Famous Formations: The Castle
The Castle refers to a defensive set-up where the 3-point Strike Zone is walled off with at least three players. The purpose is to nullify any strike attempts by the opposition without first having to shift players out of the way. Sometimes this will deter teams from bothering to attempt the big scores all together. More often, it means the opposing team will simply have to make a concerted effort to break the Castle if they want to score the big points.
The other three players of the Castling team are responsible for taking the game to the opposition. Where they set up at the start of the match is dependent upon being Home or Visitor, as well as the particular match up in question. More defensive minded coaches will opt for Pillars (placing players to block throwing lanes for bonus point strikes), or a Screen (trying to create more Evading rolls for the opposition to get where they may want to go). There are many variations and combinations we can look at in the future. More aggressive coaches or play styles will set up closer to the launch line, to more effectively get to work when it is their Rush.
The advantage of the Castle is that a 3-point Strike is IMPOSSIBLE without the opposing coach first moving at least one of your players out of the way. This is often a favored set-up for Visitor teams, as the Home team usually has to spend several actions getting players into position to make the necessary Slams/Feints/Push/Illegal/Take a Dive/Shock Collar, etc….and even then, nothing is guaranteed when it comes to dice rolls. For many coaches, it’s the one way they feel like the can play “defense” in a game very focused on scoring. The Home team may be forced to opt for a smaller Strike attempt if their player removal plans don’t go well, setting up an opportunity for the Visiting team to take a lead on the scoreboard in their own Rush….or at least keep it level until the opportunity presents itself.
One thing to be mindful of in the Castle, is that you are committing three players to being little more than spectators. However, for a lot of teams, especially single position or well-rounded teams, this is not as big a disadvantage as it would first appear. Since a player can take 2 actions, and with cards being a desirable thing to have and even more useful to use, three players are typically more than enough to get the job done.
However, where you have to be careful is when the opposing coach is patient and able to swarm your side of the pitch. Depending upon the match up in question, the three players outside the Castle can become Swarmed under by opposition, putting pressure on the Castle to break itself to respond, or find it under siege. When the game doesn’t leave your end of the pitch, the Castle starts to be a tenuous situation indeed.
Lastly, be sure to carefully consider WHICH players you Castle. Consider the match up in question and make sure you place the correct positions where they have the greatest potential to contribute in the game. In some cases, you may want to place your Guards in the Castle, to make them harder to shift…..but they may be more susceptible to Slams from behind for example. Also, if all your Guards are in the Castle, who are you going to use to move the opposition players out of the way for your own scoring attempts? You will also want to consider having a ball handler available to field the ball from your own end of the Pitch should an opposing Strike attempt go awry or you create a turnover situation that you want to capitalize on.
That concludes our look at The Castle. Next time, we will look at a useful anti-Castle tactic in The Sucker Draw.