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Cages play a big part in lots of Blood Bowl matches, so learning the best way to break or to halt the progress of a cage, are key strategies to know.

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Cage Breaking

Cage Breaking Overview:

It doesn’t take long before you start to see the potency of a cage during a game of Blood Bowl. A well played drive involving a cage can be very hard for a new coach to defend against. They may struggle to either break down the cage, or if the manage that, to prevent a touchdown anyway. Whilst players try to learn how to use a cage effectively they need to learn the opposite of that, by how best to stop a cage effectively. This typically will involve stalling the cage up so that it can’t progress or to break the cage so that the ball carrier ends up exposed. There are also methods to get the ball loose from a cage which can cause problems for the other team, or end up with your team gaining posession and sometimes even taking the ball off and scoring!

Type of Opposing Cage:

When looking to defend or break a cage the first thing you should be looking at is the type of cage that you are up against. The type of cage will often determine the best method you should attempt to use to counter it. Different methods will work better against different types of cages and also the recovery from your defensive attempts can vary depending on the opposition as well.

Slow Plodding Cages are probably the one that springs to mind when someone mentions a cage. These are ones used by teams that can’t move very fast but have players that are good at blocking, strong and or high armoured. They will often have players of low agility and don’t have much flexibility when it comes to moving the ball around. Typically used by Dwarfs, Orcs, Khemri, Chaos Dwarfs, Nurgle.

Fast Agile Cages are the opposite end of the spectrum where the players will usually have high agility and movement and can move the cage and ball around the pitch with great ease. They will often be medium to low armour and strength and won’t usually be able to just hit their way through. They can however move the ball around a defence or pass the ball past the defence if they get receivers in place. Typcially used by Dark Elves, High Elves, Wood Elves, Elves, Slann, Skaven and to some extent Humans.

Running Cages would be those that fall somewhere in-between the two above, though usually they would prefer to avoid passing the ball at all costs. Whilst agile cages will usually run the ball they can pass the ball at will much easier compared to the run focused teams. These teams will be a bit more flexible in their approach, looking to hit their way through weaker teams and look to outmanoeuvre the slower ones. Typically this will be used by teams that don’t fall into the other categories. Humans probably focus more on this style though they have the skills and speed to execute passing plays better than others of this style. Others would be Undead, Necromantic, Lizardmen, Chaos, Pact, Norse, Amazon.

Ogre, Halfling, Goblin and Vampire teams tend to offer more unusual play styles and while they can cage it is hard to put them into a group as they have other options available to them utilising Throw Team Mate and Hypnotic Gaze. This is extraneous to the article anyway.

Realising the play style that you are facing against and utilising the right defensive tools to counter them is key. If you opt to use one cage breaking strategy against the wrong play type, you can end up making things easier for the other team. This is obviously the total opposite of what you are trying to achieve!

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15 Responses to Cage Breaking

  1. RedDevilCG August 22, 2010 at 7:01 am #

    Great article Coach!  I really like how you went in depth on all the different cages and cage breaking style.
    Just a note on leaping, Pro could be considered a skill that could allow you to re-roll a failed leap; though it’s only a 4+ that you get the re-roll, of course.

  2. Alco Engineer August 23, 2010 at 1:30 am #

    Great in depth article. I’ve ben waiting to read your thoughts on cage defence, and you’ve gone over and above.

  3. Gio August 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    Thanks Coach for yet another great article. Let us not forget the best anti-cage tactic: preventing the cage from forming. This might be easier for some teams; but, by and large, trying to isolate the ball handler (and perhaps those few players that want to form the cage) from the rest of the team may prove to be devastating for the offence. This won’t happen all the time (specially against experienced coaches), but once in a while it allows the defence to score during the opponents drive.

    • Coach August 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

      Not letting it form is obviously a good point, though this article was about what do to when it has. I thought about putting that in but I’ll be covering it in another article and didn’t want to drift too far from the subject.

  4. danton September 23, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    Just revisiting this article which is very comprehensive and good to read every now and again in order to remember to sometimes consider all of the defensive strategies available! I think one of the hardest parts of this game is knowing when to commit and knowing when to hold back on defence, especially as an agile team coach. Obviously the uncertainty of the dice rolls will never make it an exact science either.
    Anyway just wanted to point out one other way that you can attack a ball carrier in a cage, which I have not seen mentioned here. This applies mainly to dark elves and is not a strategy that I use personally, although I have had it used against me with a certain amount of success, so I think it merits consideration. An assassin with Leap can be a great cage breaker, especially against low armoured teams that have a ball carrier with Block, Dodge and Sure Hands protected in a cage. Leaping in and stabbing a ball carrier like that who has Av 7 can be a good way to get the ball loose and no amount of Guard on the cage corners can prevent it.
    Obviously the risk when making the leap is the same as usual, but at least re-rolling the leap successfully means that you don’t have to worry about the block result coming up skulls afterwards as the stab will either succeed or fail regardless. It also helps if the assassin has Block and Dodge in order to be able to withstand the retaliation blocks that will come afterwards.
    So, I would never make this a main strategy, but it is worth mentioning because it can be surprisingly effective. Also the dark elf star player Harkon Heartripper comes with Leap, although the fact he has Loner makes a riskier play to pull off with him.

  5. Altaem December 23, 2010 at 12:23 am #

    Always good to learn I am a new coach. Curse my weakness of attacking the rear of a cage.

    Most of the time I choose to slow the cage with around half my players. The other half I use to kill off any exposed opposition. Once I’ve secured a number advantage I’ll swamp the cage from all sides.

    Experienced coaches will then hand off the ball and run away leaving me looking stupid.

  6. Coach December 23, 2010 at 12:25 am #

    Yes that is a common mistake, the rear of the cage can look tempting though it can often just leave you out of position.

  7. GeneralKDI February 8, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    What would you do against a slann cage, where if you don’t circle the entire cage, they can always find a way out through leap.

    I love to play this team, and when I use a basic cage, most time the other player try to circle me using most of their players, leaving a catcher alone. I just leap out in the open and make a pass, diving catch makes it easy.

    • Coach February 8, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

      Depends what team I’m playing, generally though mark their players up, if they want to keep trying to make leaps without a skill reroll that is fine. I try and put the pressure on to make them score quickly so I can dictate play on my own drives. Slann are such an unusual team to play with and against though, matches are much harder to predict and you have to adapt in game perhaps more than against any other team.

  8. Kaz April 22, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    Why I like Yhetees. Big strength with Frenzy and Disturbing Presence. Plow into the corner of the cage and mark the ball carrier. Then he’s hard to bring down and the Disturbing Presence bothers the hand-off.

  9. Malerun May 23, 2011 at 12:10 am #

    Great article!

    Two things “missing”:

    1 The sideline half cage. Using ball carrier and 2-4 players to guard the ball carrier. Often employed by faster teams if a number of players can run past the defense, but to few or too little space to make an ordinary cage. This most likely put them in scoring range and if defense is slower, you may not be able to get a screen between them and the end zone.

    2 If the offense’s remaining players are near the cage, marking them could give the opportunity to chain push you own player into the cage in your next turn. If that succeed, that player can block/stab the ball carrier. Or if he can be pushed next to a cage corner, he can block him and make space for the blitz.

    • Coach May 23, 2011 at 12:15 am #

      Thanks for your comment, that second point was certainly an option that was missed out thank you for that. I’m not sure what the first point has to do with cage breaking though?

  10. Fernando February 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    My tactics often involve preventing the cage to form or, if they do form a cage, hitting the ball carrier as fast as I can.
    I tend to mark isolated players as often as I can (to prevent them from joining the cage or getting ready to receive a pass) and to form a wall in front of the cage with slow players and hitting the ball carrier from the sides or rear with faster ones.
    Once, I did that and the ball was picked up by one of my mummies… It was fun caging that mummy to the EZ… It was the first time ever I scored with a Big Guy. (I just played Norse and Undead up until now and a Yehtee is even less likely a candidate for that feat =) )

    Thanks for the great article Coach. Made me rethink some of my strategies.

  11. Martin Eckhoff Andresen November 6, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Great article and great site. I can’t seem to find any coverage of the very simple tactic of just dodging into a cage. Using a ST4-player with break tackle, for example, yields a 55% chance of managing a 5+ dodge with a reroll into the cage. Once you’re there, you can probably also get a two-die block against the ball carrier, giving you a decent chance of getting the ball loose. Skills like wrestle, frenzy, strip ball and block can help you increase that chance, and frenzy might let you get the ball away from the cage altogether.

    Of course, this will leave your cage breaking player in the midst of a lot of opponents, but they’ll probably have a lot of other stuff to think about if you get the ball free. Don’t forget the move a lot of your team mates close to where you’ll be pushing the ball carrier. 🙂

    • Coach November 6, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

      Thank you for the kind comments.

      As for just dodging straight into the cage, that is the most obvious and first thing a new coach will try. So I didn’t really cover it. I only really go that route if I am heavily down on players so I can’t use other tactics. It also gets a lot less attractive as teams develop as a good cage will also have Guard players on at least opposite corners. So the article really was aimed at providing more advanced alternative options, but when the chips are down the good old fashioned head on approach can still succeed!

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