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:

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!

100 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.

    • 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).

  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.)

    • 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?

      • 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? 🙂

  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.

    • 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.

  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.

    • 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.

  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.

    • 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.

  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.

    • 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.

  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 😉

    • 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.

  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.

    • 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.

  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…

  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.

  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.

    • 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.

  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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  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. 🙂

    • 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.

      • Hiya, Coach and the boys! Just a quick thought: I totally agree on most of the Twelfman’s points and I’m certain that extensive playtesting will more or less define real pros and cons of the system but.. Isn’t the “easier to defend against bash teams” is kinda the whole point of the new system? Yes, there is elf-stalling and counter-td issues but the main thing is enjoyment for the players, right? Is elf-stalling boring to defend against? Me personally don’t think so (but, you know, maybe it’s just because I perceive this as a nice change of pace after the infamous 2-1 boredom). This kind of defense favors somewhat different team-building and, I dare say, a different mindset too! BB54 is trying to address both kinds of stalling in a (at a first glance) fair way and the main problem I personally see lies with players and their mindset. Twelfman stated that 5 turns is just “theoretically enough” to score if things go well but, can I assume that’s the case with most “meta”-builded Khemri teams out there? Developed mostly for stalling, grinding the pitch and bash the living hell out of the elves who, I assume, are seen by them as a main nemesis. Maybe a change to one’s mindset and approach on team development is what will be needed the most with BB54. Khemri teams are a challenge teams at its core, right? So give them this challenge to overcome and if the new turn system will be too much of a hurdle for them then a time for a more thorough re-balancing will come. And in this case I think more Khemri coaches would be happy if their team received some more ball handling benefits and if you want to grind for the heck of it then you can always register for a custom league with more-or-less suitable environment. I play mostly Skaven and Chaos Dwarves and with the latter I often find myself that I overdevelop my team for maiming because “why not?”. I can afford it and I know that after turn 5-6 it will be just a wreckfiesta of claw-supported 7-8+ armour rolls, blitzes to free my ball-handling hob (and hopefully to break some bones to that pesky sacker) and bashing, bashing, bashing. If BB54 will discourage me from doing so and make change my grind-oriented mindset to actually “attacking” and “defending” then it’s a good thing!

        I’m really sorry for possible (and highly probable) mistakes on my behalf. English is not my native language, but I try my best! 🙂

      • Hiya, Coach and the boys! Read the article and others’ thoughts on it, truly an amazing work! I personally think that the new turn system will be much welcome change even if not the instance it “releases”. Just a quick thought though: isn’t the “make it easier to defend against slower teams” thing is kinda the whole point os the BB54? Sure, we are striving to increase overall enjoyment of the game for most players out there, but aren’t we doing it by reducing (or at least aiming to reduce) the boredom and frustration that 2-1 grind and general bash stalling poses? It sure as hell that actually moving the ball, “attacking” in a football sense, not in a grinding-ur-‘umies-to-dust sense is not Khemri’s, Dwarves forte, or they wouldn’t resort to stalling I guess (well, at least not many of them, I hope), but hear me out! I read the Twelfman’s points regading the possible outcomes for Khemri and I think that the main problem lies within mindset of many bash-oriented coaches. Many (if nost the most of them) Khemri, Chaos, Dwarves coaches play these teams just for the sake of grinding, they find it enjoyable and, according to Twelfman himself, challenging and tense. If they would want to move the ball and play more active game they would just choose other team like Lizards, maybe Undead, Necro and whatnot, aren’t they? I’m not telling you that’s the case for all pure-bash guys out there, but let’s face it: stalling right now is one of the most (if not the most) effective tactics for almost any team in the game and it’s just enough of an excuse to play teams that are better at grinding the pitch than others. Does that mean that Khemri/Dwarves *can’t* play more active and/or ball-oriented? My opinion that this is not the case at all. Twelfman said that 5 turns are “theoretically just enough” for Khemri to score and I want to ask some kind of a follow-up question: Is that “theoretically enough” for your current team? Most meta-Khemri teams right now? Very little percentage of Khemri teams are built to anything but the grind, especially on tournaments, same thing with the Dwarves, but on FUMBBL and my local leagues I myself witnessed bash-oriented teams that were developed to shift their focus from grinding to more pitch control and actually moving the carrier while certainly retaining their “bashiness” (Well, those guys “played nicely” mostly for the good-relationships’ sake but it’s good enough in my book). So maybe it’s time to re-work one’s mindset if we are gonna move forward with the game? Sure, it’s not a day’s work but hey, it’s doable and I bet most of you fellas out there are realising it! Your team *will* be tweaked to stay alive (no pun intended, Khemri pals 😉 ) in the new environment and if even then the BB54 will be too much of a hurdle for some extreme-end teams like said Khemris – well, Tomb Kings were designed to be a challenging team to begin with, right? So why turn away from the challenge now?

        I play mostly Skaven and Chaos Dwarves and for the latter I know that it will be harder times for my poor ball-carrying hobs if BB54 will see light of the day, but I’m certainly excited to see how I will be able to adapt my team and shift from cpomb/fouling grindfiesta to the new environment 🙂

        Stay safe, folks!

  14. Hey Coach,

    Really good suggestion! The 4 drives per match solves a lot of the current problems, but it creates a couple of new ones, albeit smaller than the current.
    On the cons, I think that it favours fast and agile teams too much, specially on defense: you may have a chance to score on defense with fast and/or passing-oriented teams, but it becomes close to impossible with slow teams like dwarves. It encourages passing-oriented players on each team, which is good (and there should be some tweaks on team comp based on this), but I’d also add a 5th turn for the defensive team *if* the def-team has possession of the ball at the end of its 4th turn (so, if you lose possession during the offensive-team 5th turn, you still retain your 5th turn to try to regain the ball and score). This optional 5th turn doesn’t have the majority of inconvenients of a mandatory defense-5th turn, as you can go all-in in the majority of your offensive-5th, whilst giving a bigger chance to score in defense to the slow and overly-cage-reliant teams.
    The slowest teams would also need a bit of a revamp, as some of them would really struggle… five turns is doable, but with the current stats, there would be 2/3 crucial rolls: you either suceed, or you are not able to score on 5 (picking up the ball, and the some of blocks when setting up the cage). Faster teams have more leeway and probably won’t have do-or-die rolls, at least on the first turns.

    One of the things I also like a lot of this 4-drive structure is that it encourages more player specializations, instead of the typical scripted builds. We would see more lineman builds and deeper rosters.

    Thanks for the post, it’s a change that I think would rejuvenate Blood Bowl!

  15. Hmm, as I’m thinking about this, I like these changes more and more. What concerns me the most is that the pressure put on the teams to score by having shorter turn structures (4 or 5) leaves little room for mistakes and fumbles and let’s face it, they do happen quite often. Having 4 turns to score already makes me sweat depending on what team I’m playing and if I fumble the ball pickup it leaves me in a potentially awkward position. Trying to score in 3 would likely require multiple risks I might be unwilling to make as I just blew a reroll on the pickup. Might as well concede the chance to score altogether and try to bash in some skulls instead, which is stalling and not moving the ball.
    This change actually makes the already quite impactful instant turnovers even more disastrous and if I’m not wrong, this “haha, you suck, turn’s over, you lose” dynamic of BB is another one of those disliked by many which ends up putting off potential players.

    I’m sure I’m asking a common question now, but what are the downsides to simply increasing the reward for scoring?

  16. Totally new contributor here but long time BB fan (and don’t even get me started on Blitz Bowl) so bear with me as well if I’m out on the wrong pitch. I know you said most people wouldn’t follow American football, but as I read this I instantly thought this sounded like College Football Overtime rules. Both teams get a possession on Offense and Defense, toss winner decides who goes on which first (alternating choice if subsequent OT is required). Offense starts at the 25 yard line and retains possession until they score or fail to achieve a first down. Team with the most points after that OT period wins. Ties go to subsequent OT periods with scoring changes at 3rd and 5th OT.

    I personally love your rationales for a 54 turn structure and arguments that balance issues might result in some teams being massaged to create parity. I also follow that introducing a Downs/Distance mechanic would be a drastic change that might not translate for all fans, but I find myself wondering if there’s an incremental mechanic hiding in between the two? Three turns to advance the ball past the mid-field stripe earns you those two more turns to score or continue pummeling the opposition?

    DYING to see how all this translates into the new season and very much looking forward to seeing more opinions like yours, invested in this system as they are, pushing this forward. Thanks for all the hard work…and for the venue to add to the discussion

    • Hi James, I can see the thinking behind this, I just think doing that would hamper the slow teams too much. Some teams can be quite hard to stop scoring in two turns (think Elven Union) and then trying to have to do that in return with a lot of other teams would be far too hard for most people to find that a fun game to play.

  17. We have been thinking to try this in our next season and there was one thought about problem for slower versus faster teams and the ability to turn over the ball and score in the other teams offensive drive.

    The 5-4 format seem to favour faster teams a bit more than slower teams, at least in theory. Will be interesting to see how it turns out in reality. I will likely try Dwarves just because I like to know how that feels, have tried a few practice games and they went well.

    One thing that I figure is that you probably still should make the teams that score in the first drive to kick in the second/fourth quarter…. this probably make the game more fair to the slower less agile teams and will upset the balance the least.

    If neither team score then the other team will kick in the next quarter as normal.

    In the second half you also switch teams according to how you kicked in the first half.

    • Excellent, be interesting to hear the feedback afterwards.

      I’m not sure I follow what you mean by the team scoring in the first drive having to kick in the second / fourth quarter. That would be the natural way it would work if you took it turns? Team X kicks then Team Y, Team X, Team Y.

      Though I do like the idea of it being XYYX rather than XYXY, or do you mean if one team is losing at half time, then the winning team should be forced to kick first in the second half? I can get behind that idea, though don’t know how much difference it would make, but that’s what playtesting is for!

    • Excellent, be interesting to hear the feedback afterwards.

      I’m not sure I follow what you mean by the team scoring in the first drive having to kick in the second / fourth quarter. That would be the natural way it would work if you took it turns? Team X kicks then Team Y, Team X, Team Y.

      Though I do like the idea of it being XYYX rather than XYXY, or do you mean if one team is losing at half time, then the winning team should be forced to kick first in the second half? I can get behind that idea, though don’t know how much difference it would make, but that’s what playtesting is for!

      • It is a but confusing… I think that in order to make this system not totally dominated by the agility and fast teams whoever manage to score in the first and third drive automatically kick in the second and fourth drive.

        If neither team score in the first or third drive the team who received now kick in the second and fourth drive. The same if the receiving team score.

        The point is that agility team in particular have great potential to counter score where slower less agile teams have very few chances to do that, likewise are there more problem for the slower team to score in five turns.

        So it could be that one team receive the ball three times and one team only receive once… more or less as it is now as well. There always are one guarantied drive that the “winning” team will be the offensive team.

        I think this will possibly balance better between slower more bashy teams versus fast scoring teams that can more easily counter score.

        Otherwise I also like the XYYX version better than the XYXY version, more fair and balanced and similar to now… When we discussed it internally we actually only considered the XYYX version.

        But with the above it would be possible a game could end up with say XXYX or something. But it would generally mean X a likely to loose the game but not necessarily.

        • If I understand it correctly, I’m doubtful:

          In the first half, my Skaven steal the ball from some Dwarves. If I score, I have to kick in the second half, so the Dwarves have a good chance to use a better cage and end second half 1-1.
          If I do not score, I receive in second half, and have a better chance to end second half 1-0.
          So I would be better off if I do not score after stealing the ball?

          Sure, I might fail to score in second half, but I think I still might prefer receiving at 0-0 over kicking at 1-0.

          Of course I might lose the ball and have the Dwarves score…but that’s not very likely for a slow team, which is why you proposed the rule in the first place.

          But maybe I got something completely wrong…

          • No… I probably agree with your assessment… I too think it is a bad idea that way.

            The structure I think is best with a permanent XYYX drive structure. This is the way we have done our testing so far with the few games we have been able to play.

      • We are likely to just start using the XYYX turn structure first as not to complicate things… but the league will probably not kick off until January or February most likely… we have only done some Exhibition games so far.

      • One thing we discussed today is a small change to re-roll cost to teams, especially based on the fact that we now can use multiple re-rolls per turn. Teams with all 4 agility should pay 10k more, teams with 7-8 move player at agility 3+ and access to some agility skill should stay the same. Most slower teams movement 5-6 and little to no agility access should pay 10k less and Khemri should probably pay 20k less.

        More re-rolls seem to add a significant way you think about structuring a turn. 5 re-rolls can easily give you two crazy turn in a half perhaps even a third depending on how lucky you are. Both as defender and attacker this seem very important now, more so with BB54.

        I have no conclusive evidence for anything yet… but it definitely is viable to play Dwarves if you have enough re-rolls at hand. It make you rush allot more and you need it in those crucial last turns.

  18. I think this is a phenomenal idea. Seems like it would solve the problems you describe and make for a much better gaming experience.

    If some teams prove to really struggle then tweaking certain teams to fit the new turn order shouldn’t be an issue.

    One think I could see being a real pain for certain teams is spending two turns just trying to pick up the ball from kick off. This would be really detrimental as those teams are usually also the very slow teams.

    A rough suggestion for a new rule to help negate that would be if no opposition is within 3 squares of the ball then the player attempting the pick up gets a bonus to picking it up, this makes it easier to collect a dead ball and makes the defence have a legitimate reason to put pressure in the back field and get players within 3 squares.

    • Hi Mike, thanks for the response. Nice idea should slow teams really struggle, especially with the initial pick up. The same situation can be resolved to some degree by a greater focus on skills that help with moving the ball though.

      • I agree, so in play testing you’d quickly figure that out.

        Failing to pick the ball up from kick off could be crippling for the extremly slow low agility teams.

        Especially if it was to happen two turns in a row so you’d want to mitigate that and not have the issue (which is easily solved) punish teams too harshly.

        The result being that people turn away from the idea of 5 turn blood bowl which I think is an excellent idea and sounds like games would be much more fun and tactical.

        I’m super keen to try it when I can play some live games again.

        • In my opinion you will have to build more offensive scoring players and actually pursue this on all teams. Sure, for some teams it is more natural than in others.

          But players who score TD’s tend to get allot of SPP so saving up for stat increases or secondary skills to help them score quicker should not be that difficult even for slow teams.

          You might build scoring players with little to no defensive abilities so perhaps you don’t even field them unless you have too on defence anymore, especially if they are vulnerable.

  19. Hello. I got into Blood Bowl as an ex 40k and Fantasy player when I grabbed the initial Cyanide release. Afterwards, I was hooked and spent many a day playing FUMBBL online and reading articles on this site to improve. Then…all the magic went away for me. I watched a replay of a game on FUMBBL that I will never forget in which a Chaos team at higher TV absolutely murdered the other well developed and seasoned team based on some lucky injury rolls and because they had a player advantage and no need to actually run the ball…continued to injure (and kill) even more players that must have taken countless hours to develop. The player on the beating end conceded a few turns after.

    I don’t think this was exactly the tipping point for me but BB can already be so archaicly luck based that it took me out of the element seeing players stand around, blatantly ignoring a clear and unimpeded touchdown because they were obligated to press the advantage by mindlessly attacking and fouling the enemy team into a bloody pulp.

    The violent aspect of BB is great and a welcome part that makes it so special, but seeing and experiencing that type of a drive shut my brain off to continuing to invest time into the game.

    Elements of drawing out something that should be a time sensitive engagement (scoring a TD based on time or downs etc) bother me to this day as I boot up BB2 (steam sale..yay) and even other modern board games that stall to a halt in order to “game” the system for the most reward. I was genuinely interested to see what state the game was in after the new tabletop reboot and am disappointed yet not shocked that this (imho) core problem was never addressed. I am hesitant to load up FUMBBL or play BB2 online lest I get invested again only to come to the same conclusion I did hell..about 9 years ago.

    But here I am, drawn back to a game I spent many many nights on and hoping for change.

  20. If I understand it correctly, I’m doubtful:

    In the first half, my Skaven steal the ball from some Dwarves. If I score, I have to kick in the second half, so the Dwarves have a good chance to use a better cage and end second half 1-1.
    If I do not score, I receive in second half, and have a better chance to end second half 1-0.
    So I would be better off if I do not score after stealing the ball?

    Sure, I might fail to score in second half, but I think I still might prefer receiving at 0-0 over kicking at 1-0.

    Of course I might lose the ball and have the Dwarves score…but that’s not very likely for a slow team, which is why you proposed the rule in the first place.

    But maybe I got something completely wrong…

  21. For me, you’re wrong…
    I’ve not the same analyse as you, even if I’m agree about the problem (the stalling) : for you, the problem is the system… The half of 8 turns…
    For me, the problem is the state of minds of the player… If you play with stalling, you do not understand what is BloodBowl! Show me one line in all the fluff that describe a team in witch a player stay 40 minutes at one step of the End Zone, waiting for score a touchdown…
    I’m a Khemri coach (among other teams), and I’m used to score some TD (generaly the TD of victory) at the end of the 8th or 16th turn…
    Change the structure of the game do not change the state of mind of the player : there’s always a way of abuse a system : for example, is more difficult to “stall” 3 turns or 6?
    The only solution, according to my experience, is to have a go

  22. First of all, sorry for my english… I’m french…

    Secondly, for me, you’re wrong…
    I’ve not the same analyse as you, even if I’m agree about the problem (the stalling) : for you, the problem is the system… The half of 8 turns…
    For me, the problem is the state of minds of the players…
    For me, if you play with stalling, you do not understand what is BloodBowl! Show me one line in all the fluff that describe a team in witch a player stay 40 minutes at one step of the End Zone, waiting for score a touchdown…
    I’m a Khemri coach (among other teams (gobo), and I’m used to score some TD (usualy the TD of victory) at the end of the 8th or 16th turn…
    Change the structure of the game do not change the state of mind of the player : there’s always a way of abuse a system : for example, is more difficult to “stall” 3 turns or 6? I take the ball of the received team turn 2, I wait 2 turns, I score, my opponent play one turn, then I get the ball another time… Nice for me! no? But for my opponent?
    The only solution, according to my experience, is to have a good Commissioner, not involved in the match, who can manage the extremist situation and does not hesistate to intervene if necessary (as Commissioner, I’m used to say “if you don’t score this turn, the crowd will not appreciate… And they probably will throw some rock on your guy… And maybe on other…).
    Stall “one” turn can be acceptable for me, more, it’s clearly a way to abuse the system… But that’s not a problem of the game… But of the player for me.

    And about the pass : between the PA- (that prohibit the passe for some player… Not “complicate”, just “prohibit”) and the very bad passe (sorry, I do not have the name in english) witch make the ball “deviate”, I’m realy not sure that this version is better for thiskind of play…


    • The problem is it’s not a roleplaying game, it’s a competitive boardgame. You play by the rules as written, not by the fluff.

      There actually used to be a special play card where the crowd would throw a rock at the ball carrier if they had a chance to score without rolling dice and they didn’t do so, but that was an edge case.

  23. An easier method to make game length less predictable would be to roll 2D6 after both coaches have completed turn 8.

    If the 2D6 roll is less than or equal to the number of turns completed that half, the half ends, but if the roll is higher, both sides play one additional turn, repeating the 2D6 roll process afterward.

    With this method, each half would probably end after 8 or 9 turns, which is quite manageable. However, on very rare occasions, a half could last up to a maximum of 12 turns, which would definitely make coaching more interesting, and would definitely make tournament championship games very exciting. :]

    • Thanks for the comment Brian. Adding more turns is an issue when playing in a time sensitive scenario like tabletop tournaments. Also gaining one extra turn wouldn’t really help the slower teams but could give a nice boost to the fast teams. I think teams would still just play in a pass avoiding grinding stalling manner which doesn’t “fix” probably the most complained about issue in Blood Bowl.

      • What about if you start this process at turn 4 or 5? This way you should score as soon as possible to avoid the half ending before the TD, it probably wouldn’t add the number of turns by much. You could also use bribes to reroll the “end of half” roll.
        I might be very wrong though, still very new to this game 🙂

      • I can see where you’re coming from but I can’t see many coaches being happy with not getting the chance to receive, against an Elven Union team who end up scoring a touchdown every couple of turns!

    • I definitely like the fluff of a more random game length…and I would like it even more if there was bribery involved 😉

      For example a bribe could be used to add or subtract 1 from the dice roll…quite obviously a ref could be bribed to use the whistle earlier/later.
      And there might be a strength skill like “intimidate ref”, with the same effect.

      Far from being balanced so far, but the more I think of it, the more I like the idea that coaches could tamper with the number of rounds…

  24. Ok so lots of great feedback so far and I agree with a lot of what you and other have said, so I won’t repeat it.

    5/4 turns is great, done some testing as Dwarfs and Skaven and when you score, or are scored against in four turns the remainder is the 5/4 your talking about. And dam that feels good. Only low TV mind. Nothing over 1,200k as I’m a new coach.

    Offence getting last turn is a must, really encourages crazy last ditch plays.

    I feel it’s better called 5/4 instead of 54, makes it less Cyberpunky.

    Weather going I’ve no issue with but losing the kickoff table has some issues. Such as cheerleaders and coaches being useless. I’d recommend at the start of each half you roll for both of them. Means any rerolls some at a useful time and you get a heads up about any prayers to Nuffle (while also making them better).

    Sadly in 2020 passing is shit, due to “very inaccurate”. Unless you fix that passing will stay a rare last ditch move and 3 square hand off. Simply change it to being any result less than 1. Making a 6 square pass “safe” and only the long/bomb passes risky unless the player is marked. Having the ball miss and go in the right direction is fun and engaging while a random square no one has control over is awful for the game, and gives the long passing skill a really nice place, making a long pass safe and the long bomb only spectacularly fail on a 2. Obviously when marked this gets way worse, but at least you can dump of 3 squares when blitzed without worry of something stupid happening, you would need two players ganging up for that.

  25. The best and the only leally good way of solving this is to implement a system that mimics real life ”posession”.

    In BB that would be mean a limit of the number of turns you are allowed to play, when **starting the turn in posession of the ball**. For example a maximum of 16 for the whole game. That means coaches are free to play the game the way they want but at their own peril.

  26. Hay, I’ve posted before on this, but my phone must have eaten my comment so I’ll keep this short.

    Love it, I’ve been playing a bit on FUMBBL of late and checking how long it takes people to score, and yeah 3 turns for even slow teams can be done even with bad luck, 4 allows Dwarfs time to bash for removals not just push for the end, and 5 turns is a full half. (I should state I’m a low tier player)

    I feel to make passing better you need to reduce the change of a very inaccurate to any result less than 1 after negatives (but only for pass, not throw team mate). Means the ball goes in the right direction a lot more of the time, and 6 square pass does not risk the ball ending 7 squares behind you (unless your marked). Taking the long pass skill is now great at it allows 10 square pass without the risk of deviation while still having a high chance of failure. Without this change you still won’t see long passes as part of game plans.

    As for weather and the kickoff, I feel just not rolling weather at the start of the game would help reduce bad results, while still allowing odd fun games. The new kickoff chart is a lot better than the old, but if you really want to replace high kick, that would be an easy swap out for something else.

    But if you want to get rid of both weather and kick-off, have both teams roll for cheerleaders and coaches at the start of each half. Hay, it might even make them worth taking…

    SW I think is fine as is, but needs testing.

    Also A,B,B,A drive order, keeps it the same and also balances it nicely. Worked that one out myself but forgot to say until I saw another comment saying so.

    • There is also the option of simply giving the couch who made the first kick of the half the ability to force the drive to end at the end of the receiving teams 5th turn.

      Changes nothing bar adding a clock, but would allow the defence to stall…

    • I like the cheerleaders/coaches idea. To take it further, what if they were to replace buying rerolls entirely? Buy staff, test to get rerolls at the start of each drive. Maybe you’re guaranteed one, and there are two more up for grabs (with only 4/5 turns per drive, four rerolls between both teams is probably okay). The prices could be adjusted to reflect the different teams’ reroll costs. Not sure if it’s a good idea, but it replaces a fairly abstract mechanic with something more fluffy while creating a purpose for an item that’s currently not seeing any use.

  27. Hi coach,

    I’ve returned to bloodbowl with the second season edition after a 20 years break.
    My old minis look so small 😎

    I’ve never encountered stalling previously but I would only play with friends (and you don’t do that to friends, call that the gentleman agreement), but I found out that on the cyanide client it happens quite regularly.

    A solution that’s came to my mind. without altering too much the rules (weather, kick off, dug out and stuff) is to keep the two half system BUT keep the same team kicking for the whole half and swap role between each half.

    Doing so the khemri can score in 8 turns but the skavens might score 4 touchdown during their half.

    It does not remove stalling totally as the defending team is inclined to stall if they get hold of the ball because a touchdown would give a chance to the attacking team to score back. But it remove the 2/1 grind where a team would be on offence for 2 turns and the other one would have 14 turns to score their 2 touchdown and seriously you’re the attacking team, if you lose the ball you should expect to have to work for it.

    I hope that my thought get across well cause English isn’t my first language, and I hope that I gave you some things to think about.

    Thank you for this site.

    • Hi Plm, welcome back to the game and thank you for your comment.

      If you keep the same team kicking for an entire half then you will introduce a different problem. Instead of stalling you try to score twice (or even more) in the first half. Getting a two touchdown lead is a huge advantage.

      Should you be up against a developed fast team like Skaven or Elven Union then they might score every two turns and go into half time with a 3 or 4 touchdown lead. That’s going to be a very hard thing for any team to deal with, let alone the slow ones!

      It’s a complex and tricky problem with a lot of factors that need consideration.

  28. Been getting back into BB with the kids after being long retired from the tournament circuit.

    I really like the sound of this and if I can get a virtual league going I’d like to give it a try. The immediate advantage for league progression that I can see is that it forces coaches to develop a team for both offence and defence. I never found a particularly compelling reason not to develop a league team for anything other than forcing turnovers since any time you score you’re kicking again so the majority of your TDs should be being made on defence. Ensuring equal time on offence and defence should make for more interesting team composition.

  29. 8 turns each per half (normally), just like the current rules.

    A team gets four turns with possession of the ball during a drive. A turn counts against possession if the team starts the turn with possession or was kicked off to and the ball has not yet been recovered, so a sack and recovery when starting as defense on your turn doesn’t count against the four turn limit, while standing next to the ball you were kicked still counts. This also means losing then recovering the ball during a drive does not reset the turn count. (So you can’t intentionally lose the ball then recover it to stall and give yourself longer)

    The first time each drive a team gets the ball past the line of scrimmage (or it starts past it) they get a first down which gives an extra 5th turn in the drive once per *half* of the game, if the 5th extra turn is not used, a first down can be made in another drive for the extra turn. If they haven’t scored in the allotted turns, it’s a turnover and a kickoff to the other team. The extra turn in the drive counts against the normal 8 turn limit except for a drive at the end of the final turn of the possessing team in the half, where it can grant an extra 9th turn to score if they did not previously use a 5th turn from a first down in the half.

    In the second half of the game, if a team get’s kicked off to on their last turn, and the score is even, the game goes into overtime and there is a full drive of four turns (plus maybe 1 extra if they get a first down). This also means there are four turns for the defense to try to sack the ball carrier and get a touchdown themselves to seal the game. The first touchdown during the overtime turns ends the game (even if it’s a 1 turn touchdown on the final 8th turn).

    If the game is not tied, and a team is kicked off to on the final turn of the game, they can score a first down on that turn even if they have already used a first down in the second half to get an extra 9th turn if they do not score on their 8th turn.

    This should allow slower teams to have enough time to score, while also incentivizing fast scoring so you can potentially get the ball kicked to you multiple times, and saving the first down free turn for the final push of the half to get a 9th turn.

    Similarly, trying to run out the clock on the other team in the second half can backfire, giving them a full drive to score.

    A competent defense and quick scoring offense can result in high scoring games if you can sack the carrier for extra touchdowns, while also ensuring that both teams have a full chance at 4-5 turns with the ball each half.

    You might see stalling from the defense to try to run out the offense’s 4-5 turns and then scoring on the last turn themselves of the half to prevent the other team from getting the ball again, but the game still ensures each team gets a reasonable shot at the ball each half this way.

  30. I am working on a homebrew 7s variant (old LRB6 base rules, i dislike the new ones in many ways) and tried out your turn system in a couple of solo games – so far it is amazing and works exactly as I hoped! Drives are fast, there is immediate time pressure. My variant uses the Beach Bowl pitch dimensions (9 wide, 20 long, LoS in the middle with min 2 players). One turners arent that difficult with rookie teams but the variant even counteracts that with a XYYX drive structure. If the fast team scores immediately the slow team gets 2 drives of pounding, if it defends first the slow team can cause damage first. My previous variant was 7 turn halves with an end of the half if there is a score in the 6th or 7th turn, but your system seems to work even better! Drives are extremely fast and fun. I want to build it into a variant oriented for long term league play (but with a hard TV cap). It surely is best (like Blood Bowl in general) with affordable but very limited rerolls. So far I used the rules that Re-rolls are cheap (50k) for the entire match (not a half). Or one could make them more expensive but let them refresh at halftime.

  31. Hi there,

    I have recently started playing BB again after what is probably around a 25-year break!

    Being a rookie, I’d never considered doing anything other than trying to score as quickly as possible. Now being older and wiser and having the ability to read forums such as this, I have been doing my homework to improve my coaching ability. Reading the 2-1 grind articles obviously exposed me to the idea of stalling and I can see why it is both a sound tactical principle for some, but a source of frustration for others.

    Rule changes are implemented in most ball RL sport competitions annually, often in an attempt to make the game more exciting. As in BB, in RL coaches work out how these rule changes can be best taken advantage of, which in time might lead to further rule changes!

    I’ve only just read this article, and I agree with many of the points being made. One potential alternative to changing the game from two halves to four quarters (which this proposition effectively is) to discourage stalling could be to make the act of stalling much riskier.

    In RL ball sports (generally regardless of code) mobility is a huge positive. If a team is completely immobile for any length of time then they are undoubtly going to be punished for it by the opposition.

    This leads on to my suggestion for an alternative approach to solving the stalling issue – to punish a team’s decision to stall by leaving them open to a higher risk of turnover. The most obvious way that springs to mind to enable this to happen is to increase the level of potential consequence for standing still and having the opposition move to engage you. Would therefore increasing the number of blitzes permitted in a turn make it riskier to cage someone in and stall making the touchdown?

    Obviously, increasing the number of blitzes would have other far reaching impacts on overall play other than just stalling and forming cages that would need to be thought through.

    It might be that I have proposed a really poor solution to the problem that experienced coaches will quickly shoot down and find holes in. That’s fine, but whilst I think that the proposed 5/4 format is a good solution to the stalling issue, is it the best? Are there other potential solutions that could be a genuine contender to weigh up against the 5/4 format?

    Improved options for overall mobility of the ball would seem to be a potential alternative solution for game stagnation and/or overly conservative tactics such as cages and stalling. Whilst these tactics should be allowed to be employed, reducing their effectiveness would make sure that they are not the go-to option most of the time.

    It would make sense that teams are able to move the ball around through passing without a high risk of being severely punished. After all, most professional ball sports players should almost never fail a short easy pass (or picking up the ball) when there is no pressure being applied by an opponent! They are then looking for an opening to break through the defensive line. Agile teams can achieve this by doding through tight spaces and bashier teams can break a hole in the defensive line for someone to run through un-challenged.

    I guess I’ve touched on two things that could help the situation, both of which relate to increased mobility:
    1) Increasing the number of potential blitzes
    2) Increasing the ease of picking up the ball and making short passing/catching combinations

    I would think that these would both discourage stalling tactics and potentially result in higher scoring games?

    Clearly I will be overlooking some obvious drawbacks that others will point out, but will further thought and input, is this a potential avenue that could work?

    • The trouble with giving bonuses against stalling is defining what stalling is. The way they have done it in the second season rulebook makes sense but you can easily avoid it by just keeping the ball carrier one Go For It / Rush away from the endzone until the turn before you plan to score. If you’re going to award a defending team an extra blitz because the other team hasn’t moved the ball for a turn, that could just be because you had a good defensive turn and they are just recovering and securing the cage again. There is a risk you then just create a lot of extra rules to clarify and list exceptions on what does and doesn’t apply as stalling.

      The ball is already fairly easy for most teams to pick up, (though I’ve had games where I failed the 3+ pick up 9 times in a row). There are skills to make it easier like Sure Hands, Extra Arms, On the Ball can help at kick off etc. You can also account for failing to pick the ball up by skilling other players to move the ball easier, rather than just taking lots of Block, Guard, Tackle, Mighty Blow etc. Failing the pick up will encourage teams to have to move the ball quicker and encourage more uptake of ball moving skills like Accurate and Catch on more players. Those that don’t develop those skills will rightly be at as a disadvantage. The current rules discourage even the agile teams to take ball handling skills over staying in the arms race of taking Guard etc.

  32. Hi,

    Some amazing thoughts and ideas in this thread. I’ve also come back after a long time away, albeit with some AI games on a console throughout. I guess there are some trade-offs in this or any alternative put forward. To me the various components are: additional complexity, compatibility with existing rules, the somewhat intangible “feel” of the game, existing balance/meta, fun for participants, and time.

    The problem trying to be solved is defending against a ball on your own goal line for four turns isn’t generally much fun for the person in that position.

    Having read the thread I agree that limiting the number of turns of possession which you control the ball is the best approach. However, I would go with changing the time clock the other way – removing the hand-over at half time and just play 16 turns each, with no specific halftime.

    My suggestion:
    After kick-off each team gets 5(?) turns to score. If they do not score at the end of their fifth turn and they remain in possession of the ball, then it is automatically a kick-off by the attacker to the defender.
    If the defender intercepts or otherwise gets hold of the ball and holds it and retains it for a full turn – they have created a turnover of the ball: they can either choose to start their 5 turns from the current position or elect to have the ball kicked back to them with a new setup. (This feels like American Football – can either intercept and create a ‘pick 6’ or take a knee and get the offence back on the pitch
    (If the defender doesn’t keep hold of it then the timer still keeps counting for the attacking side as both teams fight for possession)

    Can use the standard board – just use a die on or next to the turn marker to reflect how many turns the team has had possession – use one team’s tracker for 1st half and other for 2nd half – you’ve never really needed to count both sides number of turns.
    No additional stalling point at half time – makes each turn valuable (except potential stalling at the end of game).
    I think this would create more aggressive attacking and defensive play – you could see specialist attackers and defensive players (which could be interesting or unbalance the game entirely)
    No extra game turns from existing format, although possibly a couple of extra kick setups.

    No half time – feels like a move away from ‘real’ Amercian Football / Rugby; but on the other hand more like original BloodBowl v1!
    Complexity – have to keep track of one additional piece of information – how many turns since the attacker started their drive.
    Change to the meta – would defender knowing they only had to defend for x turns change the approach to defending. Would this create the reverse problem – with defenders employing new tactics to grind a x turn defence?

    Further considerations:
    Special weapons – only check on a touchdown, not kick-off (effectively due to a turnover on downs), thus generally keeping them on the pitch for as long as they would be under current rules
    Bribing referee – could consider arguing the call / bribing the ref for an additional turn on offence?
    Catching ball on kick-off – a lot of the issues commented on the thread is the loss of turns due to fumbling the kick-off. Perhaps add a rule that for picking up the ball from kick-offs only, that a failed pick up does not end a turn – just causes the ball to scatter and thus ties up the movement of the player? It actually strikes me as quite a sensible fix – although a departure from existing rules – I’d quite like to see a skeleton use up its entire move chasing a ball it keeps failing to pick up.

    To me this feels like taking the best bits of all the suggestions in thread and making a solution without arbitrary break points and incentivies more risk taking in both offence and defence. It maximises the fun part of the game, doesn’t seem to break any particular aspect, doesn’t add much extra complexity except keeping track of turns for attacker. I realise without a significant amount of testing with different types of players, it could however have unintended side-effects (although I think in part this could be fixed by changing x in you have x turns to score). I think losing halves rather than gaining quarters might provide a more elegant solution (and lead to potentially higher scoring and more risk/reward decision games).

    • This was something that I did consider though I think it would get more push back from the community at large. I might be wrong on that but there’s always going to be complaints regardless of what happens, even if that’s nothing!

  33. Hi!

    I used to play Blood Bowl and love it back in the day, some 10-15 years ago. I stopped mainly because I moved away from my fellow players, but have periodically gotten the urge to get back into the game.

    The two biggest issues in getting my game back on during these years have been:

    1. Having enough time to dedicate into playing regularly, on my part as well as anyone else I’ve ever halfway convinced to becoming Blood Bowl players. A single match takes a rather long time, and it’s not really something you can half-ass. You need to dedicate your concentration on a match for a fairly long time, from start to finish, with very few predictable breathers in between.

    Now the proposed 5/4 structure, while increasing the overall number of turns, could alleviate this significantly, by providing more regular and predictable breathers. Also I could see it moving the game to concentrating more on the tactics in the current turn, rather than worrying about your overarching strategy for all the turns still left on the clock, which I believe is a lot more approachable to all the new players out there. Faster too.

    And for the first time ever I can see playing just half a game (instead of no game at all) as a viable and a fair proposition for both players.

    2. The grindy and stally tactics that dominate high end Blood Bowl games are not really fun for me, and not really fun for most people, I presume. A game with such a long development history really should be more fun more often, if not more open to varied tactics. The fact that favoring the 2-1 grind dominates the game as much as it does is proof that the rules favor a style of play that is making the game less fun and less accessible. The safe bet is to select a team that excels at that, develop it to do more of the same, and sacrifice the enjoyment to keep winning, or at least playing.

    As a permanent fan of the skaven I’d say this to the bashy coaches not so thrilled about this idea:
    You can score in 4-5 turns too. It’s just riskier. Worst case scenario, the opposition steals a touchdown, maybe even injures a few of your players. It’s a risk you can take. The quick teams have been living on the edge all these years, knowing that each game could be the team’s last. To the quick and agile teams every turn is heartpoundingly intense, except those where you know you’re screwed and all of your players are going to be coming off the pitch on strechers. That’s what’s on offer here: a more challenging and balanced game that won’t degenerate into boredom or gringy sadomasochism.

    In short, this is just what I think Blood Bowl needs in order to become more popular. I still love the game, but it’s very difficult for me to get back into it for these two reasons. With the 5/4 structure (or something like it) the game could win me back, and I could bring new players with me.

  34. BB54 looks like it solves these issues perfectly. My expectation is that it will make the game feel a lot more like football, since it looks like it pretty much eliminates any type of slow grinding play that is more blood bowl than football.

    I’m going to start a local league and give it a whirl. Suddenly there seems to be a significant incentive to try set up and potentially make, hard passes with teams that normally wouldn’t do so.

    Balance wise, I think it eviscerates dwarfs and khemri. In general this playstyle seems to be a buff to fast teams and a debuff to slow teams.

    One of the things that really bugs me how hard a cap lack of movement is for some teams. I wonder if you’d want to add a “Really going for it” option to the game, which is one more GFI, but with a -2 modifier and +1 damage (mighty blow/armbar style) in case of a fall. Of course fast teams could use this extra movement too, but it is certainly less attractive to use on expensive elves compared to other players. But both armored dwarfs and regenerating khemri can do this without too much risk.

    Another effect of BB54 is that KO’s become a lot less significant, so a tiny debuff to thick skull, and it’s a bit of a buff to teams with thicker benches, as the (guaranteed) time between being to redeploy your team is reduced. Again it makes it feel a little bit more like american football, which I think is healthy. ]

    Part of me wonders if this wasn’t a better solution to the whole claw pmb debacle of years ago, as it actively incentives to have a little less turns for hurting and a little more for playing the ball. Though looking how new player dive into the fighting with glee, I’m not convinced that that really needed addressing.

    Those are just my preliminary thoughts. Would a RGFI help alleviate the damage khemri and dwarfs get for this new format?

  35. As for bribes… perhaps a crazy idea, but why not just have a new ability for the relevant teams that they can use team-rerolls as bribes? They have about the same value.

    • This could even be a rule change on its own. Only concern would be that it could let teams really snowball if they get a numerical advantage. A stipulation that only lets you do it if you have less players on the pitch would probably negate that.

  36. In general the years of blood bowl has left me with this thought more than anything else: though the game has a lot of randomness and unpredictability; there are instances where you are almost certain of keeping the ball safe. Stalling is a result of that security, too.

    Maybe there are some things that could help break that up other than this very interesting BB54 idea. Like being allowed double throw and/or double blitz for the one turn where you choose it. Just some out-of-the-box thoughts.

    • Thanks Mark, I like your idea of really going for it. It could always be limited to movement 5 or 6 players should it be a problem on the really fast players. Or if it gives the slower teams too much of a boost, make it 4+ with +2 to an armour roll.

  37. First and foremost, I admit I have only read close to half way through and believe numerous good points had been put forth to the point I stopped reading, getting tired.

    My suggestion is rather simple and seems it would help reduce stalling and promote passing.

    Suggestion is: 9 move halves and each team is required to move the ball towards the goal by 10 spaces in 3 turns. If they succeed they continue with the ball, if they fail they give up the ball at the point it was at and teams realign. Defense sets up as per kickoff and offense sets up with typical setup with line forms up on row ball was in. Ball ma be given to any player beyond that line. Defense is permitted to give 1 player 1 free move prior to the attackers turn.

    • Hi Tony, I don’t see how that’s a better idea?

      It has a couple of issues that I can see. You need a reliable way of marking out 10 spaces forward. Moving forward those 10 spaces will differ in difficulty and be unbalanced by where the kick off lands. You are then also forcing all teams to move the ball forward and you limit the ability of passing teams who might want to sit back and wait for a good position before throwing the ball forward. You’re also adding a lot of extra rules with regards to setting up and where to do it.

      I can see where you are coming from, I just don’t think it’s a solution that’s as streamlined and not convinced it will add much in the way of passing.

  38. This chain got me thinking more about why the game is designed as it is, and how would I have designed it differently. A small rule change occurred to me, which might address some of the same problems discussed here.

    So how would the game change if there was a limit on the number of players a coach could activate in a single turn? If you could ever activate, say, seven players at most before your turn would end?

    First of all, the impact of losing one or two players from the pitch would be dampened. You’d lose tackle zones, which is certainly significant, and you’d lose some opportunities and possibly crucial skills, but you’d still be on equal footing with your opponent regarding the number of actions you could perform.

    Secondly, you’d have to be more focused on how you’re going to advance your game plan. Instead of standing everyone up and moving every player into blocking range before going after the ball, you’d have to pick your battles more carefully. This would cut down on the tackle zone saturation and random blocking coaches do on the side just because they can. It could lead to more focused gameplay and possibly more opportunities for turning the game around, though admittedly it might also make the game feel more luck based (which it has always been, to a tangible extent). I guess it might either bog the game down, or open it up for more sideways lane shifts. I don’t feel like it would make passing plays much more attractive though, but there could be a chance of that happening, I suppose.

    Thirdly, it wouldn’t eliminate the stalling tactics, but it would make them less grindy, and probably less secure, and a fair bit less deadly to the team on the receiving end of a prolonged bashing.

    So what do you think? Do you see a merit in limiting the number of players you can activate per turn? Did I overlook something pivotal? Where would you set the cap at?

    • Hi Gunhaver, thanks for your comment.

      There are a few niggles with your suggestion that sprung to mind straight away. The first is that it’s another thing that coaches will have to keep track of in a turn. It’s not a big deal but it is a bit of extra complexity.

      Secondly it’s going to favour some teams more than others. If you’ve got some really expensive and good players and then some really cheap ones, then you’re not giving up much in team value if you just ignore using your cheap players. Other teams with either lots of expensive players (Elf teams) or mostly mid price players (Orcs) are going to be hit more than teams like Undead for example.

      I also find that when you are on offence you can often need all your players in order to move the ball and keep it somewhat safe. It’s also easier to defend when you can position all your players. I think this would lead to more hectic drives but I’d be concerned that it places more emphasis on some lucky dice rolls than coaching skill.

      So whilst your suggestion would help if one team gets outnumbered and will possibly speed up some turns. I’m not sure it really does anything to promote more passing beyond potentially more desperation plays. I also think a lot of coaches will just think it’s not fun if they can’t use all their players. That last point would probably be the biggest sticking point.

      • Thanks for the reply!

        The way I see it, that extra bit of complexity of tracking the actions taken can easily be solved just like the turn marker tracking was: let the opponent count the actions and force a turnover when the set number of actions is surpassed. The opponent’s got both the capacity and the incentive to do so, and the last turn’s actions are easy enough to retrace in case of dispute to discourage active abuse.

        Of course even the smallest change is likely to favor some teams over others, but you could be right about this disproportionately favoring teams with a wide player cost range. It’s a good point, one that I never thought of. One could argue, though, that on those teams the cheap players were always there mainly for the tackle zones, and it’s the expensive players that ever did any of the important stuff anyway. And on the other hand this change would make any passive skills considerably more valuable compared to active skills, possibly offsetting the player cost conundrum somewhat. But your point certainly holds for unskilled players at the very least.

        Whether you’ll need your entire team to advance the ball at all, when the opposition labors under the same restrictions, is debatable, I’d allege. Actually, the greatest challenge on offense would probably be breaking through your opponent’s initial setup with limited actions, when they’re leveraging that limitation. Writing this down I now realize that this could unduly benefit the agile and stunty teams that excel at this. It could very well then make passing plays over the defensive lineup to a dodgy receiver quite favorable, but very much at the expense of all other kinds of teams’ prospects. Well that’s not what Blood Bowl needs.

        Prefering to use more of your players over having a faster paced exchange of turns is a matter of taste, so I won’t argue about that. Truth be told, given the chance to play an experimental game or two, I’d sooner playtest the 5/4 rules over this. It’s probably the smaller one of these two changes, despite appearances, and holds much more promise.

        • Good summary, I agree with pretty much all of that. I’ve got other ideas about getting outnumbered and team development, though they are for a future article.

  39. In a league setting, the BB20 ruleset has added an implicit anti-stalling mechanism: +10k gold for each TD scored. Combined with the new MNG-heavy casualty table which increases the need for extra cash over a longer time period due to accumulated nigglings leading to deaths, I think this is an elegant solution to stalling without drastically changing the game structure and therefore game balance.

    Additionally, setting up more drives per match allows for more “free bashing” on the LoS, as long as the rule to put 3 defending players on LoS stands. If a new player has his team badly mangled, then under the current rules, that player is not forced to make any of them stand up on their turn to get hurt. Whereas forced extra drives would make that player put his few remaining guys on LoS, causing more long term damage to the already losing team. In a resurrection style tournament this might not be a problem, but in a league setting, it could be devastating and lead to only high AV teams being competitive or even playable at all over a long period of time.

    Nevertheless, I think the biggest change you are proposing is changing the predictable match length into unpredictable. We are used to roughly 4 mins per turn x 32 turns -> 2 hours plus, with drive set ups and social chatting taking it up to 2,5 – 3 hours. In your proposed scenario, fast scoring teams might finish the match in 30minutes or even less if the offense always ends in a 2 turn goal. In a league scenario, this can be a negative experience, when both players have made the effort to clear their personal schedules for a 3 hour window and made the effort to physically travel to a location to have a social game of blood bowl.

    • Hey Karhumies, thanks for your input. The in built anti stalling mechanism hasn’t come up once in the two tabletop seasons that I’ve played. I think I’ve only played two games where prayer’s to Nuffle were even rolled. I just don’t think it’s a factor to control stalling and even if it did come up more I’d personally just ignore it. I don’t think it’s a good solution and I don’t feel it’s had any real affect on the game.

      You are correct that setting up on the LOS allows for more free bashing. However my counter to that would be that if it is so good, why do teams stall preventing them this opportunity? I’d happily set up 3 of my players to get hit if it meant a shot at winning the game. Even during a drive I’ll often mark dangerous players with the same players I’d put on the LOS. You might have a point about it happening over a long period of time, though that already happens if you look at the previous rules (such as used for BB2). BB2020 has added redrafting rules, though it sounds like that might not get implemented in BB2.

      I’m not sure that being able to play a game really quickly is a downside. I was going to suggest something that adds extra drives if both teams score really quickly, however I didn’t want to bog down the article with that. My league match this week I finished really quickly and I enjoyed going around and socialising at other tables, especially with coaches who aren’t in the same division. It could be a negative experience but it doesn’t have to be. Everyone will have their own thoughts and preferences when it comes to what’s a negative experience and no ruleset will eliminate that.

      • I didn’t really want to revive a ‘dead’ thread, but as this one has had periodical comments, I thought it might be okay…

        First off, amazing suggestions by Coach and many others!

        I had my own small niggles, but I think they fit better in this reply than their own comment, because it touches on the issues commented on here.

        But first a correction: Karhumies put forwad the implicit anti-stalling mechanism that gives more cash winnings based on TDs scored. Coach replies about the explict anti-stalling rule that only comes into effect when that one Prayer to Nuffle is rolled.

        I think that the extra cash can incentivize fast teams to score quickly, but only if they think they can get away with it. For example, because they think they can stop the counter-score, or better yet steal the ball. This makes it a much more subtle and thoughtful coach choice as opposed to a strict mechanical limit on the number of turns per drive.

        Then for a second part that seemed odd to me:
        Coach replied “my counter to that would be that if it is so good, why do teams stall preventing them this opportunity?”
        Because the team that stalls is not the team that gets to bash on the LoS. When they finally score, the other team gets to make those LoS blocks.

        Anyway, where my niggle with BB5/4 lies: static ABBA order and agile advantage. Let’s say A is an agile team receiving and B is a bash team.

        Traditionally, this could be better described as AbBa/BaAb, because receiving T8 or T16 would grant only a small(ish) chance of scoring and would need a one-turn attempt (or riot). Besides the OTTD, an agile team generally has more options to steal the ball on defense.
        The 2-1 grind relies on forcing an early score to make it into an ABBa or stopping/reversing the second half score in a Baa order (un-caps for drives not resulting in a score)

        The agile team retaining their capacity to steal, BB5/4 would make it more likely for the agile team to be ahead 2-1 by the end of the 3rd drive and going into their own 4th drive (for ABBA), or even 3-0 in case of an early steal on a BAAB.
        This assumes you’re more likely to complete the score on your own drive and it assumes the agile team is more capable of both getting to the carrier and converting a loose ball into a TD. Both not unreasonable assumptions, I think.

        Finally, because it has been a while since this thread started and since Season 2 got introduced: are there any new insights into how good BB5/4 works? Have people continued to experiment with it? Has it been made redundant by the Season 2 changes?

        • Thanks for input. I originally had toyed with the idea of saying that you can’t score on the other team’s offensive drive. I figured that would likely get a lot of pushback, though I feel it has some merit. It would also benefit passing plays more as you lose the double jeopardy if it does indeed go wrong. That being not only do you not score, but you might let the other team score.

          As for Season 2 changes, I don’t think they’ve addressed the issues that BB54 was outlined to solve. I’ve got a few league seasons and tournaments under my belt with the new rules and the game is fundamentally the same on the whole in my opinion.

  40. Excellent ideas and an excellent analysis. I play humans with no Ogre and pass a lot – great fun BUT everyone adapts the same strategy against me. Let me recieve and scored quickly. Then grind out the rest of the first half trying to kill my Catchers/Throwers and maybe try to score. Then grind out the entire second half and try to score. So I get the ball for 2 turns and the score is always (almost) 1-1 or 2-1 loss. Dull.
    Here is my solution. A Team gets 4 Downs. A Down occurs when you have the ball for an entire turn (you start with it and end with it). So receiving kick off doesn’t count (as you don’t start with the ball). So in essence you have 5 turns to score. If you use all 4 downs and don’t score. Its an automatic turn over and the ball scatters at the end of Down 4 and play resumes with the other Team’s turn.
    Also add a Kicking game. For 1 MP a player with the ball in the center zone may attempt a Field Goal by rolling d6 and counting straight ahead toward EndZone if the ball carries out of the EndZone it counts 1 Point (TD counts 3). A kicking Specialist may reroll. No more dead turns as you can still try to get in range for a Field Goal.

  41. Hi Coach! Hope you’re doing well.

    Thanks for this extremely interesting article. You argued your points with skill and concision, even giving due consideration to potential drawbacks as well as benefits your proposal might bring.

    I haven’t played Blood Bowl in a while, so I guess you could put me in the ‘potential returning player’ camp. It’s funny, while I remember its prevalence, I don’t ever remember especially hating the 2-1 grind. For me it was just another facet of the strategic and tactical milleu that made the game so fascinating. It was satisfying to pull off a successful stall, and even more satisfying to thwart one!

    Having said that, I’d still love to give BB54 a try. It is a fresh and exciting idea that has a sense of elegance and fairness. I do believe it would successfully eliminate the 2-1 grind, while potentially shortening matches and encouraging more passing and adventurous play (if only at the end of a drive). This format would absolutely encourage me to come back to the game!

    I do think people have lodged valid concerns and made useful suggestions in the comments. It feels like the new format would favour quick teams over slow, and various kick off and weather events (as best I can recall them) would prove particularly ruinous to the latter.

    I also share the concern of a failed pick-up effectively ending a drive before it can begin. I had a similar idea while reading to Mike – although this might be too much streamlining – what if the first pick-up of the ball in each drive was free, as long as the player or ball isn’t in an enemy tackle zone? If necessary, you could say that AG 1 players aren’t eligible (if it is even still AG for picking up the ball!).

    I liked the idea from Mark Parola of single-use resources like a secondary blitz or pass – perhaps these could be purchasable in the vein of team re-rolls? You could even adjust the prices as a way of redressing the balance, for example making them cheaper for Khemri and more expensive for turnover specialists like Skaven.

    In any case it has been fun to think about a game I still have great fondness for!

  42. It’s the middle of 2024 so my comment seem to be a bit late to the party. But I was recently thinking how to deal with certain problems of Blood Bowl and stalling was one of those things.

    Let me suggest a simple solution that changes basically nothing about the structure of halfs and so on, but addresses a part of the problem:
    “If a team is in possession of the ball for four turns without managing to get the ball to the opponent’s half of the field, the drive ends immediately.
    An uncarried ball lost in a voluntary way (e.g. Fumblerooskie) is still considered in the possession of the team it last belonged to.
    An uncarried ball lost in an involuntary way (e.g. Knocked Down ball carrier, uncaught inaccurate pass) is considered to be in possession of a team of whose half of the pitch it is located.”

    What does it do is:
    1. Teams cannot keep stalling at the other end of the pitch for 8 turns.
    2. Teams are inclined to move with a ball, at least to the opponent’s area.
    3. There’s a good reason for defending team to try to keep the offence from reaching their half, potentially motivating them to being more active.
    4. Once the team with a ball reaches opponent’s half they are more inclined to be in a range of the actual stalling mechanics (because they get closer to actually being able to score) which can be further addressed.
    5. Potentially can force the team to Pass in order to avoid the end of a drive.

    What it does not do:
    If the team is capable of reaching the opponent’s half and still stall just there – it does entirely nothing.

    I think that’s a very simple solution that even if not fixing the issue, makes the game healthier without really changing any core mechanics. Thoughts?

    • Thanks for the comment MadAlice.

      This creates another thing to keep track of off the pitch which is undesirable though not that big a deal. This idea seems to mostly go after teams that pick it up and stay back for a number of turns, rather than the more commonly complained issue of teams stalling within scoring range. Admittedly the withdrawn offence is becoming more common and extreme than it used to be.

      Ultimately I think you’ve summed it up at the end that it’s not really fixing the issue. I personally feel it’s an unsatisfactory way for a drive to end and I’m not sure it really makes the game healthier either. This is trying to deal with a symptom and not fixing the cause. I really don’t think you can “fix” stalling without changing the turn structure in some way, though as this article hopefully shows that is easier said than done! Appreciate you taking the time to comment and good luck on the pitch!


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