Kick-Off Return (General)
A player on the receiving team that is not on the Line of Scrimmage or in an opposing tackle zone may use this skill when the ball has been kicked. It allows the player to move up to 3 squares after the ball has been scattered but before rolling on the Kick-Off table. Only one player may use this skill each kick-off. This skill may not be used for a touchback kick-off and does not allow the player to cross into the opponent’s half of the pitch.
Kick Off Return is new to LRB5 and its introduction gives some of the slower teams a way to help combat the problems that the Kick skill can put them in. It is probably of most benefit to the slower teams as it will let them get to the ball and then either out of range of the opposition, or into the safety of a cage. It can also offer some extra protection against Blitz results on the Kick Off Table. You may even be able to move directly under the ball getting a free shot at trying to catch the ball which will skip the need (and therefore risk) of trying to pick the ball up in your first turn. The fact this happens as part of the kick off means there is no turnover risk so is clearly advantageous.
For the faster teams they are probably less inclined to take it (they have the speed already), though it does gives the flexibility of a bit of extra movement (perhaps to safety) whilst still only using one player designated to cover the backfield, instead of using two players. Again perhaps getting the free catch roll instead of doing a pick up would be advantageous, it will also make doing a one turn touchdown easier as well.
There is also the possibility to influence where the opposing coach will elect to kick if they have the Kick skill or risk not just placing it in the centre if they don’t. If you have a preferred side of their defence you want to attack and set up your attacking players towards that side, placing your Kick Off Return player slightly off to the opposite side in the backfield, then they may kick to the side you prefer, making passing the ball up to your team mates easier. I do feel this is very situational though and I certainly see it of most benefit to the slower teams who need to secure the ball in a cage as soon as possible.
The last option is to give it to players who aren’t even likely to be used to pick the ball up with, though it may be a bit of bloat to your team value. If you have it on a player you set up in one of the wide zones, in mind of pushing down the other side of the pitch. After the kick off scatter, you can choose to move him three squares towards the other side of the pitch, meaning during the players actual turn there is more flexibility to moving him somewhere perhaps more useful.
The most likely to take this skill are Dwarf Runners and Orc Throwers. Dwarf Runners aren’t exactly slow but the rest of the team is, so the further up the pitch you can initially form the cage the better. Orc Throwers are fairly slow so being able to cover more squares will let them get into a cage, especially if the ball lands really deep. It still probably isn’t their first skill, I believe Block would be best first, though it can be considered for a second skill.
For any other player likely to take it I can’t see it being taken as an early choice as there are probably far more useful skills to choose instead. If you get a skill increase on a fairly well developed player who you typically set up in the back field and are unsure what to give them, then consider if Kick Off Return will be of any use to them and your strategy.
Kick Off Return can give you an extra boost of movement which can either combat tricky situations where the ball lands somewhere nasty, get you a free catch roll on the kick off, negate your players own slowness, get the ball further up the pitch in your first turn. It isn’t necessarily a great choice as it can be somewhat combated by just setting up two players in the backfield as was done in previous editions. I’m yet to be convinced that it is a worthwhile choice on most players as they are forgoing another skill which perhaps will get more uses in more situations.