As we look forward to a new season of Blood Bowl we need to ask some key questions. 1, Will anyone be able to supplant Andy Smith as league champion? 2, How will the new coaches fare? 3, How will the returning coaches adapt their game plan to make use of the new skills and knowledge gained from last season? All these questions, and more will be answered in due course, but for now let's speculate on a few possible outcomes.
Can Dingley Bypass, and Andy Smith be stopped?
Andy demonstrated his exceptional skill and knowledge of the game in a clinical display of roster management, game play and strategy. He quickly positioned himself as the strongest coach in the field last season only losing in round 1 to Seve's Jurassic Havok. After that game though, it never really looked in doubt for him as he clinically dismantled the opposition on the way to being crowned Premier League Champion. Andy will go into the 2023 season as the clear favourite to repeat as champion and the question really becomes, can anyone stop him?
To my mind there are three coaches with the rosters to do it. Those are:
Tim Sokol - Underworld
Seve Kranz - Dark Elves
Jo Mills - Necromantic Horror
Tim piloted Underworld to a Fumbbl League win in the back half of 2022 demonstrating skill with that team that was unfortunately not realised last Premier League season with Sokol's Scoundrels. I fully expect Tim to place in the top 4, and very possibly in the top 2 to be a direct challenge to Andy's dominance from last season. Tim will need to keep his roster healthy in the early rounds to make a solid push to the post-season.
Seve piloted Jurassic Havok to 2nd place last season and is the only coach to take points off Andy in the Premier League. He fell short of a spot in the Grand Final after losing to Jo Mills in the preliminary final but his results speak for themselves. After breaking from Jurassic Havok during the off-season and moving over to pilot a Dark Elf team, I expect him to adapt to the new play style and to offer a strong challenge to Andy with a resilient, hard hitting and highly mobile elf team.
Jo was last seasons finalist. Losing to Andy in turn 5 of over-time after being locked at 1-1. Jo demonstrated that her clutch play is top tier after playing through a series of very tight games to make the Grand Final. Close wins against The Pantheon, and another very close over-time win against Jurassic Havok have cemented Jo as a very strong pilot and someone to be feared across the Blood Bowl pitch. The big question for Jo is, can she elevate a lagging roster with exceptional and clutch game play all season. Jo is the kind of player who, if she can keep her roster healthy and her form holds is a strong bet to finish top 2 during the regular season. If on the other hand her roster suffers early, critical casualties then we might see a shift from Cemetery Dropouts to a more resilient and robust roster for 2024. This could be the last hurrah for a much beloved lineup. That said, in Blood Bowl, the only certainty are skulls and 1s, so anything is possible.
Is the time of the wolf at an end?
To stay on the topic of Necromantic Horror, I think 2023 could spell the decline of what was last seasons pre-eminent casualty and scoring team. With two Necromantic Rosters flying around, these two combined for 26TDs and 38CAS across 8 games. These are terrifying numbers which if replicated again this season could really spell doom for a number of rosters. The problem i see for them going beyond the first half of 2023 is that other rosters will catch up, and with more places to put profitable Star Player Points, will overtake the Necromantic Horror teams and leave them behind by the post-season. If that happens, the obvious next question is, and what then? What will Jo and Jamie do going into 2024? Not all rosters are built with the same trajectory in mind, and i'll be keen to see which direction they choose to take going forward beyond 2023.
To put my money where my mouth is, I do not think a Necromantic Horror roster will win in 2023. I expect both to place top 6, and at least one to place top 4, but once we're into the post-season and we get to see which teams are going to challenge the Necromantic Rosters, I think we'll see the roster deficiencies come to the fore as the more resilient and flexible teams start to show their metal.
What about Dark Gods?
The Pantheon presented an interesting problem last season. On one hand, they're one of the best longterm rosters because they have such a good base stat line, and one of the best skill trees to choose from of any team. They have the capacity to become truly terrifying, they've just got to survive long enough to see that happen. Its entirely possible that, similarly to last season, they get absolutely clobbered in the first round and spend the season regrouping, which will put them outside of top 4 contention, or they could start well, get SPP, skill up the blockers and begin to out bash the rest of the field. Last season they finished 3rd on casualties after a slow but steady incline in SPP production which has allowed them to develop into a solid but still young roster. Their appearance in the Play-Offs was also encouraging, having to climb a serious mountain to challenge for that final spot after a rough start.
Similar to the Necromantic Horror seasons, The Pantheon's season will be dictated by Daniel's ability to pilot his team in a very competitive field. If he plays well and his roster stays healthy, The Pantheon will improve and become very scary, but in Blood Bowl, one bad game can change the course of the entire season, and when that game happens, how will Daniel respond?
Where there's gold....
Mike's first season with Gold Diggers was rough. He had the highest casualties sustained of any roster during the regular season last year (18) and scored the fewest touchdowns (3). The good news is there is only one way this team will go, up. Mike received the No1 draft pick from the end of last season giving him an instantly upgraded lineman to add to his roster. Add to that the natural player development a team like his will follow and it won't take long for his roster to become possibly the most terrifying roster in the field. There is no matchup that he is not at the very least, 50/50 in. He cannot be taken for granted and i fully expect Mike to finish higher than last this season. Again, the caveat is roster health. His roster is not cheap, so losing players is rough, but on the other hand his linemen are some of the best base linemen in the game so induced journeymen are not to be sneezed at. Where the dead walk
Scott finished last season 6th after a solid outing with Bone Ladz. Scott has decided to ply his trade for a new franchise, moving on from the Black Orcs and signing with the Shambling Undead. Shambling Undead have similar features to Necromantic Horror. Highly resilient and ubiquitous linemen, which a dirth of ball carrying potential to rack up the wins, and the SPP. His will be a season to watch as I fully expect Scott to finish in the top 6, possibly even the top 4. It'll be very interesting to see how the other coaches handle this matchup as until now, it has not been seen in the M.B.B.A. before.
Into the Unknown
Finally, the addition of Tom Prince (Black Orcs), Joe O'Reilly (Lizardmen), Rob Winter (Norse) and Josh Ryan-Barker (Human Nobility) poses an interesting question. As relative newcomers to Blood Bowl, what will these four do to disrupt the status quo and force everyone to re-examine their own games before the season is over. I expect this season to be one of growth for these four putting them on the path to success for seasons to come.
Despite all of the predictions and thoughts about how this season will play out nothing is certain. Things can happen at the drop of a hat to completely disrupt the seasons trajectory and completely rewrite the history books. The only thing that is certain is that players will be injured or killed, touchdowns will come from the unlikeliest of places and seasons will be won or lost on a die roll. To that end, its sure to be exciting and I for one am excited for the chaos and mayhem that will ensue.
From the Dugout, By for now!