Saturday, 29 December 2012

Match Report: OCC Division 4D Match 6

The Elf Avengers (pro elf) v The Grey Haven Guard (high elf, me)

I'm still pretty inexperienced at elf v elf matchups, and wasn't sure how to approach this. On one hand, I had AV8, lots of dodge, and a MB tackle catcher, so the running game appealed to me, but on the other hand my opponent had fourteen players to my twelve, four players with guard to my one, and had his own MB tackle player - a blitzer. So the running game looked tricky.

Nevertheless I still feel so uncomfortable with a stereotypical 4-3 elf shootout, with both teams going for quick passing touchdowns, particularly with the powerhouse pro elf offence. So the passing game looked like a no-go for me either.

I decided therefore to try to win the game on the clock. I would try to draw the half which started with my opponent receiving, and win the half where my opponent kicked to me.

Here was my roster prior to the match


The game began with the pro elf coach winning the toss and electing to receive. One weakness of this elf team was a lack of kicker, and I kicked short and wide, hoping for a blitz. A blitz duly appeared, and here surely was a golden chance to take an unexpected early lead.

Sadly, I muffed it. I'd hoped to blitz a hole with Vanval, but misclicked and moved him instead. I still managed to get Gil-Galad under the ball, with my Tananmyr in close attendence, but the pro elves were able to blitz Gil-Galad down, and the Avengers' star quarterback recovered the ball and hared off towards his own end zone. One advantage of the kickoff was that the elves had had to use their blitz to secure the ball rather than knock a hole in my lines, and so only one receiver had made it into my backfield. I took the risk in blitzing the receiver with Vanval, which required a couple of GFIs. Several 1s later Vanval was on his back, and the elves scored on turn 2.

OK, so my plan had been for the pro elves to score early and for me to grind forward for a turn 8 equaliser, but still I hadn't planned for a turn 7 grind, and with the blitz result from the kickoff I could have done so much better. Never mind.

The kickoff was deep, and Cirdan picked up the ball before firing in a pass to Werelenial. The Guard formed a cage around the catcher, while knocking out one of the linelves. The next few turns saw the Avengers throw their two blitzers at the cage, dodging and sidestepping for all they were worth, while targeting Vanval at every opportunity. In return Vanval managed to end the career of a pro elf lineman, breaking his neck. Finally I managed to not only knock down their MB tackle blitzer (their only tackle player), but also foul him off the pitch! Despite having a man sent off, this was an excellent trade for me, and the foul was the key turning point in the match as the pro elves did not have anything to combat my dodgers and blodgers after that.

Now having a significant numerical advantage, the remainder of the half was a bit of a procession, with the cage now increasingly unstoppable and I handed the ball to Gil-Galad to trot it home in turn 8. Another important moment for me was that the pro elves had one of their guard linemen sent off for a foul late on in the half, which I can only interpret as frustration on my opponent's part.

The second half began with the weather changing to a blizzard. This was the second key moment in the game, as my previous plan (score a 2-turner, pressure my opponent into a 2-turner, grind out a 3-2 win) immediately became impractical. I decided to score as fast as I could, given the weather, and see what happened.

The kick was very deep once again, and I began by hitting the elf line of scrimmage, which didn't do much, and continuing my strategy of blitzing with Vanval whenever possible. Vanval managed to kill the Avengers' reserve thrower, which the apo could only turn into another career-ending injury, this time -1ST. I formed a small pocket hard by the right touchline, and passed the ball to Gil-Galad in the pocket. The Avengers recovered well and shut down my movement down the right hand side. I cut left and formed a cage in the centre, running three receivers deep. One of the consequences of the damage I'd done in the first half was that the Avengers were forced to use their rookie linemen, and Tananmyr managed to badly hurt one of these. 

Clearly thoroughly sick of Vanval by now, my opponent appeared to concede the touchdown and decided to try to force my killer out of the game with a blitz and a 6 man foul. Sadly all he could do was KO him, which resulted in my opponent's star thrower (accurate, AG5, but only armour 6) being sent off. Gil-Galad flipped the ball to Werelenial who scored my second touchdown on turn 11 to take a 2-1 lead.

Lining up with 8 players to my 10, things were looking a bit grim for the Avengers, but a touchdown here for them would give them an excellent chance to draw or even win. The pro elves lined up to overwhelm the right side, so I kicked left and was rewarded with a perfect defence result. The ball ended hard by the left touchline, with Gil-Galad and Werelenial in close attendence. The Avengers recovered, and managed to get the ball to a guard lineman, very close to their own end zone. They had reckoned without the pace and strength of Gil-Galad however, who managed to get in a blitz on the ball carrier. He was only able to roll a both down though, and the pro elves had a chance to recover.With almost none of their team in range however, this looked tricky.

This was a really tricky situation, since I didn't want to overcommit to the ball, since with all the Avengers' catchers having nerves of steel, marking them was unreliable and I was only a few good dice away from my opponent equalising. In the end though Gil-Galad was able to deal with matters on his own, standing up, blitzing the ball free and running it in for a 3-1 lead.

With only a few turns left my key consideration was to ensure that my opponent didn't score a 2 turner, and so I ignored the ball and concentrated on pressuring receivers. A late consolation TD for the elves meant that the game ended 3-2 to me.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Why elves are overpowered

This post may be a bit of a ramble.

I've been thinking quite a lot about the various races recently, and watching a lot of OCC games. I think I've watched all of the tier 1 OCC games this season, all the games in my division, and I've also been watching some of the more interesting tier 2 and 3 matches too.

I've been thinking about what attributes your team needs to have to win a big league like the OCC, and how the various races measure up to that.

It strikes me that the first thing you need is luck. To win games at high level you need to be willing to put your players in harms way from time to time. Yes there are some coaches who roll too many dice, or get the order of their actions wrong, but ultimately you need to be willing to mark the ball carrier with your star side-step skink, or go for one dice blocks against chaos warriors with mighty blow. Sometimes these tactics will work out, and sometimes your players will die.

As a coach who has had the best player on their team killed by a wizard (AG5 blitzer for the Guard) and a thrown rock (berserker in my Norse development side) in the last couple of months, one of the key elements to getting to the top seems to be that all this nuffley shit does not happen to you. So if you are a lucky coach you can get a great team, you can win games and you can win the league.

But that's not good enough for me. How can you win while still being unlucky? The answer, it seems to me, is to play a team with pace. If you have MV9 or MV10 players, especially with AG4, you can score touchdowns when at a numerical disadvantage. AG4 on its own is good, and allows you to plan moves like leaps, dodges through groups of players, but combined with pace this allows you to score from anywhere.

In my last game with only 3 players on the field on turn 16 I still had a shot at a third score, if I'd chosen to try it, and that's what pace and agility give to you.

If you play a bash team against an opposing bash team, and take say 3 early casualties, the match can be a dispiriting experience, as what's left of your team huddles together, unable to get the ball and unable to escape the numerically-superior opponent. A fast team can still threaten the ball, and limit the amount of incoming damage, while retaining the threat of an equalising TD before half time if the opponent scores too quickly. If they have a reasonably reliable one-turner in the bank then they can threaten that TD whatever the opponent does.

If you look at winners of the OCC, the list is dominated by wood elves and lizards. Fast teams. The full list is:

Wood elves - 7 (2 teams)
Lizards - 4 (2 teams)
Orcs - 2 (2 teams)
High elves - 1
Chaos - 1

I am done with playing AV7 teams - the randomness in the armour rolls is too horrible for me. So it's high elves all the way I think. The catchers are amazing once skilled up, and with AV8 and blodge access for every player they are survivable too.

I think that high elves are the team for the player who wants to mitigate the effect of luck on their play as much as possible. Yes, you don't have the firepower of the bash sides, and you don't have the raw scoring threat of skaven or wood elves. What you have is a quick, resilient side which can move fast, and has the skills and armour (once developed) to stay on the pitch against bash.

Hopefully I can show people that with The Grey Haven Guard!

Match Report: OCC Division 4D Match 5

Khorne Beef (chaos) v The Grey Haven Guard (high elf, me)

After a beating at the hands of the ogres last week, the chaos team were missing two chaos warriors and their ball carrying beastman, but took Borak the Despoiler in exchange, which demonstrated my opponent’s commitment to bash rather than ball play.

I won the toss and decided to kick, which I now like to do against bash teams. Those three LOS blocks are a killer, and if you face those right at the start of the game with your best linemen, you don’t need to face them again until late in the match.

The chaos team grabbed the ball, which was handed off to their blodge chaos warrior, and there was some ineffective blocking on the LOS as my dodge linemen held up well. My opponent left the chaos warrior open behind his defensive line, giving me an immediate chance to win the ball with some 2+ dodges and GFIs followed by a 1D block. It was a bit too risky for me so early on though, and I contented myself with blitzing an AV7 beastman with Vanval and double marking the carrier.

The warrior handed the ball off to a nearby beastman and built a semi-cage round him in centre field, but I got a guard lineman next to him and Werelenial dodged in for a 2D hit to send the ball bouncing loose. It fell kindly for the chaos team however, and they fed the ball back to the blodge chaos warrior and formed up on the right hand side, with their minotaur guarding the front. They’d neglected to cover the back though, and Werelenial dodged between 2 players and got a 1D hit on the ball carrier and again knocked it clear. This time the ball fell perfectly for the elves, and they were able to smuggle it to safety.

The chaos block dice improved markedly at this point, and they started to cause casualties. A dodge lineman was carried off injured, followed by Werelenial badly hurt. There was also an injury from a foul on my guard lineman Alawe.

Nevertheless, and despite a dropped hand off, Borak (who had been pressuring the thrower) was punched to the ground by a cluster of elves, Cirdan recovered the ball and sent a pass clear to Gil-Galad who sped to the line for a turn 8 touchdown.

Lining up with 9 players versus 11 chaos, I decided to score quickly and give the chaos team 6 or 7 turns to score 2 touchdowns. I intended to then keep my players as safe as I could on defence, and try to give my opponent indecision over whether to take risks to score or to try to beat me up. I managed to even up the numbers a bit, with a KO and an injury to the two AV7 beastmen, and then Gil Galad ran from deep to score a quick TD, his second of the game.

The wheels started to fall off a bit here, with Elrond the lineman being killed on the LOS, and casualties coming thick and fast for the rest of the match. The kick was deep, and the chaos team ran it to the centre of the field quickly. They hadn’t caged up properly however, and I managed to get a block in on the carrier and knock him over on the left hand side of the pitch by the half way line. A beastman grabbed the ball and threw it across field to a waiting chaos warrior, hoping to be able to run the ball in, but the pass was astray and the ball landed in the open.

The game was really opening up now, with Cirdan being carried off with a smashed ankle (the apo was fortunately able to fix this) and Turin badly hurt. There were small fights all over the pitch, but Vanval dodged free and grabbed the loose ball by the half way line, throwing it desperately back towards the chaos end zone into space. Vanval was crowdsurfed for his pains, but this play effectively ensured the win for me. Although I couldn’t get there before the beastman safety, who recovered the ball and ran it back,  it meant that there wasn’t enough time for the chaos team to score twice.

There were only 3 elves on the pitch by turn 16. I had to make a decision. Firstly I could just run away and let him score. Second I could dodge elves into contact and knock over his ball carrier with a 2D block (the carrier STILL wasn’t caged up). Third I could go for a 1D block on the carrier, hope for a lucky bounce, and give myself a longshot of a touchdown with a long bomb to a lineman I had standing clear in the opposing half. I opted for the first, and took a 2-1 win.

Good result in the end – a win, with no permanent damage other than a dead rookie lineman, despite the 7 casualties taken. Gil-Galad finally made it to 16 SPP (in fact he roared to 23 SPP with 1 casualty and 2 TDs in the game) and rolled +1 ST. I now have a catcher with 9-4-4-7 stats, and no useful skills. God knows how long he’ll live, but he could be amazing.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Match Report: OCC Division 4D Match 4

FOAD (orc) v The Grey Haven Guard (high elf, me)

I had a bit of a Big Think before this game about what I wanted to get out of this season. I've looked at some of the divisions above me and they meat grinders, frankly, with highly developed bash teams who excel at killing elves.

I decided that what I would try to do for the rest of this season was to focus on developing my players, even if that means losing the occasional match. Hopefully I'll do enough to stay in the league, and next season I can then make a concerted push for promotion.

A focus on developing players rather than winning matches means taking more risks on offence and fewer risks on defence. On offence I need to pass the ball around a bit more, farming the xp for successful passing. On defence I need to make more of an effort to keep my players out of contact, even if that means the now-unmarked opposing players have more freedom to move around the pitch.

Coming into this match FOAD had been brutalised by the nurgle team I beat in Match 2, losing their troll, three of their four blockers, and with their star quarterback and a blitzer out injured. My opponent took a wizard and two bribes (!) as inducements, and won the toss, electing to receive.

Their best player was an AG5 leaping tackling blitzer called Sriruk, who had a huge part in everything the orcs did in this match.

I immediately forgot what I'd told myself about keeping my players safe and marked up the rookie black orcs at the cage corners, and the orcs immediately responded by killing my kicker who was saved by the apothecary. Aggressively marking the cage had its intended effect, however, and after a couple of turns of this the orcs took a risk to move the cage forward, exposing their ball carrier to a block. Vanval swooped in and battered the ball carrier to the ground, but the ball scattered into his arms. Vanval and a fellow catcher ducked clear of the melee, but were unable to get the ball to safety. Sriruk and his fellow blitzer Maklor set off in hot pursuit, and the four had a fight by the elven end zone for several turns before Sriruk dodged clear to score in turn 8.

This was basically the worst possible outcome for me, since I only had one turn remaining to make something happen, and I stupidly forgot about the possibility of a one turn touchdown attempt (I still can't believe I didn't even think to try!).

So I received in the second half and, with some throwing of the ball back and forth behind my lines, I bashed my way forward down the right side. I managed to crowd surf one of the rookie black orc blockers and give him a fractured skull. After inching forward for three turns my opponent used the wizard to zap Cirdan, which failed, and I passed short to Werelenial who ran in the touchdown.

With about 4 turns left in the match we lined up 1-1, and I rolled a blitz! Deciding to go for the win, I charged forwards, flooding the orc backfield. My players couldn't catch the ball, so Sriruk grabbed it, and the elves surrounded him deep in the orc half. The wily orc dodged clear and prepared to launch a reroll-less long bomb to a lineman who was in my half and miles away from any elves, but Sriruk fumbled the pass!

The match ended with the elves caging up near the end zone and stalling until turn 16, before handing the ball off to my guard lineman, who took the MVP for his performance too. The game finished 2-1 in my favour.

So 9 SPPs for my guard lineman in the game, and he's now only 1 away from a vital second skill. My guard blitzer levelled up (finally! - after 18 matches!) and took dodge, so both my blitzers are blodgers.

I face a mangled chaos team on Sunday, who may be without their two best players after a mauling from the division's ogre team. Since they still have no tackle, I'll be hopeful for a win here.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Match Report: OCC Division 4D Match 3

The Queen's Champions (high elf) v The Grey Haven Guard (high elf, me)

The sides lined up for some elf-on-elf action!

On paper the Champions were by far the stronger side, with some truly excellent attacking players and as a result I had 290,000GP of inducements. I took a wizard and an extra apothecary, but was actually quite confident before the game. My opponent's team was not set up for bash at all – he had no mighty blow and only one tackle, and he only had four linemen to my seven, meaning that he'd soon have to put those expensive and fragile catchers in harm's way.

My plan was to kick first, pressure my opponent into scoring early and take my time equalising via a running game. I would then go for a 2-1 grind and score late in the second half, hopefully having removed some of his players during my drive.

The first part of my plan worked to perfection! I won the toss, kicked to him and he scored on turn 2! If I'd been in his shoes I'd have done the same – trying to go in 2-1 up at half time. His offence was supremely strong, and he moved the ball quickly around the pitch between his throwers.

I then received the ball, and caged up near the half way line, managing to hurt one of his players in the LOS blocks and immediately signalling my intentions by blitzing with Vanval (my MB-tackle catcher). Vanval managed to KO his only tackler, so at this point I'm 2 players up, with the ball safe by the LOS in a cage, and feeling good.

My opponent's strategy on defence becomes clear straight away, as he dances his AG5 blitzer through my cage to get a 1D block on the ball carrier, which spills the ball via a wrestle result. There follows a most un-elf-like drive, as I keep caging the ball up and rolling the ball from side to side, while my opponent keeps putting men into contact and trying to dodge through. I eventually manage to surf his AG5 blitzer, at the cost of losing a catcher to a surf, but as the half draws to a close I have 9 men against 7 and the ball is in the centre of the pitch.

Here I make my first bad mistake of the game.

It is turn 7, and I've made my push forward for the touchdown. I have four men who can score next turn. As my last action of the turn I try to dodge an unskilled catcher into a better defensive position. Of course I roll a 1 and without thinking I use a reroll. My last reroll. My opponent then knocks 1 of the potential scorers down and marks the other three.

If I had used the wizard at this stage I would have needed to make 2 2+ rolls to score (the wizard would have cleared a marker, and I'd have needed a hand off and a GFI. I choose not to use the wizard, which means I need to make an unskilled two dice block to clear the marker. I roll both down – skull, which means I go in trailing at half time 1-0.

OK, time for a rethink. I could stick with the original plan, which would mean playing for the draw, but I decide to try to score quickly and see what I can do with the wizard to force a turnover. I run the ball, but am unable to score a two turner as my block dice fail me. Nevertheless I cage it in my opponent's half and score on turn 11 with a quick pass and Vanval scampering clear.

I've removed a few more of my opponent's players at this stage, and it was 11 v 8 as my opponent lined up to receive. He stacked the left hand side and left his star thrower deep, so I kicked short and right, hoping for a blitz. No blitz, but the ball landed on the LOS where it was caught by his AG5 blitzer. My opponent pushed two catchers forward to make a scoring threat and made a cage for his blitzer on the left hand side. Crucially, he'd left his cage corners in contact with my players though, and I sensed the chance to win.

The wizard zapped the ball carrier with lightning, and my players bashed a hole, leaving Gil-Galad to dart in and grab the ball.

I now made my second key mistake. What I should have done was to make a half-cage (full protection was impossible) and invite my opponent to do what he could while marking his players up. What I actually did was try a lateral pass towards the safety of a group of my players. Of course the pass failed and scattered into an empty square, leaving one of his unmarked catchers to run for the end zone, while the other ran the width of the field, scooped up the ball and threw a scoring pass to take the lead 2-1.

Three turns left. I lined up with 11 v 7 (Vanval had 3 KOs in the game!), and I think my opponent assumed I would score a 2 turner, leaving him 2 turns to grab a winner. This time I played it out slowly though, and ran the ball through the centre with Turin (my blodge blitzer), who handed the ball to Gil-Galad to trot home with the equaliser on turn 16. 2-2 the final score.