As I mentioned in my first post, I play a Blood Bowl match in a persistent league every week and a bit. The next match is scheduled for tonight, which means it is quite possible I'll want to talk about that tomorrow. Which in turn means I should probably introduce you guys to some of the setup today.
The league in question is called the Divisions of Death, and it is operated by the denizens of the Rock, Paper, Shotgun forums. The league currently consists of 60 teams, divided up into divisions of 4 teams each. This means that each season is very short, consisting of a mere 3 matches before the scores are totalled up and promotions and relegations are made. While this certainly means there is very little climax or drama to each season, it has a number of advantages as well.
For a start, every match is important. It takes a rare set of circumstances and scores to get into a situation where your final match (and the final match of the other 2 teams in the group) doesn't matter at all. It also means that you quickly get shuffled around, getting a little thrill of being shuffled into a new group every month and seeing if you're meeting new people, or bumping into old rivals. And lastly, of course, it also means that newcomers can rapidly join up and get involved relatively quickly, or a coach can choose to abandon their team and start over again without having to wait ages for a new season.
The divisions themselves are also arranged into Tiers that denote skill/development/luckiness. Right at the top of the ladder is the Champions division. At the end of each season, only the top 2 teams get to cling to their spots here. At the next rung down, Tier 1 consists of 2 divisions. The winner of each of these divisions will get promoted up into the Champs to replace the relegated players. Tier 1 is just as punishing as Champs, as the bottom 2 players of each of these divisions will also get relegated downwards into Tier 2. Tier 2 and below each consist of 4 divisions, where the top player gets promoted into the Tier above, and the bottom player gets relegated into the Tier below. Right at the bottom it gets a little messy, as there obviously is no guarantee to have exactly the right number of players to fit neatly into the scheme, but there's generally enough dropouts or people restarting with new teams to make sure that everyone gets shuffled in and upwards as they need it.
Currently I'm playing an Orc team, called Da Blu Moonz. At their best, last season, they reached the lofty heights of Tier 2, where they proceeded to suffer a fairly brutal series of 3 losses in a row to be relegated to the much more comfortable Tier 3 for this season. Or at least, it would be more comfortable, but... let me get to that later.
Orcs are a pretty solid beginner team. They have high armour across the team which makes them very difficult to injure or remove from play. They also have decently above average strength and ability to attack, while also maintaining a barely below average speed and agility. All of this adds up to make the team generally pretty good at stomping their opponents into the ground, while still also being able to pick the ball up and even throw it around in an emergency. However, although they have the potential to evolve into some real killers on the pitch, Da Blu Moonz still lack the development and skills. Additionally, I've been careful to spread the experience out across all of my players. In the long run, this will be excellent as I gradually build up an awesome team capable of dismantling my opponent. But in the immediate here-and-now I don't have any exceptional star players that can really take control of a match, so my opponents tend to dictate the flow of play.
And now for the reason that my Tier this month isn't as comfortable as I might like.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Warhammer universe, Skaven are ratmen. On the Blood Bowl pitch, the Skaven are incredibly fast. They're not as agile as the various elf teams, so they're not so good at throwing the ball around, but they can run. Playing against a Skaven team feels like trying to keep 10 plates spinning on sticks. Since nearly every player on the pitch is a scoring threat, you need to keep track of all of them, and make sure to lock down every possible avenue of attack. The moment a hole forms anywhere, you can be sure that 3 or 4 rats will stream on through and your attention is suddenly divided between trying to lock down where the ball currently is, or trying to mark where it might end up. The flip side of the Skaven team is that their armour is made of paper, and their key players also have below average strength that makes knocking them down super-easy. If you can secure a numbers advantage, then suddenly the game becomes much easier.
Last week I had a match against a Skaven team where the exact opposite happened. The first half was a drawn-out slog where we both managed to remove a single enemy player from the pitch. The 2nd half, suddenly the dice all went in his favour, and my players were going down left and right while his stayed steadfastly upright (or at least conscious). Playing against a speedy team while also being outnumbered? That's an exercise in frustration, and the match rapidly devolved into a pretty easy win for my opponent.
This week? Skaven again. Even worse, this team is even more developed than the one I faced last week. Fortunately, Blood Bowl incorporates a balancing mechanism where the less developed team gets 'Inducement' money to spend on mercenaries or other special tactics. I already know my plan: I'm going to be spending every coin on referee bribes, so I can merrily stomp those rat snouts into the dirt without risking my own players being sent off.
Edit: I'm now returning to this post about 4 hours after I originally wrote it (but before it's been published). In a classic example of how the best laid plans never survive contact with the enemy, apparently my actual strategy for tonight was to have a powercut, and get the game delayed until tomorrow. Tune in tomorrow to find out if I continue with the same strategy, or decide to change my game up a little.