All along this interviewing journey of mine, I've been mulling over a couple of things. The first one being "The whole is greater than the sum of its part". While quite the platitude, it is often true and more blatant the more elements you have to compose it. Secondly I am still wondering in which proportion do we coaches influence the Big O as a group and how it influences us. I know I picked up a certain propensity to say things like "No worries" or randomly think about what time it is in Sydney and Auckland when I check my watch...
Our guest today is an active and important member of our conference. British, he moved to Asia in 2012 and still tries a few culinary experimentations. He's not the kind to take shit from anyone, and never shies away from a good scrum on the pitch. Streamer, recapper for divsion 4 this season, he's a member of clan [O₂]. Now in blue, back in division 1 in company of his brother, he'll try to bring The Arcana to the play-offs one more time. The one and only Tommo!
First of all, the usual. "Tommo", where does your nickname come from?
I had just moved to a new town when I was younger and had met some guys playing football down the park. I went home for dinner but they invited me round to play a WWE game round one of theirs after. We didn't know each other very well but they knew my name so when they all made custom characters they made me one called Tommo and I just ended up continuing with it.
Kind of a boring story and an obvious one compared to some of the other stuff but it's a lot better than some of the ones I used to use when I was really young. I must have been 13 or so at the time.
I think I haven't found anyone in my interviews that is extremely proud of their nickname or its origin.
When did you get in contact with Blood Bowl then?
Like a lot of other people it was from the youtube guys in their first Blood Bowl tournament on BB1. I started watching Total Biscuit (rip) and all those other guys playing every week and thought the game looked really fun so I gave it a buy.
I had no idea what I was doing at the time and just played through the campaign they had.
I ended up playing Nurgle because I didn't realise how anything worked but I knew 2 dice blocks were good and I noticed that more often than not I was able to get lots of 2 dice blocks playing Nurgle.
When Blood Bowl 2 came out I hit the beta pretty hard and started learning properly. I remember one of the youtube guys mentioning cKnoor was helping them out, so I started watching his stuff. Then I saw a game where JimmyFantastic pitch cleared him so I started watching Jimmy instead.
Eventually I started reading up on lots of guides and looking to improve my game and the rest of it is just stuff learned from experience. I feel like I need to shout-out Tom Picard's guides on plasmoids.dk though. He has the best ones on there and it really opened my mind to elf play in particular.
I, for one, am grateful that Tommo strayed away from the Nurgle path.
You dived into BB2 while you were in Japan, right?
Yeah that's right. I played since launch but it was something I jumped in and out of until coming across ReBBL really.
So you were playing mostly COL or CCL before joining ReBBL then?
Not even COL, COL seems pretty worthless. I like to play to try and win games and playing against the best coaches is the best way to learn. If a new game came out tomorrow and I wanted to play I'd jump into ranked mode straight away since it's the quickest way to learn.
It was all just CCL.
How did you end up playing in ReBBL then? And which season did you join in?
It was the end of season 4 when I found ReBBL and rather than looking for a Blood Bowl league in particular, I was more looking for a community that was going to be around for a while I could immerse myself in. My WoW friends had just stopped playing Legion so I was kind of looking for something to replace that. I ended up watching all the recaps that Metal and Gamba had done and I was pretty into youtube at the time too so I decided that was what I wanted to do.
So season 5 was the second season of the Big O and I ended up joining with a lot of coaches that would become big names over the seasons. Guys like Lyskaris, Krusader and countless others started at that time.
Kind of Big O: Next Generation.
So you started the recap straight with your first season?
I kind of applied to do it but never really expected to get the nod, but metal ended up introducing me to Liam and it all went from there.
I had no idea about how league play differed from CCL at the time either. Luckily being fresh faced and not afraid of asking questions to Liam and all the guests we had on that season made good content and encouraged those guys to speak their mind. Even now when I have a guest on stream or something I always try to get them talking instead of talking over them. I like to think people know most of my feelings about most things Blood Bowl at this point so it's a nice change for me too.
Was doing the recaps and streaming something that was essential for you? Since you mentioned looking for a community and being into YT.
It kinda was to be honest. I always feel that in life you get out what you put in. In WoW I was the guy that would stay up late helping the guild grind stuff because it made me feel more part of the community. The recaps are kind of the same way. By putting myself in a position to tell everyone the news that was going on around the league it allowed me to immerse myself in the league a lot more and interact with coaches that I probably wouldn't have met otherwise.
Following results and the different stories coming out of the Big O conference in particular is just as important as playing the game to me now. Heavens knows I spend a lot more time reading discord than I do playing my ReBBL games.
And I play other games outside of Blood Bowl with ReBBL guys too. So I am really happy with the community and the place I have made for myself in it.
I often heard you were playing Delves in Big O1 originally. Despite starting with Nurgle, are you an elf coach at heart?
Oh yeah, in all fantasy games I usually play the shadowy elf characters. I am a career Night Elf rogue in wow up until legion where I switched class but kept playing Night Elves. We are talking playing wow for over 10 years with the same character before Legion.
As soon as I started learning Blood Bowl properly I knew I wanted to make dark elves work
Unfortunately, with my first team Echoes of Ulthwe, I made some team building decisions incorrectly and I just wasn't a good enough coach to make the dark elf offence work. I switched to Elf Union on legendary edition to be able to have a reset to build a team correctly and I thought their scoring potential would really help me on their offensive drives which it did.
That may be my favorite part of BB, the building of a team as an ensemble based on an original plan and adapted according to level-up rolls. A delicate alchemy.
Talking about your actual team, I love the naming scheme. I imagine it was an important part of creating the new team, yes?
Yeah, I can't even remember where I got the idea from, honestly. I do really enjoy it though. After my first disaster in playoffs with them, the naming scheme is one of the reasons I ended up keeping the team. I'm still holding out hope that one of my originals will make legend.
Well there is always the chance despite being Pros. How do you feel about you first season back in D1?
I've had a decent start I think. A few frustrations but things are never going to go all your way. Ironically I think my game against Lyskaris was some of the best Blood Bowl Ive played for a while despite not getting the result in the end.
The game against Sandune I'd really have liked to win, because he is a coach that people hold in very high regard. Unfortunately the player I killed in the open invitational ended up taking the game away from me this time round.
They say no good deed goes unpunished after all.
I assume your goal is to reach the playoffs again?
Yeah absolutely, ultimately isn't that everyone's goal? I'd like to keep playing against the best players I can and improving and hopefully earn the respect of the big names in not just the Big O, but the other conferences too. I mean, like, the regular season is fun and all, but your playing to win all the games you can right? and winning games leads you to playoffs.
I learn a lot from my losses, but the games always more fun when your winning.
A huge part of wanting to make a deep playoff run is to prove the big O coaches can. I hate that there is still some idea going around that we are not competitive as a conference. Like we have won everything at some point except the main ReBBL trophy, but until one of us takes that home while sporting Big O colours, there's still going to be the feeling that we are just not as good. After last playoffs we have to eat our humble pie and we don't really have the right to fire back.
But after everything the Big O guys have done for me I'll be damned if it stays that way.
Returning to your team, do you have any plans in mind in case for when they won't be viable anymore?
Just like every season I am always contemplating a return to Dark Elves or rocking High Elves. The thing is I play a different kind of elf game to almost all the other Big O elves: I actually like to get involved in the rumble and hit stuff as much as I can; and winning by 1 is just as good as winning by 4 for me. The fouling game that Elf Union bring is awesome, but I may have to trade them in for armour 8 at some point to really start try harding.
Make no mistake I'm not counting them out yet, but if the worst does happen yeah it'll be High Elves or Dark Elves.
You mentioned playing a different elf game than other in the Big O. What about your coaching abilities: what would you say are your strong points and the ones you still have to work on?
I think my strong point is knowing how I want to play. I know how I want my defence to go and I can recognise when to try and force the game scoring quickly and when the game is already won.
My weaker points would be a little bit of spacing sometimes, particularly around the side lines. I am also always trying to get better at keeping my better players out of trouble.
One of the reasons I lost my playoff game last season I believe is that my agi 5 guy was never on the pitch. Fair enough he took 2 blocks and was KO'd twice, but those are two blocks that should have never really happened.
I need to work on being a little more greedy when it comes to earning spp too.
Earlier on, you talked about Youtubers and other coaches. Are there any you look at, in order to keep progressing?
Not anymore, I mentioned earlier who I watched and studied a lot of when I was new. These days I learn through playing the game. It's weird because there are some things that I disagree with the wider Blood Bowl community greatly on, and there are other things that I started off with a different opinion too but experience and games played has eventually brought me round to their way of thinking. I feel I am at the stage where I am not going to take what anyone says as fact but I don't mind trying out suggestions and things in guides and seeing how it works and gels for me.
As I mentioned earlier I learn a lot more through playing the best coaches. For Lumi for example, I don't think you can appreciate how good his positioning is until you have played against him. I had a game with him in a chaos cup one time, a high elf mirror. I don't think I got to hit his catchers all game.
I told this story back in playoffs but I attribute a CCL game against Bleeding Hippy for how I came to think about defence for a long time. And Gerbear just plays at an incredible speed and generates so much pressure on you as a coach that it can be really hard to stop yourself from falling into his pace.
Rather than watching and looking at people, it's these sorts of experiences I look for in order to continue progressing.
It will never be stated enough: theory must be put into practice. Seeing and doing are sometime a world apart.
Ok time to hit the cookie cutter questions...
What's the player skill that gives you the most fun on the pitch?
Probably Mighty Blow, as I mentioned before I love mixing it up. And seeing people complain that they have been out bashed or had their team killed by elves is so sweet.
Passing and stuff is our bread and butter, when you can cas something like a mummy like I did against a streamer the other night it's a lot more satisfying.
What's your favorite Star Player?
Eldril has always been really good for me.
Moranion with his skill set is just a beast too.
Hubris though gives something a little unexpected.
The kick-off event you hate with your guts?
Sweltering heats as well as Pitch Invasion and Rocks when I dont have the fame. When I do have the fame it's all good really...
Your stadium enhancement of choice?
Sandwich Kiosk right now. If I had more surfing potential id think about the beer stand, but the rocks potential to end a season is pretty much unrivalled when it comes to kick-off events.
Especially if you want to bring a Union player to Legend.
If you could make any change to balance Blood Bowl 2, and one only, what would it be?
I would change and rebalance everything around a D12 system rather than the 2d6 system that gives huge advantages to certain teams. Hell... Maybe even a D20 system. Rolling 2 dice though leads to some things being exponentially stronger than others and I am not sure I like it.
Alternatively, since I have been ignoring some of your other questions and continuing to talk anyway, adding in a Blood Bowl 2016 feature instead of that death zone rubbish could have been a cool edition both to bring in more tabletop players to the game. It would let people experiment and see if they wanted to buy the new table top stuff too.
Do you listen to anything when you play besides Dance With The Dead?
That's mostly up to the stream really. I have been known to listen to mostly listen to anime and video game music however.
Drink and snack of choice for those BB games?
Pepsi or Dr Pepper for an evening game, Red Bull or milk tea in the morning. Don't usually get the chance to eat while playing since I'm mostly streaming.
Time for...the "player submitted" question!
This one from Schlice: "Which decisions in BB do you most enjoy making?"
Wow that's a good one!
Which piece to hit with Mighty Blow is the obvious answer.
An answer with a little more depth is when to switch from a passive aggressive defence to just full aggro. The timing of when to commit is very important and it's a mistake I see a lot of less experienced coaches making. Those moments are usually game defining and the will these actions pass or not tension is just the full excitement of Blood Bowl in a nutshell.
That key moment where to swoop in in defence is something I personally am still trying to get a sense off. The turning point of many a game indeed.
Tommo still had something to add before parting.
And if I can just add something I like to add whenever I get the chance to speak publicly in ReBBL. The Big O guys in particular have helped me through some legit dark times in my life and I really feel indebted to the support I have received from everyone. I hope that all the streams and recaps we do give you guys entertainment and things to talk about, and I hope that us casters and whichever guys make it to playoffs can really give you something positive to shout about this season. Thanks to all.
As always many thanks to Tommo for being available when needed and taking the time to answer. It is always a pleasure to give people an opportunity to talk about the game and their relationship to it. It can only get better when commitment to the community becomes a goal as well.