When to Use a Cage:
It may appear to be quite obvious when you should use a cage, you are playing a slow bashing team and need to protect the ball while you slowly grind down the pitch before scoring. You would be quite right in that assumption and is the most used method of such teams during games of Blood Bowl. For some one new to the game it can appear that is the only time that you would be using a cage. However a cage is merely a formation that is used to protect the ball carrier, agility teams it would seem just keep the ball in the hands of a Thrower deep out of range of the opposing players. After all if they can’t get to him, they can’t hit him and that is even safer than having the ball secure in a cage.
One of the important aspects of the game though is clock management as explained in the article on doing a 2-1 Grind. Using up turns before scoring is just as important for an agility based team as it is to a hitting based team and a basic cage comes in useful for both types of play style. A drive from an agility team will usually involve getting the ball safe in the hands of their Thrower and also breaking through some team mates to receive the ball in a following turn. A lot of coaches after getting the ball to their receiver in their second turn will then just run it in for the touchdown, giving plenty of turns to the other team to score themselves. Instead of doing that it may be wise for an agility team to try and use up a few turns (or as many as they can get away with) by forming a cage with their players by the opposing team’s end zone.
With the ball secure in this position the opposing team will have trouble getting the ball out and if the cage gets broken (which it usually will), then you can just run a couple of squares into the end zone to score. If the worst happens and you do manage to lose the ball the other team still has to get it down the entire length of the pitch. This shouldn’t usually happen though if you are careful, barring miraculous dice from the opposition, so take advantage of opportunities to cage up yourself and give the bashing team their own medicine. Against another agile side though you may opt to still score early, as if they do the same you should still have enough turns left to score again in the same half.
Skills to Improve Cages:
You now know what a cage is, what they are used for, why they are used, how to properly form one and when you should use them. Moving on from that there are certain skills that you can take for your players to make a cage even more secure and harder to break. There are two main types of players you want to skill up for, the ball carrier to sit in the middle and the corner players to protect him on the outside.
The cage ball carrier ideally needs skills that help him stay on his feet, both when being hit and when moving and also for any ball handling he has to do, typically just picking it up. Some ball carriers may already start with some of these skills but I’ll list them and it can give you an idea which of your players are suited for the role. As picking the ball up is the starting point of getting the ball to the endzone Sure Hands is worth having, it also protects against players who have Strip Ball, which you will often find on high agility players who Leap into cages. They are a big threat so cancelling that ability out is a high priority. Block and Dodge are staple skills for staying on your feet, both can get cancelled but that does mean the opposing player needs the required skills to do so and protects you against the ones who don’t. Block can also help if you need to blitz with the ball carrier to free him up and is often a better option than dodging with a lot of AG3 or lower ball carriers. I don’t recommend hitting players with the ball carrier if you can avoid it though and sometimes you may have already used the blitz with a team mate and still have to dodge, making Dodge useful in those cases as well.
Fend also helps as it means you won’t have to dodge away from a player who hit you. Often though if your ball carrier is getting hit it is from someone blitzing who could use movement to follow up anyway. If they did leap, or dodge into your cage though, this will be a very hard dodge to do. They may also have run out of movement covering the distance to blitz you in the first place as well. Other skills are ones that increase either ball handling or movement, so Sure Feet gives you a bit more range to run in to score if a cage got stalled a bit further from the end zone than you wanted. There are some useful mutations as well like Extra Arms and Two Heads for those players able to take them. Obviously +MV and +AG are great to get as well and +ST shouldn’t get passed up either as it makes hitting him a lot harder as well as being useful if you need to hit yourself.
The cage corner players also have a few options to help them improve. Block is the standard first skill to make them harder to knock over and to also be able to hit any opposing players who get into the cage as well. Guard is perhaps the next most important skill, without it opposing teams can mark all the corner players to cancel out their assist and then try and get a player into the cage to hit the ball carrier. It is great if you have it on all four, but two can do almost as good a job, as long as they are on opposite diagonals so that between them they cover each of the four sides an attacker can hit from. Stand Firm is useful as well to keep the cage formed and stop the ball carrier getting swarmed, this doesn’t mean you can put them in opposing tacklezones though as they could still get knocked over by a block, breaking the cage integrity. Tackle is again useful for hitting anyone who comes into the cage, usually Block, Dodge, Side Step players try and get next to the ball carrier so you want a good chance of getting them down.
On strong but low agility players Break Tackle can be useful as well so you can keep the cage moving and not get tied up by the opposing team’s Linemen. With careful positioning of your players you can negate that somewhat though and reform cages using other players from your team. Grab is another handy skill so if they do swarm the cage you can create space easier and also negate Side Step. Another handy option to have on a cage corner is someone who you can hand the ball off too if your ball carrier does get stuck. Don’t just use your strongest players as they typically suck for ball handling, some teams may not have many options for this (Khemri and Chaos Dwarfs). This factor is what can make an Elf cage hard to deal with as they can just hand the ball off to a team mate who then can run away with it. Having a player (or players) that this is an option for will force the opposition to not only swarm the ball carrier but make sure they have one or two tackle zones on any outlet players as well. An AG4 player with Guard on a bashing team can provide this outlet option as well as still being really effective as a cage corner.
For more experienced coaches a lot of that you probably already know, though hopefully there is useful information there for new players to digest. Cages are probably the single biggest tactical option in Blood Bowl so it pays to understand how they work from both sides of the ball. Having just read through that I’m sure you can see why I’ve opted to put the other aspects to cage play into separate articles but there should be enough there to get you started until those are published. Until then if you get stuck in a game note down the players positions and use the Play Creator site and the BBTactics Forum to get specific help.