Purplegoo Plays… Bilbao Teams Cup III

Posted by Purplegoo on 31st July 2018

III Bilbali Teams Cup. Memorial Aitor

You’ll get used to this logo…

In July of 2017, four intrepid English souls took a trip to the Basque country (absolutely not Spain!) to participate in the second Bilbao Teams Cup (BTC). It’s fair to say that it knocked our socks off, and we banged on about it for twelve months; irritating anyone silly enough to listen to us even more than we usually do. It must have had some sort of impact though, because this year we returned with two, internationally flavoured teams of four to once again participate in Spain’s big team tournament. Wait – the big Basque team tournament. Phew!

I’m wary of risking this blog becoming a crappy imitation of Lonely Planet, so I’ll only quickly touch upon the holiday aspect of the trip before listing the salt, skulls and ones you come here to enjoy me bleating about each and every month. Last year, when explaining how great we thought Bilbao was, literally all of the tournament attendees we spoke to remarked ‘Yes, it is great, but have you been to San Sébastien?’. This was accompanied by a face that indicated San Sébastien was a combination of heaven, free money and an unlimited use Blockbuster video card. Well, actually, we had not. With the sound of a hundred positive reviews ringing in our ears, we made time this year to spend a couple of days a hundred clicks up the road from the tournament prior to the Blood Bowl.

We eventually arrived in San Sébastien following a lengthy flight and a lengthier bus journey that, without AC, was hotter than the sun. Blood Bowl celebrity and renowned Derby hipster J_Bone reported that he had lost 37 % of his body weight in sweat, and I am sad to report that a crusty, years at sea, pirate-esq salt crystallisation effect on his notorious beard was not a powerful addition to his look. Hydration matters apart, a picturesque seaside town situated between two leafy hills; our location occupied a gorgeous stretch of coastline. Between you and I, though, I think I prefer Bilbao. San Sébastien is perhaps the ideal spot for a beach holiday or a relaxing weekend at a bar, staring out into the ocean over a long drink, but I’m much more of a city break type. I like to see a thing and do a thing, rather than put my feet up. Bilbao’s fabulous Guggenheim museum, endless winding streets and numerous, characterful pinxos dispensing cafes and bars are much more my tempo. That said, I’m comparing a cold beer on a warm day and a cracking bacon sandwich in bed here, you’d happily enjoy both and go back for more.

A close run thing, but probably nicer than Blackpool

Having bused back to Bilbao on the Friday afternoon (this time with glorious AC), we enjoyed some World Cup football and pre-BB drinks in town. Bilbao’s ambiance, July climate and laid-back culture really lends itself to > 100 nerds taking over a whole road of an evening, and a couple of boutique bars felt the full force of the tournament coming together to make merry long into the night. Come 10 am on Saturday, it was on. The BTC runs with a quite Mediterranean / North American style of ruleset; take 1.15 m gold, buy everything you want, you can spend up to 150 k on skills / stats, no more than 50 k on each player, no tiers. 4 player teams, round victory is all. Parameters outlined for the detail hungry among you (nerds!), let me introduce you to the A-Team.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Pearson

 

If you have a problem, if no-one else can help, and if you can find them… Maybe you should hire… Someone else anyway. L-R Simon_ACP (c), J_Bone, Wulfyn, Purplegoo

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Pearson were a veritable who’s who of Anglo-French Blood Bowling quality and personality (and me). We were also packing more gimmicks than an Acme factory. Our leader, captain and hero was none other than Simon_ACP (formerly Simon_MLF); French madman, sex symbol and prominent communist. Simon fronted the team sporting a zero re-roll (well, Leader), one Knight, Griff Oberwald roster (as is standard), and was entirely convinced this was not only sensible, it was a breakthrough in NAF Blood Bowl roster building that would be imitated at length in future. Falling in behind the skipper were J_Bone (Jam enthusiast, Elvis Presley impersonator and personally responsible for a global shortage in black T-shirt dye), Wulfyn (website supremo, semi-professional gambler and 1987 all-UK U14 Hungry Hungry Hippos runner-up) and myself (lanky pillock who makes things up about his friends on the internet). Simon had armed Dan with his most favourite gimmick; the 2 Dirty Player and a Bribe, kill all the things Norse roster, featuring killy Snow Troll and no mercy. It could not fail. J_Bone had been delegated the ‘Oh, you utter bastard’ MA10 / Sprint Gutter, kill all the things Rat Ogre (and not much else) Skaven list, and my gimmick was to surprise the opposition by not having a gimmick at all; packing very, very standard Undead. The element of surprise that I was being sensible was the perfect crime, designed to wrong-foot and bamboozle my poor opposition. I was confident nothing could possibly go wrong with this fine group of men and rosters, well, until the first kickoff result.

As is tradition in Spain, the friendly round-one, grudge settling challenge system was in place. Before we arrived, a high quality Italian outfit, Alfea, had reckoned that TTSP were only vulnerable first thing in the morning, and challenged us to begin our tournament in a tip-top quality face-off. This strategy was quite clever; my head was thick with grog from the previous evenings’ festivities, and I would have rather of played 0 RR Snotlings, which I’m sure were available somewhere.

A word on the venue and organisation here; absolute perfection. The athlete village 50 yards down the road has ample space for all 146 participants in basic but perfectly reasonable dorm rooms, the outdoor setting is warm but airy, and a local craft brewery sets up next to the gaming to sell you tremendous beverages at 1.50 Euro a pop. And it’s beautiful craft beer as well; none of your supermarket, fizzy lager nonsense. Each captain begins the day armed with four cards (‘the pro player’, ‘the old git’, ‘the drinker’ and ‘the n00b’), and distributes as he sees fit, either before game one or game to game. You then find your opponent by matching cards, and off you go. You also come away armed with BTC swag aplenty; this year a plastic tumbler (a Euro at the bar), D6 and block dice, a dugout, the fine shirts you see us all wearing and probably some other stuff I’ve forgotten.

Various shots of the setup at the venue. The good ones are taken by organiser Kafre, and the bad ones by me. I’m sure you pick up the feel of the thing, proper boss, as no-one says. More tournament photos here

Saturday

Game 1 – hamstertaker’s Lizards, 0-1 Loss

This man took no prisoners. But many hamsters. You’ve got to have a system

Having done our homework before the trip, we knew prior to sitting down that round one would be a toughie. Owen86, panicoblack, hamstertaker and Diomlord all have terrific NAF records and wouldn’t be messing about. With half an eye on knowing we were playing Italians in game one, I’d flexed my skill choices to cope a little better with bigger, stronger teams. Italy has a different meta to the UK, and I had expected Orcs and Lizards (or murderous Skaven) over the kinds of agile teams in fashion back in Blighty. My roster was 2 Mummies (one Guard), 2 Wights (Guard / MB + Tackle), 4 Ghouls (Block, Leader, Wrestle), 3 Zombies, a (much mocked by the Spanish, but I think he’s a hero. See how fast he is!) Skeleton, 2RR. I reckoned Undead were a top 3 roster in the ruleset, probably along with the kill everything Norse and 1.0 and all the Guard variants (‘Zons / Dwarfs). Had I not been playing the Italians in game one, I may have been tempted to switch a Guard for another Block Ghoul, but I guess the options are of a similar strength, and was in the balance right up until dice were rolled. As we’ll find later, I think two Guards turned out to be the right call, but you never know up front.

Undead v Lizzies is a top of tier one showdown, and I knew I’d have to be on my game. Hamster had 11 men and the Apo, 2 RR and every Saurus had Block. Probably the most standard match of the fixture, as my colleagues would be attempting to detonate their gimmicks to my left and right while Hamster and I were playing straight-up vanillabowl. I like nothing better in life than a high-quality vanilla (come on, it’s better than near any other ice-cream flavour, I’ll fight you if you say otherwise), so this was right up my proverbial street.

I won the toss and received. If our respective rosters had one weakness, it was a shortage of playing resource, so I wanted the first drive. I also think the way of dealing with Lizards is to do your best to dictate the game; I want Saurus to be standing up from prone into positions where I want them and marked by a Zombie where I choose, not pinning a couple of guys and creating space, out-numbering me elsewhere. I also wanted to dictate where the Lizard blitz came; offering tough positions hitting low-value targets, rather than letting a Saurus free up his buddies without it costing the defence any tempo or position. Finally, I wanted to keep my Mummies together and create an area where I was at least locally stronger. Or at least, that was the plan.

Kick-off was a Riot, and the Leader Ghoul spent turns 2 and 3 mishandling the football. Some Leader he was. While this action was all out of Skink pouncing range, it kept three Ghouls busy while I was trying to do all of the dictation stuff with an effective 8 v 11 in the middle of the park. That end of things was going reasonably well, as it goes. I had produced a KO and an Apo use on a KO with my opening ten or so blocks, the Mummies were behaving, and I was slowly maneuvering the defence to a point where my MB Tackler might push through and see a Skink.

Turn 4, and the scoop finally came. At this point, the Skinks had been exposed following gradual positive progress in the block-off, and through went the Wight. A huge swing here as he couldn’t make a knockdown stick, but the Wight was removed from play immediately when blitzed in return, needing the annoyingly still-alive Skink assist. Arse. Turn 5, and I was short of halfway and needing to generate some momentum. While I wasn’t in trouble per se, my blocking was slowing down (tough to keep all of that ST4+ quiet forever) and the lack of a prompt pickup had stymied progression. An early 1/9 block with a Mummy sapped a RR, and then I tried to sweep right, following a front cage-corner Block Ghoul as he made another attempt at an unprotected Skink on the flank. A double skull later, and the Lizard pressure came onto the ball carrier, who survived dice. Turn 6, and again a sweep looked possible, this time left away from the three player ball pressure and into some new space, but I’d have to rely on a 8/9 Ghoul dodge with the ball late in the turn, having moved most of my resources already, punching a hole and clearing a path. 1/9 times later, and a turnover gifted the Lizards one against serve as a Skink sprinted away with the ball to an untouchable position. This was a classic case of a half iteratively getting away from an offence after death by a thousand cuts; no one incident was really standout horrible luck, but in combination, I couldn’t overcome it all as well as an opponent defending nicely. In hindsight, I suppose I could have not pushed for a breakthrough and reinforced the ball, but I’m sure that would have just enabled the Lizards to hold a central line and make scoring later impossible. Eventually, you have to commit to progress.

Second half, and I kicked with 11 vs 9, having desperately fouled a Skink away in turn 8. I knew that, with a lead, the Lizards could happily fend off the Undead and either breakthrough and score at leisure (I wasn’t getting 2 in 5-6 turns) or simply sit on 1-0. I had to be aggressive. While I was as aggressive as I could be without leaving a route for Skinks to run away, I never managed to force enough pressure. While I did eventually get the ball down, the amount I had to put into the attempt positionally and RR-wise pulled me far enough out of position for the Lizards to break free, having found some armour breaks of their own. A late scrap for the ball was in my own half, and I was never able to recover and score in time. Hamster played this all well; while I felt unlucky in the first half, I couldn’t argue with the way he managed his drive in the second.

What of my colleagues? Well, J_Bone’s Rats all died and Griff found a couple of killer double Skulls for captain Simon. Thankfully, Dan manfully managed a tie to avoid a total whitewash. With the classic French submarine enabled under captain Simon’s careful guidance, we moved to the bottom tables for what we hoped would be an easier tie.

Submarine status – Fully kitted out in berets: Mr. Wulfyn, take me to fifty thousand meters.

An action shot, here. Something looks intense, but I don’t remember what!

Game 2 – Manuel’s Norse, 2-0 win.

 A lovely man in the blinding sun. Knowing me, I could have had my flash on too

Hang on. Manuel? With the much-feared Block / MB Snow Troll and other PO based kill ‘em all Norse, ripe to wreak havoc in this format? This is not what was required following a tough loss!

Knowing Manuel / Lordilo’s quality from online meetings and via reputation, I secured my first beer of the day (a cracking Black IPA pictured above) to help block out the pain of having to concentrate. I lost the toss and kicked off, peeking through gaps in my fingers when I felt brave enough to see how many players Manuel was able to exterminate. Immediately, a Mummy was dispatched via the Snow Troll, as well as a Zombie on the LoS. Knowing that Norse can easily get on a roll in this sort of ruleset with this sort of build, I set about trying to hold the middle of the field as best I could and seek out the ‘glass’ bit of the glass cannon; attaching MB to each block and developing Frenzy traps to try and make the Norse at least think about how they went about murder. About T3, the tide began to turn. The Snow Troll had been pulled slightly out of position as he hunted down his next victim, and my remaining Mummy exacted homicidal revenge. An Ulf quickly followed to the dead box, and suddenly my (eventual) 6 CAS train began to roll. Manuel was quickly men down, and having held the centre of the field, he was not fast or agile enough to dive down a flank to secure a quick score. As I carefully applied pressure, Manuel ran out of Norsemen and options, and a turnover score was secured with a final failed dodge.

Scoring in 8, I was able to retain a numbers advantage for the second stanza and score at leisure. It’s a shame there wasn’t actually that much to this game bar ‘my guys began to die, then his did more quickly, profit’, but I think that’s the kill ‘em all Norse roster in a nutshell. I felt lucky to have survived; this sort of a roster is probably the best in the circumstances, and it’s no surprise it tends to go well over in the States at the Chaos Cup. Manuel is perhaps the nicest man in Blood Bowl (a title claimed by teammate John Bull esq. but he’s as nice as I am rotund), and wore this game as well as anyone could have in the circumstances.

I think in this round all of the team were victorious, banishing a horrid first game to the history books with a clinical 4-0. Skaven were lightning, I think this is one of the games where Dan’s Dirty Players almost cleared a pitch against Lizards, and Griff was Griff. Simon’s encouragement to his star man every time he did something epic (most turns) was most entertaining. TOUCHDOWN, GRIFF OBERWALD! It was around this point where we developed the fine catchphrase ‘One for fun… FUN FOR ALL!’ which should probably go on a T-Shirt or appear in the NME as a slogan for Generation Z, or whatever letter we’re on now.

A closer look at the high quality polo shirts – cover the top half of the photo with your hand to avoid disappointment

Round 2 getting underway

Game 3 – Txuk’s Chaos Dwarfs – 3-0 win.

Txuk. Ten internet points if you aren’t Spanish and can pronounce that?!

Txuk arrived featuring a Block Mino, two Blodge Bulls and only five CDBs. I was a touch worried this could actually be a fearsome build, but I need not have been. Txuk is a relatively new player to the scene, and I was able to get a turnover TD having survived first action quad skulls followed by a first action 1/81 on back-to-back turns, early in the half. Txuk can only get better playing in BB hotbeds like the BTC, and I’m sure as he picks up more experience he will become formidable. Lovely bloke, but a one-sided contest, in the end. I think J_Bone got a tie here, and the rest of the team were winners. 8 games undefeated, the gimmicks were going off; a plan was coming together.

With little to report from the action in this round, a word in this space about our traveling amigos, ‘All the Prince of Denmark’s Men’. As well as coming second in the team name stakes, KFoged (c), Joemanji, Lycos and Geggster had arrived with zero gimmicks and ruthlessly efficient and optimised WE, Undead, Dwarfs and Amazons, respectively. The locals had correctly identified TTSP as ‘Team Fun’ (a mantle we humbly accepted and occasionally mentioned. And made up ourselves), so I guess these guys were ‘Team Beige’. Fun as companions, less so as Blood Bowlists and perhaps people. They also had lurid orange shirts, which was an absolutely shocking decision; only rivaled by the good people of Troy thinking a large, wooden horse was not unusual and absolutely nothing to be concerned about. Beyond the glorious submarine tournament victory, eclipsing these fools was Goal B.

The best of enemies

Submarine status – Chasing the ‘Danes’.

Game 4 – Inluzon’s Undead, 2-0 win

Inclusion of the Inluzon

With a 2018 record of 15/3/3, I knew I was back among the big boys here. Inluzion was packing a 2 RR, one Block Mummy variant of the Undead roster, and had less Guard than I did, instead preferring to kit out his positionals with Block. This was common when looking at Undead rosters around me; shunning the Leader and investing more heavily in the Block skill. I don’t mind that as a strategy (and with only 3 Block and a Wrestle, you could argue I was a touch light myself), but I can’t seem to buy into the < 3 RR thing. I always find that two plus an emergency / a free RR is the safest strategy, and tend to use six a game almost regardless of race or skill package. I’ve become much more willing, latterly, to spend early to get drive momentum going, and commonly find that to be a difference maker too subtle to point at explicitly, but you know it’s there in the background two turns later when momentum has taken hold and you’re more ahead than you would have been.

Anyway, this was game four of a long day, and I’d be fibbing if I said I remembered it perfectly. This match and round 5 (against another tough Undead exponent) sort of blend into one, but I think I remember the key moment here.

I was men down, and Inluzon was looking to secure the TD on his drive. As previously, I was focused on keeping a dual Mummy, tough centre, perhaps offering more of a wing than I would with a full roster. Inluzon took the initiative and dived down my left flank, crucially leaving the ball carrier loosely screened on the sideline. My Wrestle Ghoul took the 5+ opportunity to secure a 1D surf, the ball scattered to a free Ghoul, and the almost definite concession of a TD was exchanged for an impossible to stop, unexpected score. This was likely the difference between a tie and a win. I suspect Inluzon would take this move back if he had his time again, but of course, it could have gone really badly for me half the time if I missed the dodge or on the counter-surf following no pick-up. I’m sure there was a lot more to this game against a great opponent, but my memory fails.

John was held to a tie here as Rats left the field at an enormous rate, but Dan, Simon and I won.

Submarine status – Periscope up, and into perfect striking position. We had drawn level with the evil Danes, and were ready to dazzle them with one turning, fouling, Griff and, er, Undead if they were unlucky enough to face us on the Sunday.

Saturday Night – the Cider House

It had been a long day. The 4/2 game format is a great idea to allow coaches to get away early on the Sunday, but that 4th game after the drink the night before really does you in. However, following a short rest, the team were in great spirits and we went across town to the tournament dinner at the traditional Sideria, or cider house.

This is probably the Don Daddy of Blood Bowling meals that I’ve attended; matched only by fine Italian cuisine at the Tilean Team Cup. First, there was chorizo. Then black pudding. Then spectacular omelette, a whole cow (pretty much), nuts, cheese, and throughout? All you can drink cider that is fired from a wall. Please see this Tweet for a video capturing my mastery of the system, I particularly like the clear alcohol-induced confidence to add a little flourish at the end.

Food. Also food

When you’ve had this quality and quantity of food, all that remains is a slow wander back to bed and as much digestion / sleep as you can manage in 6 hours before Blood Bowl calls once again. I don’t really know what my internal organs make of these BB weekends; it must be an alcoholic, beefy assault it takes days or weeks to get over. There is probably an academic paper to be written on the long-term health effects of tournament Blood Bowl, although Lycos is somehow still going, so it can’t be all bad.

Sunday

Game 5 – Noerciux’s Undead – 1-0 win

Probably the finest photo I’ve ever taken, and it’s not of my wife or child. Noerciux wins

This was a real toughie. Noerciux had a 13 man Undead variant, 2 RRs and 3 Ghouls, 2 Block Mummies and Block on the Ghouls, no Guard. Interesting variation here; my roster was faster and could probably develop more blocks and hold position with two Guarders, but was lighter by a man and had more in-built disaster turnover opportunity, sporting fewer 1/9 saving Block players.

I won the toss and received. Unusual for me, all of this receiving, but I thought in this case that two Mighty Blow Block guys may make mincemeat of me on defence, and while I could maybe put up a fight with my greater speed, that would be no good for the subsequent drive when men down and attacking.

My strategy started really well, as I went 2 up. With more numbers, speed, Guard and momentum, a score looked assured as I moved my cage through on the left flank. I was trying to keep what remained of Noerciux’s central force occupied with the same number of players, but a superb defensive turn 5 saw three stuns and a KO in the middle, meaning he could begin to throw players back at my cage to try and force an early score. I obliged, not seeing a means to stall the half out safely. Noerciux had one fewer Ghoul, and I felt 3 turns would be a challenge to reply before halftime. I was only just right. With 0 RR, a rain scoop, hand-off and dive down into range on my right flank with a Wight was all successful, but on turn 8 I made two crucial Ghoul dodges and completed the Wrestle sack to end the threat. An extra Ghoul really paid dividends here; with only three I think Noerciux would have forced a non re-rollable Wight dodge, at the very least.

The second half started in the same way as the first, in that the offence went two up quickly. Again, I chose to hold the middle of the field, knowing I had extra Ghouls to try and cover. As I chipped back to 11-10 and then 9-9, my extra coverage was just (and only just) good enough to keep Noerciux out. This drive went right down to the wire with failed dice in T16, and I was delighted to come away with the win. I think the only difference here was the roster – I believe mine was very slightly better in spite of how scary two Block Mummies are! That extra Guard was a real difference maker, and the extra Ghoul adds so much to the Undead roster when players begin to leave the pitch. Noerciux was arguably the best opponent I faced on the weekend, so I’m delighted with the win here.

John was defeated (his gimmick was really not doing the business towards the back end of the event, Sunday was a toughie for the Rats) as was Wulfyn. Simon and I won, so a round tie probably knocked us out of contention. We could still overcome the hated Danes though, although we were a game behind…

Submarine status – Who said fifty thousand meters? Probably should have gone for twenty, skip!

Game 6 – Bletos’ Dark Elfs, 1-1 Tie

The face of Dark Elf wizardry!

This game was a huge emotional investment, and I think I’m only just about over it now! Bletos had a flat 11, 3 Blitzer, 2 Witch roster. All the Blitzers had Dodge, plus a Leader and a Strip Ball. The Witches were Block / Wrestle, if memory serves. Bletos has a formidable 87/23/31 NAF record, and he arrived at the BTC undefeated with Dark Elves. I was excited about the fixture; although DE are an awfully tough nut to crack, with two Mummies and an MB / Tackle, I felt I could get right into the opposition and try and bleed those numbers (no Apo) and RRs; leaving as many tricky 3+ dodges as I could and generally working on Linemen until I had chances at positionals. Bletos was clearly a great player, so matching wits with him got my motor running.

I received (I think I lost this toss), and began looking to crack into the light DE. The drive began well; the Blodge Ghoul scooped, there was a LoS KO. All was standard as I went about edging forwards and keeping Guard and Mummies positioned well enough to dissuade the Strip Ball Blitzer while I decided where to press into the defensive line. Or so I thought.

It took Bletos no time at all to go for the magic. Turn two, a Lineman came in to mark the right-hand side of my cage, 2 squares from the sideline (actually unnecessary). Then, in came the Strip right to left for -2D on a 5+. I really didn’t see this coming. Firstly, six of the eight scatter positions were very probably fine for me, and the other two a 4+ or 5+ pickup unless there was an awful second scatter off of a cage corner, or something. On a fail, at least the Lino was probably in the crowd, doubling my player advantage. Even on a successful dodge, that Blitzer was getting MB / Tackled and / or fouled until it went away; it was a near-impossible position to escape from. It seemed a really huge call to me; totally boom or bust with no real crisis to overcome or real need to go so early. Anyway, in on a 6. –2D Skull, re-rolled into pushes, ball bounces to a 5+ pickup square. Fail, bounce, bounce, into a waiting Lineman’s hands, towards the Dark Elf endzone. It was a huge reward for a massive, potentially drive ending gamble on a fail, and I still feel surprised. But that is Blood Bowl; perhaps Bletos didn’t feel he could get anywhere against the Undead playing conventionally or safely, and needed to go for it all straight away before my screen and drive developed? Don’t know.

Anyway, I could still recover with moderate dice, my front of cage, dissuasion (or not) Mummy could sack the Lino and a pickup was likely. Only the Lino survived the first four dice, sapped a re-roll and although the ball went down on the blitz, I couldn’t recover. The DE then whipped the ball away up the opposite flank, found a number of 3+ rolls, and scored in 5 as I bled all of my RRs trying desperately to down the ball carrier with moderate to good chances that went south. My three-turn score was dashed by a DE Blitz! kickoff and a two turn failure to pick up without RR, and we went into the sheds at 0-1, 11 v 9 players. I guess I was pretty lucky to only go in one behind, considering!

I went for a little walk to clear my head. We all tilt as Blood Bowlers when we feel hard done to (or, you could argue, miss a trick?), but if I have any strengths, I like to think one of them is playing every turn independently and forgetting what came before. Still, a little walk can help with that! Looking down the line, John already had no Rats left, but Dan was fouling gleefully and looked good. Griff seemed to be doing the business for Simon, so I knew a tie in my game may give us the round win and a tournament podium. I sat down and resolved to get there, via sheer force of will, if nothing else!

Kickoff, and Blitz! back! That’s more like it! I put contact on every DE that I could and caught the ball. Although the 1D strip would be easy, I would still have the momentum and I couldn’t afford to over-commit and concede again. A T1 RR bled away for Bletos, and although he recovered the ball, he was reduced to caging deep in his own half and making plenty of dodge rolls. I kept up the pressure, making nothing easy. DE turns began with half dice Mummy blocks, or 3+ dodges or handoffs. In spite of munching the final RR, eventually Bletos made a gap and got to an uneasy halfway position. Up stepped the Wrestle Ghoul, and the ball changed hands a couple times before it ended up safely in an Undead cage come turn 6. I could only wait it out to my turn 7, but fell over the line knowing that, men down, a DE OTS was unlikely. This had been a huge roller-coaster and back and forth half, and I was happy to have finally, probably secured a tie…

Riot! Argh. After all of the emotion and hard work that had gone into the game, I could still have it torn away from me. Forward came the DE, and I did what I could to mark things, screen the field and make the pass tough – the fourth Ghoul once again helping with coverage. Luckily enough for me, the turn 8 pickup was bombed, and I got my draw.

Still grinding my teeth about the first half, I watched as Simon’s Brets failed a 3+ for the win, and TTSP dropped to 3/2/1 overall. More annoyingly, the Danes had gone 5/0/1 and come second, behind the Italians, who had secured a fantastic 6/0/0 and won the event. Well done, guys! The Italians, not the Danes. Boo the Danes.

Final reckoning (team) – 3/2/1 – 9th place.

Sucked back into the pack with that final 3+ fail, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Pearson finished with 4/1/1 s all around apart from John, who had a toughie at 1/2/3. 4/1/1 for me considering the standard and records of my opposition was a good result in the end, and sitting among the crazy gimmicks had given me a great experience (15th / 146). It’s rare you look up to see the panic in an opponent’s eyes that only a zero RR Griff list can bring. Captain Simon is an evil genius, and Team Fun will one day ride again. You’d better watch out for the gimmick train!

This is a top tier, premium event, as I hope I’ve gotten across. You should all get to Bilbao if you can at some point; you are well looked after, the food and drink is incredible and Bilbao is a wonderful city in which to holiday. I’m sure Kafre and team would be really happy to help you in 2019, get over there! Next month I make a return to Bognor Regis for Thrudball 2018, and I’ll write some nonsense about that. See you then!

Your winners and a couple of the superb organisational team. Well done to Alfea, and a huge thumbs up to all in Bilbao

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