11th July 2018 at 10:43 am #2629
The Tilean Team Cup is an annual tournament that matches up the very best teams in Italy. At stake is hosting rights for the next one, and so naturally teams are formed from players from the same clubs to win the fame and prestige of being the group that brought it home. Luckily for us the Italian community is so friendly and welcoming that they allow teams from other countries to come along and compete. We’re not allowed to have hosting rights, but it is more fun with a few barbarians invading, right?
Last year I attended this competition and it was incredible. Hosted by the Predatori Firenzi crew (those of you who attended the World Cup in Lucca 2015 will have seen the swathes of red and white clad players from this club), it was everything a tournament should be, with some togas added for good measure! That time the event was won by The Six Pistols (Giorss, Principatius, Cloud, and Owen86), and so we found ourselves in Imola for this year.
Only now I’m getting a little ahead of myself. The great thing about going to international tournaments is that you get to combine it with a small holiday. One thing about the Tilean Team Cup in particular is that as different teams win the hosting moves around the country. The typical plan is to head out on the Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, have a couple of days being a tourist, and then go to the tournament. With Lutece you get to see the Loire Valley; with the Bilbali Team Cup you get to see the wonderful Basque Country, and so on. And this is the reason why Johhny (JBone) and I got up at 4.15am to head to the airport.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="320"] This is what a diet of Monster energy drinks does.[/caption]
This was the first international foray as Team Tackle Zone, and what a great team we had! We were joined by England Captain Dave (Lycos), and ECBBL league commissioner Val (vmcat). As an added bonus Val is half Italian, having grown up in Genoa, and Italian is his first language which makes finding all the best restaurants much easier – I did say this was a food holiday right?
Johnny is on a year of Dark Elves so took them, whilst Lycos took Necromantic for Eurobowl practice. Val took his Chaos team that he did well with at the NAFC, whilst I took Lizards. I was a bit hesitant about taking these even though they are my strongest team (103 of the 189 tournament games I had played were with Lizards!), as I hit a real dip in form with them last year and decided to give them a break. I went 2/0/3 at Lutece (my worst tournament result), followed by a 2/2/2 at CamDubs where I was near pitched by Mr. Frodo’s skaven and then DeeferDan’s halflings! I scraped a draw in the following game purely because of a one turner, and then got my last win vs Purplegoo who was filling in with a Goblin team. Hardly the stuff of glory!
We landed in Bologna at around lunchtime on the Thursday, which was to be our base of operations prior to the tournament. Last year we explored Florence, and I loved how Bologna was in some senses identical (beautiful Italian architecture), but in other senses completely different. This was primarily due to all the porticos; it was a requirement that all buildings have these (unless you were rich enough to pay to not do it), which gives the city a wonderful feel as you walk around. Walking in the shade is perfect as well for us poor Englishmen who only see the sun for about 3 days a year.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="320"] Neptune on a pillar of Italian Bloodbowler salt[/caption]
And the food, oh wow the food. I’m not sure which is more impressive – that it is consistently so good or that it is consistently so cheap. Fortunately with former NAF president and friend Beppe a local he was able to guide us to some great places. We had a lighter lunch of regional special Tagliatelle al Ragu, which was a good thing as the Pizza in the evening was huge! Only Val was able to finish his, and there was a great selection as well. And they were between 7 and 10 euros each.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Lycos and Beppe, former NAF Presidents[/caption]
The next day we decided to have a tour of the city, which initially involved seeing Neptune’s butt, a woman up-ending a horse, and whispering insults about Johnny into a wall. We then went for breakfast which was a selection of … well not sure what to call them but they were fantastic. The best one was like a cross between rice pudding and a treacle sponge. After that it was to a tour bus to get an overview of the city. This was one of the best bits – I’m not usually a fan of these things but this one was really good despite an old English couple arguing behind us. In true lads style we went to the front of the top deck, which gave us the perfect view of all the people the driver nearly ran over.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="320"] What a lovely day to be in the sun and on a bus.[/caption]
And then all too soon our time in Bologna was drawing to a close. We headed to the station to catch the train to Imola. And this is where the hospitality really started to push up as Owen86, the main man in charge of running the tournament, gave up his time to collect us from the station and take us to the hotel. Last year on the Sunday evening, Smilzo and British Dog took us to a wonderful restaurant halfway up a mountain. It was with some deja vu then that Owen86 did the same on the Friday. Both roads were treacherous, and with 4 fatties in his car we may have bottomed out a couple times on the way up! It was absolutely worthwhile (I would say that – wasn’t my car), as this restaurant beat even the one from last year. Top tip for Italy guys – if you want the best food, head half way up a mountain.
We had found out that only one other international team was making the trip this year – the Maltese! Janninu had randomly gone to Polinka Bowl in Hungary the previous weekend which Dave and Johnny had also gone to, but I had missed that trip so it was great to catch up. Plus his brother and other friends were there to. These guys had done a fantastic job at the last Eurobowl, and it was great swapping stories.
Final mention before we get to the bloodbowl. The spinach tortellini dish makes my top 5 list of meals ever. It was seriously that good.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Owen86 (bottom left), with the Maltese, some Italians, and us![/caption]
Disaster struck for us early. Val was feeling decidedly dodgy in the morning and was then ill. It is hard in these circumstances because you obviously want your friend to rest up and take care of themself, but they feel really guilty about letting the team down. To make matters worse he wasn’t even going to get an easy first game as he was drawn against Spartako’s Wood Elves! Even when at your best that match up could make you ill with how hard it is!
Game 1 vs Moro84’s Undead
My match wasn’t easy either as they had a good team between them. Fortunately I got back into the swing of Lizards right away (like riding a bike isn’t it?). I lost the kick off but in many ways this was a good thing – I’m much better at defence than attack, and so having to defend first helped me settle. Overall I felt that Moro made a strategic mistake in not taking enough risks early. It is incredibly difficult to bash through Lizards, especially as I went men up with the loss of a zombie. Even if you try and pin a Saurus they can quite often be freed up with a blitz. In the end Moro left himself with too much to do as the ghoul failed to dodge through the lines and the half ended with no score.
One of the reasons I like three rerolls with Lizards is because they are a control team, and it is important to spend those rerolls to gain control quickly. Lizard drives tend to be won or lost in the first 3 turns. Moro knew this and went in hard which caused me a lot of problems. Thankfully the rerolls worked and with him committed I had an option to go around the flank and break through. All my rerolls were used up, but he only had a zombie pressed up against 2 Skinks, with my ball carrier and another skink free, plus a Saurus for the blitz. And this is when I made a big mistake.
Blood Bowl is a game of fine margins. One square here, a roll of 2 instead of a 3 there. One of the things I notice between good players and great players is that good players only tend to lose when they have bad dice, but great players cover those moments. A good player may leave themselves a 2+ to win the game with a reroll, and bemoan their dice when they get a double 1. Great players play so that they either don’t need to make that roll or if it does happen it is not a disaster. Bear that in mind for the rest of the description of this game. Yes I was annoyed at how bad my luck was, but it all stemmed from a mistake I made.
The skink at the back was free. Moving him up to tag the zombie on a diagonal meant that I could blitz the zombie with 3 dice to move him out of contact. The saurus and the 2 freed skinks could therefore move to cage up the ball carrier after it moved as well. With only a ghoul and a wight nearby worst case scenario is that I score in 7 and give Moro 2 turns to equalise. Great chance at a win, otherwise a draw. But I didn’t do that. I wanted to get the cage further upfield for security and so held the skink and blitzed with the Saurus on 2 dice.
I got greedy and I got punished. Moro hit the ball carrier but fortunately it was just pushes and skulls so I survived the mistake. I reset other players around and now all I needed was to dodge out and I’d be clear again. 2. Dodge reroll. 2. The ball was on the ground and the skink was stunned. Moro blitzed the Saurus clear and moved the only player he had in range upfield, and picked up the ball. Giving up the score I jammed players into both the downfield ghoul and the ball carrier. He made the dodge, the 4+ pass, the 5+ catch, and then blitzed a skink away to score.
Now that’s a bad run of dice from me for sure, but I cannot be upset about it because it was my own fault. By getting greedy and taking a risk I opened up a play that would not have happened. Sure it was unlikely, but these things do happen. Moro was super humble about the whole thing, saying I deserved a draw, but the truth was I didn’t. I had the win and I messed up, and after that you deserve exactly what the dice give you. On his part Moro played it perfectly. He didn’t waste rerolls, he was patient in waiting for his opportunity, and then pounced on it ruthlessly when it came. Well played to him!
(0/0/1) 0-1 [my win record – my TD record]
The team did not fare any better. Val had to concede at half time, and spent the rest of the day in bed getting better. Dave also lost, leaving Johnny for our sole victory.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="400"] That feeling when JBone wins and everyone else loses.[/caption]
Tackle Zone Loss 1/0/3 2-5
(0/0/1) – (1/0/3) 2-5 [Team win record – sum of individual win records – sum of team TD records]
Game 2 vs Lizardmen
We’re currently having a discussion in the forums (as part of a tactics series) about Lizardmen builds, and one of the interesting things is how the majority of Italians that I have seen take 5 Block and 1 Tackle. This definitely has some advantages over my build as I will struggle to deal with Blodgers by comparison. In a head to head however I get 1 extra Block skill which means I can look to target the Tackle Saurus and try and bully him into hiding away. This creates a surprising amount of momentum, as Lizards seem curiously vulnerable when they lose even a single Saurus.
The larger problem however was that I was just more experienced with Lizards, and this resulted in me finding the patterns much more easily. One of the daunting things about going up against experienced coaches is often how quickly they can find the right play, but this is simply because they have seen it all before, and have learnt what to do. I also went a player up, and that was that.
Tournament organiser Owen86 stepped in to cover for Val, playing his Chaos team! The other organisers started laughing immediately when they heard the he was playing Chaos which was a little worrying! But he and the rest of the team pulled out good results with Dave and JBone also winning to give us a clean sweep!
Tackle Zone Win 4/0/0 7-1
(1/0/1) – (5/0/3) 9-6
Game 3 vs Cana’s Skaven
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] I’ve absolutely nailed the lighting in this photo.[/caption]
This is my 3rd most disliked match up with Lizards, after Wood Elves and Norse. The speed and willingness to go crazy that the Skaven player usually possesses is a constant threat to Skink ball carriers. The most dangerous part of any drive for Lizards is at the beginning of their drive. You want to commit Saurus forward to whittle down the enemy numbers so that you can start to box them in, but even a light screen is not enough protection if the skink fails a pickup. So instead you need to be conservative, trust that armour 7 will be invincible anyway, and make sure you set yourself properly for the drive. What then often happens is a weird game where Lizards could score in 3 or 4 but you end up having a boring stall whilst the Krox and a couple Saurus try to murder Linerats. The Skaven player backs off for preservation and you end 1-0 up.
You then set up for the one turner hoping they have burnt all their rerolls, as even with a perfect 1 turn setup things are still dangerous as the gutter runners only need 2 pushes to be in range. Also a riot kills you at this point as 2 turns with such a setup is fairly trivial (pro-tip, in the double line put your skinks at the front and hide the Saurus behind so you don’t rely on a Saurus dodge to get you out of trouble!
Then in the second half you try and put as much pressure on the Skaven as possible to score early so that you have some time to respond. Typically they won’t risk putting it in early as with movement 8 on the Skinks a 2-turn reply is quite easy as well if you make the 3+ rolls. This is only realistic if you are numbers up, otherwise the rats score late and it is your go at a 1-turn attempt.
And so this game went. I’ve played this exact match a few times now, and taking a draw is a decent result in a team event. The shenanigans tend to fall more easily the way of the Skaven player, and Cana knew what he was doing so I was either hoping for a ton of kills or normal dice rolls. At the end I think we both understood we’d neutralised each other’s advantages, both 1-turners failed, and it was a draw.
The team also had mixed results with us drawing the round. Like me Owen86 drew, but his was a 0-0 thriller! Johnny has a very tricky match up vs Chaos Dwarves and narrowly lost, whilst Lycos found a way against Orcs. Dinner was great in the hotel, and I think we were all starting to feel a bit of tiredness from the fun. The boys went on a little walk afterwards and we headed to bed with dreams of glory for Sunday.
Tackle Zone Draw 1/2/1 4-4
(1/1/1) – (6/2/4) 13-10
The great news was that Val was starting to feel better, and joined us for the rest of the games!
Game 4 vs aven Dark Elves
For me Dark Elves vs Lizards is one of the classic Blood Bowl match ups. Lizards are so strong when things are under control, but terrible in broken play. Elves of any sort excel when things are mixed up, but Dark Elves especially with armour 8 and usually at least 5 Blodgers (or Wrodgers) can put the pressure on to mix things up, survive, and then pick up the pieces. I’ve just started to play Dark Elves myself so learnt a few more things that I should be looking to avoid, and it definitely helped.
I received the kick off and fortunately there was nothing upsetting at the start like a failed pick up or a weird kick off result. I managed to get set and I think aven was a little too passive at this stage. He certainly made it tricky for me (and you have to be careful as you never know when a Witch Elf will attempt the cage break!), but in his attempt to put pressure on typically there was always a gap to move into or make (even on a push) and so I was able to stay focused and mobile. There were definitely some tricky moments and had the dice gone a bit more in aven’s favour (such as a Saurus removal) things would have been tough. But in the end I was able to bulldoze my way through to get a skink in range, and they are quite hard to stop after that.
One of the most important things on defence is quickly deciding (by turn 3 at the latest) whether you are looking to keep the opponent out or force them to score fast to give you time for the winner. Realistically with elves it is always the latter. It’s so easy for them to make a simple 3+ / 2+ pass and get away that you cannot risk it. Especially with Lizards as all it takes it losing a couple skinks mid-way through the half and you cannot even screen properly with Saurus likely to be tied up. I think aven made a mistake of going too wide too soon. The first 4 squares into the opponent’s half in the wide zones I think are a deathtrap. It was tactically very interesting for both sides with him going wide as I put a ton of pressure on to pop him out into no-man’s land to force the fast score whilst he was trying to set up Saurus surf time. In the end the pressure was too much, and the 2 Blitzers who were the ‘wrong’ side to help defend ended up receiving the ball from a short pass to score.
This gave me ample time to get the winner and the dice were behaving as well as I picked up and then secured the ball. Aven had retreated into a passive defence but my team is slightly faster so I was able to find the small gaps to keep the ball moving. He attempted a Witch cage break on the last turn and managed to find the both down result popping the ball into open space, but within my loose cage. And then just as you think everything is fine the dice remind you that this is a game where the tiniest fractions can punish you.
I had a skink free and within range. He just needed to pick the ball up and then make a single dodge to score. But I hate Skink dodges, they are a 1/9 that constantly bites you for taking them. To avoid this I needed a push on one of 2 Dark Elf Blitzers that had been moved in contact with a Saurus. So two dice block, get the push, then 3+ to win. So I… hang on – I’ve learnt the lesson from my game with Moro about taking 2 dice blocks when I could have 3! So I moved more Saurus against the Blitzer and… skull skull both-down. Gah! Well with another 2 dice block available it’d be foolish to reroll that, and I still wanted the reroll to cover the pick up. The 2db is better odds than the 1/9 dodge so I rolled that. Skull skull. Nooo!! Reroll used and I got the push I needed (actually a pow), and then of course I rolled a 1 on the pickup.
The last paragraph is why we, the Blood Bowl community, bleat so much. What a frustrating end! But also it was great seeing the Greebo Dark Elf team for the first time live!
Val got up to speed with a tasty draw against Amazons, whilst Lycos marched on with a win over Dwarves. JBone had the mirror of my game in playing Lizards, but got the victory!
Tackle Zone Win 2/2/0 4-2
(2/1/1) – (8/4/4) 17-12
Game 5 vs Leonida Lizardmen
Another Lizard mirror, another 5 Block 1 Tackle Build! Leonida (Allessandro Tallone who runs Fulginium Bowl) was a lot more experienced and this ended up being a very close game that could have swung either way. I managed to score on my drive with some Lizard trickery that ended up dividing the pitch and leaving me a fairly clear run. All the action was in the second half. I had decided to put pressure on to force the fast score, but one of the dangers with this is when things get broken. You need to be careful as if you put too much pressure on then the opponent cannot score quickly and the game breaks down and ends up in this weird middle situation. The result is that often they do manage to score but around turn 7 instead of turn 5, which makes getting the winner really tough.
To give you a feel for the game, we both ran out of rerolls by turn 4 of the half due to a combination of early double skulls and key failed dodges. The ball ended up on the ground deep in my half with most of the tough players stuck against each other in the middle around 5-8 squares from the ball. This ended in us both trying to extract players to get to the ball, and here was the difference: when I needed some key dodges on an important turn I made all 5 I needed; Alessandro made the first but then immediately 1/9’d on the second. That gave me a crucial 2 player advantage in a key zone for 1 turn before numbers could be equalised, and it was enough for me to get security on the ball. I ended up pushing upfield just to make it harder, but I knew any attempt to score myself would be suicidal – remember we had no rerolls, so every block or ball pickup was really intense! In the end I just scraped through – the bad luck of the previous game swinging back in my favour for this one that could so easily have been a draw. Often games can come down to who made their 3+ rolls; I did and Alessandro didn’t, and that was the difference.
The Tackle Zone marched on! Lycos won 2-1 against Pro Elves on the top team table whilst Val beat Wood Elves 1-0. The final game was between JBone and PeterD, and well – to say that PeterD had him in his pocket was an understatement. A few double 1’s from Johnny meant that PeterD had taken out a mortgage in his head. At 1-1 PeterD had a final chance to score with a column break. Now normally if a player needs 5+, 5+, 4+, 3+ dodge followed by a gfi then they are the ones anxious. Not so here, as PeterD took a perfectly weighted 30 seconds between each dice roll. Johnny was doing mental somersaults. Val and I were chewing our nails. PeterD was smiling.
5. 6. 5. 4. 1.
Tackle Zone Win 3/1/0 5-2
(3/1/1) – (11/5/4) 22-14
Game 6 vs Hippie Wood Elves
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="640"] Well I’ve absolutely messed this one up haven’t I?[/caption]
And so here we were in the last round of a wonderful weekend and I had to end with… Wood Elves. These are a nightmare for Lizards. With Skinks being only ST2 there’s a real danger that a Wardancer could just dodge or leap into a cage and splat the ball carrier. This makes your offense really tricky as you need to commit more to keeping the ball safe and a little less to pushing forwards; and if the elves are using a double column defence (see our article on screening) then this can be slow going. One mistake and the ball can come loose and be off down the pitch before you realise.
The first time I played against Wood Elves the refs called the game on time, but given that I was 5-2 down it could have been the humane thing to do. Realising I was really bad I set about trying to improve in this specific match up, and over time my record improved. A lot of it comes down to 3 things:
- Lizards only need to get about 5 squares into the opponent’s half to get a shot at scoring; this means a drive can afford to be slow.
- Wood Elves are not going to want to crowd your cage hard as being down on strength and with low armour values they will just lose players fast.
- Leaps are pretty dangerous – even if the plan works unless the Wood Elf coach can get the ball safe and score fast they risk having exposed one of their best players to a lot of pain.
And so that forms the gameplan. Hippie received and I set about trying to put as much pressure on as possible. The trick here is to force them to expose a lot of players or make a lot of dodges or score early. This invariably relies on breaking armour a few times, and other than a KO the dice wasn’t falling my way. Hippe played his drive excellently and was able to keep calm in the face of pressure to score late giving me no chance of reply.
In my drive it was all about being patient. I didn’t need to move very far forward, I just needed to make sure that I formed a cage that was mitigating rather than preventing the Wardancers coming in. You do this by putting extra players inside to drop the number of block dice, and then protect the area you think the ball will fall so that it cannot be recovered easily. Then it’s about breaking armour on the player that came in and/or shuffling the cage so that the Wood Elves have to do it all over again.
The strategy was working well but a combination of great tags by Hippe (forcing Saurus to remain static to disrupt the cage patterns) and some low armour rolls meant that in order to protect the ball I was losing players close to it. Initially I had around 9 players all dedicated to this, but over successive turns this dropped until I was only able to form the bare minimum. Fortunately the dice started to go for me just when I needed them and a few stuns left gaps. In turn 7 I made a break for the TD line forming a loose screen with some other skinks. It was all still tricky as Hippe had recognised the danger and moved his Wardancers back to intercept, but with the speed of the skinks being so good I was able to limit his options. He had to leap. 2. 2.
Hippie set up for the one turner, but fortunately for me he didn’t get the pushes he needed. He had played really well, so it was definitely one of those games where a draw felt like a win for me.
In the other games Val secured a draw with their Dark Elf player; a great feat in what is quite a mismatch. JBone was beaten by Italian national team regular Kaltenland with his aggressive Skaven. Lycos had a tough matchup of his Necromantic vs Undead. He conceeded on his drive and then in a moment of genius / madness decided to put it in on turn 4. He felt that something was going to happen.
He kicked. The ball went short. He rolled a Blitz and caught the ball. 2-1 win. “Played for and got”.
Tackle Zone Draw 1/2/1 5-5
(3/2/1) – (12/7/5) 27-19
What an amazing tournament! We won best defence for the fewest TDs conceded (there were a couple of other teams with fewer but they won bigger prizes), and ended up 5th overall in the rankings. Given the result from the first round we were delighted with that – or maybe it was just the ultimate submarine? It was great to play Allessandro after all these years chatting online as well, and his tournament Fulginium Bowl is right in the middle of my radar for 2019.
We headed back to Bologna on the Sunday evening with Beppe and PeterD, and had a lovely romantic meal before catching the flight home the next morning.
But the biggest thanks are to Owen86 and his Six Pistols team for not only running an excellent event, but also for looking after us so well. Remember: the best food in Italy is halfway up a mountain!
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