The Sigil Torments (dark elf) v The Grey Haven Guard (me, high elf)
So Season 17 kicked off with an all-elf affair - the posh ones against the goth ones, and it was an extremely hard game.
I faced a 15 player roster, including four distinctly average blitzers, two really good witch elves, and two assassins(!), one of whom had multiple block (!!). On paper it looked a bit bloated, with too many players and not enough development on the blitzers. There was lots of tackle though, and historically I've been poor against elves, so I was I guess confident but wary.
My opponent won the toss and elected to kick. He set up with only one assassin on the pitch (the star), and his AV7 pieces protected behind a screen. My gameplan was a slow running offence and a score on turn 6 or 7.
The kick was short and by the left touchline, so I knocked back his defensive line and made a central pocked. Vanval sat in the pocket while Cirdan dashed over to the ball, picked it up and passed the ball back into Vanval's hands. In response the Sigil witch elves knocked over the front of my screen and danced through the middle to mark Vanval.
Sensing that the dark elves had overcommitted to the centre I sent players up the left hand side, knocking players out of the way and putting two potential receivers (Gil-Galad and Hadilinas, my kicker) clear on the left side. Vanval dodged away from his markers and handed the ball back to Cirdan in the pocket. There was a chance here for one of the witches to get a 1D block on Cirdan here but my opponent declined to take the risk, preferring instead to shut down my adavance on the left and blitzer Hadilinas. He also gang-fouled one of my linemen with his sneaky git lino. That gang foul left a big gap in the centre and I simply ran through it and caged up in the centre, deep in the opposing half.
The score was looking pretty inevitable now, but there was still time for Hadilinas to be KO'd and Gil-Galad to be crowd surfed by one of the witches leading to a second KO. The gang fouls continued on poor, isolated Kevatononel, and he was injured and will be out for the next match. Nevertheless, with my guard players at the front it was a simple matter to bash a gap for Telthanthor, who made a break for the end zone. Cirdan chucked the ball to him and I scored on turn 4.
This was a bit sooner than I would have liked, but being 3 players down made me think I didn't want to stall.
With my kicker still KO'd I was forced to kick to the centre, and the dark elves' runner scooped up the ball and started to put together a cage on my left, but an eagle-eyed ref spotted a foul before the cage was complete, and I had a chance to get the ball. Glorfindel bashed open the cage, and Vanval and Felagund danced around the edge of the pitch to put a block on the runner. Amazingly, the runner dumped the ball off to a teammate before Vanval could grind him into a paste. The dump off meant that I was badly out of position and the dark elves were able to blitz through my lines, with the ball carrier being one of the Torments' blitzers.
They couldn't form a proper cage though, and I was able to take down the ball carrier deep in my half on the left hand side. A scrum ensued, with one of the witches eventually getting the ball. Meanwhile the Torments surrounded Gil-Galad with their players, knocking him to the ground before fouling and killing him! Fortunately the apothecary was on hand to save him.
The dark elves were unable to wriggle clear of the scrum with the ball, and the half eventually ended 1-0 to the Guard.
The second half started with a central kick, and some blocking and stabbing from the dark elves on the LOS which resulted only in a couple of stuns. The runner grabbed the ball and a loose cage was formed in the middle of the pitch, while the frenzying witch elves bashed a hole in my lines. Vanval finally made an impression and KO'd one of the witches, but I made a mistake and left a player in contact. Tananmyr was brushed aside and the remaining witch elf blitzed into the end zone, and meanwhile some elf-ball involving a hand off and a pass resulted in a quick tying score - 1-1.
I then had 7 turns to score a winner. Sendings off and KOs meant that my opponent had to field both assassins on this drive for the first time, and again he kicked short and wide. Felagund picked up the ball and passed it to Cirdan, deep in my half, but a double skulls rerolled to double skulls cut short my first turn with the ball. Sensing an opportunity, the Sigil players flooded mine, pushing into contact and running three players into my half to threaten Cirdan. This, I think, was a pretty big overcommitment on his behalf and Cirdan easily skirted around his players to hand the ball off to Werelenial. Meanwhile Vanval KO'd another dark elf and I formed up a loose cage hard by the left touchline a few squares inside the dark elf half.
My opponent was scrambling to get back now, with almost all of his players on the wrong side of the field. He did have one blitzer who could dodge and make two GFIs to get a one dice block on Werelenial, but my opponent had felt the need to make blocks earlier in the turn to do some damage to the players I'd been forced to leave in contact, and one of these had required a reroll. Consequently when his blitzer failed a GFI I was able to run for the line. I stalled for a turn, but another stupid positioning error (I am too careless with these loose cages!) gave him a chance to dodge and double-GFI for another 1D block. This also failed, but I took the hint and handed the ball to Glorfindel to score on turn 13.
So, three turns for the dark elves to grab a draw. I rolled a blitz on the kickoff too!
The dark elves had piled most of their players on my left, so I kicked right. Cirdan smashed the covering blitzer aside, breaking his jaw (another fine game this from Cirdan - this guy really is great), and so Glorfindel and Vanval rushed under the ball. Vanval fluffed the catch though, and so the dark elves' runner was able to pick it up from under Vanval's nose, using the Torments' final reroll in the process, and throw the ball to a witch elf. The other witch, supported by a blitzer and an assassin crashed into the left hand side of my line, not quite breaking through but doing significant damage.
I brought players back to cover then dodged Gil-Galad through the dark elf lines to knock over their ball carrier, but the ball landed safely and I couldn't recover it.
The witch elves leaped to their feet and crowdsurfed two of my players - Tananmyr (stunned) and Hadilinas (smashed collar bone). They knocked some space around the ball, but their assassin fumbled the pickup. They still had two players covering the ball, but Hurin reduced that to one with a chain-push, and Cirdan darted in, picked up the ball, dodged away and threw a long pass to Vanval over the covering defenders, and Vanval hared off to the end zone.
I had my eyes shut for the dark elves' last turn - my entire team was in contact, they had no chance of preventing the TD, and my apothecary had already been used. Fortunately there was nothing worse than a KO, and Vanval scored to make it 3-1 with the last action of the game.
I wasn't sure beforehand what to expect - there were some odd roster and skill choices on my opponent's players, and I wondered whether that would translate into bad play. In short - it didn't, he played impeccably throughout. My one criticism perhaps was that he'd have done better if he was less bloodthirsty and more interested in the ball, but given the fact that his fouling almost killed my best player and his aggressive play forced me to score early in the first half (I had to work so hard to keep him out), I can't really fault him too much.
He was bloody lucky not to lose a witch though! I targeted them so often with my MB-tackle catcher, and got nothing more than a KO.
Still - if this is the standard in tier 3 I am in for a really tough season.
Yet again my linemen bear the brunt of the attrition, and I have lost one of my best players to -1ST. Not sure what to do now. Telthanthor levelled up and I was going to make him my replacement kicker, only for him to roll +1ST!
It's going to be a while before any other lineman levels up, and so I am forced to choose between the bloat factor of fielding an ST2 kicker for a while, or just doing without any kicker at all. I have orcs in matchday 3, and so I think I will wait to see what it does to my TV. If I could fire the kicker and induce Eldril Sidewinder then I may do that.
Otherwise I think I need at least one new lineman, probably two. I'll buy one for now and see what happens. I don't want to have to put my guard lineman or my ST4 lineman on the LOS, but the guard lino may end up there.
Here's my team right now:
So 13 players, 12 if I cut the kicker, and only 4 decent linemen. I actually used Hurin on the line in the last game and he may end up there again if he's not careful. Useless bastard.
The only other player to level was Felagund who took dodge. I was toying with the idea of wrestle first, especially with two orc teams and a human team in my division, who'll have lots of tackle, but frankly I've been burned before with not having dodge on enough players that I went for it here.
If Telthanthor gets to 31 SPP he could become a brilliant player, but I always seem to have three or four players that I need to concentrate on levelling up at once!
Pro elves next. Depending on how much of a beating they take this week I may be giving away somewhere between 300-400 in inducements, so I guess a wizard and Eldril? Despite my TV advantage it will be a really hard game, and while I'll be disappointed with a draw I don't think it will be too bad a result. They have the humans this week though, so could lose a few more players.