Geordiebowl XI (cripes – that is a big image! Blimey, WordPress. Go home, you’re drunk…)
Howay, man, pet. Down the Grove later, like? Gonna be a propa Bobby dazzler. PJ, my eyes, fog on the Tyne. Och aye the noo.
I would love it (love it) if any of that passage made sense to me. But as a normal human with a passable to fine understanding of the English language, it could be any random collection of otherwise recognisable letters in an unrecognisable order. I’m given to understand that, translated, the above is a question about the availability of Riesen (the chocolate chew) in Texaco petrol garage forecourts, but who knows for sure? Geordies, that’s who. The residents of Newcastle. Or Newcastle. Or Sunderland. However you want to pronounce the thing; that bit of North East England. To encounter this group / species, what you need to do (as I did this past month) is go visit them for the Geordiebowl.
All that chocolate, all that chew. It’s all for you, the Riesen chocolate chew.
The Geordiebowl is a long standing UK calendar highlight. Now in its 11th iteration, the tournament is run by one of England’s finest leagues, the Geordie Blood Bowl League (GBBL). Historically, I suppose the ECBBL (London), the Waterbowl (Manchester) and the GBBL are the three main hot-houses of Team England coach production, and this tournament always attracts a number of feared names (both local and those attracted from further afield), as well as any number of up and coming Geordies as they rise through the ranks of a very competitive league. A cracking field for a weekend of nerding, then, and a last runout before Dornbirn using the World Cup rules. Super.
I was fielding the Thornpear Scaleshockers, my Lizardman team that I will be using come the big dance. Lizards are quite a funny thing in the team format. Perhaps the best race in the game at ‘standard’ 1.1 m events barring one horrendous bogey (and hence, probably falling behind Undead and the much-feared by scaled types Wood Elfs in the overall pecking order), when you get into teams of 4 or 6, the odds of the bogey increase and the relative value of Lizards falls accordingly. Moreover, the Dornbirn rules are a boon to variance and lead to an increase in attritional skill combinations; this probably doesn’t suit our cold-blooded friends with their shallow / non-existent bench. In all, then, Lizards probably fall from a nailed-on ‘big four’ race to a 5th-8th sort of a selection in Austria, which makes them pretty interesting. There is potential for both a big upside if the chips fall well and a few issues should they not.
My roster has been developed over years of playing Lizards in decent company, and I’ve discussed it in this space before. Without going over old ground, ‘4+2’ is still in evidence in the WC rules (four Block and two of whatever your flavour is, in my case Break Tackle), but in this case, the debatable point is the day two Block Kroxigor. Day two has been my undoing at both of the previous two World Cups. Three skills? 3 x Block Lizards are a match for any other tier one outfit, bar the bogey. Day three? Six or seven skills deep, nearly all / all the big boys have something, it fits together perfectly. Day two, five skills? I’ve always found Lizards to dip. One Break Tackle is too easy to marshal, and 3+2 feels unbalanced. Other tier one races have a peak while you trough. The ‘oh crap – Lizards, I need variance and attrition’ path seems to work best in this space in the weekend, as opponents stick the boot in to try and upset the odds. In this specific case, you are at this stage going to be dealing with skill-stacked players and especially agility races become more confident as more men get key skills. The answer to these issues, in my opinion, is the Bloxigor. I won’t claim he is transformational, but I do think the Block big guy in this case in this meta is worth slightly more than two skilled Saurus day 2 or the loss of having one Saurus without any skills day 3. Your mileage may vary, but the extra problems he poses elevates the roster, for me. Otherwise, 11 men, Apo, 3 RR, Fan. Standard Charlie Brown, as they say.
Awake at 06:30, I packed a bag and drove to Peterborough train station for the trip up. Peterborough, for the un-initiated, is used as a film set in the Terminator franchise. James Cameron has noted that it would be too expensive to build post-apocalyptic, dystopian futures out of timber, Sellotape and Blu-Tac, so having one ready to go is most helpful for financing. I was joined by ‘the W’s’ in Pete (elder W) and Thomas (younger W), and away we went.
Arriving at the venue was lovely; it was a proper UK Blood Bowl venue, if that is a possible thing. The working man’s club, above-pub room or sticky-floored, meat raffle hosting snooker club is the crucible of old-school Blood Bowl battle, and here highlighter king Stick / Ian has secured us a Legion bar in which to play. Perfect. You never want too much light in a BB venue. I mean, look at the state of you.
The Newcastle Legion. Wye aye.
Game 1 – davoodmc’s Skaven, 2-0 win
davood prepared for action. Favourite Geordie: Alan Shearer.
This was davoodmc’s second ever tournament, and this new Geordie was fielding the BB2016 Skaven. This always panics me, as I assume they are going to break whenever I touch one or if someone opens the curtains and a beam of sunshine weighs too heavily on those crazy-thin tails. davood’s roster featured the Kick Lineman, the Strip Gutter and a Guard Storm Vermin. All pretty standard stuff; the Geordie thinktank was clearly rubbing off.
I got the ball first and went about trying to avoid the Stripping Gutter. Luckily, the kicker didn’t cause too much of an issue, and I inched forwards; Vengabussing and screening as best I could to keep the danger man at arm’s length. davood’s policy was to keep Rats alive for the second half, so it wasn’t too tricky to edge toward paydirt as the proverbial red sea parted ahead of my formation. While the Stripper attempted his magic, it didn’t come off, and the first half ended 1-0 with 11 v 10 on numbers in my favour. Considering davood had started with 13 and an Apo, that was a pretty decent return on my part, and I actually think the Rat policy of getting out of the way helped in that I could choose my targets and be freer with the Krox blitz than I otherwise might have been.
The second half went badly for the Skaven. davood’s quick progress stalled, and the Lizards delighted in first snapping armour, then recovering the ball and finally edging over the line. I’ve no doubt davood is going to come along leaps and bounds in the GBBL and provide a stiff test in future, but on this day, the rats were anything but stiff. Something, something, dad joke.
Game 2 – Don_Vito’s Dwarfs, 1-1 tie
Don_Vito with classic grin. Favourite Geordie: Geoff from Byker Grove.
So then, the first meeting of the weekend with a Blood Bowling superstar. The Don is a legitimate baller (as someone young I caught on You Tube! recently described a rather splendid player), so I knew that even with a racial advantage, this would be a tough engagement.
I won the toss if memory serves, and chose to kick. Dwarfs are a hardy yet glacial bunch, and traditionally, getting around Lizards is a difficult task for them. OK, so at this point, 4 of the big 7 had no skills, but if I simply lined them up with 4 Skinks sweeping, just how do the Dwarfs get around or through unless the Saurus die / find 1/9 blocks? Or such was the theory. I kicked and hoped / expected to present Dave with ‘the wall’.
In actuality, I thought I saw something better quite early on. The traditional, conservative wall has perhaps a 60-65 % chance of working in this fixture. I’ve made those numbers up so don’t ‘at’ me (@ me? Whatever, I’m 37), but that feels about right against a good player. Early on in the going, I thought I saw an opportunity for 70-75 %. Don’s cage was a little detached and lightly defended, and with a couple of blocks, GFIs, a Kroxigor move, etc. there was hope of marking everything including the ball and leaving the Dwarfs needing a couple of 1Ds and / or dodges to get to a ‘safe’ position, where ‘safe’ was a relative term as it would be even further detached and off on a wing. This isn’t unlikely. When you think about it, if Dwarfs aren’t going to leave this at some point, they’re likely to be too turtled up and would find it even harder to get anywhere. Anyway, at worst, this felt like a few light dice rolls to force an early score attempt. In practice, it went roughly. I found a poorly timed 1/9 on a Blockless Saurus, the odd 1 on a GFI and re-rolls started to bleed away quickly. Don achieved the pseudo-‘safe’ position in turn three, but I then had a free ball shot and a POW / scoop would be a huge issue for him. I had to re-roll the ball attempt, the scoop went badly, and in the end, my aggressive push had really only served to give Dave an easier route through and free shots at Skinks as my team was totally committed to the cause.
I am still second-guessing my approach now. In my worst ever NAF tournament, also a Geordiebowl, I used Dwarfs and Don Dave had enacted this very manoeuvre most successfully with Chaos. My cage was a bit detached, in came the heavy guys, and boom, away went my position and I fairly and squarely lost the contest. At this time in my BB life, I was still essentially playing FUMBBL LRB4, which translates to playing hyper-conservatively and letting the other guy roll dice. Of course, if those dice are makeable, then it’s a bad decision to play this way in the current meta. I’ve taken that moment with me ever since that 2010 contest, and here it was tripping me up! I’m fairly comfortable the decision I made this time was good, but it did leave me in a hole.
Actual Purplegoo shot from Geordiebowl II, when Don_Dave done did for me. Look at that youthful face and those flowing locks. Well. Neither of those things are true. It’s basically a poor Barney_the_Lurker cosplay, this.
Anyway. A difficult and non-profitable half ended 1-0 to the Dwarfs, and the numbers were against me. Two Skinks had bought it, so we were 9 v 11 for the second half. I could have tilted pretty hard at this point because I think it’s fair to say that I’d had a couple of tough breaks, but while getting my first beer of the day at half time, I reflected that even if I had 11, the additional couple of Skinks would ideally never see a Dwarf anyway, and their only use would perhaps be to defend a breakaway I might never need to enact. Internal pep talk given, I sat down and attempted to get back to parity.
The plan was to amble about for as long as possible and then use the MA advantage to get away. If I could pin two Dwarfs with a Saurus, that numbers differential would not feel so clear and obvious. Make it all about the big Lizards – I still had those. Come turn three of the drive, I got a couple of stuns. This was positionally massive, as those Dwarfs would be a long way from active in the action when they got back to their feet. I could try and manoeuvre the defence to where I wanted it and then get away. A CAS each followed, and the chance presented to go from left to right and maybe score in 5-7 turns, leaving those short of leg too little time to respond. Come turn 5, it was decision time. My tempo had ebbed away, and the ball was marked but in range of the TD. A Runner was attempting to sweep, but was lightly defended. I decided that Dave’s chances of scoring in four were higher than those of me failing an 8/9 dodge with the Skink, so I whacked the Runner with my remaining free Saurus and gritted my teeth as I successfully dodged away from the ball marking Dwarf. I would later stall further using the same maths, and 1-1 was achieved in T16.
Don Dave, as is traditional, played great. There were decisions aplenty in the 16 turns, lots of things to take with me and think about. Perhaps in 9 more years, I’ll recall this game and use a decision point to my disadvantage again? Either way, a favourite opponent, an enjoyable game, hooray. After the first half, 1-1 was a great result, even if Don clearly won the moral victory of the racial matchup. I think I got more of the rolls second half, and boy, did I need them.
Game 3 – TJKnights’ Humans, 1-0 win
TJKnight is a rather affable chap, as this image shows. Favourite Geordie: Ant, he despises Dec. Brutal.
Tom / TJ is another newish Geordie, and again, I knew I’d have to work pretty hard. Tom arrived with the Karla variant of Humans, and I set to work defending. Here is the thing about the WC ruleset – I don’t believe that stars improve any roster that isn’t Underworld or Stunties. Looking at the rosters submitted, that’s a controversial view, but I really think that good coaches want to reduce, not increase variance, and all of the popular star options feel like they leave the roster somewhat exposed as there isn’t quite enough TV available to comfortably squeeze a star in. Anyway, Karla would clearly be a pain in the rear end, but I was hoping I’d get into the soft underbelly she leaves behind if I could look after her.
Having received, the Human drive proceeded really nicely to begin with. Karla was being a nightmare, as with a bit of Guard and an Ogre, my Saurus were being knocked backwards pretty easily. Although I now had my Bloxigor in ’day 2’, weirdly, it felt like I was being out-strengthed early on in the contest. Not common for this racial match.
Come turn 3 or 4, Karla was left in contact as a cage corner. With a 1D push, I could get 1D at the ball. Not brilliant, but I felt like my options were dwindling and I wanted to keep the Humans making decisions. Luckily enough for me, Karla caught a POW, and the ball shot was an unexpected 2D. This was enough to end the Human drive and make it 1-0 Lizards at half time. Moreover, the contact that had been caused allowed me to repeatably hit that soft underbelly I spoke about above, and come halftime, my lead on numbers was 11v8.
I probably got a bit complacent in the second stanza. 3 is a big advantage in a favourable racial matchup, and I felt I could score at leisure. Actually, in the middle of the half, the Kroxigor double Skulled and killed itself, a Saurus immediately followed, and somehow, I was in a bit of danger. I decided to accelerate my drive as much as possible as 2-0 would be the end, but with some long odds dodges, the drive actually ended with the ball on the floor under the shadow of Tom’s posts. I was never in proper danger of conceding an equaliser, but I had expected to score with such an advantage! Perhaps a lucky escape after a lazy couple of beers / turns. Whoops.
The Geordie night out is legendary. No-one expects every coach to appear on the Sunday morning, if 5-10 % of the field have not been KO’d by the booze, something is wrong. And the booze was significant. It is tough to recall all of the events that occurred between 18:00 Saturday and 03:30 Sunday, but my drunken WhatsApp commentary and bank statement fills in some of the terrible blanks. I was adequately lubricated, as were most others.
The only two images from my phone that are halfway clear. First, me and TO Stick, and second, well, some laser beams and people?
Game 4 – Jiminthenorth’s Skaven, 2-1 win
Jiminthenorth in the north, here. Favourite Geordie: Jill Halfpenny.
Following the exploits of the evening, I managed most of a fry-up and staggered to the venue through incredibly bright sunshine that caused me much pain, as well as a huge line for the local Gregg’s. My notes of the day’s play (both physical and mental) have suffered greatly, so apologies to opponents 4-6 for the even poorer recounting of events than usual. I was in two minds about blogging at all, but it has been a while!
Anyway, more Skaven. This time, Skaven featuring Fezglitch. Jim immediately ‘lost’ the ball and chain on turn 1, and it careered into my half seeking to cause pain. This meant it was immediately KO’d, never to be seen again. Jim then felt like he had to go quickly as his drive quickly hit the rocks, and I was left to drive twice for 14 turns.
Having a Block Kroxigor in such situations is liberating. There is always an AV7 that will take 3D, and so long as you look after the ball well enough, the reward of Krixi-blitz massively outweighs the risk. Much of the rest of the game was focussed on thinning the Skaven ranks and wandering towards the endzone as again, the Rats backed off to look out for future endeavours. My two drives (so far as I remember) were pretty incident free, and OTS survived, 2-1 was assured.
I don’t really ‘get’ Skaven in a competitive context. Never have. Always Italy and sometimes France arrive at Eurobowl with the Ratty ones annually, and it always confuses me. Sure, if you give the Storm Vermin MB, you can attempt to retain numerical parity. Sure, in the event your opponent muffs a pick up, or you roll Blitz! there are few rosters better placed to take advantage of misfortune than Skaven. That said, Rats never get more skills than the rest of tier one, and if the moment of highlight misfortune doesn’t befall your opponent, what exactly are you going to do? Play for an OTS? Maybe I should pick Don Dave’s brains, as he is a fine Skaven exponent, but I do find the roster underweight at the top level.
Following game 4, there was a Geordie buffet involving corned beef pie. I’m 95 % sure they made this up to confuse me.
Game 5 – Warka’s Undead, 2-1 win
Warka prepared for battle. Favourite Geordie: Warka.
I once described Warka as he next big thing in the north in this space, and he’s been ceaselessly ribbed about that for a long time since. Sincere apologies, Martin.
Warka, the current biggest thing in Western Hemisphere Blood Bowl, was featuring his World Cup Undead roster. I remember all four Ghouls were skilled with Block and Wrestle and there were a couple of Guards as we entered ‘day three’. For my part, my two Break Tacklers joined the party, and away we went with me kicking (in rain that had no bearing on the whole game) and again, looking to play somewhat conservatively and present ‘the wall’. This was proper, primo, T1 v T1 action. Forget those World Cup stats you see on the interwebs; Undead are the top ranked NAF race according to win %, and they don’t lose so much in Dornbirn in quality hands, especially late on. This would be a proper challenge.
‘The wall’ was going pretty well. Come T5, Martin was forced to switch from my left to right having not really gotten past the half at any point, and I thought I could really disrupt this push as the MA3-4 players would have to be left behind. I had perhaps over-defended the left, but I felt I had the MA and mobility to really endanger a push from Martin if it came. Thinking I could blitz into contact with the first Saurus and follow across with the rest of my team later, my plan was in tatters when I found a quad-Skull at an awful time. This gave Martin scope to properly wall off the right hand side of the pitch, dive forward and score in 7. 8 would clearly have been the aim, but even with the quad-Skull, I had enough of a mobility advantage to give myself a two turn reply chance.
Knowing the tournament could rest on pulling off a two turn TD, I pushed through the centre of Martin’s formation and formed a central cage. This would give me maximum scope to find a route to the endzone that could require a minimum number of dodges and / or GFIs. Had I gone down a side, Martin could likely have walled off entirely, in the middle Dodge and Stunty could always leave me a chance. In the end, that chance was blitz, push, 8/9, 2, 2, and I hit it all to level it up. Having had a really tough half of pushing dead things and then being POW’d in return, and having to overcome a quad-Skull, this was a great return.
During my drive, my blocking dice got no better. I could never really get past halfway; Martin’s Mummies never parted and the remainder of his team did a great job at denying space. Come turn 6, I had to go forward to have any chance, so I selected a poorly defended left wing formation. I hoped to suck all of Martin’s men into an average looking offensive screen, only to dodge away and get away with it. Luckily enough, Martin found an early, return quad-Skull. Hooray. Even a 6+, 5+, 1D POW on the following turn could not prevent 2-1, and I puffed out my cheeks in relief. Quad-skulls, eh? They tend to have an impact.
Game 6 – HumptyTrump’s Slann, 2-1 win
HumptyTrump, frog exponent. Favourite Geordie: Sting. You thought this was going somewhere, didn’t you? Nope, I ran out of steam after the Warka joke.
What a nightmare this was! If Wood Elfs are the bogey for Lizards, that’s because they don’t face World cup, tooled up Slann all that often. Ralph had a couple of Guards, at least one on a Catcher and a whole bunch of Wrestle / Strip Linos, plus a Block Blitzer. Five or six Wardancers is a bigger issue than two, and I was frightened. Ralph also had 12 men 4 RR, so I expected a really aggressive Froggy challenge. With that in mind, I chose to receive, get early hits and take the pain early, rather than leave Ralph with scope to avoid my dangerous intentions.
Not only could I not break Slann armour for the life of me, I muffed a deepish kick and Ralph was keen to aggressively fly forwards. Although I scooped in turn 2, I had no sort of defensive, offensive formation available to me, the play was broken and spread as the Frogs had penetrated my half at will. It was a disaster, and Ralph gleefully leapt in as soon as he could, popping the ball.
I recovered and immediately set up a 9 man, all spaces filled mega-bunker. I intended to only use this formation for a turn to chill out and reset the drive, but it caused a change in Ralph’s mindset as he backed off and played to double bank in his half. This change in approach meant that I could play risk free Blood Bowl; well, risk free until I’d have to try and score. I calculated that this was more likely to succeed than braving the flying Frogs, so I settled for sitting the half out just in range of he TD and trusting I’d not fail an 8/9 dodge come turn 8 as I dodged through Ralph’s passive defending. I didn’t fail either of the dodges I eventually had to make, and 1-0.
Ralph went early in the second half, and again, we set up the curious mega-cage / wall stand-off. Again, come T16, I didn’t fail any of the (this time) three dodges, and I won 2-1. There really isn’t much to report here, it was very much the stand off!
This was a really curious game. I’m not sure how I might have approached it differently as Ralph; I doubt I would have wanted to commit Frogs to being blocked by throwing them into the closed-cage, but would I have stood off in the same way? I don’t know. What I do know is that this, the nightmare fixture, was a game I was delighted to win. After two turns, I was about as concerned with what was going on next to me and frantically trying to get a tie to take the tournament to tie breakers, but as it turned out, I fortunately didn’t need them.
On that table next to me, the super-impressive, ten year old ThomasW was looking to complete a 5/0/1 tournament with Lizards with victory over multiple-time TE member Pipey, but Brendan unreasonably one turned with his Humans to deny Thomas second place. BOOOOOO. Make sure you boo him when you next see him. Also for this reason.
Final reckoning 5/1/0 – 1st place / 34
This was a very pleasing tournament to win. The field was deep and talented, and the ghost of a 2010 1/1/4 was well and truly banished. While I didn’t get all of the luck all of the time, I got just enough to prevail, which is what a tournament winner needs!
The prize support was immense, Ian / Stick really outdid himself. As ‘Geordie Hunter’, I won local delights pease pudding (not actually a delight), a ‘stottie’ (a delight), a copy of Viz (one for the dads) and some Newcastle Brown. As the winner? Why, this lovely Don_Vito painted Dwarf team (looking less lovely with this awful photo taken on the train home). Not a bad haul at all.
Without getting all misty-eyed, the Geordiebowl is a proper cracker. Stick runs a lovely tournament. The venue is great. The people are warm and they don’t mind having a few swift ‘alves. You should absolutely go! I know I’ll be back. Although having said that, likely not to Peterborough.
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