New Tactical Considerations in Blood Bowl Second Season

It’s been a few months since Blood Bowl Second Season Edition was released and yet, as a result of the pandemic, many people are still only taking their first tentative steps into exploring the new rules. I think it’s fair to say we still don’t really know what the BB2020 tactical meta will look like. In this article, I’m going to take a look at three areas of the game that have received significant changes in the new edition, and give my thoughts on their tactical impact on the game.

Multiple Rerolls per turn

Multiple rerolls are here to stay! Despite everyone thinking it was just a mistake on GW’s part, this single small change, missed by almost everyone when the new rules were released, and then confirmed in the errata, is probably going to have a bigger impact on the new edition of Blood Bowl than any of the other changes in the book.

The two most obvious uses of multiple rerolls in a turn are:

  • Preventing repeated bad luck from prematurely ending your turn (e.g. first action Double Skulls, then a subsequent Double Skulls later in the turn)
  • Allowing you to more confidently attempt a “miracle turn” where you attempt a difficult or unlikely play that could change the game (e.g. a Throw Team-mate one turn touchdown or a cage-breaking and pickup attempt)

But of course, there will be an infinite variety of ways in which the ability to both mitigate failures and push for success with even greater confidence impacts the game. So who wins and loses from this change? Well, any team that has relatively cheap rerolls or that can easily build their roster with many rerolls will obviously benefit the most.

In the former camp are most of the Tier 1 teams. All flavours of Elves, Amazons, Dwarves, Skaven, and now also joined by Humans, all have 50k rerolls. Every single one of these teams is likely to be Tier 1 or top of Tier 2 anyway, and now it seems they have something else going for them. Certainly, for our Elves and Skaven, the miracle turn is a fundamental part of the gameplan, so we have a natural synergy here.

In the latter camp, we have our various Stunty teams who are often able to load up on rerolls because of their cheap positionals. And of course, these teams are also those who might be trying Throw Team Mate scores or crazy risky plays, so it seems we have some synergy here too.

Who loses? Well, arguably nobody loses, because every team can, to some degree, take advantage of the tactics and benefits above. 

But on the other hand, those teams for whom rerolls are more expensive or less able to acquire them because of their high roster costs will suffer on a relative basis because their opponents will be more able to utilise these benefits. In fact, ironically, BB2020 roster and cost changes will mean many teams will struggle to start with the number of RR’s they took for granted in the previous edition of the game.

Furthermore, those teams who are vulnerable to having their gameplan ruined by “miracle turns” and one turn touchdowns – and my natural instinct is this means the slower, controlly, bashy teams – may also lose out.

Now all of the above is well and good but rerolls still remain a rare and valuable commodity. Any coach who spends all his rerolls on turn one has a long half ahead of them. It has been argued by some that multi-RR’s will be a “noob trap” that sees less experienced or skillful coaches waste their rerolls and then find themselves with no safety net at more critical moments later in the game. Certainly one of the great skills in Blood Bowl is the ability to simply accept a mild misfortune in the knowledge that there will be more pivotal moments to come.

A final note about competitive tournament play. We have already heard stories in the BB community about some dubious approaches to take advantage of multi-RR’s per turn – namely lying players down during their defensive drives and saving all their RR’s for an equalising one turn touchdown attempt on T8. Obviously, only a few teams can take advantage of this, but hopefully, this will prove to be an ineffective tactic or it could have serious impacts on the enjoyment and competitive spirit of tournament play.

Passing and Cage-breaking for Agility teams

This topic may seem a mix of two very different things but I wanted to cover them together because very often they interlock in defensive play and, on the surface, they seem to have taken a huge hit in effectiveness that will drastically alter the way these teams play.

But let’s start with Passing and the Passing/Agility stat split. The clear fundamental impact of this change has been that for all of the former AG4 (now AG2+) teams in the game, and those teams who leaned heavily on AG4 positionals (i.e. Skaven), passing has now become practically unworkable except for specific Thrower positionals.

No more can any Elf simply pick up a ball and sling it around like Patrick Mahomes. No more can a Gutter Runner confidently be the team’s deep-lying thrower and execute pitch-spanning passes.

This change undeniably affects many teams, but it is particularly significant for these AG4 teams because of the way it interlocked with their defensive game which was often based around springing the ball free at a pivotal moment and then creating a lightning-quick counter-score. After a successful Strip Ball or Wrestle maneuver, any Elf or Gutter Runner could pick the ball up with its great agility and then execute a throw to a distant part of the field. Now this tactic is fraught with risk and is sometimes practically impossible.

What options remain? Well, the first is that exactly the same play can be performed, but the player who picks up the loose ball needs to be a Thrower. This is obviously difficult for various reasons, and the dynamic nature of Blood Bowl rarely allows the perfect piece to be in the perfect position at the perfect time. Some teams often did not even take Throwers, and there is clearly a decision to be made for teams in the new era of Blood Bowl as to whether to dispense with them entirely, or perhaps go all in and take two – an idea that would have been almost unthinkable in the previous edition.

The second option is to try and play the same tactics as before but substitute Passes with Rushing (GFI’s) and Hand-Offs to cover the distances. Now, clearly, this is not a direct substitute – both hand-offs and passes were often made in the same turn in pitch-spanning scores. We can not just subtract one and make the same plays. But for general play this still allows AG2+ teams to make reliable ball transitions – with obvious limitations.

Finally, we can simply embrace the additional difficulty and try things regardless. This would be a poor approach if not for one significant change: the aforementioned use of multiple RR’s per turn. This does potentially allow agility teams to “brute force” the same actions they once accomplished more naturally.

And to return to our overall topic, the infamous cage-leap has also suffered in the new edition. A staple of Wood Elf play and often used by other agility teams in tournament builds or after league development, the changes in BB2020 mean that leaping into the three tackle zones of a typical cage is now a 50/50 play. As with the plays above, one option will be to try and brute force this tactic with rerolls, although attempting it repeatedly with impunity is now less likely.

Attempting a similar action by dodging instead of leaping remains a 5+, but for any players with Dodge, the automatic reroll gives similar odds as a Leap without RR (in fact the dodge is more likely). In this scenario another skill now comes into play: Break Tackle. Previously all but useless to agility teams, this skill gives a cage-dive the same odds as Leap in the new edition as moving into two tackle zones succeeds on a 3+. This has great potential and obvious synergy with the multitude of agility players who start with Dodge. BT is of course a Strength skill, and in BB2020 we can’t simply luck into it, but it provides more food for thought.

Cage-breaking has another potential skill-related pitfall in BB2020: Safe Pair of Hands. This skill, which is a starting skill for Chaos Renegade Throwers, is explicitly designed to mitigate the outcome of a successful cage-break by allowing a knocked-down player in possession of the ball to place it into an empty square of their choice rather than seeing it scatter.

So, we have some new limitations and some new possibilities. Agility teams will certainly have to adapt, and we will only know in time if all this turns out to be a net gain or loss.

Fouling – new tools and approaches

Fouling in the BB2020 ruleset has not fundamentally changed. We have the same rolls with the same dice and the same odds of being sent off. What has changed is the Casualty Table, one existing fouling skill, and a new trait that lends itself to this tactic.

We’ll start with the Casualty Table. The move from “D8 + D6” to a D16 approach has been accompanied by a slight shift in the weighting of Badly Hurt, Miss Next Game, and RIP. BH has gone from 50% to 37.5%. MNG in all its variations from 33% to 50%, and RIP slightly down from 16.7% to 12.5%. Overall, this means cas’ing players is more likely to cause longer-term injuries and missed games, and it reduces the value of the Apothecary in returning players to the current game. This is a slight buff to all damage-causing actions in the game, fouling being one.

Secondly and most significantly we have the changes to Sneaky Git. This was previously one of the worst skills in the game as it gave only the benefit of avoiding being sent off for fouls that did not break armour. In BB2020 it has been transformed, providing immunity from sending-offs for all doubles on armour rolls, and allowing the fouler to continue moving after the foul. This has huge implications. Firstly, we can see that players with Sneaky Git can foul with more or less impunity, fearing only a double on the injury roll. Secondly, foulers can now escape the wrath of opponents and retreat to a place of safety, or otherwise contribute to screens and cages, or other tactical positions as required. This is especially interesting when we consider that Sneaky Git is an Agility skill, which means those players who are most easily able to obtain it are typically those with high movement, great agility, or the Dodge skill. 

The community has already been considering the merits of Sneaky Git on positionals like Human Catchers as a highly mobile tactical fouling piece, and there are many other similar possibilities.  

Finally, we have a special skill shared by Snotling lineman: Swarming. This allows 1d3 Snotlings in your reserves to enter the pitch in addition to your starting 11 players. Practically, this means that Underworld and Snotling teams can start a drive with 12-14 players, and have 1-3 20k throwaway players to foul with. Nothing is more critical to fouling than the risk/reward ratio, and nothing weighs it more heavily in the favour of the fouler than having a cheap piece to foul with. In addition, these extra bodies can 2+ dodge to provide assists and make armour breaks even easier. Overall, Swarming gives Snotling and Underworld teams the potential to cause great damage by gang-fouling with little impact to their overall gameplan.

I will cover one additional change that is not likely to have an impact: the new Piledriver skill that allows a foul after a successful block. Most players had interpreted this to mean it was an additional foul to the usual limit of one per turn, but this was clarified by the most recent GW Errata as using the normal one team foul per turn. As a result, a skill that looked questionable to begin with now looks very low value indeed.

Outro

There have been so many changes in BB2020 that it is certainly impossible to do them all justice here. I’m sure many of you can think of other factors and possibilities that relate to the above, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. We may already be a few months into Blood Bowl Second Season Edition, but it still feels like a very new and exciting time with a great deal of innovation and discovery remaining in tactical play. I hope this article gives you all some food for thought and inspiration, and that you will find Nuffle’s favour in your own Blood Bowl journey!

6 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments