We all know what the so-called optimal choices are for your players when they roll skills. It’s pretty much this:
Block/Dodge > Guard/Side Step > Wrestle/Tackle/Mighty Blow > rest is irrelevant.
+ST/+AG, +MV (NOT ON DOUBLES), never take +AV etcDelete as appropriate.
What that means is you’ll get a very competitive team with lots of Blodge and Guard and Mighty Blow, some Tackle, maybe a Strip Ball, which is all well and good if you want an efficient team that wins games. But what about the flair? The panache? What makes your team special?
I’m going to (hopefully) help convince you to step out of your comfort zone. I want you to walk the road less travelled, to pick the skills other people think are useless. Not just that, I want you to win.
So, let’s look at some low tier skills and why you should consider taking them.
Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Lose The Blodge
This instalment (there may be more if people are interested) is going to focus on a number of skills that are related to Passing. In the future I’ll look at others, but this turned out to be much longer than I had at first thought!
Nerves of Steel: Whenever I see someone saying that NoS is a useless skill a bit of me dies inside. My favourite team to play are Pro Elves. I take them to tournaments, I have a custom pitch designed for my elves, I friggin’ love them. There are a number of reasons why they’re so ace, and the top reason (well, joint top with the Blitzers) is the fact that the Catchers all come with Nerves of Steel. A double skill! Very few pieces start the game with a double. This means that regardless of tackle zones, you’re going to be catching that ball on a 2+ if it’s accurate/hand off, or a 3+ if it’s a bouncing ball. That’s incredible!
I know the argument here. The theory goes that if your ball carrier is being hit (or in any tackle zones at all) then you’re doing something wrong. While that works in theory, the thing to remember is that this is a game where things rarely go right, and your ability to recover when the tables have turned is what makes you a good player.
Consider the following. I’m playing elves and am receiving the ball. I run two blitzers and two catchers up to your back zone because I’m MV8. I keep two catchers back, as well as my thrower, and protect the ball. On your turn you can blitz at most one of my catcher/blitzers, and just mark the rest and try to make it difficult for me. You take one down, he’s off the pitch, and you mark my other players.
In my turn, all I have to do is figure out how to get my elf free. Getting the ball to him is no longer a worry, because he’s going to catch my pass/hand off on a 2+, normally with a reroll. Think about this situation with any other team, or with a team that doesn’t have NoS. The best I can hope for is to somehow free my catch before giving him the ball, which might be impossible. Either that or try to catch in X tackle zones.
It means a ball carrier can catch a hand off easily then blitz free for the score (hello, Bretonnians). It means if a ball lands on your player during a scrum bounce you’ve got a good chance of catching it. I’ve had an elf literally surrounded, in 5 tackle zones, pass the ball on a 3+ to another elf to run in for the score. It means if you’re intercepting (and you’re an elf) you can still catch on a 5+, even if you’re marking the passer. That’s why NoS and Pass Block work so well together (cough eldril cough). You Pass Block next to the passer, thereby giving him an extra -1 while still giving you a decent interception chance.
Combine with Dump-Off to make your opponent tear their hair out.
Nerves of Steel lets you play ballsier (should have called it balls of steel, amirite?). It makes your opponent sweat that much harder. Elves are pesky buggers at the best of times, NoS lets you play those bullshit moves with even more style. It’s a great skill for Bretonnians too. Coupled with MV7 and Block/Catch, they’re the prime candidate for the ol’ Catch’n’Blitz.
Consider the below:
Look at the above scenario. The thrower (white base at the top) has the ball. The catcher beneath was unsuccessfully blitzed last turn, so has been marked. How would you proceed, assuming you didn’t have Nerves of Steel? Not easy, right? If you, like me, play aggressively with Elves, this sort of situation can occur frequently. Thankfully, Nerves of Steel has your back.
First, run the line elf on the right round to cancel out the tackle zones from the blitzer and lineman. Then run the elf on the left round to give the assist. The thrower has a few options, depending on his skills, but if it were me I’d run round to the right and GFI into the space above to give any interception by the nearby blitzer a -1. If I have Nerves of Steel or accurate on the thrower, this becomes a 2+ pass. Either way, pass to the catcher, who’ll catch on a 2+ thanks to Nerves of Steel.
Then it’s a two die block on the marking Elf and scamper to victory! Now imagine trying that without NoS…
Pass Block: Pass Block, like Diving Tackle, is a deterrence skill. As a pass-focussed elf player, the thing I fear the most is failed passes and interceptions. The way to make passes fail is by applying tackle zones and making me worry about being intercepted. If you’re passing the ball and something goes wrong, it can be very hard to recover. Pass block does two things: First, it gives you an interception chance that you might not have had otherwise. Second, it can apply extra tackle zones to either the catcher or the thrower, making turnovers more likely.
I’m much less likely to throw the pass if there’s a chance of an interception. Sure it’s only a 1/6 most of the time, but when it happens, hoo boy, you better have a contingency. Interceptions are one of the worst things that can happen to you. That’s why if a player with Pass Block is anywhere near my passer or catcher, you can bet your bum I’m going to do all I can to move out of his range before I pass, even if that means making extra dodges or GFIs. Like I say, it’s less of a skill that you see being used, more of a skill that forces your opponent to change what they were going to do. Combine it with Nerves of Steel and Catch (The Eldril Special) to make your opponent really sweat. (in case you were wondering, assuming Pass Block gets you into Interception range, AG4 + NoS + Catch is a 55% of a successful Interception, regardless of tackle zones.)
Combine Pass Block with Leap for extra shenanigans (just ask Lottabottl). Adding Dodge is nice too, as you can’t use your Team Rerolls in your opponent’s turn.
Strong Arm: For almost all intents and purposes Strong Arm is a poor man’s Accurate. That’s true. It’s not without its benefits, though. Firstly, if you’re trying to throw a team mate, Strong Arm gives you a +1 to that, making your TTM 50% less likely to fail. On an ogre team it’s always nice to have one with Strong Arm, just in case.
Secondly, it works nicely with Accurate if you roll a double with a thrower. Having that +2 to passing rolls (not quick passes, bear in mind) is wonderful. If you were wondering the numbers, let’s take a quick look here:
Agility 3 passes: Quick pass – 67%, Short Pass – 50%, Long Pass -33%, Long Bomb – 16%
With Pass skill: 89%, 75%, 56%, 30%
With Pass & Accurate: 97%, 89%, 75%, 56%
With Pass, Accurate & Strong Arm: 97%, 97%, 89%, 75%
Agility 4 passes: Quick pass – 83%, Short Pass – 67%, Long Pass -50%, Long Bomb – 33%
With Pass skill: 97%, 89%, 75%, 56%
With Pass & Accurate: 97%, 97%, 89%, 75%
With Pass, Accurate & Strong Arm: 97%, 97%, 97%, 89%
What that means is that for what is normally an extra 50tv (One Normal skill and one Double skill, most throwers have Pass already) you have a piece that can pass the ball enormous distances, up to 13 spaces forward, with a pretty bloody good chance of success. Combine that with the average movement of 6 and you can really get that ball away. Even Agility 3 pieces with SA and Accurate can perform the longest possible pass with a ¾ chance of success, which is pretty darn respectable. Yes it’s 50tv, but that transforms your thrower into a THROWER.
Safe Throw: Interceptions got you down? Why not Safe Throw? It turns that interception chance from a 17% chance to a 6% chance. You can even use a Team Reroll on Safe Throw, bringing it all the way down to a 2% chance. No more interceptions! Unless they’re elves or have Very Long Legs, which pushes it up to a 33% goes down to a 11%, or 4% with team RR (unless they have catch, which means it’s a 55% down to a 18% down to a 6%, I think… provided you’re agility 4. For agi 3… augh… cor this gets confusing.) numbers might be wrong I’m trying my best
Arugh, my brain. Basically, this means you can afford to make those risky passes again. High Elf throwers start with Safe Throw, and while many people discount it, it’s potentially a game changer. Think about the last time you were intercepted. Wouldn’t you have given anything for a 89% chance to undo the interception? (Plus, any fumble other than a natural 1 no longer causes a turnover, and allows you to retain the ball. Particularly useful for lower agi throwers!) For bonus points stand in 5 tackle zones and attempt a Long Bomb. On a 6, you make it. On a 1, you fumble. On anything else: Hey, Safe Throw saved you from a turnover! Thanks Safe Throw, you da man.
I think people tend to shy away from these skills because they fear passing as a whole. They see it going wrong more often than it going right. While it’s probably easier to play dwarves and bash your opponent into the ground than build a proper passing team, once you get one going it’s a thing of beauty. It takes a bit of effort, but the results are fantastic.
Other episodes in the series: