A Brief Encounter ...

Now trodding along the wider paths of the Big O regular season, I have acces to the full plethora of choices in quality coaches to interview. Being around for a couple of seasons, and trying to mingle with the community, I've met a good bunch of them either on Discord or in some stream chat. Still, I always try to surprise myself, and hopefully my readers, by picking people I don't know very well or someone I am getting acquainted with, as to alternate the pleasures.

This Monday, I bring you a coach I didn't know much about but was curious regarding his approach to the Blood Bowl shenannigans. Hailing from Sydney, Australia; he's art of the Big O since the conference's first season. He used to play TableTop and other leagues around the ReBBL, these you'll usually find him around the Big O regular season, Discord and sometimes on stream with his trademark music choices. The only representative of his race this season, the coach of "The 08th MS Team" the Vampires of division 2, Rhys

I must say, I only knew three things getting into this interview : Rhys is playing Vampires, which is intriguing enough; was respected by other coaches for his skills; and used to play some music I like on other people's stream. Let's see how I fared ... 

Rhys, where did you chose that nickname?
Its my name, I'm just really lazy. I used to have something a bit more fancy back in the day when I was a teenager but once I started playing games with other people over voice chat in the early 2000's, like Counter Strike Source and Guild Wars, I just found it easier to use my real name.

You said you got into Table Top, and that was your gateway into Blood Bowl, right?
Yeah, I used to play Warhammer Fantasy which is how I got into table top games and one of my friends from that got me into Blood Bowl, he was even nice enough to convert a team for me from High Elf Spearmen and Eldar Guardians; which turned out really well as it combines the NFL style body armour the Eldar have with the more fantastical elements of the elves.
I picked up BB 1 when it came out as I had started working by that point and playing TT regularly was a lot more difficult, that's when I started playing some of the other teams. Being able to play against more people and squeeze in a game when I had some free time made me a much better coach, this was also when I started playing Lizardmen a lot. I've been playing the online games off and on ever since, with the release of BB2 I found I really enjoyed the play style of the Brets as well. I even arranged the Australasian qualifiers for the 2016 BB2 World Cup. That was back before the ReBBL had taken off to the degree it has today, just after release.
So yeah... all in all I've been playing for almost 15 years now.

Time flies when we're having fun, doesn't it ?

You helped organise the WC2016 Australasian qualifiers?
Well, I pretty much ran them all by myself, there were no proper leagues in this time zone at that point so I spoke to Netheos and offered to arrange something for the people who did play in the area. We got 64 coaches in the end which allotted us two spots in the finals.

Not so much, to be honest it was kind of a huge pain in the butt to wrangle all those people to play every week. It gives me a lot of respect for the guys running massive leagues like the ReBBL.

On that I can only agree!

You joined the ReBBL after that?
Since mid-way through the first season of Big O, I think Morka and I joined week 9. I think that was Season 4 of the ReBBL.
Walkerthon and I had played together a bit when BB2 first came out, he had asked me if I wanted to join when they started the division but I was overseas in India for six weeks. But when they had some drop outs after I got back he asked again and I offered to sign up.
I think I went 2-1-2 which I remember being happy with given the late start.

Even tho you're confined to the regular season these days, what kind of competition format do you prefer?
Resurrection tournaments (the style most common on TT) are by far my favourite way to play Blood Bowl, everyone is on an even footing from the start (insomuch as that is possible with the way teams are balanced) and you don't have to play against ridiculous teams built up with lucky skill rolls. So every game is down as much as possible in a dice game to you vs your opponent.I find that leads to the most competitive outcomes.
That's not to say I don't enjoy Eternal leagues, they just have flaws inherent in the system. Stuff like the Cripple Cup and Chaos cup are a lot of fun, but they're best as an occasional thing for variety.
I won the first Chaos Cup in fact, and picked up the prize for winning the losers cup in one of the Cripple Cups. I'm actually the reason Griff is banned from the Chaos Cup...

That's the kind of story I am looking for! Care to develop?
Well the initial posting for the Chaos Cup said you could take Star Players but people might call you a "try hard" so seeing that I immediately designed a team called "A Legitimate Strategy" that could take Griff if at all possible, as he is by far the best Star Player, and still be competitive. I had a bit of fun with it and named the players after things traditionally associated with the kind of try hard gamer thing.

Rhys' Legitimate Strategy
Rhys' "Legitimate Strategy"

As you can see I had a few deaths over the course of the tournament (including an amazing AG 3 peasant) which is to be expected when you have a team that is mostly AV 7. I lost one game during the qualifiers and went on to win the tournament. Although as a bit of a handicap I would always start my offensive drives by picking up with the Bret Blitzer instead of Griff (unless it was raining) but he got knocked on his arse a lot so Griff did end up scoring regularly. The system worked pretty well, by the end I was playing teams high enough above me that I could often take both Griff and the Mighty Zug which was a potent combo
Of course I entered the following Cripple cup and was admonished and told I couldn't take a team designed to take Griff. So being the cheeky bugger that I was I designed a team to induce The Mighty Zug every game while still taking all the positional players I could this is the team at the end of that campaign

Rhys CrippleCup
Brets love Griff.

Talking about teams and themes, I must say your actual Vamps team kinda baffled me until I heard Krusader talk about the meaning of MS. Where did you pick that theme?
I love a lot of that old school anime, Cowboy Bebop, Gundam, Ghost in the Shell (that sort of thing). The Vamps themselves kind of match the world of Gundam, with a few core star 'Pilots' and then a bunch of disposable mooks. The 08th MS Team OVA series is by far my favourite show in that series, its a bit grittier and about as 'real' as a show about giant robots gets so as the team Motto says it is 'The Best One!'
So the Vampires are named after the Mobile Suits the shows Ace pilots use (from both sides) and the thralls are named after the more generic equipment. Its quite appropriate that RX-79GEZ8 Gundam EZ8 has become my star vampire since that is the lead characters suit and is featured in one of the best mech battles ever animated where he rips off the suits damaged arm to beat his opponent with it like a club.
I always try to pick something a little interesting since I'll be spending so much time with these teams. My Brets were called "Rhys' Ravens" and all the players were named after real or mythical characters/people associated with or in some cases actually are crows or ravens: Quoth the Raven, Marcus Valerius 'Corvus', Arthur Pendragon, Ragnar Lodbrok, that sort of thing.

When Rhys talks about his team you can tell he put some effort and work into the theme and naming schemes : it feel really consistent, unique and personal. 

Why did you pick Vampires to play after Brets?
I wanted something challenging and different to the teams I usually play without going so far as to take one of the Stunty teams where you're lucky to win 30% of your games even when you play very well; like Monty does. The teams I am used to playing like the Brets and Lizards work together like a cohesive whole, I liken them like the fingers on the hand where each component works together to get results
A team like Vampires though you rely so much on the few core players as individual units. It can be frustrating when they don't behave themselves, but there is also less pressure to perform since the team is quite unreliable and considered under powered. I've had good seasons with them (and as this season has shown, quite bad ones) but I enjoy playing them either way because even when you're losing you feel like you can try something with a Swiss army knife style player like a vampire. Hypno Gaze adds a whole other tactical layer to playing the game.

What's your plan with them, then?
We will have to see, the teams not in a the best shape at the moment with a niggled killer, but I'd like to try to get at least one more season out of them. I guess I will have to see how the season shakes out. I really need a stat up on one of the two pieces under level 6 to make the team shine. I had an AG+ piece I used for throwing last season which gave me a lot more options on the field but he died to a simple block just before the season started, I've been trying to recover from that ever since but its slow going.

You gave me some really good stories before, what would you say is your proudest achievement, Blood Bowl-wise, to this day?
I dunno, winning the Chaos Cup was a lot of fun but for me its more the little things. Positioning is probably the strongest part of my game and I kind of have an instinctual feel for it and using it to control the board. So when I occasionally get a compliment on something I feel I do well its a great feeling. Or when someone tells me they enjoyed our match, regardless of the result. It takes two people to play BB so when one player comes away unhappy that's much less satisfying.

A humbling and interesting approach indeed. Sometimes the little things being noticed bring a lot of enjoyment.

You said your positioning was one of your strong points, perfect transition for me to ask you what you think your other strengths and weaknesses are?
Well obviously positioning as I mentioned, I guess my other strong point is that I can feel the flow of a match in many cases which allows me to play quickly without sacrificing quality (usually) this gives my opponent less time to think which can put them on the back foot.
I think the weakest part of my game is the reason I have started playing Vampires, getting the most out of individual players instead of relying on board control is a lot tougher for me. And while that positioning and board control can win games it often means I take a lot of blocks on key players, which is bad for the team in the long term. Which is why I have much better results with teams like Brets and Lizards than say Skaven, Wood Elves or my Vampires.

Is there any coach around you that inspires you to modify your play style ?
I'm not sure to modify my play style wholesale, but Morka and Sandune are probably the two coaches who I most appreciate seeing play for the insight into the game. Morka for his incredibly effective aggressive play and Sandune for his overall competence in every sector of the game. Sandune is probably one of the best players positioning wise I have ever seen and he has excellent long term planning for the game.

If you had any advice to give to coaches that are still learning or want to keep developing, based on your own experience what would you say ?
Just play the game, don't get discouraged when things go poorly, while the game is about risk management there is still a lot of luck involved and even the best players have bad games.
Think about the field of play as a whole, don't over commit to the ball but don't give up position or allow your team to be split without a good reason for doing so. Over committing is definitely the biggest mistake I see with new players, especially those playing bash teams who get used to relying on armour and injury dice bailing them out of bad play.

With that many years of experience under your belt, which skill would you say you're having the most fun with ?
Hypno Gaze is by far the most fun skill to use in the game due to the options it gives you.
Fend is great because it irritates people to no end and allows for a lot more options since often after taking a block that piece is now free to move.
Obviously Block and Dodge are the utility skills that are always great to have.

During the following discussion about Hypno Gaze, we talked about Star Players using it, such as the Count Luthor Von Drakenborg. Then I realised I have been missing a question all along and decided to risk it and ask to Rhys first... 

Your favourite Star Player?
Griff Oberwald by far,not only is his stat line and skill set amazing and he carried me to victory in the Chaos cup; his model is just amazing and he looks so smug when he scores. Plus, an amazing hat.

Is there any kick-of events you really dislike?
Pitch Invasion and Sweltering Heat, because they can both ruin games all by themselves with little to no input required from the coaches. At least a Blitz requires the player to do something to capitalise on it and can be mitigated to a degree with proper setups. Which is why I take the Security Gate for most teams since Pitch Invasion is more likely than Sweltering Heat.

So security gate is your enhancement of choice then?
For general teams yes. Stunties and Underworld get Nuffle's Altar, as do teams built to buy Star Players. Khemri and Lizards get the Magic dome (even though its ugly) since Rain and Blizzard are a nightmare for them.

After all that we talk about, if you have to change one thing in Blood Bowl 2, what would it be?
I'd put Chaos Pact in the game, they're a fun team with a very different play style and a lot of development options. They're the only official NAF team not in the game besides the Khorne team from BB1. Essentially they're a chaos team with 3 big guys, a dark elf and a goblin plus basic humans for linemen.

We talked about your music choices on streams a few times, do you listen to music during your BB games?
yeah, I like something with a bit of oomph to it, Something that Rocks like Queen or Dire Straits, or something with some Jazz to it like The Seatbelts.
Nothing where I have to pay attention to get lots out of it really.

Music is said to be food for the soul, do you have any physical food during your games ?
No, I try not to eat at my keyboard. I'll have a bottle of Cider or Ginger Beer if I don't want something alcoholic but that's it

You know I always ask people to give me questions, so I asked him the one put forward by PapaNasty. I had to copy/paste it tho, because it's a long one.

Have you noticed any geographic trends within Blood Bowl, particularly differences between REL/GMAN/The Big O, and if so what are they and how do you feel that they impact the game and the strategies/attitudes of the players therein ?
Nothing crazy, I think now that the Rookie League is in place for the new upcoming players you see a lot of similar play styles. But I'll be honest, I don't pay a lot of attention to the other regions. I just don't have the free time to follow so many people (ReBBL has hundreds of players these days!)
Yeah, sorry its not a great answer, but I'm not the best person to ask it. Someone like Krusader or Metal would have much better insight.

So, I regroup most of the questions coaches give me in a compendium I will most probably inflict on someone someday, which question would you like to toss in ?
What's the best most crazy play you have ever tried and actually managed to pull off? or vice versa: had pulled off against you.

That's the kind of question I look forward to seeing answers to.

A special thank you to Rhys for being available on short notice. I had a lovely chat, as always, and was suprised not only by his short, precise and quick answers but also by the formulation of his approach regarding teams and play styles.
Him thinking in terms of team cohesion, individualities, large scale board control and focused actions made me reflect on my own vision.

Catch you all later with another guest !

Griff Oberwald: the Man, the Legend, the Wing├ęd Helmet.

- Zee

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