Friday, May 09, 2014

Blood Bowl: Playing Elves

Back at the start of the year I joined a Blood Bowl league on FumBBL which runs under the interesting premise that every race in the game gets played by exactly one person. So they have 24 people playing 24 teams. They assign the teams randomly and between seasons you can keep your team or throw your race back into the pool and get a different race that someone else gave back. You have to start back over from scratch with a 1000TV.

I thought it was an interesting idea and I gave it a show, but I ended up not having much fun. I got assigned the 'High Elf' race which is a slower, tougher elf race. I went 6-0-3 on the season, making it to the league semifinals where I lost last night. That's a pretty reasonable success rate, and I do like the idea of a passing game in a fantasy football simulator game. But there were two big things that made the games not very fun for me overall.

The first is the way they throw new teams up against ludicrously experienced teams. My first round opponent had 37 games experience and a team value of 2060 compared to my 1000. I got more money to spend in inducements for that game than I got to build my team in the first place! I won that game, 1-0, solely on the basis of inducing Morg 'n Thorg. He earned the only SPP for my team in the game, and most of my guys just existed to get in the other team's way and get hurt while my inducements won me the game. One of the reasons I play RPG games is because I like leveling up dudes and seeing their numbers get bigger. Sometimes in Blood Bowl those dudes then get crippled or killed which can be annoying, but then you get to level more dudes up to take their place and it tends to work out ok. But in lopsided matches like this you rate to lose way more than you gain because your useful players tend to be induced ones that can't level up and one of the ways many people skill up their teams is to make them more deadly to yours.

The second is that the elf playstyle is good for winning many games but it's not good for winning specific games. By that I mean you end up having to roll a lot of d6s when you play elves. If you don't roll many 1s then you win even if you made some mistakes. If you roll lots of 1s then you lose even if you outplay your opponent. Roll a reasonable number of 1s and you can get a 'fair' game, but not really a game I like playing. The problem for me at least is rolling a 1 is a 'rare' occurrence so when it happens it feels bad. But it's not actually very rare at all, especially when you roll lots of d6s, so it is going to bite you reasonably often. I get that it happens, but it means that the games where I win by rolling lots of not-1s I tend to feel like I won because I was lucky. And the games where I lose because I can't stop rolling 1s (like the semifinal game) I walk away feeling bitter. I get that elves will lose games every now and then because they roll 1s, but I don't like it when that happens, so I don't like playing elves.

Elves also have the problem that you can't level them up to play an attrition game without getting very lucky. I didn't get very lucky as I leveled people up (only 1 doubles in 11 levels, and that on the worst player to give either guard or mighty blow) so my team couldn't really try to win any way except by being elves and rolling d6s. I won 6 of 9 games so that plan is actually a pretty good one, but being a good plan doesn't mean it's a fun plan.

My team actually didn't take much damage (2 deaths and no permanent injuries in 9 games, though a lot of that is spending inducement money on extra apothecaries) and it does have plenty of guys with block now and extra agility on both a thrower and a catcher so keeping the team around is very reasonable. If I want to play an agility based elf game and accept that I will lose every now and then to rolling lots of 1s, anyway. I don't think I want to do that though. So I guess the question is if I want to rejoin the league with another randomly assigned team or if I want to leave the league. Earlier I was pretty sure I was going to quit because the league admins were too lax with deadlines so some 2 week time periods lasted 5 weeks which was frustrating and I really didn't want to play 1000 vs 2060 TV again. But it sounds like other people were similarly bitter so they're cracking down on the time period durations and they're going to seed all new teams in divisions against each other as possible instead of the old plan of putting you into the division occupied by the last team of your race. (So I was in the top division because the old High Elf player was good.)

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