August this year marked my return to sunny Bognor Regis on the south coast of England and to the mighty Thrudball. Like almost no other UK tournament I know of, Thrud holds a special status for a band of dedicated, almost feverish attendees. This army of passionate supporters loves Thrud for three main reasons. Firstly, Thrud is one of the few ‘proper’ summer Blood Bowl tournaments we have. The UK lacks reliable sunshine, but Thrud brings together Blood Bowl, the summer, camping and outside eating / pursuits in a way that so many continental events seem to manage much more easily, what with their annoying lack of British weather. I just think it means we appreciate the sun more, and as such, persistent rain in July is a good thing. I certainly save a fortune in sun cream (have that, Costa del Sol!). Secondly, Thrudball is the UK’s biggest charity BB bash, and the wealth of good work done by the organisation crew and attendees alike is rightly lauded by the whole community. Finally, well, it’s whacky. Some nerds are whacky, like whacky and are thoroughly pro-whacky. Whacky sells.
This year, ~ 60 Brits were joined in Bognor by four fine Frenchmen and a PeterD. Of course PeterD attended, it is a Blood Bowl tournament. Inspired by the great Dr. Hawking’s time travel experiment, I once held an unadvertised BB event in my front room. Sure enough, Peter, Lycos and MaD broke into my kitchen and I found them making tea and discussing roster choices with twenty minutes to go before game one. Curse their collective tournament spider sense.
Four fine ‘Fling-ing Frenchmen
I had attended Thrud from 2010-3 inclusive, and then had a break until my return in 2018. I remember clearly remarking that the 2010 running of the event was my favourite tournament of the year; in those days, there were far fewer tournaments and I was in my first flush of love with all things tournament BB. We travelled down to Bognor for upwards of five hours from the frozen north, we camped, we had lovely fish and chips on a pebble beach and then we did it all again somewhere else a fortnight later. They were happy, exciting, pre-children times. As I mentioned above, Thrud has always been the UK’s premier charity Blood Bowl tournament. Several tens of thousands of pounds have been raised over the years, and as time went on, that extremely noble intention (raising cash for good causes) combined with the British love of being silly to raise money seeped into the tournament both on and off the field. I distinctly remember ‘Mad’ Frank (the previous TO) offering to have darts thrown at his hand or cricket balls at his head for spare change he’d donate to help thwart lung cancer. He may well be mad but it’s all in a good cause; I’m convinced he’d poke a shark in the eye for two pence and the promise of half a sausage roll for Marie Curie Cancer Care. Rather transformative and Blood Bowl-breaking stars started appearing in rulespacks. Grown men ate live meal-worms in the name of fundraising, although I question whether a collective, sun-worshipping hysteria may have led to this happening regardless. I took a few years off. This sort of whackiness, as discussed, works enormously well for some people (and thumbs up to them), but over time it wore on me a tad and gave me a weekend-long stress headache. I may well be the odd-one-out, because the tournament remained relentlessly popular in my absence and is often cited as the UK’s premier event by those that love it.
The first Google image I found that captured the British love of doing silly things to raise cash. Here, this man (not Mad Frank) is in a bath of baked beans, presumably securing cash for good causes. While being a bit silly. Most people that do this secretly indulge in their spare time anyway and blame a poor fake tan for the orange tint to their skin, really caused by years of bean juice abuse.
Anyway, with the custom stars toned right down, a new man at the helm (genial TO Thor), an armful of Blocksfam swag to donate to the Thrud auction (more on that later) and a gap in my tournament calendar, I thought I’d have another go. Having not re-read the rules since 2013, I decided to plump for the same Chaos Dwarf roster I used for three consecutive years 2011-13 inclusive. 12 men, no Mino, Apo, 2 RR. One CDB had Guard and Leader, another Guard and MB. Both Bulls had Break Tackle, one had Block, the other Guard. The skill package is quite interesting and a bit unusual for the UK; it’s both restrictive and encourages stacking, which is fun. This list had gone 12/5/1 over the three years including one tournament win, so I hoped that they’d still go well! Not reading the rules, what could go wrong, I reasoned? I never claimed to be clever…
Various shots of Thrud underway in the glorious sunshine. Not a bad weekend for it!
I arrived circa 10 am to kick off, surveying the field in a field. 90 % had camped and had clearly had a big Friday night. The four lovely Halfling wielding Frenchmen arrived about the same time as I did, although their outfit choices were somewhat more avant garde than mine…
Game 1 – Buggrit’s Goblins, 2-1 win
Goblin wrangler Buggrit, here. Along with perhaps the finest photobomb that I’ve captured so far while doing these blogs – well played, sir.
Remember the 12/5/1 record? Well, the ‘1’ was a loss to Gloworm’s fearsome Goblins. I wasn’t looking forward to a repeat performance, so hoped I could overcome Bert! The Goblins sported all of the toys; Block Troll, Strong Arm, an AG4 Doom Diver, a Block Fanatic, Fungus, a Pogo… I haven’t remembered everything, but there was a lot of it. I won the toss and set up to kick, putting the Diver off until T16, hoping I could kill it along the way. My choice was immediately rewarded with a Blitz!, and forward went the Chaos Dwarfs, looking to make a mess of the Goblin drive and test Fink da Fixer and the two Bribes early. While the kick was deep and the Pogo scooped, Buggrit was really put in trouble by the kickoff result, and I was able to get the ball into the crowd and then to an untouchable Hobgoblin to score at leisure. As that was going on, the toys did at least kick off, as two Dwarfs left the field (one Apo’d). I scored in 4, reckoning I was unable to get 8, and I didn’t really want to encourage the ‘Diver to show me the magic at the end of the half.
My second kickoff was less successful than the first, and Buggrit hid the Doom Diver from view; tucked up in a central scrum of players. I concentrated on trying to get rid of the annoying Fanatics, but they largely stayed in the game and sucked up a lot of my resource. Eventually, Bert realised he wasn’t making any progress, and in T7, the Doom Diver was launched toward my endzone, although it had already moved during the turn, so was a bit of a lame duck when it landed. Still, all went perfectly with the throw, and only a sweeping Hobgoblin could make the save. On four dice he failed to find anything but a both down, and the annoyingly invulnerable Diver scooped for 1-1. Another CDB had bitten the dust along the way, but the Goblins were slowly being steadily worn down. I think the second half began at 10-10 after all of the send offs and KOs were resolved.
The second half, thankfully, was much more of a stroll than the first. In spite of hunting down the SA Troll and the Diver, I could never remove the T16 threat. I need not have worried, as my eight turn grind was backed up with a deep kickoff; the nuclear, incredibly frightening SA Troll / AG4 Diver option never came off. This one was a lot closer than you might expect CDs v Goblins to ever be, and perhaps that opening Blitz! made all of the difference. I read on the NAF site that the final score was 3-1, so I may well have hallucinated this game and something else entirely could have happened. Still, you come here for my acid flashbacks rather than actual facts, right?! Let’s assume I was tripping throughout and have totally made this up, I do trust the NAF database implicitly.
Game 2 – GORGOROTH’s Norse, 2-1 win
GORGOROTH. WHY ARE WE SHOUTING?
Now then, Owen is a proper player with a good-looking Norse roster. There was a Block / MB Snow Troll, a Dodge Runner, a Block Ulf and some Mighty Blow if memory serves, and I remember thinking this could go very wrong.
I kicked, a Bull was Badly Hurt early (Apo), and Owen began to probe down my right flank. I was offering some resistance, but I was always mindful that if Owen got in early, it wasn’t a disaster. Sure, the concession of a TD is never a great thing, but second prize with bash is a lot of time with which to reply and smack AV 7 about a bit. Anyway, Owen’s Runner made it deep into my territory, perhaps too deep, and I was able to cut off his attacking force from the remainder of his men on half way. Owen would have to try and score in turn three, or he’d be left trying to stall out at a local numbers disadvantage. The Norse had some bad luck, the Runner fell and was stunned, and we entered into five turns of possession changes and vital ball scatters. Every time I thought I could recover the ball or get a favourable scatter, it just about went wrong enough to keep Owen in the drive. He played this broken play situation annoyingly well, and as my attempts got more and more complex and desperate, I iteratively lost position and control of a situation I would have bet money on coming out ahead in a few of a turns earlier. In T7, one final bad scatter gave Owen the break he needed, and he eventually scored in turn 8. What a sickener, if only he’d made a 3+ dodge in turn three, I would probably have been much better off!
Grinding my teeth, I set up for the garbage turn with no re-rolls and 9 men. I’d accidentally left a Bull in the reserves box! No matter, until… Riot! And a touchback!
Greedily, I put the ball up the remaining Bull’s jumper and sprinted forward and left as far as he could go. I then marked everything else and put my hand over my eyes, hoping a lack of re-rolls would suit me. Owen couldn’t blitz the ball, so on a 2 + Break Tackle, I got the equaliser. Owen was sick as the proverbial parrot here, and I can’t blame him. But I do wonder if he would have felt differently on a successful 5 turn response following a T3 score…
Anyway, on my drive, we played in a Blizzard and I quickly got a couple of players up as AV7 began to fail. Owen defended really nicely, and in the end I had to roll dice without RRs on turn 7 to make my score stick. It was proper squeaky bum, and the combination of snow and a deep kick really slowed me down much more than I would have expected. Owen was still feeling sore about the Riot, but he played the rest of the game terrifically well in tricky circumstances. Side-lining his Snow Troll was annoyingly difficult, his players were always in just the most annoying place, and progress was enormously tough even men up.
So, two games down and two lucky kickoff results later, I moved to 2-0.
Game 3 – Nazgob’s Necro, 1-1 draw
I’D MOVED OUTSIDE TO FACE NAZGOB, WHO HELPFULLY MOVED THE GAME INTO THE SHADE. CAPS LOCK IS BROKEN NOW, THANKS GORGOROTH!
I had no idea Necro had gotten so good in the rules! Nazgob had a Block / Leader FG, a Block / Guard one, a Block / Sure Hands Ghoul, a MB / Block Wolf and a Blodge Wolf. Any questions? Wow, what a tricky assignment. 1 RR (+ Leader), 12 men.
I lost the toss and kicked off, mindful of the Claw / MB problem. Nazgob got a pushback on his first block (pre-pickup) and then immediately Quad Skulled. Effectively I had a Blitz!, but I was unable to get anywhere near the ball. Instead I answered Nazgob’s poor fortune with three pushbacks and ended my turn. It was that kind of an opening.
The next 3-4 turns were really interesting. I was doing my best to not give the Necro ‘flat faces’ against which to park immovable FGs (two or more models adjacent on the same horizontal line), while setting the Claw / MB Frenzy traps and trying to stymie the progress of an MA8 Blodger and a Blodge Ghoul. Sound tricky? Well, it was. Especially with Nazgob playing well. He inched to my left and then to my right (I think position could have gone either way at this point), and then my Quad Skulls arrived, leaving a yawning gap down my right flank that the Necro happily exploited. I could have gotten back into it, but another Double Skull, successful block, 1/9 without Block sequence on my subsequent turn ended my resistance. The Necro scored in 8 as both Leaders bit the dust in the last knockings of the half.
My drive wasn’t going to be easy. Although a Fleshie was out, so was one of my three Guards, and I had to work for eight turns with only two RRs. By turn 5, I was in that familiar position of having no ideal route open to push forward and secure a good position, so I felt I had to roll some dice and make some sort of impact on Nazgob’s half. I had made a positional error two turns before that allowed the remaining FG to mark three CDBs and upset my progress, and I think this robbed me of resource a couple of turns later when I needed to make more of an authoritative move. One loss of discipline, even for a single turn, can do that to you in a tight one. Anyway, without a good position, Nazgob was able to close in on me, and I was forced to score in seven. I say ‘forced’, I felt that the chances of a two-turn reply were less than the Necro managing to stop me had I sat on the ball for a turn longer.
Luckily for me, the two turner was unsuccessful and I escaped with a tie. It really did feel like an escape; I think this was the finest roster on show over the weekend, and I felt under the kosh from turn one. Nazgob played it well, and I felt fortuitous to still be in contention overnight.
Saturday Night and General Charity
Between every Blood Bowl round, there was a round of ‘Most Thrudlike’; a traditional Thrudball competition designed to decide who in attendance most closely matched the characteristics of Thrud the Barbarian. Contestants ate whole onions, tackled obstacle courses after downing two litres of cola and generally completed a number of silly challenges, cheered on by their adoring public. I think this bit of fun / contest is in a much better place than it was in previous years; taking booze, eating live insects and the probability (rather than moderate possibility) of personal injury out of the equation made it a lot more fun to spectate. I’ll not forget vmcat and Hawk casually eating a whole onion as if it were an apple in a hurry!
Hawk and Val eating an onion the size of a baby’s head.
The main event of the Thrud Saturday night is the auction. Donations from across the BB world fly in all year to Bognor, and then on the Saturday night, a collective insanity takes over the hall and the internet and the assembled congregation part with an incredible amount of money to buy BB / nerd nonsense. The sums involved really are crazy; £160 for three block dice with ‘Fuck’ written on them appears to be missing a decimal point, but somehow isn’t. Landrover does a spectacular job of comparing the action, and the amassed attendees are in raptures for two and a half hours, hurriedly draining their bank accounts. I dutifully presented some of the 2018 Blocksfam haul to Thor, and I’m sure it will make loads of moolah for good causes into 2019 and beyond. The auction is a truly unique BB tournament experience, and I’m always impressed and proud of the capacity of Blood Bowlers to make donations to good causes.
Landrover conducting the crowds.
Elsewhere, there was a raffle, a paid-for grudge round in game one, a wandering Thrud star player that you could pay money to have join you in your match, a quiz, bingo, a BBQ, a cake bake-off and sale, pitches, shirts, American Football shirts, misc. swag and just about every other money making initiative known to man was deployed at some point during the weekend. It was clearly an enormous amount of work for Thor, but certainly played out really well. I for one thought this barrage of charity fun was better than trying to injure poor Frank by shooting him repeatedly with high powered air rifles or running into each other in inflatable sumo wrestling suits, as used to genuinely be the case. Quite how there was never a law suit or ghastly injury is one of those Blood Bowling mysteries best left to Dave Downes’ autobiography (‘What I Like to Call Blood Bowl – Memoirs of a Nerd Terminator’ – available at all good book shops and several rubbish ones as well).
Food, glorious food and TO Thor causing Blood Bowl celebrity J_Bone some problems. Well – more problems. He claims he has 99, curiously including ‘the bitch’. I just think he likes being contrary and being a Tweety, hipster plonker.
The auction is ultimately exhausting and takes up most of the evening, and there was not much left to do afterwards but disappear off to tents and await Sunday’s action. An amazing £4800 was raised for charity on the night, a phenomenal figure and a testament to both the tournament and the community. Top job, all. Camping doesn’t generally agree with me, but somehow I was able to avoid being bitten for a change, and I awoke relatively refreshed for day two.
Game 4 – Gimli01’s Goblins, 3-0 win
Shutting out the light like all good nerds, Gimli lead his Goblins to the slaughter.
One thing you don’t expect to see when you’re on 2/1/0 is a Goblin team appear opposite you, but here they were. A third of the field at the tournament were Stunties, and I had played Owen and Nazgob, who I reckoned to be two of the top five or six coaches at the event, so I didn’t feel too bad about chasing more little guys about with my Tacklers!
Another AG4 Doom Diver awaited, along with Block and Pro Trolls, a Looney, Fink, Bribes, two Ball and Chains, all of the usual gubbins. Again I kicked, and as was traditional, a player immediately left the field as the Chainsaw deleted my Block Bull. I need not have worried. My turn one saw the end of the Chainsaw, a Fanatic and a Block Troll as the CDs decided a Glowworm repeat was not happening today. It got no better for poor Gimli, as this was exactly the game you fear and expect when Stunties meet CDs. I all but pitch cleared the poor Gobbos, and won 3-0 in about 40 minutes. Gimli was a gent throughout the game, and I felt pretty bad for completely thrashing him. Well, for a little while. Doesn’t take long to convince yourself that whooping defenceless little models is big, clever and you’re a genius.
Game 5 – cornish’s Skaven, 2-1 win
A lovely shot of cornish here, acting out my review of his beard with two thumbs up.
This was my first meeting with cornish, and what a lovely man he is! A fine beard and top company. cornish was sporting a 12-man Skaven roster without RO, and each of the Gutters was skilled. Sure Hands / Block, MA 10 / Block, Wrestle / Strip and Wrestle / Tackle, if I recall correctly. I won the toss and kicked off, hoping to wipe the Rats out as the half progressed. Some hope.
As ever, a CDB bit the dust early, and cornish recovered the kick comfortably. The Rats pushed deep into my half quickly, and it seemed an attempt was on to stall deep in my half. Break Tackle to the fore, I was able to make a successful ball hit but not recover, and cornish had little choice but to fall on the ball in my endzone in turn 4 for 1-0. I’d had some hits on Gutters with the MB Dwarf, so had an inkling that cornish is not one to hide his toys. I’m all for this kind of tough love, although the Skaven version of Childline (Clanline? Save the Skaven?) would probably want to start some sort of legal proceedings.
This was a tricky old drive; pushing against 11 agile players with a ball hunter over 5 turns with a slow, grindy team. Much can go wrong, and you’re only a couple of dice away from 0-2, rather than 1-1. Because of the lack of time, it is tough to put up multiple barriers infront of the ball or force 6 + dodges; to go forward, you need to be more strung out than you’d ideally wish or progress just doesn’t happen. Following an interesting roll of Get the Ref on kickoff, cornish took advantage of this situation by walling the field off and forever threatening with the Wrestle / Strip Gutter. A Strip here could be the end of the game; and even though the Rats were not shy about dodging in and attempting the sack, they were rather awkwardly refusing to die. A really sticky situation!
By my turn 6, I had pushed deep into cornish’s half, and was hopeful of 1-1. However, due to time difficulties, the Gutter Stripping dodge was only 5 +. In came the Rat and the ball went to ground. I had managed to control the scatter zones somewhat, and a second 5 + failure kept me in the game. A squeaky bum 3 + pickup was successful, a shoe kept the Gutter still for a turn, and 1-1 at the half was assured.
My second drive, being eight turns, should have been more straight forward. I say should have been, in actuality, I had 10 then 9 then 8 against 11 then 10 Rats, and it was a super difficult half. I didn’t have the resource at any point to screen my cage off, instead opting to leave 6 + dodges and hope it went my way. Furiously hitting with MB and then fouling Rats wasn’t getting it done, positioning was hard, progress was stretched… It wasn’t good! Finally, I was in position to score in T7, and had to decide whether cornish had more chance at the two turn or the 5 + dodge and Wrestle / Strip / recovery I’d have to leave. I stalled and got away with it. Turn 8; was I better off fouling the MA10 with a Bribe and 8-9 with which to defend the OTS, or just scoring? Foul, stun, no send off, TD (by this point, we had generated quite the crowd, and a T16 foul was pretty embarrassing with an audience. There was no score available on a send-off and the maths does support it, but I did feel a wally). Mercifully, the MA10 OTS with RR against basically no defence didn’t happen, and not for the first time on the weekend, I exhaled and felt like I’d gotten away with one. Phew. Flipping invulnerable AV7! Skaven when they get a bit of fortune are quite the force, and cornish played well. He also had one of the most pleasant turn-by-turn commentaries I’ve come across; next time I have insomnia, I may give him a call and see if he can’t gently guide me to sleep. Is that weird? Well, I am a Blood Bowler, I suppose. Weird is my MO, and I do like sleep.
Game 6 – Lycos’ Chaos Dwarfs, 2-0 win
Captain, hero, legend, terminator, Natural Law Party Treasurer, allotment enthusiast and Mr. Pork Scratchings and Miscellaneous Pub Snacks 1984, 5, 6 and 8 (1987 was a year shrouded in controversy that we don’t speak of): David Lancelot Hugo Sextus Downes.
Lycos is always a tricky customer, and as you can see from the photo, the hardcore sunshine and inevitable sunburn was another obstacle to overcome. David was sporting a 2 RR roster including an MB / Claw, a Break Tackle / Sure Hands Bull, a Guard and a Block Bull. The Sure Hands Bull is a curiosity to me that I’ve never really got on board with. 1/4 times, you are inviting pressure as you miss the pickup. Without BT, it’s easy to mark and force a blitz action to move the guy. It takes the player out of the attack (ahead of the ball being a pain where he needs to be, he’s being hidden and clamming up the offence) or is a waste of a skill on defence. It’s not for me, anyway.
Knowing the MB / Claw could be a huge difference maker in the game, having won the toss I chose to receive. Having killed a CDB on the LoS (Dave had no Apo), I felt good about finally being numbers up! That is, until Claw / MB immediately deleted my MB / Guard (Apo). Shucks. Turn one was not my happy place in Bognor!
Dave was to KO another player, and my drive a man down was very tough. Dave was positioning well, and any progress was fraught with danger. Come turn 5, I had to push, even though my destination wasn’t optimal. I expected Dave to crash my lightly defended cage and force dice rolls, but instead he elected to wall me off. In turn 6, I inched central. Again, Dave passively attempted to control me, rather than get tempted to dive in. Dave had a numerical advantage, I guess he felt in control. Crucially, in my T6, I had managed a couple of blocks that left me with one Dwarf marking two prone guys, and this generated some vital tempo that I think just about kept Dave at bay; checking any temptation to go aggressive force my hand. Little positional moments like that are often unnoticed because they aren’t headline CAS or KOs, but can be absolutely vital in subsequent turns. T7 was huge. I inched right, but also killed another CDB and KO’d a Hobbo – this could be big come the second half, especially if I scored. A heroic dodge or two by Dave’s CDBs left me needing two effective 3 + rolls to score, and when that happened, all eyes were on Dave’s KO and LoS armour rolls.
They went my way, and I kicked with 11 v 9. The 1/4 Bull pickup happened, and I pressed the pressure button; marking everything and pushing both BT Bulls into worrisome positions. Dave couldn’t hide the ball men down in spite of scooping at the second attempt, and two BTs and a blitz later, the ball was on the turf and a scrum developed. Being men up, I was always the more likely to prevail, and 2-0 was pretty straight-forward thereafter. I was glad I’d chosen to go big aggression here; with a BT, MA9 (effectively) player, Dave always had the chance to dive down a flank and get away with the numbers problem – I was always going to be more vulnerable being passive than aggressive. The MB / Claw guy didn’t fire following the first CAS, and a lack of attrition back my way allowed me to dictate. Hard lines for David. Still not sure about a SH Bull – I don’t think that guy helped.
Final reckoning – 5/1/0 – 1st / 64 or so (some dropouts / replacements along the way. 64 ish).
Going into the last round, there were three potential 5/1/0 finishers. As I beat Dave and the other potential 5/1/0 player lost to Joemanji (and came second overall, well done ninjagosplat!), I took home the win! As with any tournament win, I had my lucky moments. The Riot against Owen, drawing two lots of Goblins, surviving the cornish Rat-based onslaught, hanging on against an excellent Necro roster, not being burned alive by the sun… It all adds up, and someone in each and every field gets that lovely run. This time it was me, next time, someone else.
I left Thrud feeling that the tournament is in a good place. The money raised for charitable causes is an absolutely fantastic thing, and all who donate, contribute, put money into the raffle or buy something in the auction should feel pretty proud of themselves. Thor and his team approach the thing like a second job, and their boundless energy and drive forces the tournament along and hoovers cash from the pockets of the attendees. The slightly reigned-in whackiness and up-scaled charitable event quantity sits far more comfortably than it seemed to five years ago (for me, while keeping those who love it happy too), and having a British summer event is a lovely novelty. Thrud, then, comes recommended, and I’ll certainly be back. My 2019 aim will be to get out on the Saturday evening and enjoy being beside the seaside, while leaving some cash behind for the auction. Perhaps I’ll grudge Glowworm in round one next year: your CDs, my Goblins, Glow..? The monkey remains on my back – I’m coming for you!
I’ll never quite master the awkward smile for a photo thing. Looks like I have wind.
Next time, I’ll be in Cologne, Germany for the German Team Bowl. Funkyzeit! I’m sure PeterD will be there, I look forward to seeing you there, buddy!
If after reading all of that you’re of a charitable mind, the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation is Thrudball’s long time favourite cause. Every little helps.
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