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.
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.
More on page 3…