If you do something often enough, you reach a stage when you're under the impression of having been at it for a long while. I guess this is what prompted me the past couple of weeks to look back on the interview series. As I type these words, I realized this is the 31st interview I've made with Big O coaches. Considering there are around 60 coaches enrolled in the Big O, this means I'm now past the middle mark. The first half was quite the journey in itself, with many a surprising encounter. And, if this interview is a taste of what is to come, many a gem are still to be found in the vast swathes of land of the Big O.
My interlocutor today is man of many competences, a 21st century renaissance man one could say.
Proof? He's not only an accomplished Blood Bowl coach but also a father of two. He was late for our interview because he was baking. He works in a field were they make jokes about genes. He used to play a gentleman sport as a hobby.
Not convinced yet? His love for stats pushes him to analyze our hobby in depth on Nufflytics and to create an app for keeping an eye on ReBBL's players market. He not only provides us with a weekly summary of games, but also writes articles that shame this here piece.
He's the one behind the match report bot.
Getting there? His prowess on the pitch have been rewarded with a ReBBL mug for being undefeated in Clan League season 4. Former coach of The Ratfuckers United, actual coach of the Less Useful Mutants, one of the jewels of ReBBL: Schlice.
Can you tell us the story behind your nickname?
Um, teenage boys make bad life choices and refuse to correct their mistakes later in life.
Thought it sounded cool back when I was a kid, and I'm too lazy/uncreative to come up with a new one
Since we're on the topic of bad teenage decisions, when did you start playing Blood Bowl? And how?
Couple of years ago now. I'd kind of tapered off gaming over my PhD as life got in the way but eventually started getting the itch again watching a couple of youtubers. Eventually I stumbled across cKnoor and remembered my flatmate playing BB1 a bit when it came out.
Watched a few games and pretty much instantly knew it would be a good game for me. Was kind of into Warhammer Fantasy in high school with some mates so knew and liked the basic lore. And the game itself definitely pushed all my buttons
Ended up deciding to build my first PC so that I could give it a shot.
Interestingly, it's now come full circle because the first youtuber that really got me back into wanting to game was Beaglerush and his XCOM vids. And just recently he's started learning Blood Bowl and seems to be enjoying it.
X-Com might be the only game with RNG salt levels as high as Blood Bowl. 90% never hits, it is known.
So you joined straight into Blood Bowl 2?
Yeah, knocked around in COL for a bit before feeling like I was wanting a little more. Think I spun into JapeNZ three times in a row over two days once
Went looking around for leagues to join but had just missed the REBBL signups for the first season of BigO, so ended up in OCC as they were just moving to BB2.
You moved into Big O for season 5, 6?
Think it was 6. Has it really been 4 season with those damn rats? Wow.
Have you always been a Skaven coach?
Nah, REBBL was the first time I tried them. Was looking for something new to try and Skaven were always my favourite race in Fantasy and in lore.
I'm just sad that they don't have a Doomwheel as a Big Guy, would put the Deathroller to shame. What Blood Bowl needs is more randomness.
With the time passed, what do you think of your experience with the Ratfuckers?
The rats and I had some pretty fun times. They rolled 3 AG5 Gutters by the end of the first season which just made for a lot of silliness. Then, they had an unfortunate run in with Superfed's Orcs in the OI and started the tradition of pay-to-win through the market that they were famous for
Still need to see about getting some of them put back into the system. Only seems fair given how much it gave me.
It was actually nice to be able to just completely change up the style of the team with a few purchases rather than having to start all over again. Given how bash heavy Div1 has been over the last few seasons and how unlucky they were with CAS dice, a lot of the games were a pretty hard slog so I needed something to keep me interested.
I'm surprised they didn't name the player market after you...
Maybe I'll petition to have the Skaven market team renamed the Ratfuckers Memorial Holding Pen
Did you learn anything of value with them you plan to use with your Chaos team?
Only bad habits so far MV9 is great until you don't have it anymore!
I'm really a Lizard coach at heart though, so I'm hoping to get back into that mindset soon enough. Beastmen are just really slow Skinks, right?
I'm looking forward to see how the Mutants go though. So far it's been occasionally fun but mostly frustrating
As mentioned in the intro, Schlice match reports about his team this season bring together knowledge, humour and sports reporting in a way I can only envy. If you don't trust me, just read the last of them: Heartbreak.
We should probably talk about that wonderful thing that you created...
Well I don't know your kids...
Haha. Not a description I'd use for them at the moment. We're in the "massive tantrums before doing anything you're asked" phase...
Yeah, poor Gypsy is about to realise what sleep deprivation really feels like... We'll see him back on board in time for season 16
For the second time I then make an allusion to "bots": Gypsy's goal being to automate himself out of jobs, Schlice might be of help with that. He sidesteps again and we end up talking about Reddit and Majorbyte's Crusade against the Spreadsheet Heresy. He's too slick for me, I better knuckle under now and be less subtle if I want to go forward and not dance like this all evening.
I see that you got the Purple color added to your [Discord] name recently. Is it in recognition for your bot or are you helping on other things these days? (Purple being the Grand Librarian Role)
I know I miss being the Bot Overlord.
I needed some permissions to do something in the server and rather than fix mine up, Metal just bumped me to Majorbyte's role. Unfortunately this now means I get all the admin pings as well. I was rather happy with flying under the radar a little there. I'm kind of an accidental admin anyway. So it seemed right to me that I never really had to do anything
When did you bring the bot?
Looks like I got a test server running in July last year. Don't think it was too long before we moved it into REBBL properly.
I was really happy with how everyone took to it. I definitely think we had more post-game chat and debrief after I started it up. Which is great for the league culture.
It's kind of humbling how people really seem to miss it when the api goes down for a bit or I've broken something. Of course it also means I used to wake up to the occasional 50 pings as everyone asks me what's gone wrong
The LE beta was pretty bad. Cyanide must have been running it off the API server because it was down for the entire length of the beta.
Great doesn't even start to cover it. Like a few other things brought into ReBBL, the match report bot falls into the category of "You didn't know you needed it, now you can't live without it". Still working on a catchier name.
We then segued into talk about other people from the league as Schlice desperately tried to steer me out of course. But this is not my first rodeo.
Since we're talking about the people from the league, are there any you look up to for Blood Bowl and others?
Embarrassingly, I don't actually have a lot of opportunity to watch BigO streams so don't really have a great idea of who from around here I'd like to emulate in playstyle.
I'm a big fan of watching IsenMike's play though. Picked up a lot of good things from watching him out of the corner of my eye at work.
It's ok, I'll put it up this way: "As James, I cannot stand the Big O noobs, so I watch REL boys."
Although that might imply James is right about something and we can't really have that.
I definitely think the real heroes of the league are the content producers though. The game itself is fun and you can take it seriously if you want. But at the end of the day you're pushing (digital) minis around and chucking boatloads of dice.
It's the stories that grow around the league that are the real key to it all. So I think I'd have to say that Harringzord is the person I most look up to in REBBL. He's able to just perfectly nail the tone that's needed any time I've watched him cast a game. Really makes you want to be a part of it all (or it did for me at least, back when I started out).
Harringzord, the hardest working man in ReBBL: the Rodder Report, the Hype Vids, the Pregame Stats, and all the things I don't even know I forget.
We talked about all the things you brought to the league, but what about the pitch? What kind of coaches would you say you are, what are your strengths and weaknesses?
The main thing I struggle with is being able to stick to 'good' plays when there are other fun alternatives on offer. Fun to do, but not so great if you actually want to do well in the division
One of the things I think I can do well is keep a positive attitude even when the dice start to turn. Being around probability and uncertainty all day at work helps that I think, you've just got to be happy that you've made the right choices and let the dice do what they do.
I had a moment two seasons ago where there were two possible options for getting out of a tricky spot and scoring with the rats. Went with my gut for which one was better and was pretty happy when I checked samba afterwards and it was better by like 1% or so. Even though I would have scored with the second option given how the dice actually turned out.
I play croquet as well that has a few similar features to BB. Except there, you can lose a game after standing out in the sun for three hours just because you missed one 33% chance. And it's even more your fault there because you have to swing the damn mallet!
What is the player skill you have the most fun with on the BB pitch?
Probably Stunty Being able to just fundamentally break a critical part of the game is a lot of fun. I have an Underworld team running in another league right now and the Gobbos have been getting up to some seriously silly stuff.
And the aforementioned Skink bullshit. For a skill you can actually take though, I think it would have to be DT.
Sure it's a fake skill 99% of the time, but the way it really constrains your opponent's choices is pretty powerful when used right. Of course, they'll normally just dodge away on 6s, or block you into an injury. But that feeling
when it works and just completely shuts down a drive is great!
Do you have any StarPlayer you really enjoy playing with, when given the opportunity?
Slibli. All day, every day.
Like, you'll take a Saurus, built exactly how you want them built anyway, AND YOU'LL LET ME PUT THEM IN FOR A SKINK??
I do have a bit of a soft spot for Skitter [Stab-Stab] though. His tail almost gave the rats a shot against PapaNasty one season, which is not exactly how most of our matchups went.
Do you have a kick-off even you hate with your guts?
Probably Very Sunny to be honest. Passing is such a sub-optimal strategy at the best of times it's a shame you can make it even worse.
Ah you're an old school " passing is not worth it!" style of player...
Oh, I pass all the time. Doesn't mean it's a good idea. I'm sure the Mutants will get their passing game on before long. 1/9s are just fantastic
Actually, I think 1/9s are precisely where decision making in BB gets really interesting. Quite likely to succeed so you can plan a turn around them. But enough of a failure rate that you really need to consider your sequencing and worst case scenarios. It's why I used a skull/bothdown as the logo for my site. Yeah. I think it's probably why I like Lizards so much. You get an acute appreciation for the 1/9 with Saurus blocks and Skink dodges
Any snack and drink of choice for those long BB games?
Don't tend to eat much while playing. I'll usually have finished dinner just before booting up. For drink, a nice tall glass (or two) of soda water is my go to refreshment. Although some people need a bit of special treatment. It would be inappropriate to play Starkeweather without some some form of alcohol nearby. Only seems fair to be playing at the same level G&T has been my go to there.
If I know that my opponent is the chatty sort I'll usually see if I can settle in with a beer and make a proper evening of it. People like Deez and Lynxx were always good value to play like that.
So, we reached that last fatal question of the interview: The Player Sponsored one.
Tonight, from G-Doggidy, we have:"What's an annoying habit you have that your online buddies are not subjected to?"
Ha! Great question. I'm a terrible fidgeter and nail biter.
Would drive you all nuts to watch me bouncing around at the desk for my games
As always my gracious thanks to Schlice for taking on his time to answer my questions. Another interview that was a blast to conduct!
I keep realizing how ignorant I am of the contributions some of the coaches make to the league. And that was just interviewing people from my conference, I cannot imagine what I would find if I casted my net a bit wider.