Thursday, 17 January 2013

Match Report: OCC Division 4D Match 8

 The Grey Haven Guard (high elf, me) v Neverending Rest (khemri)

My penultimate game of the season against a very strong khemri side. Their four tomb guardians (TGs) were quite well developed - all being level 3 and above. They had a ST6 player with block to lead the line, plus three with mighty blow and guard, and a couple with stand firm. That wasn't what worried me though - it was the blitz-ras and the star throw-ra that were the heart of the side. Both blitz-ras had tackle and mighty blow, and there was also one with piling on. The star throw-ra had ST4, block, tackle and leader and essentially played as a sweeper. Adding in a couple of AG3 skeletons for ball handling and a dedicated fouler, it was a very intimidating team.

To make matters worse I was missing my blodging blitzer and my best lineman, so had just 11 players. I didn't have enough inducements for a wizard so I bought a fourth catcher instead to give me a substitute.

My plan was to kick first, and try to kick deep. I'd noticed in my opponent's previous matches that he'd normally place all his big hitters on the LOS, and he'd come badly unstuck against aggressive defences who rushed the backfield with fast players.

Aaaand... it all went wrong straight away. I won the toss and kicked, but the ball went out of play for a touchback. I was absolutely furious with myself - in my defence the baby had woken up while I was setting up and I kept having to dash out of the room to sort her out, but I always ensure that I have 4 spaces between my kickoff and the side of the pitch, but this time I didn't and the 1/15 (ish) chance came up and the ball bounced off the pitch.

This was an ideal start for the khemri, who not only did not need to roll to pick up, but could get the ball into an impregnable cage straight away, with 4 TGs on the corners. My mood did not improve as I suffered a casualty and a KO on the opening turn, and already I was in serious trouble.

Abandoning any plans I had of actually getting the ball this half, I decided to model my defensive style on Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, and tried to prevent the khemri getting past. It was a good learning experience for me actually, and I kept my players out of trouble as much as possible, kept columns in front of the cage and tried to blitz skeletons with Vanval whenever I could. My block dice were appalling however and I took another lineman casualty (Alawe this time) until at the end of my turn 6 the khemri were just four squares from the end zone. At no point up to this had I had any chance of getting the ball - I have no leap/stripballer, and I was not prepared to risk a blitz against a ST5 stand firm TG which could see me lose more players to those blitz-ras. The only bright spark in this was that I managed to KO the MV7 blitz-ra, and he stayed off the pitch for quite a while.

Rather surprisingly my opponent elected to score on turn 7 rather than stall until the final turn, and this left me the possibility of an equaliser before half time. The weather was very hot, and three of the khemri team were too hot to come back on the pitch, and so both of us lined up with only 8 players. The kick was deep, and Cirdan picked up the ball while I ran four receivers into his half in a box formation, two squares apart. He could not really mark me properly due to the box, and I was able to bulldoze a path clear for Felagund, my new catcher. All that was needed was a 3+ pass (with safe throw and a reroll), a 3+ catch (with a reroll) and a 2+ dodge to score. The pass was intercepted. Damn.

So at half time I was a point down, several players down, and in serious trouble. I was basically playing for a draw now - knowing that a draw would mean that I was assured of second place in the table if I won my last game of the season.

I didn't want to score straight away, and leave myself having to defend a 7 turn khemri drive, so decided to stall. I prefer to stall in my own half than by the end zone, so I knocked over the LOS, didn’t try to run anyone through his lines, and basically just held the line from the kick off. My opponent responded aggressively, pushing his players into contact with mine and abandoning his deep defensive position. He also managed to hospitalise Werelenial with his piling on blitz-ra.

On my turn 9 I took advantage of his aggressive move by knocking a hole in his lines with Gil-Galad, my ST 4 catcher, and moving my whole team (except Cirdan) around him into his backfield. The khemri coach marked me up as best he could and sent players to threaten Cirdan, but I was left with a fairly straightforward opportunity to pass short to Hurin and form a loose cage by his end zone. I dodged Vanval free as my first action to get in position to make the cage.... and rolled double 1s for the dodge.

Disaster.

My whole team was marked, and I had two khemri (including the tackle/piling on blitz-ra) within range of Cirdan by my end zone. Cirdan bravely rode the (rerolled) block, but was double-marked, while the rest of my team took a kicking and Vanval was fouled into the KO box. With only two potential receivers standing at the start of my turn, and the almost certain concession of a second touchdown being the culmination through the game of some truly rotten dice, I was staring defeat in the face.

And then

the clouds

parted.

Nuffle smiled on me, and the next turn produced some almost unbelievable elvish play. Kevatononel punched his way out of the scrum with a 1D block (skull, rerolled to push), dodged away from this marker, and set off on a lung-bursting run to the end zone (2 x GFIs). Cirdan, although marked by a player with tackle skill, dodged twice through the tackler's tackle zone and hared off to the half way line (2 more GFIs) before launching an incredible max-range long bomb into the waiting hands of the lineman. 1-1.

And from turn 11 onwards everything went my way. I set up expecting to defend furiously for my opponent's remaining 6 turns. The kick was better this time, and was behind his receivers and close to the right touchline. I took some LOS hits but nothing serious, and he pushed his TGs into contact with my defenders and formed a deeper screen with his throw-ras and a couple of skeletons before trying to pick up the ball. His skeleton fumbled it and suddenly, gloriously, I saw a chance to win.

My  opponent had tried to hit Tananmyr, who was holding the end of my defensive line, with his ST6 TG. Getting only a push, he'd followed up. This follow up meant that the right hand end of his offensive line was on a diagonal - I could dodge past on a single 2+ roll. Basically my whole team poured through that gap and formed a strong screen between his LOS and the ball. I discovered that, even though I had 9 players to his 11, when three of his TGs, both his blitz-ras and his fouler are on the wrong side of my lines, the lack of numbers doesn't matter. Gil-Galad was the spearhead, crashing into the side of his loose cage.

The khemri gathered the ball at the second attempt, but couldn't make a watertight cage, and Gil-Galad smashed the ball loose and picked it up. My opponent realised that the game was up here, and started trying to hurt Cirdan with his piling on blitz-ra. The plucky AG3 skeleton managed to knock over Gil-Galad in a half dice block, but Cirdan, having ridden two blocks from the khemri, dodged clear, picked up the ball and handed it off to Vanval to run in a touchdown. 2-1.

The khemri had a small chance to equalise in their two remaining turns, but it would have required a pass, and Gil-Galad nobbled their only potential receiver. The frustrated khemri spent their last turn hitting anything in sight and 7-man fouling Hurin, killing him. Fortunately the apothecary managed to turn this into a badly hurt, and the game ended with a win for me.

Thoughts on the match to come later...

...and here they are!

The first half was awful. I had no answer to the cage he put up except throwing guys in front of it and trying to blitz skeletons. I had some pretty bad block and armour dice and so that didn't work at all. That said, the touchback was what set the tone for that.

Second half started badly, with that double 1 on the first action of turn 9 which nearly cost me the game, but the dice came to the rescue. My second TD wasn't lucky at all though, and just underlines how much that bad kickoff cost me in the first half - a khemri team who stack the LOS with their toughest players will come badly unstuck to a decent kick it seems. One of the better coaches in the OCC told me that when he plays khemri his TGs never ever go on the LOS on kickoff, and I think that's right.

So. Last game of the season. I have a massive 14 players available, and my TV has just hit 2000 for the first time ever. Vanval made it to 51 SPPs and took block, and no doubt now he has some defensive skills he'll die in the next match. I do have too many players though - 13 is the sweet spot I think - so my roster is looking a bit bloated.

The undead I'm up against in the last game of the season have yet to play in this game week, but they are up against Itsmellsliketeamspirit, the psychotic team of nurgle killers, and I really fear that they are going to get a kicking. They've already had both mummies killed this season, so God knows what I'll be up against in our game.

In other news, my team's ELO rating is now almost 1600, and so The Grey Haven Guard are officially the third-ranked high elf team currently active in the OCC, behind the two tier 1 teams, one of whom is retiring this season.



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