Tuesday, 21 January 2014

On block

I believe that people take skills such as guard, tackle and particularly block without thinking whether or not they are right for their team. I think all three of these skills are great skills to take, don't get me wrong, but too often people just grab them without thinking. 

This is what the bbtactics website says about block:

The article is actually focusses on three things: block reduces the chance of failing the block action, block makes knocking down players easier if that player does not have block, and block protects the player from both down results. All of these things are, frankly, pretty damn obvious, but nevertheless it’s worth saying them because they are absolutely right.

Coach then recommends block for

- players who block a lot
- ball carriers (as protection from knockdowns) and
- linemen (no reason given)

I think to illustrate the point I want to make, it’s worth considering the second point that Coach makes in more detail – block makes knocking down players easier if that player does not have block. This begs the question – what if the player has block or wrestle? The answer is, of course, that block is completely ineffective at knocking the opposing player over. It does not help at all.

Where the opposing player has block the only benefits to having block yourself are that it makes you less likely to fall over with a both down result - reducing the failure rate from 11% to about 3% - and  that if the player hits you back you are more likely to stay up.

So we come to 

Everblue’s First Rule of BlockIf your team is in an environment where most of the opposition have block, and you are looking to level a player by getting casualties, block is not a great skill for that player. 

A better skill might be mighty blow or claw if your player has access to that. Tackle is an acceptable alternative if push comes to shove.

But what, you might say, about the failure rate of an unskilled block? I agree that this might be a concern if none of your team have block, and you are throwing four or five unskilled blocks a turn. But perhaps you have several block players already (say you are an orc team looking to replace an injured black orc, for example). Then your black orc might only throw one block every two or three turns – say six total in the game. All of a sudden the chances of a failure in the game are looking much slimmer. You could also manage your risk – blocking later in your turn with this player wherever possible. Your black orc should skill up faster. Yes he is more vulnerable to being hit, but he’s ST4 and AV9, and since most turns you will probably not leave him in base contact anyway then it should not be a significant additional risk.

Taking this point a little further, we get to: 

Everblue's Second Rule of Block – Block is a bad skill for blitzers

This might seem utterly counter intuitive, since pretty much all blitzers in the game come with block out of the box, but what I mean by “blitzer” is not necessarily an orc blitzer, or an elf blitzer, but actually “a player who takes a blitz action”. You only get 16 blitz actions in the game. Some of those blitz actions will be tactical – ie you make a specific blitz with a specific player in order to achieve a tactical objective. The player who makes that blitz action could realistically be almost anyone in your team. The point should be made again though - if the point of that blitz action is to put the opposing player on the deck, most of the time the best player to make the blitz will be one with wrestle, not block. 

Some blitzes, however, are simply there to hurt, and most teams will find they have one or more players who do most of the blitzing, simply because they hit the hardest – a killer-build beastman is a good example of this, but I built my beloved high elf catcher the same way and khorne heralds or nordic werewolves could also take a hitting skill before block. Such a player might make five or six blitzes a game, simply to maximise your chances of getting casualties.

Again – if that blitzer is mainly targeting players with block or wrestle (as will normally be the case at high TV) then having block is no help to him in his role. Better skills are mighty blow, piling on, tackle, frenzy (underrated for bash – increases the chance of a casualty by about 50%), claw, etc. As before, arguments about chance of failure miss the point – with five or six blitz actions in a game you have a fair chance of not seeing a failure in any given game, and against the risk must be set the fact that you are more likely to win the game if you maximise your chances of casualties from these key hard-hitting blocks.

Protecting your key killer blitzer is a key issue since they don’t have block, and you need to be careful about launching them into the fray unsupported.

Finally, we come to linemen. Those brave, useless souls whose job is to stand there and get punched by chaos warriors.  

Everblue’s Third Rule of Block - wrestle is normally a far better skill for linemen than block

The simple reason is that if your guy gets punched and the result comes up both down, if he has block he will just stand there and often get hit again. If he has wrestle then he’s safe on the ground for the rest of the turn and in many cases will be able to stand up and move away next turn. Taking wrestle makes your players far more resilient. Yes, if they took block instead they might ride the punch and be able to hit back next turn, but lineman will probably be outstrengthed and outguarded on your turn without appropriate support and will probably be unable to hit back.

In addition, a wrestle lineman can fill in as a safety if needed, since he has a 55% chance to knock over a blodger on a 2D block – often a better chance than a specialist sweeper who has block. 

So when is block good? 

I can think of five scenarios. 

Firstly, block is good for what I call throwaway blocks - blocks which you really don't want to fail, but which are not the main goal of your turn. Blocks to set up a big hit with your blitzer, or to bash away your opponent's players if he has gone full contact. Blocks where you have pretty much scored already but you want to farm some hits and try to get a cas or two. Mundane blocks where safety is more important than hurting the other guy. That said, such mundane blocks are also fine with wrestle, so this is not a great argument for block over wrestle.

Secondly, block is good for players who will take a lot of hits, but expect to hit hard in return if not put on the deck - chaos warriors, black orcs and other strength access players for example. Blockers! 

Thirdly, block is good for controlling space on the pitch. If you have a blodgestep elf blitzer, that guy can hold a sideline on his own, especially if he has diving tackle. The disadvantage of wrestle is that even if you survive the hit you are on the ground. Players with stand firm, side step and diving tackle need to be standing up to do their job.

Fourthly, block is good when no one else has it. It's not just good then, it's brilliant - hitting power, safety and defence in one skill. With a young team then taking block early on linemen or blitzers is probably fine, since it will make them hit harder. It's later on when difficult decisions are necessary as to how to build players.

Finally, ball carriers, throwers and catchers. They again need to be upright to hold onto the ball or to be in a position to receive or make a pass. Block is good to keep those guys upright.


  1. Really intetesting EB. Not seen this argument made a lot except with regards to BM killers but I've been thinking the same a lot recently. Often worth delaying block till later in builds that have other primary functions. Though I feel you did undersell the protection it offers a bit.

  2. I feel you have missed some key places where Block is beneficial.,,,

    Firstly pitch control, being on the floor via wrestle is really not going to help your team mates in this instance.

    Secondly Frenzy, a frenzy player seriously risks wasting his potential with wrestle instead of block.

    Thirdly - Now this one is Huge, Block is the only skill that provides a player with a 66% of not getting hurt on every block dice. No other skill does this in the game FULL STOP. Wrestle is countered by Juggernaut, in fact any killers I have take it for this reason & Dodge is Countered by tackle. The best defence a key player can have and will always be block, wrestle is great but is a risk in terms of defence on players likely to be targeted by opposing blitzes.

  3. It also depends on the movement of the player. You really don't want a roster full of MA 4 or 5 Wrestlers. You are basically not able to move your team anymore.

    Also if your Star-Killer-Blitzer does not have Block, that makes him the ABSOLUTELY main target to hit. Crimsonsun has a team with not so much block but rather strength-skills in OCC 3C and it didn't play out well for him...

  4. I used to think this way, and nearly always picked wrestle over block for my elves.

    However experience has taught me three things:

    1. If I don't have block or wrestle, I will suffer an ungodly number of turn-overs from both-downs.

    2. Defensively, wrestle is best against slower bash teams, unfortunately they tend to have plenty of juggernaut to counter wrestle at anything other than very low team value.

    3. Offensively, wrestle is great for hitting the ball carrier, but too much makes cracking cages harder. Using wrestle to take down a well placed block-guard opponent is great, but if all your linemen have wrestle you end up losing key assists and assist- negation due to your players being on the floor and losing their tackle zones.