 4+. Tomb Kings then have to waste their own precious blitz to free their ball carrier. Successive similar game turns quickly lead nowhere near the touchdown line. Tomb Kings fare better when running the ball behind two screens so that their ball carrier can not be tagged so easily.
When there are no other options than a cage, a large iteration may incorporate one or two additional players inside it. The idea is to first discourage cocky pests from tagging the ball carrier or, failing, to free the carrier with a block to preserve the precious blitz.
When running the ball, remember that the biggest mistake you can make is to move forward at all costs. If the urge to make some progress seems irresistible, it may be a sign of a lack of confidence in your abilities. It is then good to rationalize the situation. A drive lasts up to eight game turns and there is urgency only at the seventh. In the meantime, optimize your blocks while progressing as safely as you can. Logically, if you optimize your blocks and leverage everything in sight, the chances that you will benefit from a numerical advantage will grow as the time left to the drive shortens. It will then be easier to move forward and score your touchdown.
When facing a Khemri offensive, many seasoned coaches will try to deflect it on a wing by firmly holding the center. This gifted running corridor may seem like a godsend, but it is not. If you bite the hook too hard, you will step into a trap that will bottle you up. Moreover, this eagerness will not help your slow Tomb Guardians to keep up with your offensive, which will weaken the quality of your screens. This lack of cohesion can let your opponent apply a tackle zone on your ball carrier, siphoning a precious game turn while sending your offensive on its way to nowhere. Tomb Kings have few strong options on offense and you should not waste them carelessly.
The best option after picking up the ball is to consolidate at the center. Then, develop a patient and measured run as in the graphs below. Note that, to facilitate the understanding of the concept, the example is squeaky clean. Contrary to this example, you will certainly need to invest all your wits – and some more – in your Khemri offensives.
EXAMPLE OF A KHEMRI OFFENSIVE
During a Khemri offensive, small gains are perfectly fine. Also, depending on the tempo of the drive, it may be okay to stall the ball carrier mid-pitch for a game turn in order to let your Tomb Guardians roll some additional three dice blocks and armors.
Please do not send any “catchers” deep in the opposite half. Between you, me, and your opponent, you will not use them. However, when catastrophically stranded, a ballsy Thro-Ras can unstuck a situation with a pass or, more realistically, a handoff. Some coaches are convinced that 4+ rolls automatically fail. Do not turn a blind eye to this possibility when in dire need because a 4+ roll with a reroll works 75% of the time. Please keep in mind, though, that this statistic is butt ugly and that it is unwise to regularly lean on it.
When on defense, apply the Grind strategy. When this strategy no longer fits with the tempo of the game, deploy your team to stop dead the offensive. Remember that your low agility and anemic movement leads to reduced maneuverability. If you are not careful, your opponent will easily bypass or paralyze your players.
THE TOMB GUARDIANS
The first thing to consider is where to install your Tomb Guardians in your kickoff formation. It is true that three (or even four) Tomb Guardians on the line of scrimmage is intimidating, but it is also immobilizing a lot of arguments and gifting armor rolls on your most important players. In short, it could cost you the game. Obviously, this is an unacceptable risk that leaves you no choice but to send your Skeletons populate the line of scrimmage. At least, with their Thick Skull skill, they can take hits almost like a champ. They also handicap less your game when they leave the pitch.
Tomb Guardians often do better on the second line where some teams may have trouble handling them without an indecent investment in players. In addition, a central positioning eventually leaves you the option to move them on the wing of your choice. While doing so, just remember that, like many other Big Guys, a Tomb Guardian on the wrong wing at the wrong time will eat dandelions for the rest of the drive.
As with all the other Blood Bowl teams, a Khemri coach must wisely preserve his Sweepers’ mobility. Here, it is either a Blitz-Ras with the Frenzy or Tackle skill, or a Thro-Ras with the Wrestle and Strip Ball skills. It is even better if you develop both! These players, when positioned mid-pitch, have the movement to cover both wings. You must jealously preserve their mobility until they get the opportunity to grapple an imperfectly covered or freewheeling ball carrier.
CONTROLLING THE OFFENSIVE FLOW
The boat kickoff formation helps to control the offensive flow during a Grind. The idea is to hold the center while opening the wings to invite your opponent to settle there. Once he compromises himself on a wing, the entire Khemri weight moves in to enforce an error or, failing, a quick touchdown. Be careful, however, to keep a sufficient mobile reserve in the center to discourage a possible feint.
BOAT KICKOFF FORMATION
Tomb Kings struggle against well-coached Elven teams. Against them, it may be advisable to securely lock the wings and instead offer the center using a Ziggurat kickoff formation. Their low strength preventing them from challenging the Tomb Guardians on the wings will encourage them to attack the center. Your wings can then sandwich the center where your strength advantage will complicate their deal and where well-placed tackle zones will multiply their dodge rolls – and the possibilities of failure. In the event that little wily ones then successfully dodge to the wings, your centered players are then in an excellent position to pursue them. While doing so, wisely preserve your best Sweeper’s mobility to discourage breakaways on the opposite wing.
ZIGGURAT KICKOFF FORMATION
Strength teams are also a challenge for Tomb Kings because of their easy access to the Block skill which increases their hitting reliability and therefore the number of armors they roll. Unlike them, the Tomb Guardians do not have this luxury and must imperatively roll 3 block dice to avoid burning rerolls and to increase the number of POWs! – including the subsequent armor rolls.
When the opposition is brutal, even Tomb Kings must avoid contact with violent players while patiently scattering their positioning. Scattering reduces the effectiveness of the Guard skill, which helps you to keep your strength advantage.
One last thing; if you manage to steal the ball, take a look at the remaining game time. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to stick to this feat until the end of the drive. Gluttony often exceeds what Tomb Kings can achieve on average … and it is a great way to waste an excellent game situation.
Tomb Kings reward patient and methodical coaches who have an aversion to risks. They are a good fit for champion coaches.
FROM ROOKIES TO LEGENDS
Rookies and Experienced coaches would be better off looking elsewhere. Just picking up the ball can be frustrating, so imagine when a drive goes to hell! Moreover, Tomb Kings’ innate awkwardness forbids them all the spectacular plays appreciated by inexperienced coaches. Lighthearted passes and heavy scrums are not in their playbook. Yes, their outrageous strength is enticing, but it can only be leveraged by some clever positioning backed by solid coaching abilities.
For Veterans and Champions, it is a real pleasure to muscle and muzzle with Tomb Kings. Coaching a strength 5 wall is fun, especially when Stand Firm skilled Tomb Guardians leveled up with double skills such as Block and Dodge. Though, be warned that this unresponsive team will severely test your coaching skills and add new swears to your repertoire.
If you outrageously dominate your local league, remember that expertly grinding Tomb Kings disgusted many coaches of playing Blood Bowl. If you still want to pick this team in this context, you will have to adapt to your ecosystem by adopting a relaxed coaching style. After all, the Thro-Ras have the Pass skill and it may be the perfect opportunity to test its limits. Likewise, a game based on the Hail Mary Pass skill may be wonderfully therapeutic.
Legends say that Tomb Kings should not win. There is a bit of truth, here. However, exactly like many other Blood Bowl teams, they have what it takes to win a league championship… if their coach is more skilled, perseverant and gutsy than his peers. But when it comes to winning a big NAF championship, do not be fooled, coaching magic will not be enough. You will need a miracle.