BB54: Solving Blood Bowl’s Turn Structure Problems?

Having taken a break from Blood Bowl and exploring the diverse and constantly evolving board game market I came back to Blood Bowl with fresh eyes. Board games have been gaining popularity in a big way, especially over the last 10 years and game design has changed to refine and address a lot of rules that either bog games down or make things less fun (think player elimination for one example).

There have been a lot of complaints about certain aspects of Blood Bowl over the years and whilst some have been addressed, others are still prevalent. BB2016 only made a couple of very minor tweaks to the final Living Rule Book. If the leaked second season rules are anything to go by, there are some bigger changes in the new edition but I don’t think they’ve really addressed the bigger complaints in a meaningful way.

The Aim of BB54

Blood Bowl has, like many board games, been getting more popular, the release of the 2016 edition aided this but just left the game rules mostly untouched. Perhaps the biggest single complaint I tend to see across the community, is that of stalling. The leaked rules have a very tiny section aimed at stalling players but I can’t envision it having any actual impact on the way a lot of games go. Another long standing complaint is about the lack of passing. The leaked rules show perhaps the biggest forthcoming change, which I guess is a bid to address this. Again though, I don’t think the amount of passing will really differ in any large degree. The changes may mean that more teams take Throwers when they ignored them before. The second season rules have left the root causes for stalling and lack of passing untouched.

When I was younger I would just respond to stalling complaints that if you learn how to play against it then you can limit it (though it’s nearly impossible to entirely counter it if the other team gets early injuries on your team). Coming back to the game I still see stalling as a hotly contested issue, it’s clearly impacting on the enjoyment of some players and can drive others away from the game entirely. So whilst the refrain of “play better” isn’t exactly false, wouldn’t the game and community be better if everyone was enjoying it and we didn’t turn away players that may otherwise stick around?

The Hypothesis

Having given the stalling and passing issues a lot of thought, the two are somewhat related and I feel both could be attributed back to the Blood Bowl turn structure that was introduced with 3rd edition in 1993. I believe this was introduced to put a time limit on games, as with second edition games would last until one team scored x number of touchdowns. Again I want to point out about the evolution of modern board game rules and highlight that the current Blood Bowl turn structure has been around for 27 years. I was a very active participant during the Living Rule Book era of Blood Bowl and whilst a lot of improvements were added, I don’t recall the turn structure ever really being put under the microscope.

If the turn structure has never been thought of as a problem before, why am I now pointing it out as being a problem? If it’s not broken why fix it? To highlight why I’ve come to the conclusion that it could be improved (I understand that for a lot of coaches they still won’t see it as a problem and they are perfectly fine with stalling, I was the same and can still enjoy the game that way, that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon) I should explain what it is about the current turn structure that is problematic.

With a half of a game being constructed up of eight turns for each player and then just ending regardless, the coach that receives the kick off gets to generally dictate the flow of the game if they can avoid turning the ball over. The longer they take to score a touchdown the less turns the opposing coach gets. The less turns you have to score in, the harder it is to do. So on that basis alone the current turn structure encourages you to stall out as long as possible to deny the opposing team turns to score back on you. Some may say that is just good clock management and I agree with them! It’s the game that is encouraging you to do that and for a lot of coaches this can affect their enjoyment of the game. It can be particularly jarring for someone who is new to the game, or comes from a non stalling league into the tournament scene.

There are other reasons why you would want to stall. For example if you got an early advantage in terms of player numbers, if you scored as early as possible you give the other team a chance to get some more players back on the pitch. So again the game encourages you to take your time to score. This is even more pronounced if you were the kicking team and managed to get the ball and the numbers advantage. You score on the last turn and then there is only one chance to get players back on the pitch as it avoids the frequent 1 dead turn at the end of a half.

This also goes hand in hand with the lack of passing. Why don’t teams pass? Quite frankly it’s far too risky for most teams to do so. Even the teams that are good at it, it’s much safer to just do a hand off. The other part of it is that if you are taking as many turns as possible to score, why would you bother passing it to move the ball up the pitch even quicker? Interceptions whilst a fun aspect to the game are devastating if you want to win. Thankfully the leaked rules have made intercepting harder to do which I think is a plus. Generally though passing is both too risky and also unnecessary if you’ve got eight turns in which to score.

Using those reasons as a basis I thought about what can be done to address them. The most obvious conclusion I came too was that if you give both teams x turns to score then you remove the single biggest reason to bother stalling with in the first place. Job done, problem solved right?

The Anti Stalling Rules Problem

I just wanted to quickly address any anti stalling rules that punish a team for not scoring when they can. This is just terrible game design. If the game rules are set up to encourage you to stall then you shouldn’t be punished for doing so. The rules that encourage that play style should be addressed and you shouldn’t then just create extra rules to punish players for playing.

BB54 – Potential Issues

How Many Turns Do Different Teams Need To Score

If you give both teams x turns, then it opens up a lot more questions. The first one is how many turns should each team have? This is a potential can of worms. The fast agile teams can score in two turns (especially when developed) somewhat reliably, though most teams will really struggle against even a basic defence. Three turns opens up more options and four turns gives you a safety net. The issue is with the slower and less agile teams.

The most problematic from this perspective would be both Dwarves and Khemri / Tomb Kings. I’ve not played a great deal of either team though five turns seems doable (I’d like to hear input, especially from Khemri coaches). There’s no reason that if this turns out to be a problem for those teams that their rosters couldn’t be tweaked to give them a bit more speed.

Along with stalling, games vs Dwarfs are often complained about, typically due to them being boring (I don’t personally agree with this, they stall just like nearly every other teams does). If you force them to also have to develop the team to defend instead of just playing to eat up the clock then the boring dwarf complaints may go away, or at least find something else to complain about!

The Real Life Game Time Problem

Making this change would go from 2×8 turn halves for each team, which would be 32 turns, or 16 turns in a half. If we give both coaches a five turn drive each and do this once in each half, we’ve now gone up to 20 turns a half or 40 for an entire game. This makes an already fairly long board game take even longer. Not a problem for a lot of people, but in a tournament setting some games already get called for time. If you give more time per games then that may result in getting less games on the schedule, if anything I’d rather speed games up and fit an extra game in. It’s fun meeting new coaches across the board, or extending decades old rivalries even further against old foes.

My next thought was that why do both coaches need the same number of turns in a drive / half / quarter / period? It’s this set up that produces that single dead turn where you have to go through the whole procedure of rolling for knock outs, settings up both teams, doing the kick off and then getting 3 or four hits on the opponent team before doing it all again. These turns are pretty much pointless and a waste of time other than maybe gaining SPP in a progression format. There is also the possibility of going for a one turn touchdown in this dead turn. For most teams this means setting up and getting a lot of chain pushes, passing the ball forward, doing some dodges and go for its, all typically having used all their rerolls up already. This can turn the dead turn into a longer turn, that for most attempts ends up being a waste of time. If you feel it would be a shame to eliminate this possibility then don’t worry you can just try it on the first turn of your drive instead and as a bonus the other team won’t likely be set up to try and stop it!

Getting rid of that dead turn has a couple of advantages. First it stops wasting that time of dead game play. It will remove turns from the overall length of the game, or bring it back to a similar number we already have. It might also encourage more passing. What if on the last turn of your drive you need to commit to doing a risky passing play to score and the other coach doesn’t get a turn after yours? You can go all in on the pass and not have to look to mark their players for a potential turnover return score the other way. It also opens up an easier pass attempt that gives an interception possibility, rather than doing more rolls and a harder pass to avoid that interception attempt. If you do get intercepted, then the opposing coach is still happy to get the interception and you’re not double doomed by them going the other way and scoring. It’s not just passing that becomes less of a risk on this last turn, but even a single player making a break for it on their own doesn’t need to worry so much about falling over and coughing up the ball. This final turn could be taken quicker as you don’t have to mark opponents or move your own players in position to protect against the ball coming loose in your last minute dash to score.

There may be some downsides to this that I’ve not thought of (shout in the comments) but I can’t see one other than it’s a change from the norm. We are now looking at the receiving team having 5 turns to score and the kicking team 4 turns to stop them, resulting in a 9 turn drive. Do this twice per half and we are up to 18 and 36 for the entire game. Still up on the current 2×8 format but we’ve cut out half the time difference and the final turn can be done more quickly.

What if we can improve on this even more and say that a drive ends as soon as a team scores? Quick and fragile teams can score quickly and take less damage. Teams that are in a position to score after 3 turns don’t have the same incentives to stall any more. It’s only going to be teams with two really slow teams that may take a bit longer. Two quick scoring teams could play four drives in as little as 12 total turns. All three turn scores would be a game of 20 total turns which would be more realistic for most match ups. I’d guess that most games would take less turns than the current 2×8 structure.

The High Scoreline Problem

Another issue that I can hear people crying is that, “Won’t this stop high scoring games?” Possibly yes it would. Limiting teams to two drives each means that we are going to get at most four touchdowns in a game. Resulting possible scorelines are 0-0, 0-1, 1-1, 2-0, 2-1, 2-2, 3-0, 3-1 and 4-0. (bold alternate scores for reading clarity) My response to this would be that most games now are probably 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1. Back in April I got former NAF president Mike to grab the scoreline frequency of games in the NAF database and he responded with this info of a total of 259,234 games:

012345678911
05,02341,89748,55116,9915,2131,549472154418
139,98461,78511,4213,48795028369112
210,6156,1611,5814591012441
31,0407351913972
4132505211
5541
61
71
259,234 NAF game scoreline frequency over 17+ years ( Sep 2002 – Apr 2020)

As you can see the most frequent scorelines are 2-1 2-0 and 1-0 with 1-1 not far behind. I’m not surprised to see this as when playing to win the safest and most reliable way to do so is via the stalling filled 2-1 grind strategy. Those four scores account for 74.15% of NAF results. If we take all the 9 possible scorelines from a 54 drive structure then that covers 93.22% of those NAF results from over 17 years of tournament results. Personally I’m happy to take that trade off given the potential benefits.

If you aren’t happy with the trade off then there is a potential rule you could add along the lines of giving teams that score in two turns on both of their receiving drives a bonus 54 drive. They saved 6 of their turns by scoring quickly which covers the real life game time to fit this extra drive in. There are two ways of looking at this, it might benefit the fast agile teams too much, it might encourage slower teams to defend better, or take skills to stop two turn scores against them.

Another option would be for both coaches to agree to shorter length drives before they start. This can open up disagreements though so I’d be careful about this. Perhaps every race can be given a drive length number and for any game the drive length is dictated by the highest number between the two races. It would add extra complexity that I don’t think it really needed but could be a house rule. You could also argue that this rule might encourage more races to develop their players to score quickly.

The Dugout Problem

One thing that you can’t avoid by changing the turn structure is what to do with everyone’s existing dugouts and pitches? There are a lot of dugouts out there which have been designed for eight turn halves. There isn’t an easy fix for this, though you can still use them to count up to five turns instead of eight. If you want to “fix” stalling then I feel this is probably the best way to approach doing so.

Roster changes that affect people’s already built teams causes far more disruption for existing players, whilst not ideal, the dugout situation doesn’t have the same level of upheaval. Some coaches may take up the modelling challenge, for printed pitches perhaps a new printed sticker can be placed over the top. Even doing nothing would mean that existing turn counting layouts are still usable with a 54 drive format.

The Rerolls, Bribes & Secret Weapon Problems

The way teams are currently set up now when it comes to rerolls goes hand in hand with 2×8 turns. I don’t really see this as a huge problem but the team rerolls rules may need tweaking. If you do fix teams to having 2x 54 drives per half then you could leave rerolls much the same. You might get one half that goes much quicker than other, though this can happen already, sure the number of turns are the same but as games go on there tends to be less players on the pitch and turnovers happen more frequently if your team rerolls have been used up.

I like the idea of just giving every team x rerolls per drive. I’d been thinking two was fine but for fast teams that might mean they have one reroll for each turn of their drive. Whilst typing this out I’m thinking one team reroll might be better? I’m really not sure, that might disadvantage teams that have less skills too much? Do you just stick with teams having their rerolls for two BB54 drives?

Also how would this affect team building and reroll values? I feel this leads more to the rules for team creation and development which is an deeper issue for another day. I still thought that rerolls needs a mention in relation to turn structure though.

For Bribes I like the idea of giving those teams who get cheap bribes a free one per drive. These teams tend to be full of Secret Weapon players. If we’re getting shorter drives where Secret Weapon teams can’t stall a drive out for eight turns any more, then their players aren’t going to get as much game time. I think this helps a little and shouldn’t cause too much of a knock on affect as it’s mostly going to affect Goblins who already are a weaker team.

I may have missed out on some other rules that are limited in how often they can be used. Master Chef, Leader Rerolls, Wizards etc. Master Chef rules would really depend on how team rerolls worked so they are hard to pin down. I’d remove Wizards entirely if I was in charge. Leader rerolls would again need to be worked based on team reroll rules and also if you stick with having 2x 54 drive halves, or if you do variable drives based on quick scores. These are all fringe rules which I felt needed pointing out but don’t really play a big part in the overall idea.

BB54 – Potential Benefits

  • Reduces stalling
    • Increases overall player enjoyment
    • Doesn’t put off new players
    • Removes complaints about it
  • Both teams have to play offence and defence
    • Stops games being 1 team stalling for 15 turns and defending for 1 turn
  • Potentially less player attrition
    • Reset to 11 players more frequently
    • Less lopsided games (games are more fun)
    • Low armour teams have a better chance of defending
  • Potentially more passing
    • Less time to score – have to move the ball quicker
    • Lopsided drive turns removes failed return score attempts on the last turn
  • Greater scoreline diversity (kind of)
    • Teams have to score quicker – may increase turnover scores
    • Teams have enough turns to score back
  • Greater team development diversity
    • Teams have to score quicker – increase in passing / scoring skills (Sure Feet, Catch etc)
    • Both teams have to defend – increase in defensive / turnover skills (Diving Tackle, Side Step, Stand Firm)
  • Greater play style diversity
    • Removes the disadvantage of scoring quickly
  • Removes single dead turns
  • Winning or losing the opening kick off is less important
  • The opening drive is less important to the overall result
  • Facing Dwarves will be less dull

I feel that there are a lot of plus points for moving to a structure such as I’ve outlined above. Some will have a greater impact that others. I get that some people won’t like them as will happen with nearly any change to anything. I think it addresses a lot of complaints that often crop up. Stalling, the lack of passing, games all being much the same as even fast agile teams will waste time to give opponents less turns to score.

Less potential attrition should make more games fun for both coaches. I’ve been involved in far too many one sides games where neither coach is having much fun when it’s 11 against 3 or 4 players for the second half (there are times this can be fun but generally that’s not the case). For low armour teams to defend against a bashing team for 8 turns often means taking a lot of hits. It’s currently a better strategy to try and force your opponent to score, take less damage and have enough turns to score back on them, than it is to defend with the aim of preventing the score. I’ve never been a fan of the rules punishing you like this, much like I’m against anti stalling rules. Both are a weakness in the game design that can be improved.

Just like there may be problems I’ve overlooked, there may be other benefits I’ve overlooked as well. If you think of any then let me know!

BB54 – The Results

This is where you, as part of the Blood Bowl community come in. I’d love to hear your feedback and reasons for why you’re thinking what you’re thinking. I’d been even more interested to hear from anyone that tries these rules out! What races did you play, what was the scoreline, thoughts from the coaches afterwards etc? I appreciate that this may be tricky to achieve at the moment, digital formats won’t support this and face to face play is limited due to the worldwide pandemic.

If you’ve got an alternative suggestion then shout that out too. It may be something I’ve already considered, or something I’ve completely overlooked. Discourse along this lines took place a lot during the Living Rule Book era. I’ve no idea if any turn structure changes would end up into a future edition, though I think it’s safe to say that no one foresaw the changes to the passing rules in the upcoming second season release.

The bottom line is that any changes that make the game more fun for more players is something we should strive for. I’d like to think that the basic premise I’ve outlined here would work as a good baseline even if it doesn’t require a few knock on changes like tweaks to the rosters for the slower teams. Anything that’s not clear or opens up follow up questions then please ask!

28 thoughts on “BB54: Solving Blood Bowl’s Turn Structure Problems?”

  1. So… I was initially reluctant. Then, as I read, I got more and more into the idea. I don’t think it entirely removes the encouragement to stall since it doesn’t remove the opportunity to safely hit (and potentially remove players from future drives) as an inducement for sitting on the ball for the whole drive. But it does remove the encouragement to park in a cage and not move the ball forward for four turns, which we do currently see. Sure, grind down the pitch. Use your five turns to do some damage. But move the ball. What it does do is guarantee both coaches a drive each half. One coach cannot win by denying the other coach a meaningful drive in one half. I have other thoughts as well.

    First, I would simplify. Call it BB Quarters. I like the thematic appropriateness of giving teams four downs (turns) to get the score and as an elf coach at heart, I feel like that’s more than enough time. But you are right that four turns might not be enough turns for a slow team (aka dwarf or khemri) to reliably score. So five turns is probably best. Make some fluff joke about how the first ork to find Nuffle’s Sacred Rulebook couldn’t do math well! However you should give BOTH teams five turns per quarter. BUT, the 5th turn for the defense only matters IF they have stopped the offense from scoring and have a have a chance to score themselves. No dead turn. I feel like this would create the crazy last turns we do sometimes see in BB as the offense took one last ditch try and the end zone and fluffed it. Now the defense might get one last crazy turn (which would almost certainly require a pass) to move the ball all the way down the pitch and score.

    Second, I think it easiest to treat RRs the same and allocate them per half (so per two quarters). I might do some tweaks to skills like letting Leader work as a RR once per quarter (so it’s a DOUBLE RR w/ the risk that it’s removed from the game when the player is KO’d or worse). This might improve some skills now that you would have a better chance to use them twice (Kick, KOR). Halfing Chef could still work as is… once per half you steal 0-3 RRs (ave. 1.5 per half), OR make it a little more reliable steal 1 RR per quarter IF the other team has one to take. Right now, a Chef could steal 6 RRs in one game and none in another (although the odds of those extremes happening is low). Under the Quarters version, they would for sure get two and might get four IF the other teams doesn’t burn them in the first drive (which the Chef would encourage) and which would increase the odds of chaos in the second quarter of each half.

    Third, thinking about Bribes and Secret Weapons is trickier. Right now, SW are priced so that you are expected to keep them for one drive. BUT that drive might (should?) last a full eight turns. Plus, many SW-heavy team coaches know the problem of having their SW only get one turn (or two) thanks to stalling. The other team receives the opening kick. IF the SW coach puts his SWs on the pitch, the other coach scores as quick as possible, forcing the SW off the pitch. If the SW coach doesn’t put his SWs on the pitch, the other coach stalls all eight turns, does at least some attrition to the other team and forces those SW to take the pitch for the dead turn after which they are ejected (or the bribe is spent). So… under certain circumstances this rule already helps SW. They get to see the pitch for at least one full and meaningful drive (however long that lasts). Under that reasoning, I am inclined to leave bribes alone. The coach gets to pick which drive to use SW on (offense or defense) and is required to get bribes to keep them longer. Another option would be to adopt the BB20 concept of leveled skills. Secret Weapon might now say SW (6+) meaning that at the end of a drive they participated in, they roll a dice. On a 6, they manage to avoid ejection. Bribes could still be used to argue this call if they fail to avoid ejection. Some Star Player SWs might have SW (5+) or better! Just a thought.

    Fourth, I would miss the rare but fun high scoring game you do sometimes see under current rules. I’ve played a 7-6 Pro Elf / Skaven score fest in a tournament. It was a blast. But I feel like that game might get replaced by the super fast game in gamer lore. “Yeah, I played a tourney game that lasted only 12 turns. We both scored on our second turn on each drive!” Alternatively, winning a 4-0 game under these rules would be impressive. I would also miss the long shot One Turn Touchdown attempt. It’s a blast even when it costs me a game. But I cannot really see the incentive to try it at all under these rules unless you can make it less of a long shot. i.e. You get a MV 11 player w/ Sure Feet or a MV 10 player w/ SF & Sprint. Then you could score and not take a single block back. Finding a way to incentivize the thrown halfling/goblin would be a way to improve these rules. It might be enough that they only have five turns. I don’t know if stunties can score in five turns without taking a crazy risk (like a tossed player).

    Fifth, Blood Bowl players are super creative. We’ll fix the Pitch/Dugout problem. Shoot, many coaches might love an excuse to buy a new dugout. This would be a big enough change that I cannot really see keeping an old team. But in my experience, that rarely happens anyway. BB20 is going to reset many leagues/teams back to rookie status.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the thorough input Lon! I’m happy to see that I managed to explain it well enough to sway your reluctance. You’re correct that it would still let some teams have some turns to stall a short while to get some more hits in, I’m all for flexibility and I don’t want to totally remove that and hear the usual chorus of how the Blood is being taken out of Blood Bowl. I could be swayed around to letting the defensive team have the 5th turn if the offence doesn’t score. I was being weary about adding too many turns to the game and if it wasn’t there as I said the offensive coach can play that last turn quicker too. Secret Weapon heavy teams like Goblins would probably be one of the focuses that was needed for any playtesting. I’ve never been much of a fan of one turn players and it looks like it’s going to be taken away and left only in the realm of Throw Team Mate and multiple pushback plays in the coming rules (movement is going to be capped at 9 according to the leaks).

      Reply
  2. As someone else who was closely involved in LRB6 all those years ago, my first instinct is that this kind of change would be a big improvement to the game. And my second instinct is that it needs testing, testing, testing.

    An improvement like this is a big, fundamental, structural change. And what we learned from working on the series of living rulebooks is that even small tweaks to marginal skills have knock-on effects that are hard to predict and take a long time to shake out. Nearly every tweak in LRB6 was adapting to what had happened earlier in LRB5, and so on.

    This is absolutely not to say that we shouldn’t discuss big changes to fix big problems. We should. And your post has convinced me that the turn structure/stalling issue is top of the list. But I just think we shouldn’t be naïve about how big an undertaking this is — and at some point we will have to talk about how it could possibly happen, now that GW has taken the game back in-house.

    (Incidentally, I too have been away from BB for a while, exploring modern board games. Although BB still holds a place very close to my heart, I’m gradually coming to terms with the realisation that this is as much for sentimental reasons and familiarity as anything else. Many of the game’s innovations in third edition were way ahead of their time; some are still innovative today. But other parts really show their age, and are increasingly a barrier to welcoming new people into the game. That’s one reason I’m definitely on board with the whole idea.)

    Reply
    • Hey Toby, yours is certainly a name I recall being quite vocal on the old TBB website at the time. I don’t think I share the same sentiment that it would be as big a change as you are making out. I don’t know if you’ve seen that passing has it’s own ability coming in the Second Season rules, I think this change would be of a similar magnitude. I’m glad to see that Games Workshop are looking to make improvements to the game, who knows what would happen with Season Three if we see that in a few years?

      Reply
      • I’d like to think you’re right. But I wonder. It’s so structural. So many other elements of the game are keyed to the current structure. You’ve identified a good few of them.

        As I said, this absolutely isn’t an argument against doing it — it’s just an argument against doing it without due diligence — and perhaps a caution against expecting it to happen easily.

        By the way, I think you may be confusing me with someone else — no doubt there were a few Tobys around? 🙂

        Reply
  3. It’s a shame that it wouldn’t fit the theme very well–but if both teams had their own ball, there would obviously be no sense to stalling.

    Reply
    • Hi James, that would certainly be the most simple thing to implement. However I think it would face too much backlash from coaches saying that you are removing the ability to actually play the game away from them. There’s a tactile element to actually moving your player to score a touchdown that would be lost and I’d envision that some would say is removing some of the fun and enjoyment from the game. I know some leagues have an anti-stalling policy in place and I think this would have the same reaction that anti-stalling rules get.

      Reply
  4. I like Lon’s suggestion to let the defending team have a fifth turn if the attacking team fails to score. This means that the scoring attempt still has some risk and retains the turnover risk that can lead to the defending team scoring.

    You could also just move directly to four quarters of 5 turns each and just have 4 mandatory kick-offs instead of the current 2. This would also allow high scoring games if teams take less time to score. It means the game would take 20 turns instead of 16, which is quite a bit more, but the more frequent rests would alleviate attrition.

    If the overall time is too long then maybe four quarters of four turns each might be an option. Teams like Khemri would be impacted, but even Khemri can score in 2-3 turns if they really have to. I think it would be a sacrifice worth making for the greater good all the same. I am in the same camp as you that thinks that the 2-1 grind has made the game stale and un-fun in many scenarios. Changes to the turn structure are needed to add more tactical depth and increase the enjoyment for both players.

    Reply
    • Thanks for responding David. You’ve succinctly highlighted why both 4 or 5 turns each are problematic and why I think 5-4 turn drives would be the better compromise. Giving the 5th turn to the defending team would make that last turn take longer as you need to cover more options and would negate any potential benefit to encourage more passing plays. As well as the actual time, it does add an extra rule in the rulebook and there is always the argument for rules streamlining (I’m on the fence). If you don’t end the drives when a team score and give the other team the extra turns, then you are back to the stalling problem where teams will score in the last possible turn to give as few turns to the opponent. It wouldn’t be extreme if you had shorter drives obviously but the same logic will apply when it comes to avoiding quick scores. It would certainly need some discussion and play testing, I appreciate you showing there is an appetite for change. Playtesting may show that giving the 5th turn to the defending team doesn’t add that much time, or that perhaps 4 turns would be enough.

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  5. Apologies if I missed it, but how do you think Weather and the Kick Off table will impact on quarters rather than halves?

    Pouring rain and Riot could be devastating outcomes for some teams – a slow team failing to pick up the ball on first turn can potentially end their chances of scoring.

    Can also see Kick becoming more prevalent as teams try to force the opposition to go backwards before coming forwards – an Orc thrower having to run back to end zone to collect will struggle to score a TD in 5 turns without overcoming animosity or multiple GFIs.

    Reply
    • Hi Chinos, I’d either just get rid of the weather table or alter it. It’s remained mostly unchanged since the original 3rd edition release (been a couple of tweaks) and it’s always affected some teams more than others. I’d also get rid of riot off the Kick Off Table. Kick might see a bit more use but it’s already a really popular skill. It would see an increase in Kick Off Return (which is combining with Pass Block into a new skill called On The Ball) which isn’t a bad thing. As it stands I don’t really rate Kick Off Return for most teams, unless you’ve got a really well developed team.

      Reply
  6. Interesting article! I’d enjoy trying the change, but I think it would primarily benefit play with fast teams – while I believe that slow teams would still be viable, I’d be less likely to choose a slow team in this format.
    I like the parallel to downs in American football, but I wonder if it could be taken further – in American football, downs measure forward progress, while the quarters (I believe) exist mainly to balance wind conditions and to give players a rest; there is no possession change at the start of the 2nd and 3rd quarters. I wonder if keeping the 8-turn halves while giving teams only 4 “downs” to move the ball into the endzone once it crosses the line of scrimmage in their possession (or if they gain/re-gain possession of the ball on their opponent’s side of the pitch). I’m not sure whether a drive ended due to lack of forward progress would be best resolved with a kick-off, throw-in, or ground ball, but I’m partial to a kick-off. This might merely shift stalling strategies to the backfield (and still pressure slow teams more than fast teams), but I think a backfield stall is more risky/ exciting than an endzone stall, and 4 turns to go 13 spaces seems very do-able even for an MV 4.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the input Ian. I think those changes would just add a lot more rules for not a lot of benefit. There are also a lot of Blood Bowl players who wouldn’t be familiar with the downs system that the NFL uses. As you mention it just means keeping the ball on the half way line until turn 5 and doesn’t “fix” any of the stalling issues. Fast agile teams already stall by keeping the ball back deep and it’s not that unusual for slower teams to only reach the half way line in turn 4. It wouldn’t solve the issue of them taking 7 or 8 turns and not leaving the other team much time on their drive before the half ends which is the main premise behind the BB54 idea.

      Reply
  7. After reading around here for a while, this will be my first comment:
    I’m completely new to the game, I recently bought BB2 for PS4 and only played against AI so far – so I won’t be able to contribute on a sophisticated tactical level.
    But I think I can cover the aspect of the game being interesting for new players 😉

    When I started playing, I instantly loved the game – but my first and so far only disappointment came when I read an article on the “2-1 grind”.
    I thought about it and came to the conclusion that that’s not what I expected, and it seriously made me think about whether I wanted to enter the game deeper, that is aim at one day playing tabletop.
    I can value the tactical aspects of stalling, but it seems completely unintuitive to me that I get a chance to score, but get punished for using it – especially as I tend to favor Skaven, so I really asked myself if learning how to perform and counter stalling was worth it, or if I should look for other games.

    I know that’s subjective – and I do not feel bad about judging a game from a subjective point of view 😉

    So first of all, I value any work done on changing the game, and the above seems like a well thought and rounded approach – as far as I can tell, which is admittedly not very far.

    Regarding the changes themselves, my first impression is that they would make the game more straight and more honest.
    The new rules seem similar to a penalty shootout at soccer – the attacker can (and is expected to) win his “turn” by scoring, the defender “wins” by preventing the attacker from scoring. Although at BB, the defender can actively score by getting the ball and counterattacking, I somehow have the feeling that this will not be the norm under the proposed new rules (but I might be wrong, especially between two fast and agile teams).

    I have many more thoughts not yet ready for printing, so I want to finish with my favorite sentence regarding changes:

    I’m pretty sure that if the initial rules had been as those you propose, nobody would have suggested to change them towards how they are now.

    So I hope to see them implemented soon – and if there is any chance of this happening soon, I seriously consider waiting for it before I start playing in a tournament 😉

    Reply
    • Thank you for that brilliant and helpful input. It’s great to hear the thoughts of someone fairly new to the game, your opinions are bound to be shared by others feeling the same and it’s hard to engage with everyone. I think your assessment is correct that if these were the current rules (or something similar), no one would be suggesting to change to what we’ve been using for over 25 years. I really appreciate you leaving that comment, it makes me wonder how many souls we’ve lost due to various aspects of the game that often get complained about.

      That being said, tournaments are still generally a lot of fun and I’d encourage trying one anyway once this pandemic has cleared up.

      Reply
  8. hey,
    i am still fairly new in the game but i do get the point. However, to avoid a full change in the way the rules are set i am going to propose to keep the current turn system but tweaking the rules. After all, when you look at BB it is a kind of mix between rugby and american football.
    In rugby you do have the same problem of stalling and the game can get very very boring. And to avoid the stalling, rugby introduce the offensive point/defensive point system. If you want to apply the same logic to it but keeping the basic 8×2, you could say
    -when attack: any scoring team within 3 turns score double.
    -when defence: if no score after 5 consecutive turns, the defending team score 1.

    Looking at the american football (please be nice, i do not understand this game much), you have the turnovers on downs. Basically if the ball does not move forward, the attacking team loose the ball and become the defensive team (ok so even if the rule is not like that this is the base i want to touch on).
    The adaptation to BB of this concept is therefore:
    -after 1st turn, if the receiving team do not move the ball forward by (e.g.) 4 squares, you have a turnover where the ball is.

    I have try the 1st option and i do like it, for the latter i never tried it but I am sure that every team could take a very nice advantage of their own (the dwarves would be excellent to force a turnover when defending, while the elfves will suffer a bit…)

    Though, with any of these 2 options, you don’t change any of the basics, but get a nice carrot to go for scoring.

    Reply
    • Hey Farf, the main issue with that suggestion would be that is would really skew the balance between races (not that this is necessarily a bad thing). I think it also introduces even more luck if you get a turnover on the first roll of a turn. The same would apply if a team doesn’t move the ball forward x squares and hands over possession. Fail a 2+ with a reroll first thing and not only do you effectively lose your turn which is already usually quite a disaster, it could hand the ball over to the other team or alter the scoring. I can’t see that sitting well with many people. These are also rules that are just being added to fix the actual rule that’s causing the problem to start with. Game design is more elegant if you sort the root problem out, rather than start patching issues with more rules.

      Reply
  9. As a newbie, I hope the following line of thought is not too far off:

    Wouldn’t those changes favor teams that, on defending, are able to harass the enemy ball carrier as early as possible, attempting to steal the ball and score a counter TD?

    Especially if the defender only gets 4 turns, a developed Skaven team with a Gutter Runner with Wrestle and Strip Ball, and a Thrower with Safe Throw and Nerves of Steel seem to be able to do this within those 4 rounds.
    But to me for a Dwarf team seems unlikely to ever score a counter TD.
    And while a counter TD always hurts, I just think it would be more devastating under the new rules, especially if some teams get much more likely to ever score one.

    Or at least counter TDs could play a different role… which might be a good thing of course…

    Reply
  10. I’m in complete agreement with the overall reasoning of this article and I have been playing Blood Bowl off and on since the first version came out. To be honest I don’t even remember how that first version felt anymore but it used to be more wild and less deliberate back then from what I can remember.

    A 54 format obviously would need to be extensively tested but overall I think it could be implemented with almost no other chances to either the game, skills, players etc..

    Obviously we would need to start value some other skills more seriously as the ultimate goal in any one drive is to either stop a score or score yourself. You should be quite happy with just stopping the other side from scoring at all.

    You probably would not see allot more scoring than in the 2-1 grind type of games but that I don’t see as a problem.

    You also would potentially see skills normally not used becoming more common, especially to stop passing plays.

    I also thing a five turn limit would make the game loosen up a bit more as most teams would need to take a bit more risks.

    I also think the 54 format would be necessary as otherwise that last defensive fifth turn might be too much a boon to especially elven teams. I think that fifth offensive turns simply is a must for slower teams to become competitive at all.

    I have tried and quite successfully run Dwarven teams where I did not do the typical 2-1 grind, just because. Scoring in five turns with a dwarven team built to do so is not that hard. Khemri teams I’m unfortunately less experienced with to tell how much of a downside a five turn limit would be. But if you use more skills on the Guardians to open play such as grab and other skills like frenzy an Juggernaut are used I believe even teams such as Khemri could do quite well in that format.

    As it would require more skills to either move or stop the ball and open up the field we would change the meta gaming of skills on players and perhaps add more skills to the lost of must have and not less… but as I said… only playtesting could find this out.

    Reply
  11. BB54 is for sure an interesting concept.
    When I was reading an idea came too my mind, but it’s not perfect and I wanted to elaborate on it before presenting it.
    However I didn’t came up with anything useful, and maybe a discussion could help bring in different takes and shape the concept.

    I like the idea of short “quarters” and that when the drive ends the remaining turns are forfeit.
    However the length of the “quarter” is critical.
    Could the decision of the length be part of the game?
    What if, for example, you have 9 turns available and you can decide to have a single 9 turns drive or 3 drives with 3 turns each?
    What if also the number of turns available could be “tesm dependant”?
    They may be fixed for each races, and/or they may be increased with good and count towards team TV.

    Reply
    • Thanks Silfuin, the idea of race specific drive numbers did cross my mind too. I think it would be a balance nightmare to implement but I could be wrong. Do teams with shorter drives then get given an extra drive to compensate? Will that give them too much of a benefit over the slower teams? If all their drives are short then they wouldn’t have the option to recover from poor dice (though you could say the same for the slower teams even with longer drive lengths). Certainly a few different ways turn structure could be implemented.

      Reply
  12. Interesting idea. I’ll come at this from the Khemri perspective (because that’s just the kind of guy I am!)

    Firstly, I want to talk about stalling (don’t we all!). Stalling does not equal instant winning for bash teams. Let me go into more detail as to why:

    Five turns is theoretically enough for Khemri to score, but the issue is that will only happen if things go well. Often things don’t. I can count on one hand the number of ‘perfect’ drives I’ve had with Khemri. Almost always something gets in the way, and you end up having to push your luck to score.

    The reason is because even if I could get the ball near the end zone in five turns, now I have to fight off the opposing team for three turns, while keeping my path to score safe. I’ve had tonnes of matches where I have tried to stall it out, but have just been stopped at the last second. Those kinds of games are tense, exciting, and what I would call high-level Blood Bowl.

    Most of the time I need the full eight turns. For example: I can fumble the pickup for three turns in a row but still have the chance to score.

    * If it were a five-turn drive, and I fumbled it once with a deep-kick, I’m pretty much boned (excuse the pun!).
    * What if I get turned over on turn one, because of a blitz or similar? Is the game over now because there’s no way in heck I will be able to save it?
    * If a throw-ra gets KOd by a rock on turn one, should I just give up and go home?

    Khemri, as you’ve said, have to stall because otherwise they lose. But controlling that stall is something that takes concentration, tactics, planning and a bit of luck. It can be the most rewarding thing in this game. Even when you do it perfectly, it can still go wrong. At the World Cup, I had a Wardancer leap in to -2DB the ball free twice in one game (against my blocking throw-ra, no less!). The game ended in a draw though, because, while he could do that sort of trickery, I had other tricks: namely, beating him down for eight turns a drive in order to give me the ‘free’ avenue of escape.

    I think I’m in the ‘stalling is fine’ camp. As you play more, and want to do better, that is where you tend to gravitate. Newer coaches don’t like it because they’d rather live fast and die young. That’s fine, too. That’s what elves are for 😉 Additionally, I wouldn’t stall against a new coach, because it’s hard to beat if you don’t know how.

    Hard, but not impossible.

    (Also, I think the reason people don’t like dwarves is the same as orcs: their armour is too high. Not enough damage, and armour breaks is where it gets exciting!)

    Very interesting article though, and perhaps I need to test it out before I nail my colours to the mast.

    Reply
    • Excellent feedback there, glad I asked you! I guess my follow up question would be how would you alter the Khemri roster to better cope with a change of turn structure along these lines? If you need a quicker way to move the ball Thro-Ras getting a good PA ability (which I imagine may happen anyway). Introduce Catc-Ras with Catch, Break Tackle and maybe Dodge? Add some more movement and agility to the team? The Kick Off table will be changing (it’s slowly in every rules change had less of an affect on game out comes, which imo is a good thing) and I’d happily alter it more if needed, or even just eliminate it. I guess answers to all of that would come from play testing different rules.

      Reply
      • In my opinion the only thing that Khemri would need is a Throw-Ra with passing of 3+ and then add a Catch-Ra with 7 MA, Break Tackle for the better dodge in addition to Catch and Dodge. Would be a pretty decent player to be honest. This should enable Khemri to move the ball decently fast to score in 5 turns.

        Reply
  13. Really nice post, thanks for that. Was nice to read. I really fancy the concept, although it would obviously require some testing. Similar idea has been discussed on FUMBBL before. Some thoughts from me:

    I think the idea of having a threat of a counter score is very important part of the game, and that won’t be such a main factor if coach on defense doesn’t get a shot at it after their fourth turn. I also believe that offense will be too easy (and very frustrating if some simple dice roll fails) if rest of the turns on a drive are skipped with a score. There’s no need to stall for certain teams, and even bashier teams tend to score quite reliably in 5 turns.

    How about taking your concept of 2 drives per half, but with one drive lasting 4 turns (including the coach on defense)? Turn wise the game would be equal in length as it is on current ruleset. Some teams like dwarves would need kick-off return for the runner, sure, and possibly other teams need to be re-designed. But 4 turns starts to be a chore for bash teams (yet still doable).

    Elves need to consider if they are willing to stall for 4 turns and suffer some damage as they are doing it (and even risk not scoring potentially!), or score fast and give the opponent a chance to score in 2-3 turns (elf counter score is pretty unlikely in 1-2 turns). This would mean that elves do get two shots at oneturning though, which might be too much.

    Also, I think passing is being promoted more if there’s a rush to score.

    Something to chew on. Thanks again for the post, enjoyed the read. 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Supa, I’m not sure that ending a drive after a team scores will make scoring too easy. If it does then maybe we will see coaches take more skills like Pass Block (On the Ball) and Diving Tackle which would increase the variety of skills taken too. Twelfman raised some valid points from a Khemri point of view about scoring in 5 turns. Forcing slower teams to play quicker will make it easier to defend against them if you know they have to rush to move the ball with their lower agility and speed. Even with that some teams may need a leg up with changes to either their stats or starting skills. It all would need play testing with a focus on the teams at the extreme ends of play styles.

      Reply

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