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Prepare for War

Bloodbowl Team Manager: Team Comparative Analyses

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After playing games and looking at the cards, here are my thoughts on the relative strengths of the various teams, and the thought process as to how I got to these conclusions.

First Caveat: The calculations I used to get to this point are very much like the calculations for the Drake Equation. That is, a lot of the variables are very much down to subjective assessment, and it is these subjective assessments that have resulted in the rankings I’ve come up with. However, I hope that like the aforementioned equation, this approach provides a useful framework for looking at the balance between teams even if different people using the same methodology might reach wildly different results.

Second Caveat: While we’ve played this game a fair amount, our gaming group has remained with the same small gang of people. This is invariably going to provide some bias with regards to our gaming styles as to which teams we find best. Also, we’ve played almost all our games as 3 player, with some 2 player games and only a small number of 4 player games. This might skew things a little. About half our games were pre Sudden Death, and half with the expansion in.

Third Caveat: Its worth emphasisng that I don’t think there’s much gap between the best and worst teams in the game here. The designers have done an excellent job of creating a sense of balance between asymmetric teams, and I think that’s worth congratulating. If nothing else, the random element as to who gets victory is far greater than the disparity in power between the best and worst teams, and in my opinion the skill factor is bigger than both put together.

Caveats aside, here are the rankings from my analysis:

1.    Undead
2.    Humans
3.    Skaven
4.    Dark Elves
5.    Elf
6.    Chaos
7.    Orcs
8.    Vampires
9.    Dwarves

Reaching these conclusions was as follows:

1)    Team value was calculated.
2)    Team upgrades were rated.
3)    A cohesion/flow modifier was added. This was the very subjective bit.

Calculating Team Value

Each player was rated according to the following formula:

Each Standing Star Power = +1
Each Downed Star Power = +0.5
Pass Skill = +2 for first icon, +1 for second onwards.
Block Skill = +2 per icon, reduced to +1.5 if Star Power 2 or less, increased to +3 if Star Power of 4.
Sprint Skill = +1.5 for first icon, +1 for second onwards.
Cheat Skill = +1 first icon, +0.5 second onwards.
Downed Skill = half of above
Downed Regeneration Skill = +1/4 of standing Star Power value
Card Text = +0.5 to +1.5 depending on utility.
Inherent Synergy of Skills = +0.5
Inherent Conflict of Skills = -0.5
Choice of skills = Score of better skill set and add +0.5.

These were then totalled to give a team value.

Some explanations:

Pass skill is worth 2 Star Power, as it takes the ball off the opposition or moves it onto you. Variable balls aren’t factored into this, as even though that addition reduces the average star power of balls significantly, there are enough other benefits to variable balls to make them worth 2 Star Power on average. Plus, of course, you’ll tend to see teams picking the matchups with balls that favour them. Its arguable that a ball move isn’t actually worth 2 Star Power as it doesn’t make you any better at blocking, but the fact that the ball is a tiebreaker makes enough of a difference.
So why only 1 Star Power for the Second Pass? Anyone who has played against Gutter Runners is aware of just how good they are at tipping matches. I’d stand by this assessment though, as often the second pass icon can be wasted through lack of opportunity, and anyone with 2 passes almost demands to be played as your last card. Play them early, and they are wasted.

Block skill is worth 2 Star Power, as on a strong block you down your opponent 75% of the time, and generally that’s 2 Star Power off them. But surely, you say, that makes it worth a lot less than 2 Star Power, as you’re relying on chance and on being able to make a strong block? To that, I’d note that Blocks can also free the ball up for a further 2 Star Power, and that downing opponents also deactivates their card text. Also, of course, you can opportunistically injure downed players, though against most teams you get a bigger Star Power advantage from downing another player. Sometimes also you’ll be able to take off more than 2 Star Power from downing or injuring an opponent, though sometimes it’ll be less. Thus, 2 Star Power.
Some players might note that Blocking is a lot easier to counter than Passing (what with regeneration, dwarf toughness, guarding, sure hands, dump off). To that, I’d observe that Blocking is a lot easier to play early in a hand, as its less reversible in its effects.
I’d also note that I rate 2 block icons as being worth as much as twice 1 block icon. Unlike double passes, its almost always the case that you’ll have an opportunity to block twice, and even if you’re often looking at a smaller Star Power drop from one of the block, the sheer power of being able to blast down a guard first, or turn a matchup with one standing opponent into one where they have noone present is awesome. Perhaps double block should be worth even more than 4 points, but as I said, it’s the diminishing returns that balance out the impact effect.

For players that have 2 Star Power, I’ve decreased the value of Block to 1.5, as they’ll have less opportunities to make two dice blocks that take off 2 Star Power. Note though that largely these players make up for it again on card text. Hence an Assassin gets +1.5 for Block, and +0.5 for Dauntless.

The Sprint Skill I value at 1.5 Star Power. This might seem a little mean, as often you’ll gain a bigger Star Power advantage from this (say replacing a Lineman with a Blitzer) and this advantage only grows as you gain Star Players. However, I’d also note that sometimes Sprinting draws you good cards to a good hand or bad cards to a bad hand, and that sprint is inherently self-limiting: you can only sprint so much before you have the hand you want. Also, Sprinting loses its usefulness in the late hand, as while you might be slightly improving your next hand by sprinting with 2 or 3 cards left in hand, the benefit doesn’t always materialise (say because of Freebooters) and is deferred.

The Cheat Skill I value at 1 Star Power. A 20% chance of being sent off is obviously the big downside, while a 1-3 Star Power boost can be decisive, and extra fans is always nice. Multiple cheat skills can actually cause more trouble than they’re worth, as you’re far more likely to get sent off, and the whistle “trumps” Star Power increases. This is why Lord Borak isn’t that great!

Downed skills I value half as much as standing skills. Sure, they work just as well, but you’re generally not in control of when they activate. You could through “2 dice against” blocks to trigger your downed skills, but its rarely worth it. Regeneration skill is a 11/36 chance of standing up again. I considered making it worth 11/36 of the difference between Standing and Downed, but actually I think that undervalues it, as there’s a bigger swing effect than might be expected from a successful regeneration, because of the added buffer against injury and the reactivation of card text. Thus I’ve called it ¼ of standing star power. It has a strong psychological value too, but I’ve discounted this as I think experienced players can see past that, and just work the odds.

Card text is hard to judge. Between 0.5 and 1 per item is what I say generally. For example, the human blitzer’s conditional pass skill is not as good as a pass icon, but it will turn up 75% of the time, so 1.5. The Treeman’s Fend might give back 2 Star Power, but it will rarely activate and isn’t a huge deterrent, so 0.25. A card text that is a limitation I rated at -0.5 to 1. There aren’t really any cards with glaringly disabling card text, and some drawbacks are barely drawbacks at all.

For the common texts I’ve gone with:
·    Guard +0.5. When it activates it’ll generally save you 1 Star Power and maybe protect the ball too. But it has to activate. Non-lineman guards might not save you as much Star Power, but are stronger from the play, so I haven’t diminished the value.
·    Fend +0.25. Potentially +2 Star Power, but too conditional and too outside of your control to be worth that. Fend with a Pass skill would be more worthwhile, as at least you can draw blocking attempts that way.
·    Sure Hands +0.5. Shuts down half of ball-removing strategies, but it’s a passive skill rather than a proactive one, which limits its use.
·    Stand Firm +1. Like Sure Hands, but you can't get downed either.
·    Dump Off +0.5. Slightly weaker than Sure Hands for ball-protecting because you need that second player. But that second player can be a standing one with a better Star Power that can hold the ball better.
·    Dodge +0.5. A small amount of defensive security, but we’re only talking changing from 75% down to 56% on 2 dice blocks. Against 1 dice blocks its 50% down to 25%, with an increase of attacker down from 17% to 30%. Much better, but still only a half point skill text.
·    Frenzy +0.5. Is Frenzy really as good as having one more Star Power? Of course not, but its still decent because it’s a skill that’s in your hands.
·    Strip Ball +0.5. A versatility option really, swapping a block for a pass thats only useful in one circumstance. So only +0.5.
·    Juggernaught +0.5. I rate the counter the Guard as being worth as much as Guard, because of its disruption value to the opposing game plan.
·    “+2 fans if…” +1.0. Any indirect source of fans is strong. How easy it is to access this is covered in inherent conflict of / synergy of skills.

Inherent synergy of skills means that within the card itself, the components work better than the sum of their parts. The human blitzer is a good example of this, as the pass follows the block, so it can down an opponent and move the ball right across the field. Consider how much weaker pass then block is than block then pass.

Inherent conflict of skills means that different parts of the card clash against themselves. For example, cards that both sprint and pass. Generally its good to play pass skills late, to stop the ball being taken off you again. Generally its good to sprint early as you want maximum hand control. This clash makes a card like, for example, Jordell Freshbreeze not as good as his skills might suggest (even if he’s pretty great overall) as in playing him you’re never getting the most out of both halves of the equation.

For choice of skills, I generally took the better set than added 0.5 to account for versatility. For example, for the Witch Elf, Block and Cheat is 3 and the better option. But the versatility of choosing not to cheat is another 0.5.

Note that the above calculation actually seems to make Lineman seem as if they add to the value of a team, which may sound a bit odd. I’d note that this analysis is being done purely to assess whole team value and should be taken to allow relative comparison of players. In play, you’re actually more interested in the average value of the hand you play, which is why Freebooters improve a team more than their individual value suggests.

Calculating Upgrade Value

Each of the six upgrades were rated as:
 +0.5: A bonus that makes the team slightly better at winning matches (for example, a random strong effect, or a consistent single-skill effect).
+1.0: A bonus that makes the team a LOT better at winning matches (for example, a consistent strong effect).
+1.0: A bonus that probably some fans, but is unlikely to provide double figures of fans.
+2: A bonus that likely provides some fans, and potentially provides double figures of fans.

While these adjustments are small compared to base team value, I was reluctant to over-emphasise team upgrades, as while they can be game changing you still need to get them into play, and doing that usually comes at opportunity cost of gaining fans, star players or even other upgrades.

Some people might argue that a very strong upgrade (say Warpstone Souvenirs) is worth more than I’m saying here. I’d agree: if you get to play it. The fact that you may need to spam team upgrades to reach it, and even then you might not reach it, is a limiting factor to team value.

I’d also note that players often over-value upgrades that let them do dramatic stuff in match compared to gaining a trickle of fans. Ultimately winning match-ups is a means to an end, which is fans, which is why I consider Warpstone Souvenirs to be worth twice as much as an upgrade as the wood elves’ double-pass upgrade.

Cohesion / Flow Modifier

This is the most subjective bit:

+4: The team players complement each other, there’s a broad range of skills to give you the tools for every job, and the upgrades work well with rather than against each other to support an overall strong game-plan strategy that generates fans aplenty.
+3: Everything clicks together with fan generation, match winning and the rest with all parts supporting each other, but there are minor deficits there.
+2: The team players and the upgrades complement each other, and there is versatility, but mostly the team is good at winning matches rather than indirectly generating fans
+1: Theres some nice combos, but not enough to make the team great at winning matches.
+0:  There’s significant deficits in an area of play, limiting versatility. The upgrades might enhance the team’s core function, but they’re nice bonuses rather than power plays to centre a strategy around.
-2: The structure of the team means that upgrades or Star Players are needed to just get things working properly.
-4: The whole strucure has major flaws that render strategy extremely difficuly, and you need upgrades AND extra players to make it work.

This last step is a real fudge, but I tried to avoid bias by assigning this fudge factor before looking at the totals, to avoid the temptation of shifting scores until teams ended up in the order I believed they should be in.

Still, this fudge factor IS necessary. One of the reasons humans are so strong is because they can play for Star Players and Team Upgrades, and still bring in a slew of fans thanks to Publicity Stunts, and this lets them play a strategy of team improvement simultaneous with scoring, which has a real snowballing effect. One of the reasons vampires aren’t as awesome as having four vampires would imply is because of their difficulty sprinting into their vampires, the difficulty of knocking people down without the vampires being played and the clash between that factor and being able to get blood tokens by asking the vamps to block downed guys. Likewise Dwarves need a weaker fudge factor, as they’ve got excess Guards compared to ball-handlers.

I then totalled all the scores to give their Overall Strength score, and used these to determine rankings.

Now the team by team analyses!


Lineman x 4:         1.5 x 4
Gutter Runner x 3:    6.5 x 3 (note inherent conflict of sprint on double-passer)
Blitzer x 2:        8 x 2
Thrower x 2:        5 x 2
Rat Ogre:        10

= 61

Skavenblight Supp.:    +0.5
Warpstone Souvenirs:    +2
Sewer Go Map:    +1
Swarm tactics:        +0.5
Eshin Assassination:    +0.5 (would be +1 for a team with more block skills!)
Professional Cheater:    +0.5

= 5

Cohesion Modifer +3
Great sprinting as a team combined with a mix of all four skills and a big guy is very useful, and team has tools to deal with all defence types. A "concentration of force" strategy is well supported by Souvenirs, Sewer Go and Swarm Tactics. Throwers seem slightly redundant sometimes, as does Eshin Assassination, but generally great synergy.

Total: 69


Longbeard x 4:        1.5 x 4    
Troll Slayer x 2:    7.5 x 2
Runner x 2:        5.5 x 2
Blitzer x 2:        6.5 x 2
Blocker x 2:        6.5 x 2

= 58

Steely Resolve:        +0.5
Bear the Grudge:    +0.5
Rigorous Training:    +0.5
Rising Ire:        +0.5
Legendary Toughness:    +0.5
Lessons in Violence:    +1

= 3.5

Cohesion Modifier:    -2
A letdown here, in that lacking sprinting means longbeards must often be played. There's too much defensiveness in the upgrades, too many Guards for the number of people that need guarding. The runner doesn't need guarding, and noone else can pass. There's aggression, but not enough to justify a focus on pure combat. Extra toughness when downed isn't enough to compensate.

Total: 59.5

Dark Elves

Lineman x 4:        1.5 x 4
Assassin x 2:        7 x 2 (note inherent synergy of downed skill with dauntless)
Blitzer x 2:        7.5 x 2
Witch elf x 2:        7.5 x 2
Runner x 2:        6.75 x2 (note inherent synergy of pass with dump off)

= 63.5

Seething Hatred    +1
Deathlace        +1
Hag's Hex:        +0.5
Dark Sorceress:    +0.5
Sneering Assistant:    +1
Body Count:        +1

= +5

Cohesion Modifier    +0
Almost too many choices, and a preponderance of value placed in downed skills means you rely on being tackled, which is out of your control. While the team is superbly versatile, there's not much feeling of synergy. The Runners have no good candidates to dump off to. There's too many cards that play well late or mid hand, and to play early hand stuff you often have to take weaker choices. A good spread of skills, however, rises this from -2 to +0, as the Dark Elves have the tools for most jobs.

Total = 68.5


Lineman x 4:        1.5 x 4
Blitzer x 3:        6.5 x 3
Thrower x 2:        5 x 2
Blocker x 2        6 x 2
Troll:            9.5

= 52

Illegal Substitution    +0.5
Orcidas Sponsorship:    +0.5
Smash Em Bash Em:    +1
Illegal Choppa Block:    +1
Waaagh!:        +1
Beat da Points:        +1

= +5

Cohesion Modifier    +3
As a fighty team, the orcs hang together very nicely as their upgrades reward their preponderance of block skills, and the Blockers and the Troll give the firepower to make sure you've got two dice blocks on three-star players. They're held off +4 by a lack of sprinting and passing, which means you will have to play Linemen a fair amount.

Total = 60


Lineman x 4:        1.5 x 4
Blocker x 2:        4 x 2
Thrower x 2:        5 x 2
Vampire x 4:        9.5 x 4 (note inherent synergies of block then pass, and of regen +

= 62

Dark Kiss        +0.5
Subliminal Adv.        +0.5
Feeding Frenzy        +0.5
Force of Will        +1
Taste of Blood        +0.5
Ravenous Hunger    +0.5

= 3.5

Cohesion Modifier    -4
There's too much concentration of skill on the Vampires, as you need to play them early to get targets knocked down, and again to get them to use Bloodlust. You can set up your own thralls for a fall, but opponents will soon cotton on to that. Only Throwers can reliably draw a block, and that means playng a lineman then a thrower to set up your fall guy. And all this just for 1 Star Power?
You'll win a round where you draw 3+ vampires, but then due to lack of sprinting, you'll lose the next round.

Total = 61.5


Lineman x 4:        1.5 x 4
Thrower x 2:        5 x 2
Warrior x 2:        7.5 x 2
Beastman x 3:        7 x 2
Minotaur:        11

= 56

Winds of Change    +0.5
Derisive Laughter    +1
Withering Workout    +0.5
Changer of Plays    +1
Writhing Tentacles    +1
Handy Mutation    +0.5

= 4.5

Cohesion Modifier:    +1
There's a nice cheat-token manipulation theme going on, but this isn't as strong a synergy as the orcs fighting synergy. A lot of good upgrades there, but they tend to be good in their own right rather than synergising.

Total = 61.5


Lineman x 4:        1.5 x 4
Catcher x 2:         6 x 2 (Sure Hands without Pass is inherent conflict)
Thrower x 2:        5.5 x 2 (Pass plus Dump off is inherent synergy)
Blitzer x 3:        7.5 x 3 (Block then Pass is inherent synergy)
Ogre:            9.5

= 61

Fan Favourites:        +0.5
Product Endorsements:    +1
Gryphon-Ade:        +0.5
Publicity Stunts:        +2
Jack of All Trades:    +1
Recruiting Agent:     +0.5

= 5.5

Cohesion Modifier:    +4
Everything slots together really well with this team. On the team level, Catchers are superb openers, Blitzers are great early or mid hand, Ogres and Throwers work well mid or late is there for the big hits or the clever dump-off. At the upgrade level there's an excellent level of synergy that allows humans much more leeway to gain Star Players and Upgrades and still remain points-competitive, which in turn makes them much more developed as a team by the time you hit the final couple of turns.

Total = 69.5


Lineman x 4:        1.5 x 4
Catcher x 2:        7 x 2
Wardancer x 3:        6.625 x 3
Thrower x 2:        5.5 x 2
Treeman:        8.25

= 59.125

Unnatural Agility:    +0.5
Conditioning Coach:    +0.5
End Zone Choreo.:    +1
Interception Assist.:    +1
Orion's Cleats:        +0.5
Dodge Type Thing:    +0.5

= 4

Cohesion Modifier:     +2
Superb skill coverage of pass, block and sprint. No cheating, but thats not a big problem in terms of cohesion/versatility. However, the presence of four two-star players makes being blocked a big problem, and there's a feel of the upgrades making you better at areas you'll already be dominating.

Total = 65.125


Skeleton x 4:        1.75 x 4
Ghoul x 3:        7 x 3 (Pass and Sprint is inherent conflict)
Wight x 2:        7.25 x 2
Zombie x 2:        4.5 x 2
Mummy:        13 (downed block then down regenerate is potential double liability)

= 64.5

Unholy Altar        +1
Pulled Under        +0.5
No Rest for…        +1
Gravediggers        +0.5
Necromancers:        +0.5
Relentless:        +0.5

= 4

Cohesion Modifier +2
Regeneration all round works excellently with the upgrades, which also have some neat combos built into them, like Unholy Altar / Pulled Under / Relentless. Particularly nice is the way that Zombies work so well with Pulled Under, as suddenly a block against a Star Player gives you good odds of pulling them under and standing yourself up again.
Add into this the great mix of skills, and Undead are probably the best team at winning matches in the game.
BUT, and this is a big but, they aren't superb at indirect fan gain, and that limits the cohesion modifier to +2.

Total = 70.5

Conclusions / Reflections…

Splitting the list as follows…

1.    Undead
2.    Humans
3.    Skaven
4.    Dark Elves

5.    Elf

6.    Chaos
7.    Orcs
8.    Vampires
9.    Dwarves

I'd say this has somewhat shaken up my view of the teams.

In our games, I think we've seen Vampires perform a lot better than they ought to have done from this analysis, but I think some of this has come from them being such a different team-style to the base set that we've often not played to counter their strengths and exploit their weaknesses. With a good think about things though, via this comparative analysis, I think my playgroup (and I) have over-rated vampires. We've also under-rated Dark Elves, I think, as I suspect they require a certain mindset and complex approach that we might not have yet achieved yet. There's also a certain appetite for risk with Dark Elves that my gang of players may lack. I was also surprised to find my analysis rated undead above humans and skaven. To my mind, regeneration seemed to be a bit like the dwarves' extra downed star power, but the more I look at the team, the more I realise that they have that extra toughness AND they have a superb well-rounded team. Sure, they're not uber-sprinters, but 3 players with sprint skill is a start, and they have a hell of a lot of hitting power, better linemen than anyone else, and IMHO, the best Big Guy in the game.

As to the original six teams, I think they listed in exactly the order we expected them to, save with Orcs behind Chaos. I think part of this is because our naturally cautious natures shy away from Cheat tokens. Many of my co-players started playing with the mindset that "one of the elves' strengths is that they don't have cheat tokens". This is a fallacy in so many ways!

For reference, my own listing prior to doing this analysis would have been:

1.    Humans
2.    Skaven
3.    Undead
4.    Elf
5.    Vampires
6.    Orcs
7.    Chaos
8.    Dark Elves
9.    Dwarves

Anyway, I thank you for following this analysis to the end. Comments welcome!

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Honestly, I started to read this whole analysis with the idea that it would be a pile of very subjective ratings with no true meaning, but I can tell you that I was wrong in my assumption and I think you did a pretty decent job in the end. This theory does make sense, even if I can't quite comment on every single rating you assigned to each skill/upgrade etc. This analysis is purely theoritical and should not reflect the practical way teams are played considering the randomness in the game (tackling and card draw mostly) and also players' behaviours (as for playing the teams' inner strengths and exploiting them the right way, the number of players also does matter, how much risk players are willing to take, and what are the rewards people tend to go for depending on teams etc). All of this can well make any of these bad teams shine because it's basically an open game. It would be quite boring otherwise, lol.

But what you did beatifully came down to this final conclusion and I can confirm that your rankings do make a lot of sense and my personal meta (up to 7 players) is confirming your assumptions. The top of the ladder is the simplest, we rank Humans, Wood Elves, Skavens, Dark Elves and Undead in the top 5 quite a bit ahead of the 6th team on the ladder. I would have ranked them as follows:

#1 Skavens (they completely dominate our meta, they have everything and can't be easily offset once they go off)

#2 Humans (for all pros you highlighted, every single puzzle piece making this a team makes sense) 

#3 Dark Elves (based on slightly less play due to the expansion, but it strikes us how flexible this team is, I know some people were sceptical in the thread asking for strategy advice but we personally don't see what the problem is).

#4 Undead (same as above, we haven't played them tons of times), this team is a bit special to play and involves more skills from the player to pilot them. Tied with the Dark Elves, at least we believe, but more play is required.

#5 Wood Elves (only seem slightly weaker on the star power side), but still a great team overall.

Then we differ slightly on the Orcs versus Chaos discussion. Piling up on cheating tokens can make Chaos win games but that's too random to call this a strategy, therefore we tend to think they´re more of a "party crasher" team (litteraly, lol) with small chance of achieving any sort of win. You can agree or not, it's fine, but based on our own experience Orcs are a much more reliable team and Chaos just doesn't sprint at all, which is really lacking. So:

#6 Orcs

#7 Chaos

Finally the two last spots to Vampires for the reasons I explained several times on these forums (I´m glad you could confirm some of these views despite your different experience as you see more success coming out of this team, as said earlier they completely SUCK in our meta, still waiting for them to achieve anything). Relies too much on the Vampires and even then they´re not great if ever good. Still, some potential but again, relies too much on your opponents since they basically need to let you build up in order for you to get the most needed rewards. That's not a strategy to me. Still, some potential and definitely a big plus for the flavor. Vampire theme is always great.

Dwarves as last, not because they are bad but because I fail to see anything they´re good at. They´e boring to play and the few strengths they have (higher down star power is one of the most "exciting") is just not worth the hype. Plus their art is not great.


#8 Vampires

#9 Dwarves

So great job and thanks for your time on this!

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Thanks, I appreciate the courteous reply!

In other fora, elsewhere on the internet, I've had criticisms ranging from "why did you waste your time on this" to "wrong! dwarves are good because they can get block and guard and tackle"… so its nice to see there's still intelligent criticism out there, somewhere.

As to the Vampires, one thing that has been pointed out to me is that there's a synergy between team players in that anyone who doesn't pass is able to guard.  I hadn't thought of things that way, and that certainly helps against blocking teams. I don't think its enough to really raise them up, though.

As to Orcs vs Chaos, I'd have agreed with you (in fact I did, in how I ranked them before doing the analysis). I suspect Orcs feel more effective, just because when hey are played it feels like one is doing so skilfully and in a controlled way, whereas with chaos it often seems like you're tossing a handful of darts in the air and hoping one of them hits the board. I think though, from an analytical point of view, the spread of odds of cheat tokens and the nature of recall bias means that a cheat-heavy team like chaos is a stronger than we mentally perceive it to be. It doesn't feel skilful to be relying on cheat tokens, and naturally we recall the times when we lose tournaments and highlights because of ejection while forgetting the small bonuses it is giving us most of the time.

I think also playing chaos is tough, from a human psychology point of view. Just as gambling is pleasurable because it is small losses with random intermittent large positive gain, playing chaos is the opposite: small gains, with random intermittent large positive loss. This mentally has our brains pigeonholing them as being too random to be fun, unless we really do have appetites for risk beyond the norm.

I wonder if chaos would be perceived as being stronger if Cheat Tokens mostly gave -1 Star Power but one in six times gave +10 Star Power? Not saying that would be thematic, but part of me suspects that they would be a lot more appealing to human psychology.

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Prepare for War said:

I think also playing chaos is tough, from a human psychology point of view. Just as gambling is pleasurable because it is small losses with random intermittent large positive gain, playing chaos is the opposite: small gains, with random intermittent large negative effect.

Brainfart. Meant to say above.

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I completely agree on the fact each team's performance highly depends on who is playing it. You can give Humans and Skavens to virtually anybody and the team will still perform. I think this should be a factor in the equation as for ranking these teams (but you did this anyway). To me that's why Dark Elves can't be on top of the ladder, because even if I would definitely consider them in-pair with the two aforementioned teams (again, based on my own playgroup's experience), they are a lot more hermetic to newer players. Choices (as for split skills) are tough for newer players, for instance. But give them to a strategist and you´ll be amazed. This to me is what you cannot do with Vampires, even though that's what you would think would be required for them to function well. That's why teams like Dwarves and Vampires (and Chaos, as for their lack of sprint skill) are like BB in "hard mode" because they are more difficult to get going. I´ve seen Chaos do well a couple of times though, but it was always at the price of something else. 

Obviously, bad rolls and draws are bad, so everything is to be taken with a grain of salt, it's not because you play a great team that you will automatically get a great game result. 

Like you say, psychology also plays a role, players are different and some are reluctant when it comes to used "bad" strategies like cheating tokens or injuring players (to get fans for instance). I´ve seen players playing the "pacifist" role in other games, e.g. never attacking any other player, if I give Chaos to such players then I can't expect anything to go well with the team, the mindset is still important, I´d think.

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Pacifism in Blood Bowl? That's pretty funny.

Injuring players is one of those things thats strategically complex. Psychologically, its very powerful, but in absolute terms (dwarves aside) you normally have more relative Star Power gain from downing someone than injuring them, so downing a standing player is generally better than going to finish off an injured one.

I'd agree with you that Dark Elves take more skill to use. I'd also observe that one of the things that makes Dwarves weak is that you can't increase their performance through skilful play. There are no sprints to choose when to use, its just a case of throwing out blocks then being resilient, the latter being a passive rather than proactive thing. I'd say then that as the skill of the playgroup increases, Dwarves get worse and worse.

In comparison, I'd say that the best teams are the ones that force the most choices. With humans you'll often have to think hard about which guy to play next, which prize to go for. With Skaven, timing your sprints and passes right is critical, as is being aware of the balance between strengthening your team deck and choosing which match-ups to deliberately lose.

Chaos, actually, I'd say is pretty easy to use simply because cheating is mandatory. You don't choose to take the gamble, you just make the gamble. There's a little knowledge required there to work out odds of different outcomes, but they're easier to play than say, Elves.

Would people agree that generally the more choices a team gives you, the stronger it is?

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That's my opinion, yes. Just relying on one strategy makes it very easy to offset, and that's almost in every game I´ve played. The crucial part is the decision of what player you want to commit each time you take your turn. This is where you want to have the right card in your hand, so to me the split skills of the Dark Elves for instance are really useful as you never have any "dead play" like some other teams would have. Sitting with a hand full of tacklers forces you to tackle "something" even though you don't need to. You want to sprint/cycle to get rid of these linemen  to build up your hand with useful players and reserve some of these powerful plays until the last couple of turns when your opponents might have exhausted their possibilities and lack "fuel" to land a proper response to yours. As an example, you may want to keep this player with two pass skills as your last player to steal this ball and win the matchup on the spot. You don't want to play "reactively" by looking at your player's skills. You want to select them and make a decision as for what most powerful play you want at a particular point. If you really need to tackle somebody but only have players with pass skills then you lack the ability to make that move and must rely on a less powerful play, maybe even giving up on a matchup. 

I think this game is a lot about reading your opponents' plays and commit players in consequence. If you know what choices your opponents might have in terms of players (upgrades are also visible btw) then it makes it a lot easier for you to make decisions. If you know this Human team at a matchup against your own team drafted Morg N' Thorg and he still hasn't been played, then it makes your decision to commit player A or player B at this matchup more informed.


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Playing more with Dark Elves I'm starting to see the finesse come in.

I may have under-rated the Dark Elf upgrades. The ones that seem instantly great like Deathlace and Dark Sorceress are the weaker ones - not to say they're bad upgrades, just that the ones that give fans are even better than I thought, probably worth another half point in my assessment above.

I'm still finding its challenging having anyone for the Runners to dump-off to, but I'm starting to see the clever games that can be played with Dark Elf downed skills. Sometimes you'll play a card that isn't fully optimal just because you know that if you get blocked, you get a benefit too, and that can be enough to diminish the disadvantage of being downed - much more so than the extra star power on a downed dwarf. This lets you make plays that are a lot braver than you'd dare with other teams, such as grabbing the ball from midfield with a weak player early in the hand, or making one dice blocks with wild abandon.

I'd rank Dark Elves as being as good as Undead, Skaven and Human now, rather than just below.


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Interesting read.  Well put together with some good thoughts too.

I think a major aspect which is alwasy hard to calculate(mainly because it depends a lot on individual skill, as well as the gaming group in question), is the number of players playing, and the table talk aspects of the different teams.  I pretty much exclusively play 4 player games, and comapred with a couple 2 player games i've played, i can definately say, that 4 player games have a MUCH more even playign field, and there is a LOT more depth for table talk and strategy in bigger games.

I'm a BIG table talker. I focus extensively on making other players play how i want them to play.  There are definatly teams that allow you to to do this better then others, but it does rely on the the players ability to get the most out of that usage.  I agree it's something that's so hard to assess it's probably not worth it, but that DOES change the effectiveness of certain teams, and can allow you to get more out of your team then it seemingly there.  

That being said, and whilst for the most part i agree with your tier list(more or less - only just go the expansion!), what i definately feel is the case in this game, is that player skill (and some luck) almost always win games, rather then team choice.  

However, certain teams are straight up easier to play (or more straight forward - eg, Humans), and others are tougher or more "strategic"(for me, that means more fun, eg, Vamps).

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I'd certainly agree with what you're saying there, especially about the strong effect on number of players present.


The Dwarves, for example, who I think are widely recognised as the weakest team, have better value in a four player game as they have deterrent value, or at least present weaker opportunities for opponents with a choice.

That is, if you're an opponent with a blitzing player, you're more likely to go for the 3* orc than the 3* dwarf, as you've got more to gain from a successful block.


Likewise Chaos, another not-great team, has the psychological advantage of unrevealed cheat tokens, which can be a great deterrent against players choosing between a safe outcome or a risky one.

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I've played this game almost 10 times now and thought I knew most of it but there are definetly things I learned from your guide!


Like getting fans is THE most important thing....I normally go for Starplayers and teamupgrades because they give me options for winning later games. Which I tend do focus on anything but fans....



I just taught my brother to play Blood Bowl and our rankings are way different than yours. We have played three times and the first time my Skaven Ran away with the victory from his Wood Elves. Than again he doesn't know how many of the skills work nor what Freebooter do....and I also have to remind him about what the skills mean....*sigh*


The second game, I destroyed him with Orvs v Humans, 81 - 21 to me. Had Smashjaw with 'Beat the points outta them!' and a staffupgrade card that gave 1 point for injuring players. So I gotted 5 points in one injury there. Just fantastic. He say the humans are crap (but then again he most likely do not know about the synergy of teamupgrades and Starplayers. Even told him to look through his teamupgrades so he could plan a strategy.




Lost the third game with Orvs v Dwarves....this is also where I totally disagree with ya. Dwarves are **** tough!   Lots of block with teamupgrades that stand you up again and increase your downed players starpower. And downed players have higher starpower than any other race.


Dwarves are my favorite race. Their many tackles coupled with the really strong teamupgrades make for a team that doesn't leave the pitch in the first place!

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Prepare for War,

it's an amazing analisys. I haven't been playing Blood Bowl for long enough to really appreciate the nuances, but I totally appreciate your passion for the game, and the ideas behind it. Kudos, really, really well done :)



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I appreciate the appreciation, thanks!


To the anonymous poster one above: I certainly have no qualms with dwarves being a favourite race of any player! I love my dwarf army in WFB and my team in the bloodbowl board game.


However, I stand by my current assessment that they are weaker than the other teams, or at least certainly in the lower of the two tiers. Dwarves are indeed, **** tough, and with upgrades in place they are **** hard to keep down. However, the lack of decent sprinting means you're often stuck playing linemen, and the linemen generally have no-one to guard. Most other teams can keep the ball off the dwarves fairly easily, and thats a small flaw. Most teams can generate fans more quickly than dwarves, and have players that support each other better, and thats a major flaw for the dwarves.


I would note, however, that the entire analysis is based heavily on subjective assessment. If you were to rate downed star power as being worth more than +0.5, or if you were to assess the cohesion modifier differently, you could easily push them to the middle tier, though I think it'd be a stretch to place them as the best team. I welcome any counter analysis, however!

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hello yes a very good job with the analysis. I did one myself but didn't go into as much detail as yourself. I concentrated on the basics with my analysis. firstly I added up the total star points on the cards only the standing value. then looked at how many attacks and cycles the teams had.


d. elf have 24points, 6attacks and 4 cycles. skaven 24p, 3a,5c, vampire 24p, 4a, 0c,

w.elf have 25p,4a,4c

dwarf 26p, 6a,0c

human 27p,4a,2c, orc and chaos have 27p,6a,0c and undead 27p, 6a, 3c


I have only concentrated on attacks, cycles and point value as I think that these are the three main factors in winning. I have been playing this game for a long time now with as many as 10 different friends and have probably played over a 100 full games.

overall I think that the teams are quite well balanced with the obvious exceptions of the undead who are way too strong and the vampires who are way too weak.


one solution that me and my friends came up with was to give the two thrall blockers on the vampire squad the block skill as well as the cheat skill they already have. this gives the vampires a chance to be able to use there skills better

and with the undead we have reduced the star point value of the three ghouls to 2 instead of three.

I still think that the vampires are still under powered but it makes it a bit easier for them to win a few more matches.

I also think that the undead are over powered but having three strength three ghouls with dodge is just ridiculous. also there mummy should only have one attack.


I do love this game and I have spent many a night playing with my friends but I do wish that they would do an overall and release a team manager version 2 with better balanced squads and more down skills for the original 6 teams. maybe some blocks on the dwarves when they are knocked down and defo regenerate on the troll players.


also what about the option to use one of a variety of skills, i.e. trollslayers with dauntless or frenzy. vampires with hypnotic gaze or frenzy????

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We haven't found the Undead to be that unbeatable, but we can definitely agree they are a first tier team. I share your thoughts about the Vampires and Dwarves as well. It is difficult to rank the teams because most of them depend on the playstyle of the person piloting them. Which is why I normally rank Humans at the top (or close to it) because they naturally follow any kind of playstyle. That's their strength and why they appeal a lot to players. That's funny because I´ve never seen a player draw Humans in any other game and say loud "**** yeah!" like in Blood Bowl Team Manager :) 


How many players do you normally have at your table? We normally play with 4-5 players, sometimes 6 but that's a lot less enjoyable as it requires splitting the teams into groups. The reason why I ask is that I´ve found that the teams' performance is highly affected by the number of players around. Teams mostly winning and the back of luck have a harder time against numerous opponents. I´m thinking Chaos for instance.


About your house rules, I mean why not if you think it works for you. This said you really need to be confident about implementing such a change for the Vampires.


I disagree somewhat with the idea of getting a revised version of the core set with downed skills etc. I don't think missing downed skills on the 6 original teams is an issue, and I don't think it makes things that unfair for these teams. As long as you release team upgrades for the original teams in future expansions you can always balance a few things out. Any team can get the regeneration skill for instance from a team upgrade. I too agree that downed skills would have given much needed benefits to the Dwarves, but I don't think that's the way to go.


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First at all.


Excellent analisys. 


I don´t think about do a complete analisys like this about the game instead I keep track of the statistics.


Yes the human team is one of the best teams, they always are in the top of the game but are not the best team, Chaos is the best team at the moment and, I think this is a major surprise the Dwarves are the second best team in my playing group.


The worst team that no one whats to play are the Elves.


Really we don't seam to understand the mechanics of the wood elves. I and a friend are the "best" using this team but even I try to exploit the "draw card mechanic" to have star players all the time I finish 3rd or 4th in a game of 5th players.


At the moment this are the statistics.


1. Chaos

2. Dwarves

3. Humans

4. (very close) Skavens

5. Vampires

6. Undeads

7. Dark Elves

8. Orcs

9. Elves (far behind!!)


I take the average of fans plus improvements.

The "new teams" have few statistics.


5 players

1. Mike -- Better team Humans (then Chaos, Dwarves) -- Worst: Orcs

2. Luis  -- Better team Dwarves (then Skavens, Chaos) -- Worst Elves

3. Roy (myself) -- Better team Vamps (then Chaos, Undeads) -- Worst Orcs (close Elves)

4. Pato -- Better Team Skavens (then Humans, Vamps) -- Worst Elves

5. Mike -- Better Team Skavens (then Dwarves, Orcs) -- Worst Humans



Seya and good gaming




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Tracking the statistics is probably a better way to assess team strength overall than making flat analyses, though with any data collection based method its always worth being aware of biases that may creep in and of the things it doesn't show. For example, when any group plays Chaos in the Old World (with or without the expansion) there are frequently cries that Khorne is overpowered, but this tends to only be true in the first 2-10 games played.


I suspect actually that your own group might reflect a highly experienced group, and thus you likely find strongest odds of victory with the teams that give you a random chance of gaining a small edge. If games are tight enough that any small advantage tips it, a small random element that could go either way will either cause that player to win or lose. Cheat tokens come to mind here, as you have the cheatiest team at the top and the least cheaty one at the bottom!


I'd be interested to know how many games you're played, and how you've selected which team to play. If players are picking their teams, thats goign to mess up stats badly, as likely you'll see the preferred teams of the best players doing best.


My own group has Elves doing quite well, but we generally only played three or four player games, and with the plethora of games we want to play have probably played less than 30 games overall.

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Lineman x 4:        1.5 x 4

Thrower x 2:        5 x 2

Warrior x 2:        7.5 x 2

Beastman x  3  :        7 x 2

Minotaur:        11

= 56

Total = 61.5

I fear you missed one Beastman, resulting in Total = 68.5




Furthermore, im not conviced of your calculation with Tackle being worth 2 points. In my experience, Tackle is worth less, as most of the times, the enemy loses only 1 point of STR.


It should be more like :

1 on a STR2 player

1.5 on a STR3 player

2 on a STR4 player

Edited by arwaker

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I'll take it is a grand compliment that you were reading closely enough to pick up on my error!


I guess then by my own assessment, with the arithmetic done right, that actually puts Chaos in the top tier, equally as good as Dark Elves!


I think psychologically I've always underrated chaos, and actually cheat tokens are really hard to rate in Star Power terms anyway, as its not the size of the Star Power gain thats really relevant, its whether the Cheat token wins or loses you the match-up...


I think you may be right about Block symbols being worth less than I give them credit for. I find it hard to think a Block symbol is less useful or valuable than a Pass symbol though, as a Block can move the ball to midfield AND reduce standing to downed star power AND negate card text, whereas a Pass just moves the ball. That Pass is consistent is enough to make it worth as much as Block, though.

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Considering Tackle

How often, it is really successful. How often (percent of all Tackles) you have a ball-advantage therefore?

There are many things that lead to no ball-advantage compared to before (numbers are only raw guess):


- You have the ball (~33%)

- Ball is in the middle (~33%)

- Enemy has the ball, but guards his ball carrier (~12%)

- Enemy doesnt guard, but ball carrier has sure hands or dump off (~7%)

- None of the above, therefore you can get the ball from enemy to mid, if your roll is successful (~15%)


So, 15% of your successful tackles result in an additional advantage due to the ball fumble of the former carrier.

Not as much imho, about 0.3 points per tackle at most, maybe even 0.2




Good target enemies of STR3 tackle-players are mostly 2-1, and therefore you gain 1 star for a successful tackle.

Some of the enemies even have dodge (reduced chances).

Some Skaven have 2-0, with makes them vulnerable to tackle-heavy teams (increased reward).


Only in very few situations, you are able to get more than 1 with a tackle:

- High risk tackles vs other 3-1 players (not recommended, but sometimes worth the risk)

- Killing downed enemies that have cheat tokens on them.


So the average here is something slightly above 1, maybe 1.4? But never ever 2.


STR4 players often have the chance to tackle 3-1 players, which doubles the reward. But these STR3 players do not often carry the ball. And they are often guarded as well.

Assuming the reward is increased by 0.8 due to chance of 3-1 tackles, but decreased by 0.1 due to decreased propability of ball tackles, the STR4 tackle is 0.7 ponits more than a STR3 tackle.




STR2 players are often used to knock down guards or try risky tackles.

They should get about 0.7 points per tackle for kicking downed players or guards, and maybe 0.1 for the chance to kick the ballcarrier. Sometimes they might be able to negate cheat tokens, which should increase their value a further 0.1

This might result in a total value of 0.9 points per tackle.




STR5 players have only few chances to increase their value compared to STR4 players, because there are only few enemies, where the +1makes a difference. But there are several 4-1 starplayers out there, where the reward would be 3.

I think STR5 is only about 0.5 more worth than STR4 tackle.






Lots of enemies have downed skills (the addon actually reduced the strength of tackle significantly) or counter-tackles (eg Tree, Mino), that you dont really like to activate. This should compensate a bit with the ball advantage at about -0.2 or -0.1




And the mentioned advantage of the enemy being unable to use text-rules:

Can't see any cardtext that might be relevant. Most of them get activated when the player entry the game, and have no effect later on (when you might be able to tackle him).

Some starplayers have skills that can be countered by tackleing them, but they are few.

This effect should not be more than 0.1 per tackle.




All in all, it comes down to about :

- 0.9 points per tackle for a STR2 player

- 1.5 points per tackle for a STR3 player

- 2.2 points per tackle for a STR4 player

- 2.7 points per tackle for a STR5 player (in case one wants to value those starplayers)

Edited by arwaker

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Awesome analysis on that!


The only thing I'd mention though the element of choice puts a little more complexity into that. Re this bit, for example...:


"- You have the ball (~33%)

- Ball is in the middle (~33%)

- Enemy has the ball, but guards his ball carrier (~12%)

- Enemy doesnt guard, but ball carrier has sure hands or dump off (~7%)

- None of the above, therefore you can get the ball from enemy to mid, if your roll is successful (~15%)"


...the thing is you'd tend to use block when its going to hit a ball carrier.

Sure hands and dump off and dodge certainly discourage and devalue blocking as well, but I'd say that other skills don't need to reduce the score value of tackle, because they're given value ratings of their own in our analysis. Certainly though I think its possible to devalue tackling generally compared to passing by saying theres more counters to tackling than passing, but also I'd note that tackling is the solution/counter to more plays than passing is.


Its in the same way that we don't devalue pass by saying that it only applies 2/3 of the time, because you generally don't use a pass icon when the ball is already in your possession, save in edge cases. Likewise you don't sprint when you have the perfect hand or when it will mess up the shuffle position.


In fact, aside from Cheat tokens, there's an element of choice in all the core skill icons, and that has to be taken into account, I think.




"All in all, it comes down to about :

- 0.9 points per tackle for a STR2 player

- 1.5 points per tackle for a STR3 player

- 2.2 points per tackle for a STR4 player

- 2.7 points per tackle for a STR5 player (in case one wants to value those starplayers)"


...I think that is very reasonable, and probably better than the value I assigned initially. Of course, this is largely due to subjective factors and a lot of things can't easily by quanitfied (like the element of choice, and how often in game you have a workable choice).


My default assumption that blocks take down an average of 2 Star Power is false, I think, as I was basing that on play experiences in a group that strongly favours humans and skaven.


I think its hard to be confident enough about values to get the values down to 0.1 steps. But certainly I'd agree now it probably ought to be about 1 pt for tackle on STR 2 and 1.5 pts on tackle on STR 3.

Edited by Prepare for War

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Awesome analysis on that!

Thx for the honey


...the thing is you'd tend to use block when its going to hit a ball carrier.

The teams that are most affected by the "pricing" of tackle, are those who have a lot of tackle.

They simply can't do their tackles only when they can hit the ball-carrier. They tackle nearly every turn, regardless who has the ball.


Sure hands and dump off and dodge certainly discourage and devalue blocking as well, but I'd say that other skills don't need to reduce the score value of tackle, because they're given value ratings of their own in our analysis.


I dont think you can see the individual abilities as completely separated from each other. As they directly affect the reward of a tackle icon, they should be considered closely. If they would be rare, I'd agree with you, but in reality it is more like most of the relevant ball-carriers have one of those tackle defensive skills.

Imagine every player-card would have one of those skills, would you still think the pricing of tackle would be unaffected? Even if they all payed for these skills?

Imagine every player would have a skill which sounds like "cant be tackled" for 3 value? Still no effect on pricing of tackle?

I think one should consider everything in combination with everything else, not separated.


Its in the same way that we don't devalue pass by saying that it only applies 2/3 of the time, because you generally don't use a pass icon when the ball is already in your possession, save in edge cases. Likewise you don't sprint when you have the perfect hand or when it will mess up the shuffle position.


Imho, pass should as well not be worth 2 points. In my considerations it was more like 1.7 for the first and 2.4 for the second.



In fact, aside from Cheat tokens, there's an element of choice in all the core skill icons, and that has to be taken into account, I think.


Yeah, that's why cheat tokes are only worth about 1, and not more.

Considering the average amount of starpower and fans a cheat provides, it should be more, but one is forced to use the cheat, and therefore it's real benefit is smaller.


Furthermore, we should consider a smaller value for chat tokens on strong players and eligible ball-carriers. For them, the danger of getting sent off is a greater problem, compared to more "useless" players. They have "more to lose".


My suggestion would be:

First Cheat on STR2 = 1.2

First Cheat on STR3 = 1

First Cheat on STR4 = 0.8

Second Cheat = 2/3 of the first cheat

Third Cheat = 1/3 of the first cheat

Cheat for Ball-Carrier = -0.4 each


Of course, this is largely due to subjective factors and a lot of things can't easily by quanitfied (like the element of choice, and how often in game you have a workable choice).

Very true. Thats why we are discussing about it :)



And btw: sry for my potentially bad english, its not my native language. I have the game in swiss language.


Edited by arwaker

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The last really difficult question is how to rate the benefit of Sprint.

What happens? You get a random player (with random value) from your deck, and you discard the least useful player in your hand. Therefore it is worth something like :


Average card value - lowest card value


Therefore, Sprint is something about 3.5 points, which sound really a lot firstofall.


BUT: several points to consider, that modify this number:



- You need to use sprint to get the value. Sometimes you would rather use another card, and the sprintig playercard is not the optimal soluthion in that moment. The later you use your sprint, the less useful it gets.


- You might not have a bad card to drop. Having 2 times a Blitzer in hand, drawing the third and being forced to discard one of them, results in no benefit at all.


- Not to forget the total amount of sprint in your deck. Too much Sprint (as with Woodelf or Skaven), causes a lot more situations, where you dont have a lineman to discard, and you need to discard a wigher rated one like a thrower or catcher.


- Imho you underestimate the value of Linemen. This is no problem as long as all teams share the same amount of linemen. But if you discard a lineman and get another card via sprint, in dont think the benefit is as much as you supposed it to be. A guarding lineman often saves you from losing the ball, or getting a 3-1 Blitzer downed by a Troll. In this cases its benefit is more. 

And, if linemen would be considered as more useful compared to the others, Sprint is automatically worth less.


- Having too much guard (or no need of it at all like dwarf) in the deck decreases the benefit of Guard. This increases again the benefit of Sprint.


- And finally Starplayers. The higher you average card value in your deck gets, the better Sprint gets.





All these points must be considered together, if you really want to get good values for Sprint (and guard btw).

In fact i think 1.5 like your suggestion, or even 1.4, is a good number. 

It's really hard to price Sprint correctly.



Edit: 30.09.2014

Meanwhile I think Sprint is worth something between 1.7 and 2. It is the best of the 4 icons, even better than Pass.

Edited by arwaker

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