Skummi Gitz vs Ravens Match Report
In times of old, when none had heard of the Living Rule Book, and Ravens were still from the Drakwald, some of the most epic encounters were played between the Gitz and the Ravens in the Marienburg BB League. And so it was to be once more, in the first match of the Adelaide Open, as the men in black took on the, err, greenskins in green, once again.
The sun blazed down upon the pitch, glinting off freshly painted armour that was destined soon to be dusty and blood stained, and the squads squared off. Adeleague commentators Bruce Hackaveiny and Eddie McGore argued long and hard in the commentary box over who would win, with McGore convinced that the Gitz' record would hold, while Hackaveiny countered that their record wasn't as solid as many pundits thought.
But as the game got underway, the argument was forgotten. The Gitz won the right to recieve and scooped up the ball with thrower Eddy da Chukka. Positioning themselves for a classic orc cage drive they began the slow rumble up the pitch. In response the Ravens flanked the cage and probed its edges, looking for a way in. Minutes counted down as the block of orcs worked its way through defenders towards the end zone, fending off attempts to penetrate their defensive formation.
Deep in the Ravens' half, however, the defence finally managed to slide a player through and the ball popped loose, falling to Sloan Hammerstein, daughter of famed legend Jock 'the Hammer' Hammerstein. Sloan, 'the Sledgehammer', looked upfield hopefully, where catcher Zelig Stoerm was tussling with Dingus O'Reilly. As the Git blitzers closed in she desperately signalled for him to get free, but he tripped on Dingus' outstretched leg and the pass never happened. Instead, Sloan was driven into the turf and the orcs secured the corner of the pitch.
Then he emerged. Since news of the reformation of the Gitz had surfaced the media had been in a frenzy wondering which of the original team would be coaxed out of retirement. Most of the big names had announced a return, but star blitzer Lag B. Hind had been mysteriously absent from any press. It also seemed he had been in disguise during most of the first half and now, throwing off the pretence, he strolled in, took the ball and walked it across the line. One to the Gitz.
Not to be outdone, however, the Ravens then pulled off some classic moves as well. Down a couple of players the team set up a classic Raven Wing play down the right side zone. Stoerm received a perfect pass from the Sledgehammer, despite needing to recover the kick from very deep, and before most orc fans could blink, the score had been levelled. Given the reliable ineptitude of the Ravens' previous thrower Helmut Wissen (MBBL Most Inept Player during the 2002 SSSGC Trophy), this momentarily stunned Ravens fans, before riotous applause broke out.
But the Ravens were down on personnel. With another cage drive looking likely it was unclear how they would manage to stand up to the Gitz' offensive drive. The green machine rumbled down the field predictably as the Ravens desperately tried to hold up the momentum. It was here that Sloan Hammerstein's sister Jacqueline, 'the Jackhammer', attempted to put her stamp on the game. As the cage formed she instructed her team mates to shepherd the players on the outside as she made a daring attempt to dodge inside. Unfortunately her advances were rebuffed by the orc blitzers, leaving her eating turf.
As the cage trundled ever further forward she made three more fearless attempts to break it, but each time found herself elbowed, kicked or pile driven back into the pitch. She finally looked up with seconds remaining in the half to see Hind, once again, step into the end zone and put the game out of the Ravens' grasp. Her efforts had won her the Ravens MVP, but had not been quite enough.
The inevitable bragging and boasting of coach One Eye during the post match interviews was too overwhelming for most of the media to report on, made even more embarrassing by the sycophancy of Eddie McGore towards the Gitz, however coach SinDex was able to swallow his pride long enough to congratulate the orcs on their victory, an effort for which Eddie Hackaveiny exclaimed:
I think he deserves the MVP for that performance Eddie!
The result tipped the Gitz momentarily into first spot on the ladder with five points for the win and a bonus point for casualties scored. The follow up game of the double header - an eventful draw between the Starwood Hunt and Green, Keen and Farkin' Mean - didn't effect this, and the Gitz look strong the start the season. Will anyone challenge them for the title?
The new version of our game launched today.
This has had me, if I'm to be honest, crapping my dacks for a loooong time. It's no secret that I don't trust Games Workshop and, if anything, I am likely to be cynical in regard to their business practices and treatment of their clients. I won't harp on this here, but I think it is important to know in light of the comments made below.
While there are elements that are disappointing, I am actually pleasantly surprised by what GW has achieved and presented, something I have not been for about 16 years.
Let's start with the negatives: Weeping Blades, erratas, incremental release, positional miniatures and aesthetic. The most egregious issue, to my mind, is the addition of arbitrary new rules for silly reasons. One of the great successes of the game since GW essentially dropped it was the way the ruleset had been transparently and incrementally modified, using a set of guidelines that avoided change for the sake of it. The Blood Bowl Rules Committee (BBRC - now defunct) developed the Competition Rules Pack (CRP) which has been the BB bible for over a decade. By contrast, the reasoning given by GW for the Weeping Blades skill is that one of the new skaven miniatures has a knife. This is about as arbitrary and non-considered as a rules change could get and, while it is tempered by being one of only a very small number of such rules changes, it is symptomatic of everything that I think is wrong with any approach to the game. Hopefully it is just a momentary glitch.
In reducing order of importance, the new rulebooks contain a few errors that will require an errata upon release. While I know this kind of error sneaks in to even the best document, it is still disappointing. This reflects some sloppiness but I can forgive it. Similarly, I can forgive the incremental release schedule, while not being a fan of it. With the first release we have nine teams and, while an online pdf was released with the remaining legacy teams (excluding Slaan), there are obvious gaps until future releases occur. However, I understand the business-related issues here and can get over it.
Perhaps a more serious issue, and one elucidated well by our own Olaf the Stout (Adam), is the decisions made re positional miniatures in the base set and boxes. The inclusion of a ratio of 1:3 human blitzers vs lineman and skaven gutter runners vs lineman is somewhat absurd given the relative numbers of those positions that are likely to be included in a viable team. It also means there is only one pose for positions that are likely to take four slots in the roster. This is an oversight, but hopefully something to be rectified by future miniature releases and, considering I do not intend to buy the new GW miniatures, not something I am very worried about.
The final issue for me is aesthetic. I feel I may be in the minority on this one, but I have always enjoyed the very plural nature of the game's aesthetic. Over multiple editions and, in recent years, third party additions, it has built up this polyglot character where almost anything goes, and imaginative teams have flourished. The Cyanide-pioneered look and feel is, to my mind, the distillation of this variety into a monocultural brand identity. Happily, I don't think the third party developers are likely to disappear, and I hope the game can retain its unique character.
Right! Enough on the negatives, let's look at what GW have done well, namely the lack of changes, bringing new players in, and the league rules. The most important of these is the first: for the most part they have left the game alone. This is very unlike GW, who have been known to wreak untold havoc on unsuspecting and innocent rule systems (RIP Warhammer), but with the exception of a couple of tweaks I am happy to report that the game remains mostly untouched. This was probably what I was the most worried about. I have some concerns about whether this approach will continue, but I am very relieved that it held mostly true for this release. In addition, the new release does appear to have brought new players in to the game. The Blood Bowl Community Facebook group is being inundated by new, or returning, coaches, hopefully meaning that a new injection of passion will enter a community that, while not dead by any measure to my mind, was looking a little bit stale.
But they have also instituted a couple of rules, outside of the "core rules", that I believe have been done well. League rules in older editions have always been unwieldy, leading to leagues generally making their own house rules up. Most leagues I have seen play either the "open" or "scheduled" style, both of which have shortcomings. An open league, where coaches are free to organise games on their own, can peter out quickly as coaches don't feel any urgency about playing games, while a scheduled league requires a level of buy in from coaches, and can suffer towards the end of a season when low-ranked teams feel little compulsion to actually play scheduled matches. Death Zone 2016 suggests a modified open system where teams are organised into divisions of four to eight teams and must play each team in their division twice, in any order they wish. Teams are also free to play "friendlies", even against teams outside the competition or division, to encourage additional play. This already encourages a better ethic than the traditional open style, while not being quite as formal as the scheduled option, but a between-seasons sequence has also been added that enhances the system further.
When a season finishes under this new system, teams must be re-purchased using 1,000,000gp, as when they were originally created, but they can re-hire players from the team at their developed cost. This is not revolutionary, but teams are also given additional funds for this process based on the number of games they have played in the season (10,000gp each), the number of touchdowns they have scored (5,000gp each) and the number of casualties they have dealt out (5,000gp each). This is a simple system for encouraging teams to play more games during a season, in order to ensure they can repurchase their team at the end of it. It also neatly ensures that teams do not bloat to the extent that new teams have issues entering the league at a competitive level. I don't think you can create a perfect league system, but this is, to my mind, a great compromise that cleans up some of the issues in modern leagues.
So well done Games Workshop; applause is due from me. The key will be to maintain this level of goodwill. I honestly hope you do, but I hope you'll indulge me in making a suggestion as to how to do it. To be fair, it is a stretch and would run very counter to some of the key ways that the company operates, but it is actually very simple: maintain community consultation, create a set of guidelines and institute transparency.
I understand that a range of high-profile community figures were consulted about the new release rules. This is important. Please keep doing this. Please consult widely and please use the data sets that these figures have created around the game to inform any rule changes you intend to make. The BBRC was very well respected and created something that I think is truly fantastic, so we have an example of this system working. I can't stress how important this is.
However, the BBRC didn't just succeed because of the people involved, it also set itself guidelines for incremental changes based on sound judgements (in other words, not because a miniature has a certain item modelled upon it). Do this! Consult widely about what those guidelines might be and apply them when developing anything new. Importantly, make any change gradual and well reasoned.
Finally, make these processes transparent. This may be the hardest one, because GW has traditionally tried to lock down new release information to enhance the hype. Unfortunately I don't think this works well, either for hype or for assuaging the fears of a generally wary and cynical community. By all means, keep miniature releases under wraps until release, but please, PLEASE, make rule change intentions common knowledge for discussion, along with the reasoning behind them. Please, PLEASE, keep the identities of the people you consult with public, and allow them to discuss the processes and methodologies used in coming to decisions. Not everyone will agree with the decisions or the reasoning, but at the very least it allows some understanding of those processes once they are implemented.
Perhaps I'm showing some conceit here in the assumption that my opinions do, or even should, have any weight at all, and I hope the reader can forgive this of me. I don't honestly think any of it is even likely to reach GW, and that's ok. Perhaps I am just ranting into a stiff wind, or maybe I just want to solidify the arguments, trepidation and relief I have felt during this unprecedented re-release. Whatever the reason I think it is important to provide constructive criticism and credit where it is due and, while this is not a perfect situation, there are some huge positives that have come from it. I, as a fairly die-hard GW critic, feel that I need to acknowledge that.
Blood Bowl lives and breathes still. Bring. It. On!
Let me know what you think in the comments below...
I worked for Games Workshop in the late 90s; please don't hold it against me. The 3rd edition of Blood Bowl was released towards the end of my tenure there and, while I'd been playing since Kerrunch, it rekindled my love for the game. In the early 2000s I ran a league called the Marienburg Blood Bowl League in which I developed my third human team: the Drakwald Ravens.
This team quickly became my go-to and I happily ran them for many seasons. They are the team that I always remember and look back on when I think of my early days in the game. The players that I developed have stuck with me, from the inept bumbling of Helmut Wissen (the game's worst thrower; he could never pick the ball up on the first attempt) to the steadfastness of Jock "the Hammer" Hammerstein (team captain and all-around awesome blitzer).
Originally the team was created using a mixture of Mordheim miniatures and random GW stuff I collected along the way. I've never been a fan of the GW human teams and so I tended to kit-bash to fill that void. Of course, the advent of third-party miniature suppliers for fantasy football opened up a new world of possibilities, but despite some absolutely beautiful teams for other races, I have just never found a human team I liked. I wanted a team that had a uniform, and a uniform that looked like a football team rather than a band of mercenaries. I also wanted to avoid the spiky look that even the new miniatures seem to have favoured.
So it took over a decade before I found something that I did like, and it came from an unexpected place. Hero Forge's custom miniature service offered the opportunity to create the team I'd always wanted. While it was expensive ($25 a pop), and I am still unsure how to add the ogre, it was the team I needed. I swallowed deeply, put my hand deep into my pocket, and designed a team that had the look and feel that the Ravens should have.
From left to right: blitzer, lineman, thrower, catcher.
Instead of recreating the Drakwald Ravens, or even the Marienburg Ravens as they became through the MBBL era, I decided that this team would be the successor team, a generationally displaced group that has taken on the mantle of their parents' successes.
Thus, the Ravens II were born. Built around a core of players drawn from the children of previous stars, the new team came together with a new character that I really liked. Check out the genealogy below. Jock "the Hammer" managed to be a bit of a womaniser in his day, and gave rise to the half-sister-act of Jacqueline "the Jackhammer" and Sloan "the Sledgehammer"; respectively blitzer and thrower for the new team. Helmut Wissen, a terrible thrower on his best day, nevertheless managed to marry Sloan Hammerstein's mother in the end, and gave her a little brother named Goran, who now wears the #1 blitzer's jersey. Other legends also contributed to the modern team, along with a new batch of faces to fill it out. Importantly, the Ravens also pay homage to my first human team, the Araby Scimitars, and the first human team I played in the "modern era" of Blood Bowl (since 2008), Le Coq, by including foreign import players from both of those teams.
The Ravens II made their debut at Southern Shrike Bowl 2016. By any measure it wasn't a particularly great debut, finishing 14th (I think) of 30 odd coaches, but it felt good to get them out there. And, while the colour scheme of the team doesn't "pop" in a way that really allowed them a shot at the "Le Coq Fancier's" trophy this year, it was incredibly satisfying to finally get this team, a team over a decade in the making, back onto the pitch.
The team makes its league debut in the Adeleague's Adelaide Open Season 1. Regardless of how well they do, I look forward to building a new dynasty of characters and continuing the team's legacy.
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SinisterDexter, or SinDex, is Brett Whittaker, Commissioner of the Adeleague. He has been playing Blood Bowl since the 80s and has run leagues and tournaments since. Most recently he has represented the SA Steelballs three times (2011, 2013, 2017), been the AusBowl MVP, the CCKUP, Southern Shrike Bowl and 24 Hour Ironman Champion, and won the "Le Coq Fancier's" trophy at SSB six times.