Joemanji Jaunts to … Waterbowl XIV

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    Joemanji
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    [I hope you will pardon me for this perfidious and pleonastic plundering of the performative alliteration of the Purplegoo’s progression of purported plays.]

    This weekend past on the 16th and 17th February 2019 was the 14th edition of the Waterbowl tournament, hosted and run by the elegant and erudite Alex Wormal aka Leipziger. Traditionally one of the largest UK tournaments besides the NAF Championship, this year was a bumper edition and broke the 100 coach mark. I believe this is the first time a UK singles tournament other than the NAF major has ever achieved this landmark. Alex is a brilliant tournament organiser, and the Waterbowl is filled to bursting with small touches that elevate it and make the experience truly memorable. That coaches are flocking to the event – including some travelling from Denmark, Germany and Spain – is just reward for all Alex’s dedication.

    The event is held in Stockport, which is perhaps not the most salubrious of locales, but the venue itself at Element Games is perfect for the occasion. It has room to fit over one hundred coaches, big screens and an audio system, a well stocked bar with table service and a store full to brimming with nerd tat on which to fritter away your hard earned pennies.

    After five events in a row playing hyper competitive Blood Bowl with Undead, I was in need of a somewhat more whimsical experience. The mighty and mightily talented NippyLongskar had put together a stunning Deathroller model for me on commision, and this seemed like a great time to finally use it; something I had been itching to do since the moment I was able to clasp it in my grimy paws. Whilst Dwarfs and whimsical and words you don’t see paired too frequently, my plan was to use the hilarious Diving Tackle Deathroller and have a fun time rather than worrying about trying to win the event. This combination of skill and player is one of the most entertaining I have found in Blood Bowl, and not just in terms of how it performs on the pitch. It is uncommon enough that an opponent usually looks quizzically at you when you explain your team choice and skills. But there is usually a truly delightful moment when you get to see the look in your opponent’s eyes as realisation dawns as to just how monstrous a contraption he is facing. A ST7 player with Stand Firm that exerts -2 on all dodge rolls to get away from it is practically a WMD, and if you can park it next to your opponent’s ball carrier they are going to have a real bad time!

    I didn’t want to sell out completely on the Deathroller by spending the hefty 100K required for a Bribe, so my roster looked like this:

    Deathroller, 1 Troll Slayer, 2 Blitzers, 2 Runners, 6 Blockers, 2 Rerolls, 1 Fan Factor.

    Waterbowl has a selection of skill packages to choose from, and I selected the most basic one of 5 Normal skills and 1 Double. This allowed me to take Diving Tackle on the Deathroller, four players with Guard (two Blitzers and two Blockers) and Leader on a Runner to top up my Rerolls.

    Game One vs Nadsokor (Skaven) – 2-0 win

    Marc had travelled all the way from Denmark to play in his very first NAF tournament. A friend of SpecialOne – regular Danish visitor to the Waterbowl – he was a returning coach with plenty of experience on FUMBBL and was by no means a rookie. Marc’s roster was great, with three Guard players, Block on a Thrower and Block & Wrestle on Gutter Runners. The first half was very interesting, with the Skaven’s high movement competing with the Dwarf team’s Guard and Tackle. I tried not to commit the Deathroller too early and keep it central, and thankfully was able to do this whilst also marking up a number of Skaven each turn. I was gradually able to apply the screw each turn with the Deathroller inserting itself into increasingly annoying positions like this:

    The Skaven made a good fist of their offence, making a number of crucial dodges before eventually failing a 4up away from the Deathroller with a Gutter Runner to turnover. I was able to sack the ball here, but Marc made a great effort in scrambling back to halt my progress and sacking the ball when I managed to grab it. In the end the Dwarfs had to play a really careful game before picking up the ball to score on turn eight. The second half was very rough on the Skaven as forced to pressure the Dwarfs in order to turnover the ball, rats left the field in droves and the Dwarf eventually scored in turn eight versus only three Skaven players. The first half was really interesting and Marc made a great fist of trying to deal with the unusual problem presented by the Deathroller, so it was a shame the second half was so anticlimactic.

    Game Two vs Inkhar (Undead) – 1-1 draw

    Simon had a very nicely painted Undead team, with Block & Guard on the Mummies, Guard & Tackle on the Wights and Block & Wrestle on two Ghouls. Very solids picks! Dwarfs do not like Undead at the best of times, and playing with a slightly fruity roster meant I was in for a challenge here! The game started with the shock and awe factor of the Deathroller working against me, with Simon initiating a turn one Undead passing play to scoot down a sideline in an effort to score early and be rid of the big boy. I was able to sack the ball down quite easily, but with much of my team too slow to keep up Simon was able to retrieve it and score on his turn three. With the referee paying no heed to the Dwarf head coach’s protestations, the Deathroller was sent off and played no further part in the game. Still, I had six turns left in which to try to secure an equaliser before halftime, and that proceeded relatively comfortably.

    The second half was a lesson in complacency. I was lucky enough to chip a couple of Undead players and find myself men up, and I was here guilty of not being nearly ruthless enough. Simon left the chance to surf his lone Block Mummy on each of turns two, three and four but a series of bad dice meant that not only did this fail, but I became bogged down on one side of the pitch barely into Simon’s half of the pitch. The dice continued to be mediocre throughout the entire half and Simon managed to get away with a few cheeky plays, but the ensuing statemate was entirely of my own making. Regardless of dice, I should have pushed forward much sooner rather than being tempted by the Mummy surf, and only have myself to blame for not winning the game. I think I probably settled into autopilot a little without thinking that Dwarfs are significantly slower and less responsive than most of the other teams I am used to playing. Lesson learned I hope!

    Game Three vs Gimli (Undead) – 2-1 win

    Wayne had a Block Mummy, a Grab Mummy, Guard & Mighty Blow on the Wights, Block & Wrestle on the Ghouls. Wayne seemed particularly pleased with himself with regards to the selection of Grab, but I was delighted he hadn’t taken the more straightforward route of Guard as this proved to be much more effective in the previous game against Simon. This game followed a similar pattern to the previous one, with the presence of the Deathroller panicking Wayne into an early score heavily dependent on dice. Thankfully I took some of the lessons from the previous game to heart and was able to grind out two scores in each half to win the game. Wayne wasn’t perhaps the strongest of opponents, but he seemed entertained by rolling high numbers and this kept the game open as a contest throughout.

    Game Four vs Howsa (Skaven) 2-0 win

    Chris had a Rat Ogre with Block, Guard and Mighty Blow Blitzers, Block on two Gutter Runners and Wrestle on a third. This game started with a bang, as we rolled Sweltering Heat for the weather, +2 FAME in my favour and an immediate pitch invasion (hitting four of my players and five of the Skaven). The first few turns were spend recovering from this, as with both Runners downed the Dwarfs were too slow to take advantage of the kickoff result. A pattern seemed to be developing in my games now, with the Deathroller scaring yet another opponent into attempting a risky early touchdown in an attempt to have it sent off. Perhaps I was wiser to it this time, or maybe the dice were just kinder, but I was able to cut Chris off in his tracks here and retrieve the ball on his drive. It was a strange game in one way, as Chris’s armour dice ran hot throughout and I could barely manage a stun. Thankfully the Sweltering Heat rolls favoured me massively and in addition I was able to surf seven Skaven players during the game. Chris’s dugout filled out nicely during the game, but not for the reasons you’d expect against Dwarfs! Once I had recovered the ball in the first half it was somewhat of a routine game. I was able to isolate the Rat Ogre before it caused too much havoc and roll up a sideline surfing rats as I went, with Chris lacking the players to really do much about it.

    Game Five vs Pipey (Undead) – 1-1 draw

    A meeting with my old nemesis and Team England colleague Brendan. This would be our fourth meeting at the Waterbowl and our 16th overall in NAF events, and it is safe to say he has the sign over me leaving me with only a 4-2-9 record in our games and many tales of woe to recount. Ouch. Brendan was using his patented one Wight roster, defying convention but proving that there are still interesting decisions to be made in a game that sometimes feels like it has been solved at the highest level. He had Block on one Mummy, Guard on the Wight and Block on all four Ghouls. I approved of the respect Brendan pays his Ghouls here, as I tend to think many coaches see them as an afterthought rather than the lifeblood of the team (no pun intended).

    The first half was an absolute joy, an old fashioned stand off providing a oasis of calm after the previous four games of harem scarem Blood Bowl. I kept the Deathroller central and ready to pounce, and Brendan paid the big lawnmower an appropriate amount of respect, double banking his cage as he shifted from side to side looking for a route into my half. Neither of us rolled many dice, no players left the pitch and it was a proper tactical game of Blood Bowl. Eventually Brendan had to peel some scoring threats off of his cage, and the Deathroller here proved his worth once again without actually having to do anything, holding the centre of the pitch and allowing the lumbering Dwarfs to commit players to the sidelines to bog down Brendan’s potential receivers. Finally an opening came, with Brendan parking the front of his cage next to some Dwarfs with Guard and allowing me to get two dice on his ball carrier with Tackle. This required a 3+ dodge and two GFIs and against a lesser coach I might have held back, as failure would have been curtains for the drive. But Brendan is too good a coach to pass up such an opportunity so I went at it and managed to knock loose the ball. With one of my Runners lurking and able to score if Bren went for a long odds touchdown, he pulled back his scoring threats to lock down the ball and settle for 0-0 at the half.

    I was lucky enough to pass the Argue The Call roll for the Deathroller at half time, and so the big chap stayed on the pitch for the second half. To say I was delighted at this point would be an understatement, and an immediate KO of a Zombie on the line left me looking the firm favourite. Unfortunately I then double skulled the next block on the Line Of Scrimmage, and with the kick having gone deep Brendan sniffed an opportunity, rolling a heap of GFIs and going all in on contact to pressure my team. This was great play from Brendan, as against a good opponent you don’t want to stand off and just lose in installments. I was able to recover but things were looking much more even as Brendan once again piled into contact. He was very unlucky here, as a snake eyed GFI knocked out his sole Wight and as a consequence left me free to surf a Ghoul. From a tough position I was suddenly once against looking well set.

    From this point Brendan was looking for snookers, and decided to go for the big play rather than die wondering. Absolutely the right decision I felt, as if he had waited I would have been able to bunker up and grind on down the pitch. A one dice POW/Zing, 5up dodge, another one dice POW/Zing, two GFIs, another one dice POW/Zing, a 1/8 bounce, another 5up dodge, a pickup and two GFIs later and I was 0-1 down. Brendan did everything right here so kudos for that, but the odds of it working were nearly 3000 to 1. To say I was gutted does not cover it, traumatised might be a more apt term as another chance to exorcise the ghosts of horseshit past was snatched from my grasp! Still I had four turns left to score and perhaps salvage a draw from the game.

    Then Brendan rolled a Blitz! against me. I freely admit I was ready to throw in the towel here, my bete noir once again finding a way in a game that looked done and dusted. But in the end, the Blitz! may even have worked in my favour as Brendan once again went full contact along the LoS. This probably wasn’t as strong a move as in the previous drive, as my massed Guard meant I was able to throw multiple blocks and peel round the side, pivoting around the Deathroller who had miraculously succeeded in arguing against being sent off for the second time in the match. With Brendan having expended all his rerolls in the previous all-or-nothing drive, his team didn’t have enough left in the tank to stop me from scoring the touchdown to level the scores. Brendan had a gash turn left, but it looked like I would not lose at least.

    Then Brendan rolled a Riot, giving him two turns and the chance to score a winning touchdown. I had set up to cover the one turn touchdown, and so when Brendan ran a Ghoul into scoring range I did not have the players free to blitz it with anyone but a Runner. Without Tackle the Ghoul survived and the score was still on! Thankfully for me Brendan was still out of rerolls and with the kick having gone deep was unable to put together another miracle play. It was one hell of a game, with the first half as satisfying as the second was emotionally devastating.

    Game Six vs Battlepuppy (Dwarf) 1-1 draw

    I think the previous game broke something in my soul, and there was to be no relief there as I was paired against another Dwarf team with a Deathroller. Time for a taste of my own medicine! Andy had a different build from me, with Tackle & Strip Ball Troll Slayers, Block & Leader Runners, Guard on both Blitzers and only one Team Reroll. The first half was a mess, with two oversized models causing havoc for both coaches when trying to see what was going on. Andy’s model was a lot bigger than mine, and I’ll have to assume my driver was intimidated as he triple downed a block to leave a gap in my defence. All the while Andy’s Deathroller was gleefully two dicing without mishap, even killing one of my players. Andy was not able to break through properly and eventually decided upon a extremely brave one-man-cage right next to the sideline. With multiple players available to surf Andy’s ball carrier I decided to use my Runner rather than the Deathroller so as not to have to worry about Loner. Unfortunately I 1/9’d the block to surf the ball and Andy’s ploy had worked. 0-1.

    I was then reasonably lucky to score a two turner to equalise before half time, with a double skulls from Andy leaving me with a 4up pass to score. The second half proved again quite frustrating, as continual pushbacks stalled my progress against a defence that wasn’t quite committed enough. Andy kept a couple of players back and loose, and had he put those into contact too might well have turned me over given the dice. Finally though it looked like I might get into a comfortable position on turn six, needed just a single GFI. Snake eyes. Andy then blitzed and killed my ball carrier and one-dice killed the player nearest to him, leaving me in a perilous position. Thankfully I was able to cling on by my fingertips and draw the game.

    Conclusion

    A final record of 3/3/0 was much better than I was expecting going into the tournament, and I was even up on table two within range of the title at one point. The Deathroller is an absolute delight to use, and I thoroughly enjoyed having to think differently and deal with situations that don’t crop up in the course of a ‘normal’ game of Blood Bowl (if there is such a thing!). I have played a lot of Undead games now – 291 in NAF events – and sometimes it can feel a little bit like playing on autopilot, making the same decisions over and over again and just waiting to see if this is the game in which the dice let you down. Nothing like that here, as Dwarfs in general really make you work really hard for your results. Their desperately slow movement makes positioning that much more important. But more importantly the Waterbowl is a fantastic event and the Manchester community is stacked full of wonderful human beings. I’ll be there next year even if they have to take me in an urn!

    Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this please comment or even just press the like button, or if you really dig my Blood Bowl articles then you might even consider contributing to my Patreon page. At the moment I am writing a series of Patreon-exclusive NAF World Cup 2019 guides, one for each of the 26 teams!

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