In 138 BC, two events of international note took place. Firstly, Lycos held a phenomenal 21st birthday party still spoken about with great reverence today. Then, once the hangovers had cleared, a (probably) Roman chap named Decimus Junius Brutus founded Valencia. The reasoning for this is not clear (or: I stopped reading the Valencia Wikipedia page when I’d found his name), but I’m glad he did.
History buffs are frustrated that then, for more than 2000 years, nothing much happened. That is until 2009, when the first Revabowl took place, right in Decimus’ back yard. Over the past decade, REVA has grown into the largest individual Blood Bowl tournament in the world and approximately 200 international coaches flock to Spain every year to partake in winter sun, beer and an aural assault that is rivalled only by the best and heaviest of metal bands and jet engines. Presumably that’s why we’re now in capital letters: we must shout REVA these days!
Our trip began in the traditional style; we awoke practically before we went to sleep to stumble, blinking and confused, onto a Ryanair flight to be charged for (among other things) each cubic meter of oxygen consumed. Despite the ungodly launch time and the jovial bastardry of Europe’s finest budget airline, five intrepid Englishmen hit coastal Spain around lunchtime on the Thursday, eager to explore and enjoy a new city. Well, after a substantial nap.
Valencia appears to be a lovely bit of the world. Visiting anywhere in the depths of winter (and it was still winter, I should have packed a coat – thanks for that bad advice, weather apps via Paul Gegg) is never going to show you a city at the peak of its beauty, but there was still plenty of delicious architectural eye candy to keep us going. The museum area was particularly nice to look at as the sun went down (we turned up a bit late to get in, like, but it made for good photos), and the winding streets featuring beautiful orange trees and aged buildings made for a pleasant wander. Having racked up 15 clicks or so in a day poking about a bit, sleep came pretty easily. Please, enjoy these pictures of our poke about.
Valencia. No doubt a career in international photography beckons.
Come the Friday morning, we visited a fine covered market (think: old school Amazon Prime, millennials) full of meat, cheese and just about everything else the locals could produce. Then, we were joined by northern, Waterbowl-badged Englishmen and infamous Italians in the shape of BB celebrities Beppe, MAD, Owen and Rolex, among others. This is where the tournament proper kicked off, as we consumed a welcome beer or three and a long, cheap, three course meal in a local eatery. Festen and organisational gang had arrived to look after the travellers and really kept us fed and watered all day; it was fabulous to see a bit of ‘real’ Valencia with a gang of fine nerds. And not to start proceedings at 3 am. Sodding Ryaniar.
The market was pretty sweet. See how I almost capture this really impressive dome? Well done, me.
Come the evening, we relocated from central Valencia to the venue. REVA is held at a hotel on the outskirts of town; rooms are reasonable and the included food is of excellent value and fine quality. While Blood Bowl is happening, your beer is free (I know, right?!) and Blood Bowl began happening on the Friday night. The local tradition in Spain is the ‘challenge’ round game one, and if you make and accept a challenge, you can play your match on the Friday night if you so choose. This leaves time for a lie-in on the Saturday morning. I’m a morning person myself and I’d had 5-6 beers, but what I really wanted to avoid is facing a fellow lazy traveller without a partner on the Saturday morning. All that Ryanair pain and walking to only have to spend more time with Paul Gegg while Blood Bowl was happening would have been an incredible buzz kill. So, with this in mind, I set about finding a Spaniard to play with by mingling and approaching anyone looking like they were as lost as I was. It occurred to me later that this was basically drunken nerd speed dating, and that I should have dealt with this in the run-up rather than on the day. Mainly because I looked like a plonker, saying “You? Game?!” in broken English as if it wasn’t my language.
My dance partner was finally secured by a ‘fixer’ with great English (Pako) and he turned out to be a fine fellow with an effective overall 3/2/1 NAF record – no easy start! I sat down to begin the latest / earliest game of BB I’ve ever played and began to healthily consider my life choices.
REVA runs a relatively common Spanish sort of a ruleset: 1.1 m, 2 doubles, 4 normals and stack where you like to any extent you like, no tiering. Another important note here – the theme of REVA ‘once’ was blindness or ref bribery, or something (there was a dude with a white stick on the tournament dice and a Homer Simpson cartoon where he was in a zebra outfit and wearing sunglasses, see the top image. That’s about as much as I know), so coaches could use purchased re-rolls (not Leader or BC / CF wins) as Bribes. That wasn’t really a concern in my games until day 3, but it’s an important point to the ruleset. If you used a RR this way in the first half, it was gone for the second.
Looking at those rules, I had a slight sigh. I’m not a fan of stacking in this sort of a format. I tend to find it just leads to killing machines and more variance, which isn’t my favourite place to be. I also couldn’t see past Undead, which is a touch dull when I had used Undead when last I was in Spain. Two Block Mummies is super-nails, isn’t it? Plus, the Bribe thing was handy if I had to foul a Wardancer and needed the Zombie back… After much huffing and puffing 24 h before departure, I accepted I was going to use Undead, and packed the ‘Drogolodytes’ into my miniature case. Along with the Block Mummies, I had a Block Ghoul, a Wrestle one, a Guard Wight and a Tackler. All very standard and not much in the way of thought expended, 12 men, 1 of each Coaches, Cheerleaders and Fans, one Skeleton. Because pace, and because I can shout THICK SKULL! like a boss.
Game 1 – moyate’s Orcs, 1-0 win.
moyate, here, brandishing the free booze. Some of the serial REVA coaches had bought their own, bigger glass, and that was a great strategy. Like Alan’s big plate, it pays to prepare in these circumstances.
moyate arrived with two MB Orc Blitzers. This was a worry, as three MB in all threatened to thin my numbers quite considerably. Some Guard and Block followed, and we settled in for a midnight game. I was pretty sure I could play through the haze of alcohol and fatigue, but we would soon see!
I kicked off, and Perfect Defence! This turned out to be the most important roll of the game. moyate was clearly concerned about the deep-ish kick and the Orc propensity to struggle with pressure, so he backed his whole team off into his own third of the field to cover any quick Undead advances; sacrificing blocks, tempo and progress straight away. This allowed me to set-up camp on halfway, effectively walling my half off. The Orcs never got past the centre of the field, and while I could position two ST5 Blockers in a five or six square space around halfway, I felt super secure. This concentration of strength left the rest of my team to overload whatever flank looked most dangerous, and the lack of early contact allowed me to comfortably deploy as I chose. There was never an Orc ahead of the ball as a receiver, and the greenskins seemed more concerned about coughing the ball up and giving one against the head than scoring themselves. Orcs are a tough gig, as we all know. You’ve got to chance your arm a bit, considering your lack of pace and high ST, and I think moyate was mainly hoping he could turn over the Undead drive and win that way, rather than being overly concerned about a successful offence.
The MB never developed a numerical advantage for the Orcs, and when I chipped a couple of Orcs (luckily) early on my drive, my eight turns were pretty sedate as I pretty much always had a full 11 and the option for Ghouls to press ahead at speed while Zombies looked after Black Orcs. The plan with Undead is pretty simple, especially with two Block Mummies. Keep those guys connected and advancing and stopping you is going to be tough. I felt that the PD really impacted this game more than it maybe should have, and then moyate was unlucky to go men down with equal MB and more AV. Perhaps all of that is the beer talking, I don’t know. Did I mention the free bar? I mean, I hope you aren’t expecting any genius strategic insights here…
I’d normally clumsily explain the layout, the extras and the venue in a little more depth here (with a couple of further, doubtless future award winning photos thrown in as part of the bargain), but why do that when the Madrid All Stars made a cool video? Go watch that, meet you back here in five. There was a lot going on, which is pretty fun. An event of this size can support many stalls, sponsors and the like, and it was great to peruse between rounds.
Game 2 – Mitico’s Necromantic, 3-2 win.
Round two featured Mitico’s murderous mongrels. Yep – smug now.
Following a proper sleep and a good breakfast / brunch (OK, it was a bag of crisps, I got up late), game two began at approximately lunch time. All 190 coaches were now crammed into the gaming space; and it was warm, a little moist and pretty tight. No, I’m not going to make that joke and neither should you, Joemanji.
3-2 might seem like a razzle-dazzle, monster game, and in some ways it was. Mitico had a flat 11 Necro roster, featuring the ever-popular MB/PO Werewolf. We know this guy’s MO: kill all the mens. Then kill them again once they’ve Regenned. Then kill their friends. I made a mental note to not mention the carnage he was bound to cause here lest I look salty and chose to kick off, assuming the worst.
Fortunately, the worst did not occur. I was infact able to KO both Wolves very swiftly (hurrah for Frenzy traps into Mummies that work), and Mitico had no choice but to score far too soon lest he be swamped by my numerical advantage. I was left plenty of time for 1-1, but there things began to go awry. I don’t remember the particulars for reasons I’ll come to shortly, but I think a combination of well placed Fleshies and that attrition I’m not talking about meant I had to score in 6. 1-1 became 2-1 following an extremely nicely placed Blitz! and then I could score at leisure on my drive. 3-2 came only following a limply defended consolation come T16, and I felt I’d survived a potential banana skin in the shape of the killer puppy. A funny old game.
During this game, the organisation gave out freebie dice to each coach. Rather than drop them off at every table, they announced names over the health and safety nightmare PA system in alphabetical order, and it wasn’t unlike being pummelled about the head with a cricket bat for an hour. Those of you that have occasionally mentioned the NAFC microphone could be louder should take note here: unless you are at a Motorhead gig, everything should not be louder than everything else. The baseline noise in the room was not low (that Latin temperament does not lead to German-style, near silence while playing), and the announcements were something else. Still reeling and bleeding slightly from an eardrum, we moved onto game three. Well, we did after a lovely lunch.
Game 3 – Garfunkel’s Humans, 1-0 win.
Hello darkness my old friend… For the second consecutive mugshot, I’ve managed to bleach my lovely opponent with the light from a nearby window. D’oh.
Undead v Humans is generally a decent matchup for the dead men. Even with a Block Ogre and a few Guard, Humans are probably going to lose in the contact areas of the pitch, and Undead are fast enough to discourage any breakaways that Humans might be able to enact against other slow, bashy teams. That said, you never know in Blood Bowl.
A smattering of Guard and the odd hit skill accompanied the Human team, and I kicked off. I remember this being a moderately frustrating game. People often forget how low the average Undead armour is – only 7.7 if your Skeleton is on the field. That quite commonly leads to the odd issue, and so it was here, as the Humans consistently held the numerical advantage as Mummies misfired.
Perhaps my ears were still ringing (I would probably have preferred to be back aboard a Ryaniar flight than be in the room during that hour with the PA system), perhaps it was the free beer, but my usually fine memory for Blood Bowl details seems to have deserted me here. I remember armour breaks, desperately jamming remaining players into a cage and not much else other than a 1-0 win. I can only assume that I got lucky somehow and my opponent was a gent; perhaps my mind is blocking out a ridiculous Undead sequence leading to a win through sheer embarrassment? Don’t know Still, at 3 / 0 / 0, I moved onto game three of the day,and game four overall around the top end of the tournament.
Game 4 – barbancho’s Undead, 3-0 win.
Yarrrr, barrrrbancho. Avast: x marks the theme, etc.
3-0 is a silly score line, here. barbancho had gone 6 Block; both Mummies and all four Ghouls. I’ve found this not to be uncommon with Spanish coaches. While Block is clearly excellent and allows the coach to position his Ghouls a little more freely with a little less fear, I do think it creates a deficit elsewhere as other core skills are left behind. That said, four Blodge Ghouls jammed into / onto your cage is tough to deal with. Even if you hit the 11 / 36 POW on a block, it’s not a gimmie that they die. There is no justice in Blood Bowl, is there?
barnacho had a terrific setup, as you can almost see above. Pirate hat, flag, themed board, it was lovely stuff and he’d set up in an area away from the main tables, which was most welcome by this point of the day. The man had a fine theme, and he carried it off with panache. He won the toss, chose to kick, and battle was joined.
I got a couple of men up (KOs or Regenned CAS) relatively swiftly and I was feeling good about life. Or death, I suppose. Still, those two Block Mummies I’d been enjoying all weekend so far were a pain to face as they anchored the middle of the field, and four Block Ghouls were a nuisance to traverse. Any push forward was likely to be met will full contact I probably couldn’t knock prone, and I couldn’t afford all of my AG3 players getting pinned on a flank. Eventually, barbancho got himself back into the contest with a couple of return KOs and a fair few re-positioning Ghoul dodges, and I had to dash forward even though I didn’t want to. I felt pretty good about the screen I had created; the Block Ghoul ball carrier was in range, separated from harm by three equally spaced friends and there was contact elsewhere meaning barbancho had to make three or four 8/9s and find good blitzing dice to make me score quickly. He did, and I was only able to score in 7 turns. This went from comfortable to fraught really quickly, and getting in at all was a success given the circumstances.
With two to score, barbancho’s KOs all came back and mine didn’t, and he dived down my left-hand, slightly lightly-defended flank. This was a great success, and I had a hugely difficult time stopping him. In spite of popping the ball (the carrier was never going to be well defended on a stretched drive such as this), I could do nothing with a poor scatter but dodge on big numbers until I turned over. I was desperately getting guys as close to in the way as possible, but not really succeeding. barbancho’s score in T8 was pretty easy, in that it was a 1D push, 8/9, 8/9, and more often than not I was 1-1 and kicking. When one of those 8/9s failed, the whole game changed in an instant, and I felt the tempo swing back my way after a dodgy period.
I kicked off, and 1/9 disease again struck my opponent. Re-rolls were burned on the first two turns failing to pick the ball up, and while the scoop eventually followed on turn three, it was late enough that I could iteratively exert plenty of pressure. The act of protecting the pick-up stopped me immediately hitting the ball, but it led to a tempo boost and I was able to put barbancho a game-deciding amount of positioning difficulty by marking and pushing back the stuttering advance and making the ball unsafe. 2-0 followed in the middle of the half as the ball was coughed up, and then the silly 3-0 score line confirmed as the desperation passing moves failed.
The re-roll ball pickup at the start of a half is a curious decision to work through. Conventional logic is ‘if you muff it out of range of a defender, then leave it’, but that does put you in a real bind tempo-wise most of the time. I didn’t mind the choice to re-roll the pickup as success sets the tone for a drive, and clearly barbancho was unlucky to fail the roll twice running. I was lucky all-in in this game, really.
Day two down, I sat on 4 / 0 / 0. I didn’t know this at the time, but I was one of three in the field, and with game 6 featuring a final, game 5 was an effective semi (stop it, J_Bone). My tiebreakers were rubbish (TDs and CAS are never my friends), so I needed a win to be in.
Game 5 – Malasnoticias’ Norse, 1-1 tie.
I forgot to take a photo here, so please enjoy the top Google Images result for ‘hot Spaniard’. A decent likeness, if memory serves.
The RR for a bribe gimmick in the rulespack really began to bite here. These Norse featured a Block, MB Snow Troll, both Ulfs and a load of Linemen, including a Dirty Player. This was to free up RRs for fouling, and for the one and only Boomer Ezzasison. Essasision. Sigh, that guy, you know who I mean. And what a pain he was, mirroring his surname that I can’t be bothered to search for.
I won the toss, and contrary to my usual plan, I received. Firstly, I wanted to break a few Norse while I had free chances to do so, but secondly, in an effective semi-final situation, it was probably a smart call to leave the decision with my opponent in the event I score in 8. What do you do in that second half? Go for the classic 1-1 and not make the final either? Go early and give your opponent the advantage? This is one of the issues with a final for me, it encourages bad play. We probably shouldn’t be rewarding coaches making low percentage decisions like sticking it in early, just because they’ll miss out on table one. But anyway, it’s something different (the final), I guess.
Anyway, in the end, that meta-nonsense wasn’t an issue. I didn’t crack any armour, and the fear of the Troll, the DP and of Boomer was real. That guy is slinging inaccurate bombs on a 2+ for a 5+ pass, and it consistently fouled my offence up as I had to pick up 1-2 players and / or the ball on most turns. While I tried to advance my Mummies, the prospect of a Snow Troll whack and a swift boot made the usual Undead drive harder than usual. With progress limited, it was easy for the Norse to produce a strong middle, protection for Boomer and plenty of cover / error for when the bomb was launched, even if inaccurate. What a pain.
Come turn 6, it was clear I was in a bit of a pickle in terms of advancing. I was two down and the Norse line was solid, the bomber threatening. But I had to go anyway. So, I went up the right flank, knowing that contact was coming. In the event the dice were moderate, I could probably have held for 8 turns, but when they were fabulous, I had to score. Having no re-rolls remaining and being men down, I was delighted to score at all. It was a painful half, and 1-0 in seven was better than nothing.
With two turns to reply, a Perfect Defence should have thwarted the Norse. Instead, a super unlikely naked dodge and long pass sequence multi-turn sequence hit, and a gut punch landed for 1-1. With Boomer bribed back in and the Undead again being two down following the defensive LOS, things looked very bleak indeed.
I concentrated on trying to keep Mummies central and Ghouls sweeping, mirroring barbancho’s plan from early in game five, trying to stay in the contest. When men down in this sort of situation, you feel the impact of the fourth Ghoul’s movement over the 13th man, and so it proved here. When Malasnoticias finally made a move forward in the middle of the half, I took what might be my final opportunity and piled all I had left into his cage, marking what remained with ST5. Finally, he had an average or worse turn, and was forced to advance the ball into a hittable position. Two squeaky 8/9s later, the Wrestle Ghoul had knocked the ball into the crowd, and the ball came to rest in an unoccupied area of centre-field. Game very much on.
The last Ghoul to move on my turn was able to scoop, and it was looking like, in spite of being under the pump for the majority of the match, victory may follow. The Norse were out of RRs, the Bomber was mercifully side-lined, the majority of the Norse were out of the picture. I burned my final RR on a GFI to get out of range of a second Norseman (a blitz assist), and crossed my fingers. Sadly for me, the effective last ditch, RR-less 3+, 5+ ball sack hit, and the game fizzled out to a hard-fought tie. Final missed, but a great tournament result still possible. Wow, Boomer was a pain. I shook hands and hoped I wouldn’t have to see him ever again.
Game 6 – Kevindez’ Dwarfs – 0-2 loss.
Kevindez with his fabulous custom stadium. Really nice stuff, I mean, how do you transport something like this?!
It is always my intent to never let this blog descend into a string of dice rolls or grievances and keep it tactical, where possible. It’s no fun to have numbers thrown at you or hear about that time that thing happened (although, if this is your jam, try standing near the laptop at the NAFC), so I don’t like to do that here. This means this game will have a short report.
Kevindez had two Guard Blitzers, two Block Runners, two MB Slayers and Boomer. There he is again, the Ryanair of star players. Undead v Dwarfs is generally good for the Undead; I thought more so with two Block Mummies, and even more so with only two Guard to deal with. Oh, how wrong I was!
I kicked off, and the first two blocks and a bomb resulted in non-Regen CAS. Immediately three down and reeling, the only thing for it was to jam in both Mummies, attempting to suck up multiple Longbeards in the centre of the pitch, and then try to use all of the remaining AG to make a smash and grab at the ball position, which was towards a flank, behind the front line. Although I got the ball hit, the results were pushes on 2D, and the gambit had failed. The Dwarfs could recover, come central and roll over the Mummies for turn eight glory.
My drive disintegrated as I was reduced to one, stunned Mummy by the end of play. It wasn’t so much a contest as a massacre, and I’m sure the crowd in Kevindez’ fantastic custom stadium were rocking. I would have been, had it been anyone else! Kevindez was a lovely gent, and it was nice to spend time in his company. Even if I never want to see his minis again.
Final reckoning: 4 / 1 / 1 – 16th of ~190
Following those two last results, I dropped back towards the pack and ended up a fine enough 16th. Considering the ruleset, I had expected Undead to go well. Two Blocking Mummies is immense, and they really add to what is already possibly the best of all the tournament rosters. 4 / 1 / 1 is fair enough (perhaps about par, considering the large field and the skillset) as results go; you can’t win ‘em all, afterall. Following the final game and before awards, we retired to the hotel restaurant for an all-you-can-eat buffet that surely cost at least the ticket price alone and featured most dishes you can think of. It was a lovely relaxed way to finish up, and a reminder that this was what tournaments are all about; spending time with like-minded nerds and enjoying a cold one. Awards finished about 2 pm, allowing attendees to get home at a reasonable hour, which is a nice idea. I like a 4/2 game split. Or 1/3/2, as it ended up here.
REVA, in general, is a marvellous example of a NAF Blood Bowl tournament. From being picked up and looked after on the Friday, to the free beer, to the immense food and incredible value, it is no shock that the tournament attracts coaches from far and wide. Looking after 200 or so coaches is no mean feat and that the thing ran to time without a hitch speaks volumes for the chaps running the laptop. Yes, my ears may never stop ringing, but it’s obvious to me why the tournament is so repeatably massive. If you decide to join the hordes in 2020, I recommend ear plugs, an elasticated waist trouser (the height of fashion, but also roomy) and a large glass with which to enjoy the free beer.
Next time? Well, I have resolved to try and not do repeat tournament reports in this blog, but I’m not doing a new one until May. I should think the Dungeonbowl will be as eventful as ever, so this time next month, I’ll break that resolution after only three months. Well done, me! I’m flying BA, happily…
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