Pitch Protocols: Famous Formations—The Press

Famous Formations: The Press

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Wonder what they’re up to?

The Press is a series of variant offensive formations where at least half of the teams players are situated on the launch line at the start of the match. However, The Press can also be combined with other formations, depending upon the match up in question to provide some defense, and then becomes more a “tactic” than purely a formation. Either way, it tends to be utilized by more aggressive teams, or simply by teams that are Home. It would also be possible to use the five across variant as a sort of Forward Screen for a Visiting team looking to mix it up, but that takes careful consideration of positioning and matchup to keep from getting exploited by your opponent.

Advantages

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The Press allows the Forge Fathers ample slamming opportunities and gives them the range to go deep on Strike attempts.

There are many viable variations of The Press, but there Advantages are fairly similar across the board. Firstly, it allows a Bashy team to get as many bodies as possible close to the action to start laying down the hurt. Secondly, it positions slower teams to have greater “reach” with their actions, being positioned to get into the opponents half of the pitch on their first move. It can also be psychologically beneficial when setting up as the Home team, as it often can force your opponent into a more defensive formation to try and counter your slamming game….thereby minimizing their own first rush opportunities.

Disadvantages

One of the main draw backs is usually defensive orientation. Committing so many players to attack tends to leave your own end of the pitch open to counter strikes. However, if you start to win the war of attrition, this can be increasingly less of an issue. Also, it kind of tips your hand as to what your going to do and can allow the opponent to minimize the damage you intend to cause them with their own setup. This would, in turn, be a good time to counter with a Sucker Draw and slow ball them with an attrition game if you have a decided advantage in slamming. The main key is to not get so caught up in slamming that you win the battle, but lose the war…..pay attention to that scoreboard!

Variations

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The Press is often as much about how you use it, as how you set up for it. This screams Sucker Draw and Slowball attrition.

The Press doesn’t have to be all the players, all the time. You could combine a Press with a Three Pillars for instance, the only difference really being intent of how you plan to utilize it. As mentioned, while typically a Home formation, it can be used defensively as a Screen, or even to exploit Run Interference trickery.

You’ve got a lot of options Coach, make ‘em count!

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Top Tips: The “Secret” to Success

Shhhhhhh….it’s a “secret”!

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Well, it’s no secret that I love DreadBall. Really, I enjoy not just the “game”, but also the future sport it’s meant to depict. However, one of the things I really enjoy about the DreadBall hobby, is continually learning something new. It helps keeps the hobby fresh and exciting.

One of the best ways to create opportunities for learning something new is playing in tournaments. I really appreciate the way it creates match-ups against coaches I’m not familiar with, and that see and play the game differently than I do. Sometimes it’s simply different set-ups. Other times, it’s different tactics. Or even just a more varied team composition, or compositional preference. Regardless, it usually gives a jolt of inspiration to develop something I can adapt and incorporate into my own style of play.

When it comes to tournaments, though, there is one learning tool that I prize above all the rest. The “secret mission”. Every tournament for the last couple years, I have set myself some additional objective that I try to achieve. This has the added dimension of having to look at the game differently than I normally do, and doing away with some of my own “best practices”. In so doing, I sometimes develop very effective new ideas. And sometimes, it simply helps reinforce why best practices are best! 

These “secret” missions have ranged from not using a particular formation, to seeing how many Punts I could pull off in a tournament, or even just challenging myself with a team I don’t usually use. The mission didn’t matter so much as it provided new “discovery” opportunities in playing the game—the ones that give a rush of excitement when you “discover” a new combo, team makeup, or tactic that you can’t wait to try. It’s simply my opinion, but I feel it also helps add variety, and therefore longevity, to the game. And in the process, I think it’s helped me become a better player too.

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“Check out THIS combo….”

If you get a chance, you really owe it to yourself to participate in a DreadBall tournament. If you feel that’s old hat, maybe freshen things up and take a “secret mission” for a spin? 

Anyway, keep it secret, keep it safe, and Good Luck when you hit the pitch!

 

Top Tips: How to Get Lucky

How to “Get Lucky”

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Final Rush. Down by three. One action left. Your Striker has the ball, makes an evade, a dash and launches the throw from the 4-point bonus hex…..IT’S GOOD!

“You got lucky!” Your opponent harrumphes. 

Well, did ya….punk?

Here are some tips to try and ensure you “get lucky” as often as you please.

  1. KNOW WHAT NEEDS DONE! If you need to score, for example, make sure you save at least one action token for that (or not, if you have a card, but more on that later). Some vets will count out what action tokens they NEED to do and set them aside, leaving the rest for any extraneous actions to play with first. This may seem frivolous, but keep in mind, success in small actions can have knock on effects, like removing opposing players, or generating fan checks that result in bonus dice or cards. It also helps to make your Rush more efficient. With only 5 tokens, there will be times you will need to prioritise
  2. POSITION PLAYERS TO SUCCEED. If you want your Striker to have the ball with a chance to score at the end of the match, they can’t be on the bench. Likewise, if you want to make a successful Slam, use a Guard if you can. Trying to decide if you want to Steal or Slam to get the ball? Which is your player best at, and can you get behind the opposition first? You know the saying, it’s “How you use it” that matters!
  3. PICK A CARD, ANY CARD. Get some DB cards. Somehow. Whether you have them on your roster, generate them from fan checks (I almost never take the dice), or simply spend some action tokens to acquire them throughout the game. The cards are HUGE! They serve two primary purposes. One, they can give you extra actions later in a Rush when you need to do more than 5 tokens will allow. Two, they can provide some additional “insurance” on those critical rolls when you NEED it most. Don’t underestimate the cards.
  4. PLAY SMART! This goes back to the “know your team” advice from The Playbook. If your team isn’t built to smash, don’t waste actions on it! If your team is full of brutes, lay the hurt down early and often. Play smart by matching your team capabilities to a strategy that utilizes them effectively.

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So, there you go. Four tips to help you get lucky. Go get ‘em tiger!

Pitch Protocols: Famous Formations—The Deep Screen

Famous Formations: The Deep Screen

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Deep Screen Variant. Here, the Yndij have opted to leave the wings of the pitch open in order to try and benefit from the presence of their Captain. They have also added a Pillar to the 3/4 zone should any one break through the screen. Two of the Yndij are serving dual roles, they are both part of the screen, while simultaneously serving as Pillars in the short strike zones to minimize dinking.

The Deep Screen is another defensive oriented formation. The general set-up is to create a Screen of players that maximize threat-hex coverage the width of the pitch. Additionally, these players are set-up deep in their own half of the pitch. This serves two purposes. One, it serves as another way of deterring 3/4 Strike attempts by placing players or threat hexes in the path of the opposition. Two, it minimizes attack opportunities by the opposition as attacking players will need to spend some actions to move into position first. As such, this formation will be typically used by a Visiting Team, though it could be utilized by a Home squad that is planning on slow balling or using a Sucker Draw as well.

Advantages

One of the main advantages of the Deep Screen is the width the formation provides. This leaves very few options for teams that prefer to run around opponents rather than through them. It also creates lots of passive defense opportunities in the form of Evade rolls. Another advantage is that, while still defensive in nature, the players are still free to be more active than if they are in a Castle, so long as they maintain their relative position to their teammates.

Teams with great Movement, defensive abilities (like Duck and Weave, Gotcha!, etc.), and solid Strikers can play an attrition game of giving up short zone Strikes, while countering back to equalize or take the lead. This plays to the strength of being the Visitors, setting up a game winning rush for the end game phase. 

Disadvantages

Having your team set-up so deeply can limit your attacking or counter-attacking opportunities. This can be mitigated, however, in careful assessment of the match-up at hand. If the team you are playing against, or even their coach, prefers a more aggressive style of play, you may find that they will do the bulk of the movement work for you, giving you more actions to counter attack with anyway. Another drawback is that it leaves the front of the pitch open for the opposition to dink and dunk 1’s and 2’s, or to counter with a Sucker Draw. However, if you are the Visitors, it will be easy to assess how much of a threat those options are based on the Home team formation and can be countered accordingly.

Pitch Protocols: Famous Formations—3 Pillars

Famous Formations: 3 Pillars

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The Sphyr have opted for a 3 Pillars formation. As the Visitors, they have opted for a more defensive arrangement, committing two players to a short-screen in the middle of their end of the pitch. Additionally, a second player has been tasked with guarding the 3/4 zone by taking up position on the bonus hex.

The 3 Pillars is a flexible formation that can be utilized by both offensive and defensive minded coaches. The Pillars refer to the players who take up position in the middle of each Strike Zone. Their purpose is to deny bonus point Strike opportunities, and in the hands of some teams, can even serve to frustrate regular Strikes as well. This allows some passive defense in each Strike Zone, and still leaves players free to take the match to the opposition. Like always, there are many variations, and you will usually see Pillars added to other formations to make full use of a teams roster and set-up.

Advantages

Having players in each scoring zone make its easier to respond to opposition threats on your end of the pitch. The Pillar players are able to be a little more active and responsive in your Rush due to this positioning. And, in a similar fashion to the Castle, if the opponent wishes for bonus points, they are going to have to expend actions to shift players. Depending on the match-up, this can be beneficial in and of itself.

Additionally, certain abilities make the formation even more potent. Extended Interference and Alert, for example, can give you the opportunity to not only deny bonus strikes, but threaten or disrupt regular ones as well. Other abilities like Keeper and Stench, can be used for similar effect.

Disadvantage

A formation like this again necessitates committing half of your team to your own side of the pitch. For some teams, this is not much of a draw back. However, if you depend on numbers or raw aggression for your plays to succeed, this can be a bit of a detriment. Additionally, it doesn’t really take that much to shift a single player. This is where careful consideration of the match-up at hand is required, to ensure placement of the right players for the job, or even changing formations all together.

Pitch Protocols: Tactics Talk—The Sucker Draw

Pitch Protocols: Tactics Talk—The Sucker Draw

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Well, that’s annoying….

It is just about launch time, your team is frothing at the mouth to put a hurt on the opposition. The crowd is going crazy, you are the Home team after all. But then, as you scan the opposition, you realize that they’ve committed to cowering near their subs bench, castling up, or setting a deep screen. Being so far removed from where the action is, your left with some less than optimal decisions. Do you spend most of your Rush simply getting into position? Do you dole out only some token hurt, lacking the necessary actions to punish the opposition in earnest? Their devious deep set-up leaves you with a less than fulfilling Rush that they will surely capitalize on….or does it? Enter: The Sucker Draw.

 

Why waste actions going to them, when you make the opposition come to you? That’s what the Sucker Draw is all about. Spin their game plan right back on to them. This works particularly well if your team is geared for attrition and likes to play a bit of slow ball.

To start, get hold of the ball, and turtle up a sizable distance away (preferably at least two move actions from the nearest opposition). Make sure to have a barrier of some of your own players for opposing players to have to navigate around. With no easy routes to the ball, they will have to spend their whole Rush stretching themselves to get into position. If the opposing team has some players close to the center, swarm them with a vengeance to knock them off the pitch if possible. Otherwise, use some actions to position a pair of players in preparation for besieging the opposition defensive line or Castle.

Done well, the opposing team will have very little to effectively do, save moving. On your subsequent Rushes, your ball carrier must play a little keep away. The rest of your players systematically eliminate the closest opposition players or biggest threats. Where possible, always try to keep a pair of players working in tandem to keep the opposition formation under pressure.

Do not panic if you lose the ball. If you position yourself well, there will often be very little that your opponent will be able to do with it, if they get it, having spent most of their actions simply trying to get in position in the first place. In doing so, they have most likely stretched themselves out without support, leaving you plenty of opportunities to team up on them and Slam at will. If the ball is lost, simply start the process over: secure the ball, turtle up, beat down nearest threats.

Admittedly, this process is best utilized by strong, Slam heavy teams. However, with some forethought and clever positioning, most squads can use this tactic capably. As the Home team, you do still need to make sure you get some points on the board. The ideal end game scenario is that you are able to decimate the defense and score big late in the match. When the opposition finally gets a chance to handle the ball on or near the last Rush, they will ideally find themselves low on numbers and out of position to capably Strike back with the equalizing score.

One of the true strengths of this approach, is that by decimating the players not set in a screen or Castle, the opposition is often forced to break their own formation to field players capable of coming after you—doing the hard work for you and opening up those prized scoring lanes while presenting more targets for slamming in the process!

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The Sphyr have been cagey with the ball for almost the entire match. Now, with the clock winding down, they move to score on the stretched out Judwan.

While this tactic is described from the set-up perspective, it can be used later in the game if the opportunity presents itself. The key is patience, and a fair amount of practice. It can also be put to devastating effect by a Visiting team, clinching the game winning Strike in the final rush. Also, it should be noted that it’s not a strategy that needs to be committed to for an entire match. You may find that once you start to create a deficit of players for the opposing team, you are more than willing to trade strikes with them, having properly handicapped them in the process!



 

 

Pitch Protocols: Famous Formations-The Castle

Famous Formations: The Castle

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Love it, or Hate it….it works.

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.

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The Visitors are using a Castle with two Pillars. Additionally, the Striker in the middle creates a short Screen in the middle of the pitch.

Advantages
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.

Disadvantages
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.

Pitch Protocols: The Playbook pt. 4–The Set-up!

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The calm before the storm! Your set-up makes a major impact on the rest of the match…choose wisely!

Okay, so, you understand your team. You’ve considered the match-up at hand and have determined your Overall Strategy for the match. Now, it’s time to set-up! The set-up is the crowning piece of the pre-game phase, it’s what all the other facets built upon. The set-up also dramatically impacts the in-game phase as well. Therefore, it is vital to do your team justice and set-up with purpose!

However, there are a few other considerations to take into account. Primarily, are you the Home team? Or are you the Visitors? This distinction is important. You may have it in your mind to play some Run-N-Gun, and unleash an offensive blitz on your opponent. To that end, you set-up your Strikers aggressively across the Launch line. Problem number 1: You are the Visitor. Problem number 2: Your opponent has also set-up aggressively, with a very bashy squad….

The Home team has to set-up first. As the Home team, it’s best to consider your set-up in terms of what you want to accomplish. After all, while the Visiting team may get a chance to react to your set-up, YOU get the first rush. Do not put yourself in positions that prevent you from implementing your game plan from the start. Many times I have seen, for example, a coach set up a Guard deep in their own half, then waste two actions just getting that Guard into the opponent’s end of the pitch. If you want your Guard to be be able to mix it up early and often, set them up appropriately! Likewise, if you have a particular player you want to field the ball for you, make sure they are positioned within reach of it!

The Visiting team has a little trickier time of it. While there is the advantage of seeing how the Home team will set-up, you have to be a little more reactive in anticipating what the Home team will do. They will be going first, so it’s important to account for how their strategy may interact with yours. Their set-up may tip you off as to what they intend to do, but also be mindful of what they are capable of doing (their strengths, abilities, etc.) as well.

Again, in our example above, setting Strikers across the launch line may be less than ideal against the bashy team. It gives them plenty of easily accessible targets to tee-off on, meaning they will be able to optimize their action token expenditures on implementing their game plan. There may be times you would want to do this, but most likely, you will want to set up in such a way that they have to “waste” some actions merely getting into position to Slam, minimizing the damage they are able to inflict on your roster. Against high-scoring, but weak slamming teams, you might see Visiting teams clog Strike Zones with players to try and minimize scoring opportunities for their opponents. This is the concept of “action denial”. While the Home team my go first, there is no sense in letting them optimize their rush. Force them to spend actions on moving and repositioning as opposed to scoring or slamming, as this reduces just how much they are able to effectively accomplish in a rush.

This is why you see set-ups like deep screens or castles, as the Visiting team looks to survive the first rush onslaught. However, be warned. Too extreme of a deep set-up will leave you either susceptible to a sucker-draw, or in danger of being unable to effectively utilize your own rush when control of play comes back to you.

This concludes the Pre-game Phase. Next, we will move the Playbook into the In-game Phase. However, we will still be talking about the Pre-game in analyzing specific set-ups for both their Strengths and Weaknesses. This will be a new article section devoted to specific tactics. First up: The Castle!

Pitch Protocols: The Playbook pt.3–Overall Strategy

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The final consideration a coach must take into account in determining their optimal setup for a given match is their Overall Strategy. Your play style is a synthesis of your teams capabilities and your own coaching preferences. You will also find that your strategy will often vary by match up. An Overall Strategy for a match will help dictate which roles will need to start on the pitch, as well as where they need to set up in order to best implement your cunning plan.

That said, there are largely three prominent Overall Strategies or play styles to consider. While there are others, many are really some variation of these basic principles. Let’s take a closer look:

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Hey, if you Throw enough strikes, one is bound to go in!

Run-N-Gun
Run-N-Gun is ALL about offense. Here, you live and die by the old adage “the best defense is a good offense”. The main hallmark of this strategy is taking a Strike attempt EVERY rush. Positioning of other players on the pitch is largely about setting up for future score attempts and nominally slowing down the opposition. This strategy is particularly effective for the Home team, taking an early lead and often forcing the opposing team to abandon their own strategy to play a more reactive catch up game. The Pelgar Mystics and Skittersneak Stealers are two teams that exemplify this style of play.

 

 

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Don’t chase ‘em, make them come to you—and CRUSH them!

Slow Ball
While some teams are zipping about the pitch flinging strikes with impunity, there are others that like to sloooooooow things down. No need to be hasty after all. Slow Ball is essentially the exact opposite of Run-N-Gun. Here, a team looks to obtain possession of the ball and work into position for an optimal strike. Often, it is the preferred style for slower moving teams, trying to make what strikes they finally get into position for to count. This means being willing to setup for holding on to the ball at the end of a rush. That doesn’t mean being idle, and for many teams that utilize this style, it usually means bad news for opposing players. Players that pose the most immediate risk are usually viciously slammed into submission while the ball carrier takes shelter in the midst of their teammates.

Slow Ball can be risky as the Away team, if your starting at a big deficit on the scoreboard. However, if the opposing team has strung out there players across the pitch unable to support one another effectively (or missed their opening strike), it can still pay big dividends. The “Sucker Draw” is the hallmark play of a Slow Ball squad, and it’s something we’ll dig into more in the future. Aspiring Slow Ball squads need only look to the Sulentic Shards as a shining example of how to get it done.

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Well-rounded teams can do a little bit of both!

Smash and Dash
Smash and Dash is just like it sounds….a little of both! This strategy looks to strike a balance between offense and defense, the team being open to what the match up gives them. If holding on to the ball sets up a better play, they will spend the rush battering a hole in the defense. If a strike opportunity presents itself, they are capable of capitalizing on it. Well rounded teams tend to hang out here because of the diversity of their capabilities, but they can change play styles if the match-up demands it. Oddly enough, the Greenmoon Smackers are a top notch example of a Smash and Dash squad—the Orx bring the smash and the goblins bring the dash!

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A little dash…and a BIG smash!

We will eventually visit these Overall Strategies in greater detail, diving into them individually and looking into other less common styles and variations. Next time, however, it’s time to finally finish off the Pre-game Phase and get into Set-ups!

Pitch Protocols: The Playbook pt. 2—Understanding Your Team

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It’s old advice, but still true!

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Even the ancients knew, the first step to victory on the neodurium starts in the locker room—you must know your roster! A coach must carefully assess their teams capabilities in order to devise an effective game plan. Firstly, you must account for which player roles are at your disposal. Do you have any Strikers? Are you flush with Guards? Or are Jacks your mainstay? The composition or roles on the roster will greatly influence your match strategy. A preponderance of Guards would imply a team itching to put a hurt on the opposition. Whereas, a team consisting of mostly Strikers will be looking to focus on handling the ball and slingin’ strikes! And don’t forget, you may have assets on the sidelines—such as coaches, cheerleaders, cards, etc. that may also impact your game plan.

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The first step toward victory, starts with the roster!

Additionally, as coach, you must assess your teams strengths and weaknesses. Is Strength your….er, strength? Or is it your Skill that is a primary asset? Roles also influence this as the specialists grant additional dice to their, well, specialty. A 5+ Skill may be a scary proposition when it comes time to pick up the ball, but it helps knowing if you have strikers available to get the extra dice when they do the job. Recognize potential areas of weakness. Having a low strength, for example, may make shifting opposition players difficult. This could make certain set-ups, such as The Castle, difficult to overcome and prompt you to alter your scoring strategy accordingly. You may find yourself dinking one’s and two’s instead of aiming for the big points each Rush.

However, an important aspect to consider is what abilities you have at your disposal. For example, Tsudochan lack Guards and have a lackluster 5+ Strength. On the surface, it would seem moving opposition will be a challenge. On closer inspection, however, the Push ability provides an alternative means of getting that task accomplished. Understanding your teams unique set of attributes and abilities is essential for a coach to get the most out of their team.

tsudochan_team
A player is more than just their “stats”, don’t forget about Abilities!

Once you’ve gotten to know your roster, assessed your strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to consider Match ups. Understand, generally, if certain team types are more or less difficult for you to compete against. For instance, maybe particularly bashy teams cause your squad fits….or maybe slower teams are easier for your outfit to handle. Come match day, however, you must move past general match ups and get to specifics. Which opposition players are the biggest threats? How will you neutralize your opponents strengths? What are their weaknesses and how can you exploit them? Let’s look at an example:

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Match day arrives for a “friendly” between the Long Rock Lifers and the Sulentic Shards. The Lifers should be concerned about the prevalence of Crystallan Guards on the pitch and their great Strength, especially given the Lifers poor Armour. However, the Shards have low Movement, and no Strikers—the implication being that the Lifers may be able to outpace the Shards on the scoreboard if they can keep players on the pitch. Additionally, the Harmonics ability of the Crystallans can be quite potent, but also works to the Lifers advantage as Shock Collar is more tempting on targets grouped together…

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A game of contrasts, who will win? The coach that best exploits the match-up!

This is just a cursory example of how the process works. Next time, we will look into Overall Strategy and finally start getting into Set-ups. Until then, get out on the pitch and give it all you’ve got!