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Blood Bowl Blocking Article

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Cage Breaking

Stalling the Cage Progress:

This is really where the basis of most cage breaking plays will start from. A good grasp on doing this leads to being able to pick and choose when to perhaps go after the cage or the ball carrier themselves. Sometimes just slowing the cage down enough so that they can’t score easily without directly attacking their players can win you the game. If you stop them scoring on their offence and manage to do so on yours then you should walk away with the win.

Stalling some teams is easier than others, you may find fast and agile teams can just look to outflank you, the slower harder hitting ones will try and get the numbers advantage on the pitch so that they have more players with the idea of doing the same. If you can’t slow them down then the alternative is to try and force them to score so you get enough turns to try and equalise before the end of the half.

Basic cage defence then comes down to getting your players in front of their cage to stop them moving forward easily. Don’t forget that teams can also move sideways laterally across the pitch and go forward around your players, so don’t defend too narrowly. If you can funnel their team towards one of the sidelines this will be harder for them and make defending easier for you. They will have less space to be able to move into which means you can create a harder wall of players to get past as your team will be more concentrated on a smaller area of the pitch.

The best way to form a defensive wall in front of their cage is to line your players up two players deep in numerous small columns ahead of their cage. Doing this will stop them from just blitzing one guy out of the way and then running through that gap, that is why they have to be two deep. They also need to be close enough together so they can’t just run trough the middle. If your columns are two squares apart this will make dodging past much harder, though having them three square apart will cover a wider area of the pitch. If they are four squares apart then they will just run unobstructed through your defence.

Defending against a Cage

This is shown in the diagram where the Elf team (yellow) have set up four, two player columns in front of the Dwarfs (blue). If you look at that from the point of view of the Dwarf team there is no easy way for them to advance through this. You do need to pay attention to the ones by the sideline though. If your opponent has Frenzy on their team they may just look to sit where they are and push the front defender by the sideline into the crowd. In the above example the Elf Blitzer has Side Step so this wouldn’t be a concern. Thankfully Frenzy players can never get Grab so Side Step is the perfect skill for this. Stand Firm is also useful though be wary of Frenzy players who also have Juggernaut.

Even though the Dwarfs can move laterally they don’t have the speed on their players to get the ball around your exposed flank and still keep it protected. Your defence then would have wasted one of their turns where all they managed to do was perhaps go sideways. Every turn you mange that and don’t leave them any blocks in their next one is a good defensive turn for your team. Against fast agile teams they might be able to outflank you but then you would have to split off and use different defensive tactics.

The sideline is also the weak point against agile players as well.  They will look to blitz the front player towards the middle of the pitch and then they only have one player to dodge around. If you are set up spaced apart like this though they could do that to any of your defensive columns. If they are looking to stall on you though it is only really the very last turn that you need to look to move your columns closer together.  If you have Diving Tackle on the back player of each column then this helps as well.

Each turn you should be looking to reform this basic premise and you should be able to slow the advancement of their cage down drastically. Ideally you want to get to the point where on their last turn of the drive they have to do a dodge and hopefully some go for its at the very least. You may also get opportunities at getting the ball yourself as they start to take more risks as they slowly run out of turns. A mistake can also occur, either from the coach themselves or their dice go bad at the wrong time and again you might be able to get the ball off them.

Typically to do this well you will need all eleven of your players at your side of the pitch. If you have some of your players behind their cage then that makes your defence worse as they have less players and tackle zones in front of them to contend with. Using this as the base for your cage defence there are a number of situations you should look out for that you can take advantage of. I’ve won plenty of games though just by performing the above turn after turn for a whole half, so don’t think it necessary that you have to take the cage itself on in order to defeat it.
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15 Responses to Cage Breaking

  1. RedDevilCG August 22, 2010 at 7:01 am #

    Great article Coach!  I really like how you went in depth on all the different cages and cage breaking style.
    Just a note on leaping, Pro could be considered a skill that could allow you to re-roll a failed leap; though it’s only a 4+ that you get the re-roll, of course.

  2. Alco Engineer August 23, 2010 at 1:30 am #

    Great in depth article. I’ve ben waiting to read your thoughts on cage defence, and you’ve gone over and above.

  3. Gio August 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    Thanks Coach for yet another great article. Let us not forget the best anti-cage tactic: preventing the cage from forming. This might be easier for some teams; but, by and large, trying to isolate the ball handler (and perhaps those few players that want to form the cage) from the rest of the team may prove to be devastating for the offence. This won’t happen all the time (specially against experienced coaches), but once in a while it allows the defence to score during the opponents drive.

    • Coach August 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

      Not letting it form is obviously a good point, though this article was about what do to when it has. I thought about putting that in but I’ll be covering it in another article and didn’t want to drift too far from the subject.

  4. danton September 23, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    Just revisiting this article which is very comprehensive and good to read every now and again in order to remember to sometimes consider all of the defensive strategies available! I think one of the hardest parts of this game is knowing when to commit and knowing when to hold back on defence, especially as an agile team coach. Obviously the uncertainty of the dice rolls will never make it an exact science either.
    Anyway just wanted to point out one other way that you can attack a ball carrier in a cage, which I have not seen mentioned here. This applies mainly to dark elves and is not a strategy that I use personally, although I have had it used against me with a certain amount of success, so I think it merits consideration. An assassin with Leap can be a great cage breaker, especially against low armoured teams that have a ball carrier with Block, Dodge and Sure Hands protected in a cage. Leaping in and stabbing a ball carrier like that who has Av 7 can be a good way to get the ball loose and no amount of Guard on the cage corners can prevent it.
    Obviously the risk when making the leap is the same as usual, but at least re-rolling the leap successfully means that you don’t have to worry about the block result coming up skulls afterwards as the stab will either succeed or fail regardless. It also helps if the assassin has Block and Dodge in order to be able to withstand the retaliation blocks that will come afterwards.
    So, I would never make this a main strategy, but it is worth mentioning because it can be surprisingly effective. Also the dark elf star player Harkon Heartripper comes with Leap, although the fact he has Loner makes a riskier play to pull off with him.

  5. Altaem December 23, 2010 at 12:23 am #

    Always good to learn I am a new coach. Curse my weakness of attacking the rear of a cage.

    Most of the time I choose to slow the cage with around half my players. The other half I use to kill off any exposed opposition. Once I’ve secured a number advantage I’ll swamp the cage from all sides.

    Experienced coaches will then hand off the ball and run away leaving me looking stupid.

  6. Coach December 23, 2010 at 12:25 am #

    Yes that is a common mistake, the rear of the cage can look tempting though it can often just leave you out of position.

  7. GeneralKDI February 8, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    What would you do against a slann cage, where if you don’t circle the entire cage, they can always find a way out through leap.

    I love to play this team, and when I use a basic cage, most time the other player try to circle me using most of their players, leaving a catcher alone. I just leap out in the open and make a pass, diving catch makes it easy.

    • Coach February 8, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

      Depends what team I’m playing, generally though mark their players up, if they want to keep trying to make leaps without a skill reroll that is fine. I try and put the pressure on to make them score quickly so I can dictate play on my own drives. Slann are such an unusual team to play with and against though, matches are much harder to predict and you have to adapt in game perhaps more than against any other team.

  8. Kaz April 22, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    Why I like Yhetees. Big strength with Frenzy and Disturbing Presence. Plow into the corner of the cage and mark the ball carrier. Then he’s hard to bring down and the Disturbing Presence bothers the hand-off.

  9. Malerun May 23, 2011 at 12:10 am #

    Great article!

    Two things “missing”:

    1 The sideline half cage. Using ball carrier and 2-4 players to guard the ball carrier. Often employed by faster teams if a number of players can run past the defense, but to few or too little space to make an ordinary cage. This most likely put them in scoring range and if defense is slower, you may not be able to get a screen between them and the end zone.

    2 If the offense’s remaining players are near the cage, marking them could give the opportunity to chain push you own player into the cage in your next turn. If that succeed, that player can block/stab the ball carrier. Or if he can be pushed next to a cage corner, he can block him and make space for the blitz.

    • Coach May 23, 2011 at 12:15 am #

      Thanks for your comment, that second point was certainly an option that was missed out thank you for that. I’m not sure what the first point has to do with cage breaking though?

  10. Fernando February 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    My tactics often involve preventing the cage to form or, if they do form a cage, hitting the ball carrier as fast as I can.
    I tend to mark isolated players as often as I can (to prevent them from joining the cage or getting ready to receive a pass) and to form a wall in front of the cage with slow players and hitting the ball carrier from the sides or rear with faster ones.
    Once, I did that and the ball was picked up by one of my mummies… It was fun caging that mummy to the EZ… It was the first time ever I scored with a Big Guy. (I just played Norse and Undead up until now and a Yehtee is even less likely a candidate for that feat =) )

    Thanks for the great article Coach. Made me rethink some of my strategies.

  11. Martin Eckhoff Andresen November 6, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Great article and great site. I can’t seem to find any coverage of the very simple tactic of just dodging into a cage. Using a ST4-player with break tackle, for example, yields a 55% chance of managing a 5+ dodge with a reroll into the cage. Once you’re there, you can probably also get a two-die block against the ball carrier, giving you a decent chance of getting the ball loose. Skills like wrestle, frenzy, strip ball and block can help you increase that chance, and frenzy might let you get the ball away from the cage altogether.

    Of course, this will leave your cage breaking player in the midst of a lot of opponents, but they’ll probably have a lot of other stuff to think about if you get the ball free. Don’t forget the move a lot of your team mates close to where you’ll be pushing the ball carrier. 🙂

    • Coach November 6, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

      Thank you for the kind comments.

      As for just dodging straight into the cage, that is the most obvious and first thing a new coach will try. So I didn’t really cover it. I only really go that route if I am heavily down on players so I can’t use other tactics. It also gets a lot less attractive as teams develop as a good cage will also have Guard players on at least opposite corners. So the article really was aimed at providing more advanced alternative options, but when the chips are down the good old fashioned head on approach can still succeed!

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