Offensive Drive Pt3 – Covering Back

Posted by Wulfyn on 22nd September 2019

A key aspect of the game is momentum. Players who are knocked down cannot hit back, meaning they often stand up and get hit again. Players who are knocked down lose 3 squares of movement meaning that even if they are left free they often cannot get back to defend. You only get one blitz a turn. A key play that you are able to do at the start of a turn because your players are already in a good position means that if the fortune falls your way then you still have the rest of your team still to move. A crucial early turnover leaves you completely exposed.

 

The same is true with regard to the offensive setup on your drive. You want to be able to get at least 3 quality blocks and a blitz in right away in order to set up good momentum to make haste down the pitch. But this has its limits because the defensive setup is trying to do the same. An over-committal of your offensive drive can leave you exposed and open to the defence being able to put a lot of pressure on. In chess this is termed as ‘counter-play’, the ability to ask questions of the opponent that whilst not decisive immediately can lead to an escalation of pressure that eventually breaks the attack completely. The most common reason I see offensive drives fail is that in a bid to be too aggressive they leave themselves open to too much counter-play that eventually sees their entire drive just fizzle out. And it was with this in mind that I watched a game from a few months ago where exactly this happened. It was AndyDavo’s World Cup round of 64 match against Bernie Bulton. Bernie made a couple of critical mistakes in the setup that led to an escalation of counter-play with the pressure eventually being too much.

 

And so for a little bit of a change we’re taking a 1 article break from the coloured squares to show you a Blood Bowl 2 game! Here’s the formation.

 

Andy’s Dark Elves have set up in a fairly standard formation. He’s not worried about protecting the flanks as he wants the opponent to move his team wide so that he can pin them against the sideline and look for surfing opportunities with his Witch Elves. We’ll discuss defensive setups in a future article, but it is worth noting that he has gone for an asymmetrical setup which has resulted in one half of the pitch being more open than the other; great for high agility faster teams.

 

Bernie has made a couple of mistakes with his setup. First we’ll cover the problems discussed in the first 2 articles in this series, starting with his blocking line. For those unfamiliar with the skill icons for Blood Bowl 2 game the important ones to note here are Block and Guard, which are the two icons in the following image in that order:

 

Blocking

So we see that he has wasted a Guard skill on the left side by putting them in a position where they have a free assist anyway. Yes Bernie also wants to use this player to make a block action and has set up a nice line to run enemy players along in case of a push, but the setup is all wrong for that play. The Ogre should be your last block usually, although as this Ogre has the Block skill you are able to start them a little earlier in the sequence. But if that is the case then who exactly is blocking who? Remember that you want to block all of these players, ideally, in the same direction so that you can follow up with them ending in a good screen. But this setup is more designed to block the Dark Elves in different directions and that means that you will lose the screen opening up your backfield. And that’s exactly what happened. Even if the Ogre did not bonehead they would have ended up bunched together in a square and not covering the space to the sides making it easy for the Dark Elves to get around them.

 

Yes Bernie was unlucky to also roll 2 pushes rather than knockdowns (75%) but even if the players had been knocked down you want to follow up to tag them to at least force them to make dodges in the hope to suck up rerolls even if not a turnover. But this ends with your players being in a square. Bernie did use the blitz well to knock a player down but the damage had already been done. That square means 2 players are wasted (even a boneheading Ogre takes up a square) which makes it easier for the Dark Elves to get behind the screen.

 

The player in the middle is the one that Blitzed and this is their position at the end of their move. But this square did not need to be filled as it was already in 3 tacklezones. The Dark Elves are not going to look to run through that gap or press into it so the player that moved here isn’t really doing anything and would be better off having been placed left of the Ogre to help lengthen the screen.

 

Anti-Blitz!

The second problem is that the formation was weak for an anti-Blitz! setup. Both the corners and the centre ground behind the line of scrimmage were exposed because of a loose player. First we’ll look at the odds of where the ball could have landed.

 

There is not a single square, other than the one directly behind the line of scrimmage screen, that is in more than one tacklezone. There are 48 squares  that the ball could be hovering in on a Blitz! and in this formation is breaks down like this:

  • 18 squares too deep to catch (37.5%)
  • 1 square under a player (2.1%)
  • 1 square in 3 tacklezones (2.1%)
  • 0 squares in 2 tacklezones (0.0%)
  • 9 squares in 1 tacklezone (18.8%)
  • 19 squares in 0 tacklezones (39.6%)

So that’s a 40% chance that if a Blitz! is rolled there is almost a free catch of the ball with the ability to create a decent screen around it, if not a full cage. Most of these are in the centre of the field behind the line of scrimmage but the screening of this area is not good enough. The two players near the back do nearly nothing, whilst the one on the right just behind the line of scrimmage is loose – it would be easy to push him to the side and walk into this area of the pitch. See the article on Screening as well for an explanation of loose players.

 

Covering

But the biggest problem with this approach is that there is no adequate cover. Remember that sending players back is not enough to cover the ball by itself as you can get swamped. You need to block off the routes to the ball. This often means taking a wider horizontal line to cut those channels, not just sending people back. But if you are going to send people back you need to do it in numbers. Here’s the position after the first turn.

Bernie is now in a world of trouble. With 4 players back (including a stunned catcher from a thrown rock) he is not able to form a full cage with the players that are around the ball. But more importantly there is now a full 6 squares between the players at the back and the ones on the line of scrimmage. That’s a full move for most of Bernie’s teams just to reconnect together. There is no cover and the two halves of the team are too far apart. There is enough space, and the Dark Elves are a fast enough team, for them to set up a screen between the two halves of the Human team which will result in them being disconnected (this is a term where players cannot move to another player or group of players without having to roll dice). In fact just to form a cage Bernie will need to use a blitz action, meaning that no progress is being made. All momentum has been lost.

 

And this is exactly what Andy does. He makes a mistake himself here by not properly screening this line (the players should be 3 squares from each other not 4, and it is worth a gfi or dodge to make this happen), but ultimately it is not a costly mistake because even with Bernie’s ability to get through this line there is nowhere to go but backwards. Because the Human line of scrimmage players are all bunched up it is easy to circle them and also to have enough movement to get behind them. Even if they react and push hard into the screen the Dark Elves are just making 2+ dodges away and winning the race to the ball.

 

EDIT!

Thanks for some great feedback in how to help me improve these articles. One great one was people asking for a better explanation of the above point as I wasn’t making myself clear. In order to create a good screen you want multiple sets of players within 3 squares of each other. If you have 2 players who are only within range of each other in one part of the field then taking either of those players out removes the screen entirely. Andy has a good setup on the left and right, but the two players in the middle are only connected to each other through the middle. I’ve highlighted the good connections in blue and the weak connection in yellow in the next picture to help explain. Andy needs to move some other players withing 3 squares of these players so that more connections are created through the centre.

Check out the post I made on screening for more info: http://thetacklezone.net/tackle-zones-pt2-screening/

And back to the article!

 

 

And this is exactly what happens. Bernie gets the knockdown but is left needing to make dodges to get players back to form the cage. But even if this had gone perfectly the point is that he is still going backwards and the team is still split in half. Which is exactly what Calestine noticed in the twitch comments! Yes it can be annoying when your opponent makes those 3+ dodges, but you have to expect them to do this (any plan which involves the opponent failing a 1/9 is not a good plan). But the point here is that Andy’s plan is good even if Bernie has a great turn. The Humans are fragmented and are only just ahead on numbers in their own back field. And remember all those Guard and Block players? They are the ones not near the ball.

 

The Dark Elves then set about with the cage press. There are a number of approaches you can take to this depending on the situation, but it is key that you don’t stand players so that they are in contact with 2 of the cage corners (unless they are something like a stand firm tentacled chaos spawn). This is because you don’t want one of the corner players making a block that can free the other one up. Indeed Andy has also double tagged two of the corners meaning that not even a block can preserve the cage – these players have to dodge. Now that isn’t apocalyptic (chances are they will work more often than not). But what is apocalyptic is what is going to happen even if it works. The Human cage is just going to go backwards or sideways even further away from the rest of the team. That means even in a best case scenario Turn 4 is going to be the same as Turn 3. And so most likely will turns 5 and 6. The chance of the Humans succeeding in those dodges in one turn is pretty good. The crucial thing here is that success just maintains the status quo. The chance of them making all of their dodges for 4 turns is low. And even if by some small chance that does happen they are still being pinned deep in their own half.

 

We skip ahead a couple of turns and you can see that the Humans are now fully pressed into their own TD corner. Barring a crazy throwing play this drive is over.

 

Conclusion

Covering back is an important aspect of any offensive drive. With 8 turns to score unless you are a very slow team you can afford to spend a couple of turns at the start of the drive getting set and then making the push. It is absolutely vital that you do not leave strong counter-play options as your whole drive can quickly fall apart. Covering back is more about the “covering” than the “back”. Whilst it is important to leave a second player further back in case of a Thrown Rock or Pitch Invasion, it is more important to set up good screens to stop the opponent rushing into your half. You need to ensure that your front line does not get bunched up so that they can be easily isolated. You need to not get so focused on doing damage that you forget to leave important players in the key areas to cover things going wrong.

 

The thing about this game is that Bernie actually played well – as you’d expect from a coach good enough to reach the last 64 in the world. The problem was that the set up was so bad that even with a coach of Bernie’s skill there was nothing to be done. Whilst the game was lost much later in the drive it was because of the setup and compounded by that first turn. Everything else fell apart because of that. And it can be hard to focus on these things as it can feel like they happen before the game properly begins, but a bad initial setup is what may force you, 5 turns later, to make that 1/81 roll that you fail. You can choose to moan at your bad luck, or you can choose to understand why you were making that dice roll in the first place.

 

It is well worth watching the full replay of the game to get Andy’s insights and thoughts. Just follow this link to his youtube channel: https://youtu.be/qpWQQ_Y9fAk

SHARE THIS POST