Cage Basics

Blood Bowl Cage Basics

If you are fairly new to Blood Bowl you may see the term “cage” used a lot in tactics terminology. At a basic level a Blood Bowl cage is protective formation used by the offensive team to protect their player who is carrying the ball. There are slight variations on what a cage looks like but I’m going to cover here the most standard and typically used version. By the end of this you should have a better idea on not only what a cage is, but why you should be using them and the strengths they have. It is a staple tactics used by pretty much every team in the game and is something you will need to get to grips with. Not doing so will not only hurt your chances on offence but not knowing how and why they work will also hinder your chances of stopping them when defending as well.

A Basic Blood Bowl Cage:

Defending against a Cage

The diagram shows a match between an Elf side on defence (in yellow) against a Dwarf team on offence (in blue). The Dwarfs have formed a basic cage around their ball carrier and the Elves are in place to defend against it advancing. As you can see a basic cage looks very much like the “5” on a standard six sided die, the ball carrier sat in the middle and four team mates one at each diagonal corner from him. Cages are quite a complex part of Blood Bowl and I’m just going to deal with the basic cage in this article. If I covered advancing a cage, preventing a cage, stalling a cage and how to deal with everything that flows from those subjects this would get rather long. Those subjects I’ll cover separately as they will start getting into more advanced situations.

The Anatomy of a Cage:

I covered what a cage looks like above, so you now know what a cage actually is, but now I’ll explain why they are so commonly used and effective. The reason you are using a cage is to protect your ball carrier, you can probably see by looking at the diagram that there is no way for the opposing team to just run up and hit the player with the ball. If they can’t easily hit the ball carrier then they can’t easily get the ball off him. The opposing team instead will either just have to try and stop him getting into the end zone to score, try and force the ball carrier out of the cage next turn, or hope that the other team loses possession during their own turn.

The key reason the opposition can’t just run up and hit the ball carrier is because they will have to do a dodge to get at him. It doesn’t matter which side the blitzing player comes from, they are going to have to try and do a dodge into three tacklezones. This isn’t something that is easy as I’m sure you are aware, players with AG3 or less needing a 6, whilst AG4 players require a 5 for success. There are a couple of exceptions though, a player with the Leap skill can try and jump into the cage rather than dodge. The other way is a player with Stunty who ignores the tacklezones due to being small, though they will be low strength so less of a threat for the actual hit. If your cage is more spread out than this, then that may make it easier for an opposing player to dodge through the tacklezones and get at the player with the ball. A looser cage with the corner players further away requires more of your team mates to create a larger field of tackle zones to dodge through. As that requires more players it may mean you have less player to hit the other team with, or to tie their players up.

The last and very important factor of a basic cage is that none of your five players end the turn in the tacklezone of an opposing player. If you check the diagram you can see that the Dwarf cage is full separated from the opposing team. This it a vital attribute to a good cage and if you don’t follow that rule then the cage is at risk of getting broken fairly easily. The reason for this is that the player you have left in a tacklezone can just be blocked by the opposing player in their upcoming turn. If they manage to just get a push on your player then that opens up an easier route for them to blitz the ball carrier with another player. This is a mistake I see quite a few beginner players making and wondering why their cages seem to get busted so easily. If none of your players are in a tacklezone then for the opposing team to move one of the corner players out the way, they would need to blitz one of them. As you know a team can only make one blitz during a turn, so if they do that, they can’t then go ahead and blitz the ball carrier in the same turn as well.

More on Page 2…

27 thoughts on “Cage Basics”

  1. Yeah, I have a ST4 Frenzy Wardancer that is the bane of cages everywhere, but when one or more of the Cage Corners has Guard, then even she is severely inconvenienced.
    So Guard is a top skill for a Cage Corner.

    Or if the ball carrier happens to be ST4, like a Chaos Warrior or a +1ST Dwarf Runner, than even Dodge/Leaping into a Cage gets really tricky. People probably won’t have Leap and Dauntless on the same player.

  2. Definitely helpful, Coach, thanks. Although my experience is limited to one game and a lot of reading over the rules, it seems like a few players can form a pretty effective half-cage under the right circumstances. I found it worked pretty well when I was driving up the left sideline and had all of the opposing team to the right and behind my ball carrier. I formed a cage on the right hand side of the carrier and though I didn’t get the dimensions right (this ultimately got my carrier blitzed!) I could see it working pretty well in the future if I got the positions correct.

  3. Hi
    would be really cool to see an article on how to break cages as well… i see you have extensive Dark Elf advice, which brought me here! Im having a HARD time doing anything about Chaos and Dwarfs with Guard cages.. my flimpsy dark elves just jump harmlessly 🙂
    Thanks – and great work as always!

    • I’ve plans for them, hopefully with video but if not lots of diagrams. There are a lot of nuances to cage defence (and indeed offence) that can be hard to just explain in text or by telling someone.

  4. Yeah, cages seem very situational. The team, the turn, the positioning of everyone on the pitch, and (of course) Nuffle’s caprice all play a big role.
    @ Andelars:
    Sorry if this sounds douchey or obvious, but maybe you could try to tie up players who form the cage before they can make it to the carrier?  I know Dark Elves have pretty decent movement and Chaos warriors and most dwarves are slower, so you might be able to intercept a corner guard before he can make it to his position.

  5. @Blackhandsaint: not at all.. appreciate any input! The thing is,  with hard-hitting teams i thought that the strategy was NOT to get in close contact, thereby only allowing them one block each round.. i have tried a couple of times putting 4 players at each corner of the cage and leaping in with my witch elf. This strategy only works 1/4 times and gets 5 players “killed” afterwoods.
    @Thanatos: The wall in front of them seems futile as well.. with only an average of 6 players available for this they can still blitz and have their cage going 2-3 field pr. round. So i might as well let them score and save me some injury.. but that would be called “giving up”… im at a loss 🙂 Ive heard several DE players online say that at around TV 1700 Chaos shouldnt be much of a problem for DE.. but i dont get it!

  6. Why do you only have an average of 6 players to form a defensive wall? If you check how the Elves are set up in the diagram of the article this is the kind of set up you are looking to make in your own turn. You should probably have at least 9 if not 11 players on the pitch to achieve this. Either way we are getting off topic, so any more questions about cage defence can you ask in the forum please.

  7. My greatest weapon against cages is kick. (andI play DE). By placing the ball where I want, I can force my opponent to either use two turns to place his players or to make a throw (usually a long one). Either way the chances of me getting the ball are fare greater than trying to stop a cage from advancing.
    Kick-return is a skill that every cage depending team should have.

  8. It was a made up situation to demonstrate placement of players to stop a cage advancing. To move the cage along the Dwarfs are probably best aiming at crossing the pitch as they aren’t going to be able to move it forward effectively and would also be in danger of getting stuck by the sideline.

    I’ll cover those situations in another article though.

  9. Great article, Coach, very informative.  I’m looking forward to your articles on advancing, stalling, and preventing a cage.
    I’m a brand new Blood Bowl player with only about a week’s experience, but thanks to finding bbtactics I already have a good enough understanding of Blood Bowl to beat the computer on Medium almost every game with my orcs.  However, I am not yet able to integrate the cage into my strategy effectively whether I’m playing against the AI or a human opponent, and it’s my understanding that orcs are supposed to be decent cagers.
    My problem is that if I use five guys to form a cage, this protects the ball carrier but allows my opponent to pretty much cover the rest of the pitch however he chooses.  The remaining six of my players cannot effectively keep the opponents out of my side or away from my cage, and there’s no way I can stop them from surrounding my cage and picking it apart at their leisure, finding an unprotected corner of the cage and attacking it with three players.  As you say in the last paragraph of the first page, “…none of your five players end the turn in the tacklezone of an opposing player”.  How can you ensure this against an opponent that knows what he’s doing?  My choices seem to be, “don’t let any of my cagers end the turn in a tacklezone” or “don’t move my cage up the field”, neither of which are good.
    Forming a cage seems to be synonymous with allowing my opponent the run of the field.  Is this normal, or am I missing something obvious?

    • If doing a standard cage grinding play you have 5-8 turns typically do score in. You don’t have to be in a great hurry to advance the cage forward every turn. Moving laterally across the pitch and keeping the ball safe can often be the best move. If your cage is in the centre of the pitch then the opposing team has to cover the full width of the pitch which is hard for them to do. When you move your cage sideways instead of forward you need to use the rest of your team to advance down the pitch in order to aid making space to form a cage further up the pitch in your following turn.

  10. Cages and screens are useful for every team for securing the ball. For agile teams when on offence if you can get players behind the other team’s defence then either caging the ball or screening the ball carrier off can aid you in using up the clock (stalling turns).

  11. Hi Coach,
    Can I say what a great little article this is.  I used to play BB in it’s old “Astrogranite” (Polystyrene) days back in my teens, but I just got BB for my X360 – thanks to your article I’ve managed to use the Cage system for my human team and score a few victories too (as the console version is somewhat tough to get into)…although I was a bit surprised to see that the Human Blockers no longer exist in the game.  Whatever happened to The Mighty Zug?  Things sure have moved on since I played the game back in the late 80’s…!  I must be getting old.

    • I’ll allow you to say that yes!

      Blockers were removed from the Human team back when 3rd edition was released in 1994. The cyanide game is based on LRB5 though earlier this month LRB6 was finished and is now available from games workshop’s site under the guise of “competition rules” in a free pdf file (with the game background and images all removed though).

      I recommend that you download a copy of that and read through the rules if you haven’t done so already. Mighty Zug still is in the game, he just isn’t implemented yet, along with a lot of other rules. Welcome back to Blood Bowl!

  12. There are no hard and fast rules, you use whoever is in the best position to do so. If you are against high agility players with leap, or anyone else who can get into the cage easily, then it helps to have at least two Guard players on opposite corners. Other than that though, it doesn’t really matter a great deal.

    It is more important to just have the cage secure and the rest of your team mates in a position to help advance the cage in the next turn. You have to be wary of  what the other team will attempt to break up the cage and also position to make that harder, or easy as possible to recover from if they succeed.

  13. Super article Coach!
    Just to let you know, looks like the initial cage illustration has disappeared from the site/article. Any way this can be put back?
    Keep up the good, nay, great work!

  14. Thank coach awesome article!!!

    RE: andelars Says:
    December 17th, 2009 at 10:28 am
    @Blackhandsaint: not at all.. appreciate any input! The thing is,  with hard-hitting teams i thought that the strategy was NOT to get in close contact, thereby only allowing them one block each round.. i have tried a couple of times putting 4 players at each corner of the cage and leaping in with my witch elf. This strategy only works 1/4 times and gets 5 players “killed” afterwoods.

    In my opinion it is not about breaking the cage persay!! it is about preventing the offence from running down the clock.. I have built my cage breaker(wardancer) with strip ball, and side step as extra skills… force the cage to the sidelines and keep pressuring the offence to move up to avoid a turn over. …do this and you should still have time to score before the end of the half/game..with an agile team there is no reason that you shouldnt be able to force the cage towards the end zone within 4 turns.. if they go slow, take the ball, even with assists against you (guard) with block/dodge/leap/sidestep, you can still on a failed block cause some serious trouble in moving the cage.

  15. hi coach and everyone just started playing blood bowl and can you please help me i started playing wood elevs and everyone in the league is a smashine team and its killing me how do you break a standed five cage like the pic you put up plz help


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