Skaven Playbook Part 1 and 2

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The Skaven Play book. Part one and two together.
  Skaven Playbook  Or, Offensive Behaviour. Part 1. By Paul Gegg It's late in the match, the opposing star player is looking for alast-second game-winning touchdown and your fans are already drifting off to get drunk. But then one of your players somehow fashions a block on the ball-carrier and the ball squirms loose – another player picks it up by his fingertips and launches ahopeful pass into opposition territory - your marked catcher pulls it down, dodges out and dances into the Endzone for the winning score. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat – isthere a better feeling? This end to end play is beyond most teamsbut with the awesome Skaven, it isn't too uncommon. Sometimesthey really can achieve the seemingly impossible.The thing is that Skaven possess a unique collection of qualitiesthat allow them to scurry between opposing legs, nick the balland rack up the scores - incredible speed, access to AG 4 playersand bargain-basement price cannon-fodder so they can afford afew substitutes too. Add a bit of brute-strength, albeit unreliable,in the shape of a Rat-Ogre and they are formidable as well as funto play.Not all of you will remember when Skaven first appeared on theBlood Bowl stage. It was way back in White Dwarf 86 (1985?) when we were introduced to the Skaven Scramblers, led by star-thrower Breeet Braingulper (although my favourite was thegrotesquely-obese Glart Smashrip). So having been around sincepractically the game's invention, it was therefore somewhatsurprising that no playbook came along until Jim Mawby's BBMag 10 Article in 2003 and even then, that's been the only doffed-cap to the Blood Bowling Rats. Well here I am to re-address thebalance. In this article I'm going to examine the players, skillprogression, some specific plays including the fabled One-TurnScore (without Stat Increases) and polish off with possiblerosters and tips for both Tournaments and League Play. RIGHT, LET'S GO  Well I guess we can start with the obvious - speed. Boy, these guysare quick. All standard players Movement 7 and rookie Gutter Runners can cover up to an amazing 11 squares. Even the BigGuy is fleet of foot! Terrific movement - so make the most of it.Spread your players out and watch your opponent struggle tocover all your scorers. On Defence; use your movement tocontinually re-deploy. Force your opponent into risky plays andtry and turn him over.Next up – Gutter Runners – they really are the stars of this team.They are the most reliable dodgers in the game and therefore arenotoriously difficult to mark. That's of course if the oppo cancatch up with them in the first place. Apart from being incredibly good at evading opposition TZs, the AG4 makes them perfectball-handlers. At only 80,000 gold pieces and being able to pick four of the little blighters, well, that's the first four spaces on theroster filled up.Skaven have always been a decent team but not really outstanding. That was probably because the Rat-Ogres were acomplete liability for a good while. The NAF tables (worldrankings for the uniniated to the growing tournament scene) atthen end of 2003 would attest to that. But with the introductionof the 2004 Wild Animal rules, the Rat-Ogre became the must-have accessory for that season and Skaven started to, probably unfairly, win too many tournaments. It really was Year of theHorned Rat. So I was quite pleased to see the Blood BowlCommission get together and remove General Access from thebig idiots at the last Rules Review. No longer a liability but not adefinite name on the team-sheet either; Skaven coaches have togo back to the little guys on the team to win the games and that'sgood news for all.No team with access to AG4 players have as cheap a basic player as Skaven. These plucky Linerats hold up the Line of Scrimmage,mark dangerous foes, rarely touch the ball and even rarer get within a sniff of a life-saving Apothecary. In fact, you've got to wonder why they do it at all, but at 50,000 gold pieces per rat, you shouldn't complain.Did someone say Mutations? Apart from the rather uncompetitive Chaos (certainly at low TRs), Skaven are your only opportunity to try out the fun Mutations. I'm not sure any of them are so brilliant that you must choose them when you roll adouble, but they certainly add flavour to your games - thoughthankfully still no 'Spontaneous Combustion' (remember thatfrom 2nd Ed?). More on Mutations in the Players section.Okay, so far so good. They need a major weakness to make thembalanced and you don't have to look any further than Armour  Value of 7. Nearly one in two floored players will be at leaststunned. If you are not careful, very quickly you will be playersdown - a KO and a couple of stuns and suddenly those AG4players are starting to look a little lonely on the pitch. A complete  kicking can quickly follow. The best defence against being beatenup? No doubt about it - score. Or at least look like scoring. Your opponent (unless he is really canny or mad) will be doing hisdamnedest to stop you scoring and is less likely to be beating youup at the same time. Besides, as your KO box will almost certainly be busier than your opponents, the more scores, the morechances you get of replacing your injured comrades.In the end, you've got to go to toe-to-toe sometimes to force theball loose on defence and those Runners will come a cropper assoon as your oppo starts targeting them, so look after each andall of your players. It's a fine line between being beaten up andlosing heavily and being beaten up and still winning. Often it's just one stupid Linerat that makes the difference. Stay alive and you always have options.Overview complete - let's look at the players in a bit more depth. THE PLAYERS Storm Vermin. These are your blockers. Block and AV8 meansthey are tougher than all your other regular Skavs. They cansurvive at the Line of Scrimmage (although I don't recommend you start them there) and are noticeably more tricky to get rid of permanently. But at 90,000, you are paying 40,000 for Block andan AV point, so I don't know about having more than one initially, whatever your format. One, however, is a necessity so you canblock at least one per turn with negligible risk of turning over.Normal Skills: Tackle and Guard.Double Skills: Dodge or Claw (you've even got a ready-mademiniature). Gutter Runners. These are your play-makers. Movement 9, Agility 4 and Dodge. I nearly always field the maximum (althoughpossibly only three at a league outset). Ball-handling on 2s, tricky to take down and even cage-breakers in the right setting. I'dalmost be willing to call them the team Blitzers.Normal Skills: Block and Side Step - a blodging, side-steppingGutter Runner can cause absolute bedlam for an opponent'soffence as he just can't be pushed away from the ball-carrier.Other Normal Skills: Shadowing as an addition to Block andSide-Step. With Movement 9, your opponent is likely to give uptrying to escape on foot. Add Diving Tackle on top and any opponent's rushing game could be stopped in its tracks. At a later level of progression, Pass Block is also worth consideration for defence-minded Runners.Key Normal Skill: You NEED Strip Ball. More on that later.Double Skills: A little controversial but Dauntless; partly becausethen you have a player that can get into all sorts of positions for a one-dice blitz but also because on a second double, Horns thengives you singularly the best player in the game. “Movement 11. Agility 4. Strength? One more than you”. Alternative Double Progression: Very Long Legs - never chosen itmyself as Dauntless seems useful throughout the game whereas VLL followed by Sprint only really provides you with a“cheesy”(or is that just mice?) one-turn scorer. My advice; go withthe Dauntless and be ahead so you don't need to rely on the one-turn score.I should mention Stat Increases here too. Runners get so many SPPs that stat increases come by fairly regularly. I'd go withDauntless on a Double 5, but take the stat increase elsewhere. An AG5 Runner can do things that make your (and certainly your opponents') eyes weep let alone a ST3 Runner. The mindboggles. Throwers. I don't like them personally. You wouldn't put up withan Elf Thrower with AG3, would you? No. So why take risks withball-recovery when you have AG4 players around? Still, they are your best bet for ball-handlers should you find yourself out of Re-rolls with alarming regularity and many good Skaven coaches usethem extremely well. With Accurate they even become better passers than the Runners and they have in-built immunity toStrip Ball. Should you find yourself in the position of an AGincrease on a Thrower; cherish and protect him.Normal Skills: Accurate and Block, then maybe Safe Throw.Could go Dump-Off but I always feel it's a bit risky to throw theball away during your opponent's turn (no Team Re-roll should your Runner fail to catch it).Double Skills: Big Hand for picking up on 2s in TZs (with SureHands Re-roll) is really useful. Otherwise, Strong Arm to improvethrowing success even more. Linerats.  As mentioned before, the great thing about these guysare that they are expendable so can be used to tie up dangerousenemies and are cheap enough to allow for a few substitutes.They don't tend to attract many SPPs though, so try and givethem Block and they have a chance of getting to 16 SPPs beforethey die or get too injured to carry on.Normal Skills: Block then Tackle.Other Normal Skills: You should have at least one Dirty Player.Make sure you only foul key opposing players (Wardancers,Ghouls, opposing Gutter Runners etc) as fouling means your Runners are more at risk should they be on the floor. I hardly ever foul without this skill as you've got enough numericalproblems without getting players sent off too.Key Normal Skill: Kick. You NEED Kick. More on that later too.Double Skills: Guard is great for your Line of Scrimmage, as isFoul Appearance. FA has the added advantage of causing passingteams bit more of a headache, though one is only a mild irritantrather than a full-scale migraine. Leader could also be consideredif you are short on Re-rolls. Rat-Ogre. Now that these guys have lost Block as an easy skillchoice and obviously can't use Team Re-rolls, they are back tobeing unreliable. So you've got tough decisions to make. Do you want to use your blitz on a player that will waste it one in six times and will then turnover fairly regularly? In a lot of cases, theanswer is still yes as you don't necessarily want to try and pass a4+ Wild Animal check to move him into a better position.Mitigate this by using him towards the end of the Turn or givemore thought to where you deploy him in the first place.He is incredibly annoying to opposing dodgers (whether he is wild or not, unlike a boneheaded Ogre), especially with thatPrehensile Tail. Frenzy can help him get close to opposing cage-protected players and also be used to even up numbers by pushing unsuspecting players off the pitch. But beware of canny opposing coaches who line up defensive assists for the possiblesecond block. What with all the other skills, Mighty Blow is fairly unheralded on these guys, but that helps hit players stay hit andagain even up the numbers.Normal Skills: Break Tackle means that he can dodge through asingle TZ on 2s and even into a three-TZ cage on 4s. Guard willalso help the Linerats around him get a leg-up in a possibleblocking war.Double Skills: BLOCK! Pro, Claw and maybe even Tentacles would be nice afterwards but he progresses so slowly that you won't be getting more than one double on this guy so justremember the block, right?  OFFENCE  A lot of people have scored a lot of TDs with Skaven over the years and, unless you are new to the game, then much of the info below should already be known to you but I will summarise the key plays. Most of which are achieved in two-turns, so set-up is important. 113124136141928467531110101516  Skaven in yellow. Against what is actually a pretty good defence (5-5-1), StormVermin 10 and 11 should be able to combine to knock- down/push Blue 1 out of the way and then blitz Blue 6 (with an assist  from Linerat 6) to open a channel into the backfield. Gutter Runners are 13-16. This offensive set-up alsolowers the potential damage of a Kick-Off Blitz! Generally one Gutter Runner should collect and stay deep out of reach. You then need to force an opening for other Runners to getdownfield. I generally only send two downfield so the fourth Gutter Runner should be open as a conduit (I like the term 'Half-Back'),as should the Thrower. These conduit(s) should ideally be safe from being hit during the oppo's only defensive turn and maybe evensafe from being marked too. Should the kicked ball end up near the LOS, then one of the three forward Runners can pick up and runback towards his own endzone. The deep Runner can then take his place at the LOS, leaving the other two LOS Runners to head intoopposing territory. Got that?  Let's examine some of the plays: Two-pronged Attack: Force a hole, or holes, in the defensive line and send a Runner down each of the flanks if possible. The 5-5-1defence actually makes that unlikely but you won't always be playing against 11 or good defensive set-ups. Most tournament and early development teams (excluding Dwarves) will only have one tackler at most. Make the most of that by forcing the tackler to choose whichflank he defends. You'll have at least one Runner standing and possibly two come your next turn. Hand-off to the Half-back and passinto the Endzone for a waiting Runner or pass to the Half-back for a hand-off (although the markers will need to be blitzed off thepotential scorer). Good opponents will recognise the threat of the Half-back but the long pass is still achievable on 4s (75% chance of success with Re-roll) if you want to/are forced to miss out the middle man.  11312413614192847531110101516  Following on from the 5-5-1 defensive set-up, I have knocked Blue 1 down, though not off, and blitzed  Blue 6 (and stunned him, therefore he's missing). Linerat 3 is marking the oppo safety (possibly thetackler) and Runners 15 and 16 look ominous. Runner 13 has the ball and Runner 14 is acting asthe Half-back. The oppo will concentrate on covering 15 and 16 and if both aren't fully covered, it's aneasy play to blitz the Half-back's marker away and then use him to transport the ball up to either  possible scorer. Concentrated Attack: Run the two Runners down the same side. The Oppo's defence isn't stretched but the Runners can screen for each other, can dodge out of TZs easy enough to help with assists and are well-placed to pick up future dropped balls. By focusing thedefence on one side, it also possibly leaves the other half of the field open for your next turn... The Feint: Used when you have two downfield Runners in the Concentrated Attack being tightly marked. You need a back-up plan. Usethe fact that your oppo has over-committed on one flank to attack the other side with your Half-back (or even the end of LOS Linerat).Then it's a matter of screening with all available players; Runners and the unmarked Linerats, before dodging as many other Lineratsout as you can manage. 1131213614192847531110101516 The opponent has swamped the possible scorers,marked the Half-back and knocked a Linerat out. Runner 14 or Linerat 2 can be blitzed free toreceive the ball before heading downfield. Runners 15 and 16 can easily dodge out backtowards half-way and through the gap between Blue 2 and 10, setting up a screen. See insert.
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