The preliminary scouting reports did not look promising. Since our opening game the Orcs had now doubled our Star Player Points and picked up key skills. They now had 4 players at level 2 versus only 1 on our team. That they had to replace two players was likely the only mitigating factor. That and fact that at least we were seeing them in game three of the season, rather in game six! While the Orcs were riding high, our team was somewhat the worse for wear. After having only rolled a “2” (twice) for the last game's winnings we had only 90,000 in the treasury, which was well short of the 140,000 we needed for another re-roll (again boys and girls, buy them early when they are cheap!). That and, in the last game, continuing our trend of not being able to make regeneration rolls a Zombie was going to have to miss this game, leaving us with only 10 – so I bought a replacement Zombie to bring us up to 11 for the start of the game. That being done, we resolved to do what we could to get this over with. Here is what I thought were our keys to the game:
- Home COOKING. Playing at home we were going to need to get some luck, either in the form of us getting some good rolls or John making some bad ones. Either way we would very likely need it. Bad luck by the opponent would mean that if they blew through their re-rolls early then things would be relatively even – having everyone with no re-rolls makes it easier.
- Stay UNHEALTHY. Always playing with fewer players on the pitch makes things unnecessarily challenging. Yes we don't have Armor Values that are that bad, nor do the Orcs all come with Mighty Blow, but this just seems to be a particular issue that we have.
- Be CAUTIOUS. Playing with one re-roll we needed to take as few chances as we could so as to both maximize our luck and to hopefully minimize our chances of getting clobbered early. While we did not need to play full out defense we knew we were going to have to watch things very closely.
Grimly we walked out on to the pitch to start the game.
My initial mistake was in the pre-game inducements phase. I quickly skipped through it, only realizing later that by kicking in 10,000 from the treasury we would have the 100,000 necessary or an extra team re-roll, as our team rating was 90 lower than the Orcs. Having 90,000 meant I couldn't buy much: I bought a Bloodweiser Babe for 50,000 and then forgot that I could have at least bought an extra player instead. This was not starting off that well.
John lost the coin toss and I elected to kick the ball to the Orcs. The kick-off roll was favorable, giving me an extra turn (for those not in a tackle zone). I used it to get one Ghoul deep downfield to perhaps harass the ball pick up on John's turn. However the Orcs turn did not start how I wanted it to: one of the Zombies was an immediate casualty (another failed regeneration roll) and I'd be playing the next 15 turns of the game with only 10 players. That wasn't how we wanted to start.
The Orcs picked up the ball and had a pretty good block formed up at about mid-field. Still I was an opening to rush in and Blitz the ball carrier . . . well it certainly seemed like a good idea at the time. The ball carrier went down but the ball couldn't be picked up by any of the Black Orcs, and it ended the turn 3 squares closer to my end zone than it had started the turn, and now right next to two Black Orcs!
Things looked grim. The Orc Blitzer who had been blessed with +1 AG calmly picked himself up from the turf, dodged out of my tackle zones (not hard when you are AG4!), picked up the ball, and threw it to an Orc who was deep downfield. The throw was good, but the catch was not, and the Orcs turn ended. Still I thought it was a great play –the majority of my faster players were now on the wrong side of the field, and with too many Orcs near them.
There was only one possibility, and that seemed slim: a lone Zombie. If he were to “go for it” twice he would at least be able to pick up the ball. I hardly thought it would matter – the Orc could blitz him off of the ball, pick it up and walk in to the end zone. But it was worth a shot – even with an AG2 Zombie. I had a re-roll right? If it didn't work he was going to score. He went for it, made it, and went to pick up the ball . . . and failed. And re-rolled . . . and failed again. The ball was still in his tackle zone but my turn was over and then the Orcs would simply have to knock him down, pick up the ball, and score easily.
That is when things got . . . odd for the Orcs.
They only needed to knock down a Zombie with no skills. Even on a 1 die block, that is 50% of the time if you have the “Block” skill. But the Orcs started a string of 3 straight “Attacker Down” rolls on 1 die blocks. We were both out of re-rolls this late in the second half, and these turnovers cost the Orcs. I was able to get a Wight downfield, pick the ball up and start heading up my left sideline. I was able to have the Ghouls dodge out of their engagements, cross the field and form a little bit of a cordon. But I still found myself next to two Orc players, on my th turn, with a Ghoul and a Werewolf for support. Should I make a block to free the Wight? The Wight was 8 squares from the end zone so would have to “Go For It” twice to reach it. But that would mean not rolling a Dodge roll. Throw a Block with which player? If the Werewolf doesn't knock him down, Frenzy will mean he will have to throw another block, but this time at 1 die because of the position.
Doing the math in my head it seemed like the better idea to dodge out and head for the end zone. I held my breath and double-clicked on the square of the end zone I wanted him to reach. The dodge worked! The first square worked . . . and then the second! Touchdown on the last turn of the first half! Orcs had lucked out, and we had “lucked in”. We'd take it!
Okay now I felt a little bit better. But strangely so: this was entirely unexpected. Up 1-0 on the Orcs and having them kick off to me? Now what to do? Lining up short a player, I figured I had two objectives: either score as quickly as I could or hold on to the ball until at least turn 14. My thought was that if I managed to hold on that long and have the ball on their side of the field, they would be hard pressed to score in two turns.
The Orcs kicked off to me and the kick-off result was “rock throwing” which resulted in one of my players being stunned. Okay not a great start being down 11-10 players and already have a player taken down until my next turn. I picked up the ball with a Ghoul and began to push up the right side of the field. A few more KO's later and I'm looking at playing 11-8 and that side looks completely untenable . . . so I decide to reverse the field as best I can. This is tricky as one of the Orc blitzers has +1 MA and so moves faster than I might think. Finally the Troll is really stupid a couple of times and is doing less than clogging up the middle of the field. But in reversing the field I have not been able to push the ball up field successfully. So it comes down to this: my Ghoul still has the ball, it's our turn 14, but he is still 5-6 squares short of the center field stripe. He's covered on two sides by an Orc and the Troll. Even though he has Dodge and Block, I don't think his chances are great. If I can break free and sprint up the left sideline, I will not have much protection but force the Orcs to Blitz me on their turn 14 and they won't be able to pick up the ball: it will be on their side of the field. I figure even if they Blitz they will first have to knock him down (likely on a 1 die block, which isn't easy). The Ghoul might easily survive to turn 15 and make a further run. Now all I had to do was make a Dodge roll out of their tackle zones. Ghouls aren't AG4 (rather they are AG3) so it is not automatic, but it's still a 3+ roll: a 4 is needed for AG3 but you get a +1 for an empty square. So basically a 66% chance – and the Ghoul has Dodge, so if I fail it the first time I get another 66% chance to make it. Meaning essentially there's only a 1 in 6 chance the Ghoul will fail . . .
And fail he does.
That leaves the ball very close to our own end zone with very few players able to come back to play any kind of defense. We've only 8 players left at this point so being down 3 it's really hard to generate much pressure or coverage. The Orc Blitzer with the AG of 4 easily stands up, goes in to pick up the ball and heads towards the end zone. Now the only way to catch him is have a Ghoul make a Blitz move that involves not one but two Dodge rolls within Orc tackle zones and then make a one die block to knock down the Orc . . . needless to say that doesn't happen. Orcs score on their turn 15 to tie the game. The 8 remaining players line up for the kick off but it's really a moot point – we can't score in a single turn (nor can the Orcs) so the game is effectively over.
The locker room after this game was very subdued. If you had told us before the game that we could take another 1-1 draw, we likely would have been rather elated and relieved. Instead the atmosphere was more somber – this felt like a loss. We had kept the lead for 6 of the 8 turns in the second half, only to squander it at the end.
Still, luck has a way of evening out. We had ended up scoring on a fairly lucky play (in that it required a sequence of rolls we HAD to make without a re-roll) and it was fairly unlucky that the Ghoul could not make that Dodge roll when he needed to make it. Still overall the Orcs were far unluckier in their blocks – they tended to burn their 2 re-rolls fairly early in both halves of the game so it was really not much of an advantage.
Casualties continue to plague us – it's simply too hard to be competitive on the pitch when you're down 3-4 players. If that doesn't happen perhaps there's no need for the Ghoul to make that Dodge roll, or perhaps there is more coverage available downfield.
We gained a bit of money back and our injured Zombie brings us up to 12 players. The Wight who scored the lucky touchdown went up a level and, perhaps appropriately, gained +1 of Movement Allowance. That was our only player to advance though so the Orcs now feature a level 3 player and 3 level 2 players while we still have just two level 2 players. I'm glad we got this done when we could.
Up next is Dustin who has doubtless learned a great deal since facing us the last time. We've only managed 1 touchdown per game so I hate to have it such that the only way we can win is to keep the game a 1-0 affair: that's a lot of pressure on our defense. We need to work on that scoring.