Germany. Home of the penalty shoot-out victory. The Black Forest. Oktoberfest. The winner of the coveted ‘Greatest Haircut Since the Dawn of Time’ competition. Most importantly of all, Germany (Düsseldorf, to be precise) is the home of the Dungeonbowl.
Rudi Voller. He also won the World Cup, I think, but that’s less important. Chris Waddle still isn’t over it (either the football or being overlooked during the haircut judging)
The second NAF Major of the year, the Dungeonbowl is a diamond in the international Blood Bowling calendar. For the 7th time, I traveled across Europe to take part, and I was joined by 95 international flavoured, like-minded individuals fueled on sauerkraut, fine beer and a deep hunger to reach the Dungeon. The DB is the only of the five NAF Majors with a themed final, and this adds a real feeling of individuality and madness to proceedings. The venue, a large youth hostel in the north of the city, has everything you need for your nerd weekend. Plentiful beer, a bed, food, a large, airy room and decent proximity to some lovely German restaurants and bars. What more can you ask for?! I arrived on Friday evening, enjoyed a weissbier or seven and enjoyed meeting up with a number of old-school German BB enthusiasts. A relatively early night later, and I was ready for action.
Before we start on my BB, I should note here that this Dungeonbowl was special in that Torsten / Tojurub and the team were in the building and divulging some huge NAF World Cup information. For all of that stuff, pop over to my blog on thenaf.net!
To BB. This year, I had decided to play with Vampires. I love Vamps. With a tier one team, you have 16 puzzles to solve every game. With Vampires, a failed Bloodlust here or a Hypnotic Gaze there and you could be presented with a number of new challenges and things to think about multiple times a turn. That Gaze skill is special too; it gives you a theoretical route to even the most defended football, and deciding when to pull the trigger and go for it all is a great challenge. Of course, Vampires are not good. I have previously had plenty of success with the roster, but here in Germany, the rulespack was not particularly helpful to our blood sucking amigos. 1.1 m to spend, 5 skills day one (inc. a double), 3 on day two. The difference between me and Undead / Wood Elfs on day one was a normal and a double skill, so not a huge leg-up.
I decided to go with two Dodge Vampires to start – an easy enough choice. These guys have to be mobile. A Blocking Vamp followed (for hitting) and a Wrestler completed the 4 Vamp set. The Wrestle Vampire is a risk (roll a 1 on Bloodlust and take the Wrestle block result and you’re off the pitch), but you need one Vampire that can go hunt the ball. My double was a Leader Thrall (the ‘last snack in the canteen’). I had a 14 player roster, 3 RRs, and an Apo. Day two would feature two Wrestle Thralls and a Dirty Player. It was difficult to set expectations, really. I’m confident with Vampires, I feel they suit me. The field was huge, so I could get a decent draw and float up the tables. However, my previous results were primarily built within rulesets that give the race more help and don’t favour T1 so much. Undead and specifically Lizards are a huge issue for Vamps, and there would be a lot of these in a vanilla, Major ruleset. The DP skill choice was primarily there to try and get some attrition against Lizards should that match-up arrive, I think the only way of getting a result in the fixture. So, full of German sausage (steady) and not really knowing what to expect, I arrived at my table for game one…
Game 1 – Hullekoenig’s Dwarfs, 0-3 loss
Hullekoenig. Note the Elven Union GW pitch we played on here; swirly stuff. It fit the Gaze theme, but boy does it make you cross-eyed after a while!
Well, if any game was to crush my unreasonable hope before it really took shape, this was the one. Hullekoenig arrived at the table with his new GW Dwarf minis, three of which had gained Mighty Blow. A theme, as there was more to follow on day two. I won the toss and kicked off. I was super pleased to survive the LoS unscathed, and set about defending the Dwarf drive. I don’t think this is a horrible fixture for Vampires as a rule; Dwarfs are slow, they have to turtle up even more than usual because of Gaze and without Guard, I felt I’d either get my shot or wall in the Dwarfs in on halfway, either would be OK.
The first turn was actually a reasonable chance. With a 3+ Gaze, I immediately had two theoretical dice at the ball. Sadly for the Vampire fans among us, the first two Bloodlust rolls were 1, dead Thrall. Immediately reduced to 9 men, I left the opportunity on the table in favour of waiting and seeing, thinking I’d get a better shot when my team was not in kickoff formation. The Dwarvern drive was actually quite ponderous, however once the Wrestle Vampire was removed (dead, Apo fail, Regen fail… Ow!), a decisive thrust was made down the field. I had my shot at the ball, but upon failing, the team began to enter the dugout at an alarming rate, the MB choice coming into it’s own. 1-0 in turn 8. I was left wondering, could I have gone for it in turn 1? Normally, when stuff begins to die, it’s a great time to make the most of what you have left and ratchet up the aggression, but here I was worried the ball spill wouldn’t be easy to recover while my team was still set-up for kickoff and I’d give loads of contact to the Dwarfs. Tricky one, and hindsight is probably cheating.
I had 10 men with which to drive, and decided to try and dominate the LoS and then push forwards with speed. I felt if I could get a tempo boost, I could choose whether to wait and play for a draw or push if something went wrong or very unlikely Dwarvern CAS followed. My plan was undone by a Perfect Defence roll – suddenly, almost every Vampire player had a Dwarf in it’s tacklezone, and a disastrous first turn of BL all but ended my resistance as early as T9. As more players died / were KO’d, I had to push for an early score, but quite reasonably, it didn’t come off. The ball changed hands 2-3 times, but eventually the Dwarfs scooped to score. A Blitz! enabled drive made it 0-3, and I think I’m right in saying all 14 of my players spent at least some time in the KO / CAS boxes, including 8 CAS in the end. It was a tricky old game in which I felt I had made few decisions, but Hullekoenig made some good decisions down the stretch and maximised my bad luck in his favour. I hate the idea of moaning away about bad fortune in these blogs; I want to talk about decisions and tactics, but this wasn’t really the game for it. While truthful, I hope this is relatively a low-sodium account…
Game 2 – DonJoker’s Lizards, 2-2 draw
DonJoker enjoying a well earned altbier
I wasn’t best chuffed to follow up an absolute beating (phew for the resurrection format!) with what I feel is the worst match available for my caped crusaders. I settled my nerves with my first beer of the day, and sat down to face the standard 12 man, 3 Block Lizard roster.
I won the toss and again kicked. Defence is the Vampire happy-place; you dream of tying your opposition up in knots with 11 men as they fear the Gaze possibilities, and there is always something on, niggling in the back of his mind. Sitting on the ball for 8 turns on offence is the tough part, it only takes one bad turn for it to all fall apart. Especially in this fixture where your opposition are stronger, faster, more heavily armoured and have more in-built skills than you do. Plus that pesky Prehensile Tail!
Anyway, I was able to break up the Lizard drive and cause some broken play. Broken play, where the ball is perhaps not as heavily defended as the offence would like to see it, the formation stretched across the pitch is handy for the Vamps. You can either pick an important Gaze to open the ball up or cause an unusually early score and get the ball back in plenty of time. The latter happened here. DonJoker scored in 4, and it gave me plenty of time to respond. It was really difficult to pick my way through 7 big Lizards, but with a bit of luck and some favourable BL rolls, I was able to push through. Knowing when to take the risk to push forward sans Thrall is always the big decision of the short / pressurised drive, and thankfully, the 1s stayed away as I dived through.
Second half, and I knew 8 turns would be hard. Obviously that was the plan, but I was forever mindful I was one roll from disaster. Plus, a short drive for the opposition to navigate isn’t that disastrous when you’re Vampires and you can threaten to Gaze and whip the ball away. Short drives are stretched by their very nature, leaving ample opportunity. Anyway, as Thralls began to leave the field, all I felt I had left was marking everything I could and pushing for the early score. 2-1 Vampires. None of the good things I described could happen on an opposing short drive actually happened, and a rather standard 2-2 tie entered the books, if there is such a thing? I would take a tie against Lizards any day of the week, so it was a grand result, even if I was yet to win a game.
Game 3 – MostMost’s Halflings, 2-0 win
The Halfling coach with the mostmost
0/1/1 is not the ideal opening, and the bottom tables beckoned. MostMost’s Halfling team was absolutely beautiful, but I was unusually not best pleased to see it! I need / want re-rolls with the thirsty, Transylvanian ones, and the Zara / Karla combination MostMost fielded was one I wasn’t sure I was equipped to deal with. A ST4 Blodging ball carrier was probably going to be a tricky thing to bring down, especially lacking re-rolls! The gruesome twosome were backed up by Block and Leader Trees, as well as some SS / SF ‘Flings.
With the Chef stealing all three available RRs for the first half, I decided to kick. It went deep, and crucially, MostMost sent a Halfling to pick it up. I was delighted to see this, and while carefully managing Vampire movement (I was even more paranoid about RRs, only having the one!), I edged towards the ball. Zara was running around stabbing things merrily, and Karla / the Block tree were proving a difficult tandem to deal with as they pinned themselves to Thralls. I decided to hit the ball as early as possible and make my move while I had resources. With some favourable dice, Gaze happened, the ball went down, and a Dodge Vampire scooped and sat on the ball, out of ST4 range. Being able to score against the kick was a really helpful thing (couldn’t stall with 1 RR and the Stars closing in!). While I couldn’t take much time off of the clock, the quick Halfling score is hardly straight forward, and if I could keep the lead my halftime, I wouldn’t need to score on my offence.
In actual fact, almost an exact repeat followed. Deepish kick, Halfling scoop, edge forward and turn over. This time, the scooping Vamp found three BL fails to score in the final three turns (couldn’t push a Thrall forward to help, they were all pinned!), but at least 1-0 at the half was assured.
The second half was a much less tricky affair. Only one RR was stolen by the Chef, and Halfling armour finally began to crack, and crack in quantity. I was able to score a relatively straight forward TD, skirting around the stars and Trees, and then the game petered out as a contest. MoreMore felt pretty hard done to I think, but the key here were the Halfling carriers. They’re much easier to down than megastars, and I feel the result could be different if the ball had been stuffed up a lady’s jumper.
1/1/1 overnight then, and another big day in prospect. Day one had been quite funny in that I didn’t feel I’d had much impact on any of the games I’d played; it was oddly detached. With the clocks going forward that night, there was no appetite in the English group for das megafunkyzeit discotheque (it’s been done in previous years…), so a new day dawned and I was surprisingly awake!
Game 4 – MadArCay’s Pro Elfs, 2-1 win
MadArCay, he is pro Union
MadArCay was sporting the lesser spotted Eldril Sidewinder, one Catcher Pro Elf, er, Elven Union (anyone used to the new names yet? Me either!) build, but with 2 RR, Leader and 12 men, it was actually a pretty tidy roster. He had two Dodge Blitzers, a Wrestle Catcher, Leader and three Fend, which is unusual, but a pain in a threesome! My day 2 skills now on board, I thought I could exploit the lack of Dodge and perhaps foul some skilled players off the pitch, if the opportunity presented. Also, I was hoping that the lack of Catchers would mean I could keep up with proceedings.
For the fourth time, the Vampires kicked off. MAC went straight for the jugular; it was clear two turns was the plan. I had intended to try and hold this up, marking the Elves as best I could. Two or three turns of big contact may well have sapped vital RRs on dodges or accumulated some vital attrition, but when I decided not to RR a BL fail in turn one, I didn’t lock down every Elf and 1-0 was pretty easy.
Still, I’d have 7 turns to drive and try to rack up the blocks. The plan didn’t go that well, to be honest, as I could never really pin Elves down, cause 3 + dodges or invite turnovers. My drive was relatively sticky; the Pro Elves made good use of Gaze (hey – that’s my line!) and pinning the Thralls down such that I never really formed the formation or generated the tempo I’d like. Fouling was never an option, really, I needed every single resource in formation to hold off the Elven defence and make progress. In the end, I had to push forwards around the classic ‘double bank’ in T6 with the ‘Vampire conga’ formation; three bloodsuckers hugging in a line. With Sidewider too far away to make a gaze, only -2D at the ball would be possible. When this failed (phew!), I got a score in my T7 and survived no Riot or OTS. I gave myself a talking to here; I needed to make the Elves roll more dice. Sure, they had not re-rolled anything bar the -2D on the ball, but that was my fault for not getting stuck in and forcing dice to be rolled. More aggression was needed!
However, the second half was much the same as the first. I was delighted to have a Riot reduce my offence by a turn, and I set about forming a less fraught, more aggressive drive. Again, it went badly. All of the Pro Elves rather inconveniently stuck around in lovely defensive coverage positions, and were set up to either block my route forwards or make naked Thralls roll dice. By T5 or so, I’d totally ran out of steam, and was strongly considering trying to camp on halfway in a mega-bunker and secure a tie. That was until MAC went for a dodge, blitz with a Blitzer (probably meaning I would need a Vampire, then a Thrall dodge for safety), and found a double one. With that respite, I pushed forwards. Again, the Vampire conga was set-up, and again, I found a 2+ to score. I wonder how it would have ended without that snake, but as we shook hands, I was secretly thrilled it had come when it had! A really tough game against a good opponent, and perhaps without the opening two turner, victory would have been tricky to come by.
Game 5 – Junior84’s Lizardmen, 2-1 win
Junior84. I’m still really very, very sorry, if you’re reading this!
My reward for moving onto a positive record was well coached Lizardmen. Curses! Junior had the standard 12 man, 6 Block roster, and I knew I was staring down the barrel of a super-tough one. Junior had bought each of his opponents a present; one D6 from his tournament and a handkerchief to catch salty tears. It wasn’t immediately obvious who would be needing it, but following the most outrageous conditions I’ve ever seen on a Blood Bowl pitch, in the end it was him.
The game started normally enough. I kicked off, and after two turns, went down to nine men. With this in mind, I knew I’d have to accelerate before Junior could start putting his drive together properly. He was playing nicely and was clearly very wary of Gaze, so I couldn’t allow structure to develop. I had one of those turns that starts with a Gaze, and when it worked, I went for it all (if it hadn’t I would likely have waited!). After another Gaze, a boat-load of GFIs and a ball blitz, I was only a couple of rolls away from having the ball on a Vampire in a nice position. When they failed (perfectly reasonably, it had been a long sequence!), my team were totally out of position, and Junior’s drive and score was simple. It wasn’t a great drive for me by any means, but rather than luck, it was simply a good coach making the most of a racial advantage. In turn 7 I caught a break when a lucky block got me a Saurus CAS, and then the fouling light went on. It was time to get booty.
Three turns into a rain-soaked second half, and three Saurus and a Skink were in the CAS bin. The DP had done his filthy business with some aplomb, but sadly the referee wasn’t as impressed with him as I was! By turn 5, I was deep in Junior’s half, down to 9 v his 8. Knowing that one bad roll could scupper all of my good work, I scored. Not necessarily to try and win (although this is what worried Junior), it was more about making sure I scored at all and pressurising the 8 remaining Lizards with a full 11 and seeing what happened, feeling a tie was banked.
The kick went deep and we lost a turn to Riot. Boo. Junior was clearly backing off to secure a tie, so I decided to throw everything forward in T7. Immediate snake on a GFI. Ah well, the game was over. My one remaining Thrall in range was surely just going to be a blitzed bystander, and he didn’t have any help.
Although. Hang on.
Junior placed the ball carrying Skink right in the corner of his own endzone, the Krox was one diagonal square away, and there was a nice screen. It was impossible; only the un-molested Thrall could possibly score, and I needed to blitz the ball somehow. Anyway, I began. Bloodlust, success, Gaze, success. Bloodlust, success, Gaze the screen guy, success. Bloodlust, Gaze, release the Thrall, success. There were some GFIs here, if I recall correctly. Blitz with the Thrall! 3+ dodge. GFI. 6+ dodge. A six! GFI. One dice on the ball. Skull. Re-roll, Defender stumbles! Follow up. Ball into the crowd, into midfield. The Leader Thrall eyed the improbable. Scoops on a 4! GFI! Throw on a 4…. Success (Krox fails the INT as the ball spirals beautifully over his head)! 5+ catch in the very corner of the endzone for the impossible dream to be realised (drumroll)….. FIVE!
I would say the crowd went wild, but the crowd basically said ‘you lucky sod’ and I shrank a little in my chair, feeling incredibly guilty. Having jokingly offered Junior (an excellent sport) his tissue back, I accepted I had won with the silliest sequence I can remember. It’s a funny old game, Blood Bowl. I’m going to be hearing about that TD for a very long time; it’s the kind of thing you’d not wish on your worst enemy. Sorry…
Game 6 – Owen86’s Chaos Pact, 1-2 loss
Owen (left) and Kfoged here. You know it’s not going so badly when you’re on the next table to Kfoged’s Woodies in game six!
The perfect ending to my tournament, really. In 2017, I had triumphed over Owen’s Pact on my way to a really near miss with Humans. In the online Dungeonbowl tournament this year, Owen had defeated me on the way to winning his free DB ticket. He’s a lovely bloke, a good player and this represented a great chance to break our tie.
Before beginning the Blood Bowl, I wandered over to the final to wish the contestants good luck. Twyllenimor’s Dwarfs were to face Diomlord’s Orcs for the marbles.
Your eventual Dungeonbowl winner, Diomlord (left) and runner-up, Twyllenimor (right) before play
On the left, the 2018 Dungeon layout. You can just about make out the six chests and teleportation areas. On the right, the ‘Shithouse’, a wonderfully named arena where the ‘winner’ of the wooden spoon would be decided
My Vampire team ‘That’s Thralls, Folks!’, along with Owen’s beautiful Pact in the background. Wait – Chaos Renegades. Those guys, anyway
Back on Table 12, Owen won the toss and chose to kick off. I think his tactics throughout the game were absolutely spot-on; you don’t want to give lower tier races a sniff. There is a reason they’re lower tier, if you make them do what they don’t like and get stuck into them, they may beat themselves. Four Guard (inc. Ogre), and a Block Mino, Maurauder and Dark Elf was a formidable wall to get around! I received and began to probe down the right flank. While my DP KO’d the Troll from the LoS, a combination of the Mino and Bloodlust removed two Thralls. I then chose to send a Dodge Vampire down the left flank to try and spread Owen’s resources; I couldn’t have too much contact, already a man down. The Mino dealt with this by smashing the Vampire off the pitch, and I was now in a pickle. I chose to go after the TD. If I was to score, it would be in 5, and four turns is a stretched, difficult drive for the Pact. Half dice, Bloodlust successes and a dodge from a Thrall screened the ball off successfully, and the desired T5 score was enabled.
I thought Owen’s first drive was my chance. I didn’t fancy holding out against so much strength and Guard for 8 turns, but if Owen had to go quickly, I could hopefully reduce the order in his drive, get a shot at the ball and gain a likely tie at the very least. Sadly, the Vampires had 40 minutes off. While I got (reasonable to less reasonable) chance after chance as Owen was forced to push forward in an effort to score, Gaze after Gaze came up as a 2. A tale of ‘what might have been’, then, and 1-1 at half time was far easier than I’d hoped it would be.
Second half, and Blitz! I needed this to be good. The LoS could evaporate instantly against three big guys, and there was so much Guard around, ball shots in an ordered drive would be hard. My players dived forward, and I elected to press the button with everyone rather than leave a sweeper. I thought a scoop / pass / push forward from the Elf to an unmarked Marauder was a little risky, and also that even if it stuck, I’d be able to force an early score. I think with Vampires, you need to be as perfect as you possibly can be (because they won’t be!), and this was likely not the best decision. Over-commitment worked on my head even if Owen got away for a turn or two, but I don’t know what the play was if I’d left a sweeper. Probably a sub-optimal cage in Owen’s backfield, and I guess that would have been an interesting option for Vampires to take a look at.
Anyway, the pass stuck, and away went the Marauder. All 3 big guys were on top form, and by the time I caught up in the shadow of my own metaphorical posts, it was T4 or so. Owen took the risky decision to stall it out, but sadly for me, the Vampires were still talking about the amazing end to game five, and couldn’t be bothered to Gaze opponents. I can’t blame them, but next week, we’re working on concentration in training!
So, 1-2 was pretty straight forward in the end, and I got to spend the flight home lamenting chances missed and decisions made. All good, and well played to Owen! 2-1 to him in our series, I hope we meet again at DB ’19.
Final reckoning – 3/1/2 / 35th / 96.
3/1/2 is perfectly respectable with Vampires, especially when you play Lizardmen twice. My unreasonable, mega-competitive sub-conscious is disappointed, but my logical brain reminds me over and over it’s a decent record in an unfavourable environment. I always think ending on a loss makes you feel more disappointed with a weekend than you would if you had won, and that’s probably the case here. Day 2 was much better than day 1 in terms of having decisions to make and being engaged with the games I played, so I’m happy with that. Vampires, as ever, were an absolute delight. Love their work.
The Dungeonbowl is a terrific event. Marian / docmaxx does a sterling job, the venue is perfect and the transport links are fantastic. It’s easier and cheaper for me to attend than tournaments in northern England, so you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be back in 2019. I love the international flavour of the event; it’s great to meet little pockets of Spaniards, Italians and others. The gifts are always great as well; there have been dice, cups, dice sacks, T-shirts… You always get something lovely. Check out the DB site here and Traveler’s site here for more coverage.
Next month, I’m at the Monkeybowl. A highlight of any year; I’m already preparing my best tier three mega-combo. Should be a cracker! Fancy a Chris Waddle mullet to end on? Of course you do.
SHARE THIS POST
VIEW FORUM POST