Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Seahawks = Orks

Football, Star Wars, B/X. Football, Star Wars, B/X.

I suppose my blog gets a little repetitive after awhile.

Though it could be worse, folks…with my non-gamer friends I’m usually talking astrology or beagles or politics. ESPECIALLY politics. Just mentioning the word makes me want to start a passionate rant, but I will restrain myself (I try, I really do) for the moment.

Let’s talk football.

Or more specifically, Blood Bowl, which is a lot less painful (or at least, emotionally safer) subject for Seattle football fans.

I LOVE Blood Bowl…love-love-LOVE it. I dig football, I dig “fantasy” critters, and I totally love the idea of playing them off against each other in a loosely regulated arena combat. And unlike the real sport (to which Blood Bowl only bears the vaguest passing resemblance), it’s a helluva’ lot of fun to watch the players get injured.

Now, there have been many editions of Blood Bowl over the years, and I’m familiar with most of ‘em. I did miss the 1st edition (2nd was the first set I picked up), but otherwise I’ve kept an eye on the ever-developing “Blood Bowl Living Rule Book” over the years.

I play 3rd edition Blood Bowl.

The 2nd edition was, frankly, a bit of a mess. Originally the game was played till one team scored 3 touchdowns, and that could take a long-ass time…often, one team would be completely killed and the two standing members of the opposition would be left to score the last TD or two finally winning the game. Players had longer (and redundant) stat lines, and there was less variety of players/teams despite the added options.

3rd edition simplified things so nicely, as well as adding plenty of good things, especially the Godsend time counter and turnover rules. Mmm-mmm-mm…made for a great time. And with a few house rukes (if only to represent the fluff of the game…for example, ogre teams), the thing was just about perfect.

And then, of course, GW tried to “improve” upon perfect. Ugh.

No, no, no…the whole attitude behind the “improvements” is everything I hate about 4th edition (or 3rd edition, frankly) Dungeons & Dragons. The need to “balance” teams. The need for “making games more fair.” The need for “making things more realistic” as if it was possible to model realism in a game like this! If it was “realistic” play would not alternate in turns but take place simultaneously for goodness sake!

To be blunt, I use the 3rd edition rules. Notable differences between this, the “Golden Edition” (in my opinion) and later editions include the following:

- There is no “secondary” casualty roll…if the injury roll is a 10, you’re badly hurt, 11 you’re seriously injured, 12 or more you’re DEAD. Yes, large monsters and razor fanged mutants are more likely to KILL you than seriously injure you. Last I checked, there aren’t any clerics in Blood Bowl. If you suffer a mortal wound, you’re more likely to be pushing up daisies than walking away with a niggling injury (in other words, you’re less likely to recover from a serious wound from an ogre or troll…and hobbits and goblins do die in droves when they suit up on the Blood Bowl field.

- There is no “IGMEOY” alternating foul rules. Again, this is simply an added bit of ridiculousness: bogs down the game, forces me to remember something, and makes fouling LESS a part of a game when the fluff would call it a major part. Different teams play different ways: a hobgoblin team IS going to foul more often (and are “balanced” appropriately because of this: i.e. they all suck). Does this make teams with expensive high elves not want to play hobgoblin teams? Absolutely…as appropriate. Without allowing the dirty teams to play dirty, how do they stand up against, the skill teams (like the elves)? Screw balance: you want balance? Go play chess. Don’t whine when I put my boot in your elf’s face (or your Griff Oberwald superstar) OVER AND OVER AGAIN (and by the way? Fouling is already limited to once per turn).

- Skills are skills are skills…skills work exactly as outlined. Goddamn, the added fiddly-ness makes me want to retch. Yes, there are some impressive power combos: Strong Arm plus Passing plus Accurate, for example. You know what? Sometimes teams have to play against Tom Brady or Peyton Manning…deal with it. Once upon a time, I nerfed the regeneration rules as per the 4th edition, but I’ve since decided to allow the undead their competitive edge.

- No “appearance fees” – more goddamn bookkeeping for the sake of “fairness” and “balance.” You know what? If you don’t nerf the injury rolls and the fouling then this becomes a non-issue. Why? Because superstar players eventually get killed or “retired” by the opposition. Here’s a “fix” that only becomes necessary due to the earlier “fix.”

As I said, those are the main things that later editions change that really chap my hide. That being said, I do have my own House Rules that I tinker with from time to time. As I’ve never been able to run a really long-term league (some day, some day), it’s hard to see how some of these things might work out:

- Home Team Advantage (I’ve experimented with multiple ways of doing this; currently I have a list of simple, set advantages depending on team type).

- Salary Caps (it’s worked to create parity in the NFL, why not use it in Blood Bowl?). Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a satisfying way of calculating the Cap, nor have I decided on a fit “Cap.” However, without a salary Cap, the undead and dwarf teams tend to spiral upwards in terms of team treasury/bankroll.

- Alternate teams: Amazons and Norse as presented in the 4th edition rules. Ogres and Plague teams (i.e. the Oldheim Ogres and Nurgle’s Rotters) are two teams I’ve worked with in different ways. I suppose (in true “Old School Style”), there’s no need to add Amazon and Norse teams, instead simply using human teams, but selecting skills in a “theme” fashion (and why can’t the Norse and Amazons have the same high human Armor Value…despite their lack of clothing/armor aren’t they tough hombres?). Ogres by the way are ONLY ogres…not ogres and snotlings. Snotlings are a snack.

- Non-star Big Guys: I like the trolls that eat their own players rather than throwing them downfield…that’s my kind of Blood Bowl. How they “advance” or earn SPPs is debatable.

- Awards and stats: I love stats like any male sports fan. I like to come up with awards for players that have the most completions or casualties or kills (the Golden Coffin award). I also like giving star player points for receptions (a thrower gets 1 point for a pass, a catcher gets 1 point for a catch, and a defender gets 2 points for an interception…because he takes away both the pass AND the catch). Doesn’t that make sense?

- Retirement: I have fairly sophisticated rules to determine whether or not players hang it up at the end of the season. However, I’ve never run a league (at least, not since developing the rules), so I’ve never had a chance to try ‘em.

As far as teams go, I’ve always based them on actual NFL teams (as they originally were…though, of course, that was in the pre-2000 expansion/realignment era). This is both easier and more difficult than it sounds. The difficult part is confining an NFL team to 16 players…how do you take 53 athletes and merge them into a group one-third the size? Sure, you can make sure only the superstars or crème-de-la-crème are present, but remember…these guys are playing both ways.

Otherwise, it’s pretty easy to model the players. Teams have tendencies, after all, just like Blood Bowl teams. You find the tendency and then you model it based on the personnel.

For example, the Arizona Cardinals (forgive me Arizona fans) are a hobbit team. They have been a hobbit team, at times a very good hobbit team, but still a hobbit team. People will say, Larry Fitzgerald (the best wide receiver in the league) isn’t a hobbit! And you’re absolutely correct…but it’s easy enough to model him as one on the Blood Bowl field (he’s a seven advance star):

Move:7, Agility:4, Strength:3, Armor:7, Dodge, Stunty, Right Stuff, Block, Catch, Sprint

That’s a phenomenal receiver for Blood Bowl, with the same armor value as a human catcher, the same strength and blocking ability of a human blitzer, and the ability to dodge tackle zones on a 2+ (on a D6) regardless of coverage.

Arizona’s running backs can be modeled similarly using hobbits (giving them strength scores of 3 or 4 and blocking ability or sprinting ability), though I’d probably just make them especially quick/agile treemen.

[I should mention that I do not find the hobbit team to be ridiculous or unplayable, and have taken them to 2nd place tournament finishes in the past. My wife beat my extremely fast skaven team with her fabled “flying defense”]

Lest Arizona fans become incensed with my treatment of their team, bear in mind that I consider the Seahawks to be orks…one of the least flashy teams in Blood Bowl. There are plenty of Orc teams…Washington, San Diego, Pittsburgh…but the Seahawks have fit into this category since the Ground Chuck days of the 80s. Seattle has only ever fared well when we’ve had a decent quarterback (Dave Krieg, Matthew Hasselbeck) but the only consistency overtime has been fairly good running backs and a fairly tenacious defense…not to mention an unruly waa-agh of a home crowd, and that all says “ork.”

[unfortunately, even a good running back needs a good line to run behind, and we’ve had precious good black ork blockers playing for us…Walter Jones was one, but he’s retired now]

Otherwise, our slow, inept route-running, fumble-fingered receivers can all be classified as orks. Even Hall of Famer Steve Largent could be considered an “ork made good.” After all, he wasn’t a speedster, nor did he have extreme agility or world-beating size. He was just consistent and durable, modeled as an ork lineman with the following stats:

Move:7, Agility:4, Strength:3, Armor:9, Catch, Nerves of Steel, Pro, Leader

O for the days of consistency!

Matthew Hasselbeck is about as Ork as they come…if you equate “ork” with words like “tough,” “fierce,” and (on occasion) “bone-head.” Sure, he’s got the equivalent of a niggling injury or two at this point of his career, but he’s still got a good set of skills (if not the greatest stat line); call it:

Move:5, Agility:3, Strength:3, Armor:8, Pass, Sure Hands, Accurate, Dodge, Dump-Off, Hail Mary, Leader

In the past, I would have given him an agility of 4 (I never considered Hasselbeck more than a six advance player), but it’s painfully obvious the guy has taken enough of a beat-down over the years to have lost a little something from the moves he had in his prime.

Unfortunately, most of the players on this year’s Seahawks team are the equivalent of rookie Blood Bowlers, and it sure has felt like we’ve been running low on “re-rolls” often this season. If we manage to win out and work our way into the play-offs with an 8-8 record (and by the way, haters, that might be the Colts or Jags final “division winning record” as well!) it’ll be as much a bit of good luck/bad luck as coaching and execution that does it. Tampa Bay and St. Louis have been having better-than-usual years this season…and Seattle, frankly, has not.

One more thought on working the NFL in Blood Bowl terms…free agency has really hurt Blood Bowl. Not that I have a whole lot against free agency (yes, I’m old school enough to prefer to watch a player suit up for one team the entirety of their career), and I don’t think they’ve “ruined the game.” But how do you rectify when a player from one species gets traded to another? When Skaven thrower Kurt Warner ends up on the Hobbit/Cardinals team, does he suddenly become a hobbit? Certainly, he seemed to get injured quite a bit (though, skaven in general are nearly as breakable as hobbits).

As I said, TEAMS tend to have a certain playing style (Chicago has never been known as a finesse team), so when players from other teams (with variant styles) get picked up, what is one supposed to do? Green Bay and Minnesota are VERY different teams…But Brett Favre has played for both. San Francisco and Kansas City, likewise…and yet Joe Montana was on both. And don’t even get me started on Randy Moss!

It’s still something I haven’t yet worked out...and until I do, a true NFL modeled Blood Bowl league (at least one that is consistent from year-to-year) is only a far off possibility. But it’s something I think about fairly often this time of year when the impending play-off season looms and the endless stream of television games starts mashing with the fantasy creatures of my imagination.

Yeah, I’m weird.
; )


  1. Speaking of fantasy and football, I am an on-again off-again fan of fantasy football. Funny story: a few years back I had the Seattle defense on my team, and it was the year the Seahawks trounced the Eagles...you remember that game? The Seattle D gave me 44 points alone because of that game! It was bittersweet because, you know, the Eagles are my team...just thought I'd share...

  2. I'm most familiar with the third edition, as it was the big release at the time I was most into Games Workshop stuff. We played the heck out of that thing, then I went to university, didn't take Blood Bowl with me, and sort of left it behind.

    When I bought the game again for myself a couple of years, if was on the fifth edition. I couldn't see many differences in the way the game worked -- although there were a lot more added bits -- but then I've not played it much since.

    Oddly enough, there are a couple of chaps in my office who turn out to be fans of both the NFL -- one's a Saints fan, the other's a Dolphins man -- and of board games, and they expressed some interest in playing Blood Bowl the other day. I'll see if I can get them into the game, if only to give me someone to play!

  3. if i may... :)

    can't say much about balancing or added realism, cause i don't see any difference between the 3rd edition and the lrbs considering these issues.

    - There is no “secondary” casualty roll…

    true, this is a difference. if you like a lot of deaths, you won't like this.

    if, like me, you liked playing with chaos teams with several claw/rsc combos and dps and regularly (literally) destroyed other teams (i used the phrase "lets say it's only badly hurt" quite often), you realise that this change was needed, because otherwise longterm leagues were almost impossible to sustain. killing off a whole team is fun in the fluff, but it's not fun for the suffering coach. and it can still happen now, the chances for it are just much lower.


    this rule is no longer used. there isn't any extra roll now to see if you are sent off.


    not quite sure what you mean. the combo you mention is not hard at all. that's simply a good thrower. :)

    there is no powergaming in bloodbowl. creating strong combos is part of the game in any league. nothing about that has been changed in any way.

    what "added fiddlyness" do you have a problem with?

    appearance fees


    maybe the current rules are closer to what you like than you think. (nothing wrong with using 3rd edition though, it is what the current rules are based on after all. the lrbs just modified them a bit each year. it's still the same game.)

    you can download them here...


    4th edition, the way it came out, was a mistake. gw realised that, there was an open letter from jervis admitting they fucked up and apologizing. the lrbs that replaced 4th edition were heavily influenced by veteran players.

    kelvin, you might want to check out the naf homepage http://www.thenaf.net/ or try http://www.talkfantasyfootball.org/ (used to be talkbloodbowl, but gw threw a fit and they had to change it). you will find someone to play in your area for sure. we are everywhere. ;)

  4. @ Drance: Well, the football Gods have certainly given the Eagles a plethora of riches this year! Good Lord! Two outstanding QBs AND a running game? Not to mention that fantastic win over the Giants to put them into 1st place in NFC East. Nice!

    @ Kelvin: Hopefully they'll be sporting types. I prefer to play a variety of teams with a variety of styles myself...the better not to take advantage o new players!
    ; )

    @ Shlominus: Hmm...sounds like there may have been some changes since last time I read the LBB. It HAS been over a year...I was a bit disgusted by the last iteration.

    RE the Claw/RSC issue: See? I never why folks had a problem with this. Under the 3rd edition rules, you needed to roll doubles to get a mutation and I never saw any mutant that picked up both. Even with it, one would think such a killer would have a fat target painted on him for every fouling boot on the pitch!

    I'll check out the latest rules before I comment further on the fiddly-ness. Thanks for the heads up!
    ; )

  5. Hey, you don't have to remind me about the year the Birds are having! Good stuff!

  6. Shlominus, I am a member of the NAF already, and there are players in my area, they're just a bit too competitive and take the game too seriously for my liking.

  7. It's hard for me to view the Seahawks as orcs.

    For most of the team's history, we've had a lot of nice guys (Zorn, Largent, Cortez Kennedy, Walter Jones), and to me that's always been part of our team identity. When we pick up jerks like Bosworth or Jerramy Stevens, they don't really fit in.

    As for our style of play, it hasn't been particularly orcish. Consider the Patera era. The coach wanted to replicate the Purple People Eaters he'd developed as defensive coordinator in Minnesota, but the talent limitations imposed by the extreme stinginess of that era's expansion rules forced Jack to rely on trick plays and a daring offense prone to backfires.

    Knox put together a great defense, with a Pro Bowl (and arguably orcish) D-Line (Nash, Bryant and Green) and a larcenous secondary (Brown, Easley, Harris, Robinson). On offense, Chuck wanted to establish the run, but injuries to Curt Warner and a deteriorating O-Line forced him to let Krieg throw the ball. A lot.

    Holmgren tried to build a finesse West Coast offense, but the strength of our offensive line made us unusually run-oriented in that Super Bowl year. Our defense was built to protect a lead (light and fast to blitz quarterbacks and cover receivers, and thus weak against the run).

    To me, the defining characteristic of the Seahawks is a mismatch between the coach's inclinations and the team's capacities. So, maybe we're dwarves who are trying to execute a West Coast offense, or elves trying to play smash-mouth football.

  8. @ Brian:

    I grok what you're saying. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the Blood Bowl game, but there's certainly varying levels of vileness to it and orks are not the most lowdown despicable teams on the block (that would be goblins, followed closely by the Chaos teams including the Skaven...also the dwarves are known for being cheats as far as as secret weapons and sneaking freebies onto the field).

    Orks are simply the best way I've found to model the Seahawk teams of the past. While I am very unfamiliar with the Patera era (I started watching the games at the tail end of Zorn's career), I agree with your sentiment that "the defining characteristic of the Seahawks is a mismatch between the coach's inclinations and the team's capacities." That's one of the reasons I see the orks as a good fit. They appear to have a capable thrower...with no receivers. They have tough and tenacious linemen (lineorks, I suppose)...without big bruisers. And the bruisers they do have (the black orks) tend to lack the skills other teams with bruisers have.

    Yesterday, I spent a lot of time writing up "star versions" of past Seahawk players...as orks. I may post 'em later. To fully appreciate them, though, one will have to have a depth of experience with both the Seahawks and Blood Bowl. I may be one of the only people in the world that is quite so enthused about both subjects!
    ; )

  9. I'm not at all familiar with Blood Bowl.

    In the gaming deserts I've inhabited since 1996, it's hard enough to find someone who plays D&D.

  10. @ Brian: my condolences. At least you have a play-off run to look forward to (it kills me the radio call-ins who are, like, "screw the play-offs." It's the PLAY-OFFs dammit!)!