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5 Tips for running a Blood Bowl League

Setting up a Blood Bowl league is one of the funnest and most rewarding ways to play the game. Watching your team rise and fall and rise again over a series of games. Seeing different narratives emerge as rivalries are established and the dynastic ascension of teams and coaches brings a level of joy a mere tournament cannot. What separates one-off tournaments and ongoing leagues is the distinct lack of the need to balance the playing field. Tier 2 and 3 teams become viable, team management becomes essential and underpinning all of this is the rewards for patience. A savvy coach can take a tier 2 team and turn them into a dynastic juggernaut, or a coach can take a slick unit to early success, knowing that their championship window will inevitably close as the other teams catch up to them.

Blood Bowl leagues are the best in this regard. To that end, there are some things you want to have sorted out before you begin to ensure that your league gets to finish and doesn’t lag at the finish line.

Tip #1 - Have the end planned before you start
Know what your league structure is and how it will get resolved at the end. Is it an English Premier League the winner is the team on top of the table? Is it Australian Rules Football with its top 8 double elimination bracket? or is it American Pro Sports with its two conference knock-out best of 7 system? Whichever system works for you know what you want before the season starts so you can clearly communicate it to your players. you can't go changing the structure half-way through because it will worsen the play experience for at least some of your players.

Tip #2 - Have processes in place for when players inevitably drop
This is the most disruptive, annoying and frustrating part about running a league. I have not yet run a season without at least one player dropping before the season has concluded. Thankfully those players tend to drop early so it can be quickly managed but it doesn't change the fact that when players drop its a massive headache and a downer for the other players in the league. If this happens, its worth having a couple of players in the wings who you can invite to join midway through. How you manage the team they play and the what happens to the existing team is another matter but just having someone you can offer a spot to is its own solution. Alternatively, a bye system for future rounds that rewards players who have stuck around is something i'd recommend. My league uses a Bye round where the person with the bye receives a minimum win (1-0 with a random TD and MVP plus minimum money for the match). This serves to keep the league moving forward and doesn't rob the players who would have played that opponent the possible win.

Tip #3 - Be firm but fair with round scheduling
Scheduling is probably the most unpredictable aspects of running a league. As hard as you try you're still at the mercy of peoples personal lives, interest levels and professional lives getting in the way of completing a league season. My advise is to generate a schedule that gives the players flexibility, but adhere's to a strict timeline. For example, an 8 round league might be established with the expectation that players will play 1 game a week for 8 weeks. That is fine, but restricting those games to being played every week on a Saturday is going to put you in a position where you're going to be managing more forfeits or no shows than you want to be managing and will only serve to frustrate your players.

A solution that I have used is to provide players a window of time to play their games that if not met will result in forfeits for one or both players depending on how much effort everyone has put into trying to get their games in. Giving players a window of time to play their games will shift some of the onus onto the players to organise themselves whilst also providing them a clear set of guidelines for what will happen if those requirements are not met.

Set a clear time frame for your league to be completed within. Don't be flexible with this as it needs to provide certainty for the players that their time commitment is for a set time period and won't deviate from that. This allows people to plan their lives with this in mind and no one is left surprised towards the end when peoples interest might be waning depending on whats at stake for them.

Tip #4 - Proactively advertise the league whilst its running
Proactively advertising your league doesn’t mean posting links to your league on facebook or discord or whatever. It’s not about drumming up interest externally though that is a definite bonus. What I’m referring to here is maintaining momentum by producing content that promotes your league that can be circulated internally and viewed externally. Things like match reports, newsletters, live streams, video recordings or player interviews. Anything that can be used to get players invested in your league and their team and can give external people a tangible look at what you’re doing. This is really about demonstrating to the wider community that your product is great whilst keeping the participants invested throughout the course of the league. In my experience, the writeups served both of these purposes as it gave peripheral friends a look at what was going on and gave the players themselves a way of memorializing their own games.

Tip #5 - Reward your players!
Organise your prize support/recognition ahead of time so you can intice players to participate. Players love things to play for. A symbol of their success or achievement goes a long way towards legitimising your league and ensuring it won’t be a one off event. For my league, the M.B.B.A. Premier League, I organised a perpetual trophy to immortalise the players that win each year. In addition to the premiership trophy, I also awarded individual statistic awards to give players something to strive for throughout the season. Things like, most touchdowns award, least touchdowns conceded, most casualties etc go a long way to giving players something to play for even when they’re no longer capable of qualifying for finals.

Find ways to reward the players with the worst records. My league uses a draft system where the bottom three players get the 1st, 2nd & 3rd draft picks before the start of the next season. This serves to give those teams a boost going into the next season and levels the playing field between the super teams and the depleted teams.

After two seasons running the Melbourne Blood Bowl Association Premier League with huge ups and downs there is still a lot to learn. If there was a tip 6 it'd be, Be Flexible and adaptable. Good luck with your leagues and don't forget to role lots of POW's.

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