First I'll deal with skills, position by position, then acquisitions.
My approach is to specialize my line elves for specific duties. For example, I always recommend getting Block and Side Step on at least 2 of your line elves. They can then be used on the edges of your defense to make it more difficult for your opponent to sweep around your flanks, and it also helps protect them from opponents with Frenzy, who love nothing more than throwing your expensive and fragile players into the crowd. An excellent 3rd skill for these players would be Dodge. If you happen to roll doubles on one of these players, consider Frenzy. You can turn your attacker into a crowd surfer real quickly. Side Step to where the player that blocked you is between you and the sidelines, then on your turn you can push them out!
Another VERY important skill that should not be neglected to give to a line elf very early on is Kick. Kick is a skill that can be of immense help to an elf team playing defense, because it allows you to control where the ball goes. You can kick it deep against slower teams, for instance, so that they struggle to get the ball. If they DO fail to pick up the ball, Wood Elves are the best team there is at making them pay for it. A team full of AG4 and MA7 or more is tough to stop when that happens, and Kick makes it happen more.
Some standard line elves should get Block as their first skill, while others should be given Dodge. This gives you some flexibility in your options. Remember, if your player is being blocked, the Block and Dodge skills are both equally effective at helping prevent your player from falling. Both affect one of the 6 possible block die results. In fact, in some ways, Dodge is more effective on early teams, because many opponents you will face will not have Block either, and so will be obliged to take another die result to avoid a turnover. Dodge also, of course, has the added advantage of allowing you the reroll to dodge away from danger.
However, if you are the player making the block, Dodge has no effect whatsoever. The other disadvantage of Dodge, of course is that there is a skill that negates it, Tackle. There is, of course, no skill that negates Block. It is therefore wise to get some of both, and endeavor to use the players as their skills are assigned. In other words, if one of your line elves needs to make a block, make every reasonable effort to make sure it's one of the ones with Block, not one of the ones with Dodge!
As the second skill, of course, many of these line elves will take the other of the 2 skills... the ones who took Block first can take Dodge, and the dodgers can take Block. Anyone who has played much Blood Bowl can tell you that having a team full of players with both Block and Dodge is a very, very good thing.
Another example of line-elf specialization is to make an "armor specialist". (Wood Elves would never call themselves "Dirty Players"!) Give them Dirty Player, then Block, then Dodge. One or two of these is a good number, though you'll usually only need one on the field at a time (the other is a good backup in case the first is injured or ejected).
Some people even consider making a catcher or two out of the group, but I personally don't ascribe to this theory, since all your players are AG4 anyway, and because that's what catchers are for.
Also, early on, remember that you have more line elves than you will when the team is fully developed. The exact number depends on what specific rules your league uses, but even if you are allowed no star players or allies on your roster, there will always be 2 extra line elves. (2 Throwers, 2 Wardancers, 4 Catchers, only 8 positions left). Use one of these for a Leader, if you're willing to use a doubles roll on one (see below). That way, when your team develops and gets more rerolls later on, you can just fire him. Use the other one as a "screw-up guy". This could be a death, a serious injury (niggler or downgrade), or just a guy whose skills just didn't develop right for whatever reason. Then if you can get to a full roster and still have this guy, you can fire him as well. I wouldn't do that unless you have a pretty full roster though, because in general, even a poorly developed elf is better than no elf at all!
The most important thing to remember when assigning skills to line elves is what to do with doubles. Give them Guard generally, but some line elves may be better suited to Dauntless or even Frenzy, depending on their role and specialization, or if they have already gotten Guard and roll doubles again. Guard can make a very substantial difference in your ability to stand up to more bashy teams, in a directed and limited fashion. A little bit of Guard, used responsibly and carefully, can go a long way to making your team able to handle the rougher situations that, alas, are occasionally unavoidable.
Many people I've talked to suggest Leader be used with doubles on a line elf as well. Clearly, if you're going to have a leader, it should be on a line elf. However, I am not convinced that the skill is worthy of a doubles roll in most circumstances. If you do spend a doubles roll on Leader, do so on a player that you would not mind firing later as you build up a suitable number of team rerolls (see above about extra line elves).
Here is an example of this specialization, in it's beginning stages. (The roster looks crappy because it's old, but at least it's readable!)
One final note about line elf skill progression. If you roll MA or AG upgrades, I would actually suggest not using them, especially if the MA upgrade is a doubles roll. In general, I find that the line elf's starting stat line is sufficient, there is almost always a better skill to give a line elf. AG 5 is also somewhat overrated for them. The one exception to this is in the case where a line elf has already rolled doubles and gotten guard. In that case, AG5 is useful because it allows the elf to get in places to make the Guard more useful. Such a player who also gets Block, Dodge, Leap, and/or Sidestep can become a true terror. Of course, that's a lot of skills we're talking about.
Under no circumstances should anyone ever turn down +ST. I almost didn't add that because I think it's pretty self-evident.
I tend to specialize my throwers with their skill growth, as well. Since I only buy one at a time (see Acquisitions section below), one thrower is always going to be superior to the other (unless one dies, which is actually pretty rare).
This 1st thrower is my "offensive" thrower, and he gets Sure Hands, Accurate, and Safe Throw. This allows him to throw the ball extremly well, and extremly far should the need arise, without fear of interception. He's basically a pretty standard thrower.
The other, later thrower (I usually buy him when the 1st reaches 31 SPP's, at the earliest, so as not to stunt his growth), becomes the "defensive" thrower, and he gets Sure Hands, Dodge, Block, and Safe Throw. He takes Dodge and Block because, on defense, the thrower is often getting himself into slightly more dangerous situations, and therefore he needs to be able to defend himself a bit. Also, it's nice because that way he's not a defensive liability.
Doubles rolls on throwers should generally be rewarded with Strong Arm. The defensive thrower type may also wish to consider Guard.
Statistical upgrades are almost always acceptable for throwers. AG upgrades are very nice, ST upgrades are good for anybody, and MA upgrades end up shortening throws, which is also a good thing. You usually won't turn any of these down. An exception is that it would probably be preferrable to have Strong Arm with double 5's, as opposed to the +MA.
For an example of thrower development, check out this roster (the defensive thrower is #12).
Wardancers, by default, and by virtue of the high MA, and Leap skill, need to be your hitters, blitzers, and "ball extractors". As such, good skills for them include Tackle, Strip Ball, and Side Step, and if you're lucky enough to get doubles, Dauntless and Mighty Blow. Don't discount the usefulness of Mighty Blow, particularly on Wardancers, who will be doing most of the hitting typically. That extra +1 makes a big difference; every player on your opponent's team you can get off the field helps maintain the balance when you lose elves to injury, and you will! Another good use for Wardancers is to give them Tackle and Shadowing, and with their high MA, they can give most players fits!
Another great fact about Wardancers is that they can really use any upgrade they get, especially if they roll it early in their careers. A ST4 Wardancer is one of the most coveted treasures in the whole world of Nuffle, and an AG5 one isn't far behind, as it really helps those Leap rolls. Even MA upgrades are useful, what better time to try that Shadowing/Tackle suggestion mentioned above?
Wardancers are arguably the best players in the game (which may explain why they're among the most expensive). Learn to use them effectively, and you're a long way towards winning already!!
Check out my awesome Wardancers for an example on how it's done!
Important! If you roll a Movement upgrade for you first skill on a catcher, you needn't read past this paragraph! Make him/her a one turn scorer. The only other team that can do this regularly (in fact a bit more regularly) is Skaven, so take advantage!! Give him Sprint, then Sure Feet, then Leap. Then just use him on offense only, and then only after the opponent's wizard (if any) has been used if you value his life, he will be Public Enemy #1. Consider yourself warned!!
For the rest of you mortals out there, here are some other ideas for catcher development:
Seriously, even if you don't get 2 AG upgrades, a passblocking catcher is very nice. It allows you to interrupt many passes, one way or another, and if you can get under the path of the ball, you get 2 shots at 5+ to snag it. (For statistical purposes, a 5+ roll with catch will work approximately 55% of the time, a 4+ with catch reroll will work about 75% of the time, and the 3+ Arwen got to occasionally roll worked 89% of the time!) Even if you're forced into a tackle zone and have to roll a 6 with a reroll, it'll pay off eventually! Even though the chance of intercepting a given pass is not that high, it will often change your opponent's strategy, and you can make this work for you almost as well as getting the interception! This is also a good player to mix with the type listed below: Use Pass Block to attach yourself to the catcher, then follow the catcher around the field!
Another good way to use this strategy is to dictate a passing lane for the other teams thrower/reciever. Get 2 passblocking catchers, and set up each 5 spaces from the sideline. This will force the other team to either pass over you (risking interception), or pass down the very center of the field. Either way is good for you, as with catch your chances of getting the ball are decent, and if not, the other player has just walked right into the heart of your defence, where your Wardancers are. Gravy!!
Obviously, you don't have enough catchers to do all of these options, so just pick the ones that work best for your strategy, and get a nice combiniation! Good luck, and again, if you come up with something I missed, or want to argue or verify any of my points here, feel free to tell me!
I'll end the discussion on catchers with a very good table suggested to me by Strider. It's a comparison between Catchers and Wardancers that really helps illustrate how useful Catchers can be.
Where they are the same:
|Access to General and Agility Skills||Access to General and Agility Skills|
|Start with Dodge||Start with Dodge|
Where they differ:
|Allowed to have 4||Allowed to have 2|
|90,000gp cost||120,000gp cost|
|Start with Catch||Start with Block and Leap|
Clearly, the ST2 is a major liability for the catcher, but otherwise, they compare very favorably. People will (rightly) fear and respect your Wardancer, but they are likely to overlook your Catchers in some respects. This can work to your advantage.
This second section is going to be, thankfully, much shorter than the first. The focus is what you should spend your hard earned winnings on. This section assumes you used the starting roster I suggested in a previous page. This isn't because I think this is the only workable starting roster, but because you have to use something as a baseline when discussing what to add.
With that in mind, the first purchase is probably the least controversial. Almost anybody that's played any Blood Bowl at all will tell you to buy an Apothecary. With a 5/6 chance of saving a player every game, he's a must have for ANY team, but most particularly a team like Wood Elves, which is both expensive and fragile.
The next purchase would generally be a Wardancer. With the new (and improved) on-pitch Take Root rules, you could also make a pretty good case for buying a rookie treeman here. What it boils down to is the Wardancer will directly help you win more games. The treeman will help keep the rest of your elves alive, which in turn will IN-directly help you win more games. In general, I would go with the 2nd Wardancer in this situation, but your specific circumstances may dictate the tree.
For example, if you play in a league with a set schedule, and your next game at the time of this decision is a bashy team like Orcs, Dwarves, or Chaos, you should definitely give strong consideration to the tree. If you find yourself not quite able to afford a new Wardancer, but very much able to afford a new tree, buy the tree. If you find you are just generally having trouble with elves dying, buy the tree. In most other cases, however, I'd go with the 2nd Wardancer.
After that, buy whichever of those two options you didn't buy last time. Finally, it's time to start buying Catchers and a Thrower, in whichever order seems best to you as your team develops. By the time you are making these purchases, most of your line elves should have gotten a pretty good skill set, so introducing these guys to soak some away is not a major problem.
From then on out, your player purchases will just be maintenance. Replacing dead or aged players, or guys who have outlived their usefulness (like that 10th line elf with leader, after you have 5 or 6 team rerolls for example), a 2nd Thrower for defense, and so on. For big games, like in-league playoff matches, (not tourneys - this is a totally seperate issue that will be dealt with in an upcoming section 5) don't be afraid to use any money you might have laying around on Jordell Freshbreeze. He is truly a terror, and in playoff games, where team development most clearly takes a back seat to winning, Jordell is worth every penny, if you can afford it. All of the same can be said for a Team Wizard. Nice if you have the money for a special occasion.
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