I have been playing Blood Bowl competitively coming up to 2 years now but it wasnt until earlier this year that I dipped my toe into the world of League Play. For those of you who are new to Blood Bowl, there are 3 core ways to play the game
- Exhibition Play – this is what you will most like take part in during the first few months of you Blood Bowl journey. This is purely a friendly game between you and a friend. The great thing about this is you can decide to use a vast range of optional rules that GW have provided which can conjure up some incredibly theatrical games.
- Tournament Play – it is by travelling to local tournaments that really kick started my addiction to this game. Tournaments can range from 1 or 2 day events and even 3 days when it comes to the World Cup which comes around every 4 years. Each event has its own unique set of rules to allow organisers to put a personal touch on their day. A small one day event will see you playing 3 or sometimes 4 games in a day with a winner at the end whilst the larger 2 day events will see 5 or 6 games being played over the weekend.
- League Play – this is where an agreed amount of games is played over a certain time scale, i.e 8 games to played in 12 weeks. It is then up to the participants in the league to organise all their games over that time. After this there is normally a play off stage to see who is the overall winner of the league. The interesting part of a league is the development and evolution of your players as you earn SPP.
Unfortunately due to work and the location of my local leagues it has taken me this long in order to take part in one. In February earlier this year I decided to get stuck in and joined the infamous ECBBL aka The Blackshirts. Now this league is highly competitive and highly skilled, many of the coaches are playing for or have played for Team England for example. For me this seemed to be a good opportunity to try to learn and improve my game. I was aware I would not do great but seemed a great opportunity to progress. Unfortunately due to the location and day they met up I struggled to get my games in, and had to cancel on opponents more than I would have liked to. So when I heard about another league in London that was more convenient to get to and played their games on different days throughout the week making it easier to complete my games, I had to find out more. Truth be told I already knew about the DBL, I had the pleasure to play against a few at local tournaments and had attended their first Backbreaker cup back in 2017. So lets talk about my first month into DBL18!!
‘not only is the depth and complexity of how the DBL is being run too impeccable to encapsulate in one word but I believe the effort put in deserves more’
The DBL and its Organisers
The DBL is a Blood Bowl League Based in Covent Garden, London and is currently knee-deep in its fourth season since being established. Here is a brief biography taken from their website http://www.dragon-bowl-league.com
‘The Dragon Bowl League or the DBL for short started back in 2015, the first league didn’t last long. But with a bit of perseverance the second season was a success with 18 coaches vying for the coveted Dragon Bowl trophy. In the end the Niveeungos a Wood Elf team took the title, and in the third season the mighty Marienberg Mariners stole the show ensuring that the trophy ‘stays with the Elves’ so to speak. The DBL18 will begin again this year, who will take the title this year? We will have to see…’
As you can see, like most leagues, they started off small, with 18 coached taking part in the second season but as of now I am currently competing in their 4th season with a whopping 50 coaches! No that’s not a typo, there are 50 (fifty) coaches blitzing it out for their chance to win the Dragon Bowl trophy. This leads me nicely onto the topic of how is the league organised? With 50 coaches, making sure everything goes smoothly is surely a task for the bravest of commissioners?
Well from my experience during the first half of the group stages I can sum it up in one word………scrap that, not only is the depth and complexity of how the DBL is being run too impeccable to encapsulate in one word but I believe the effort put in deserves more.
So, how do you make sure 50 coaches play all their games in the set out time, answer any league disputes and make sure everything runs accordingly all whilst making sure people are enjoying themselves (as that is the most important thing at the end of the day)?
Let me explain how the DBL set out to achieve this in a very fashionable way.
‘Seriously!! what other league does this? It is incredible! the community that these guys have built in and around London is superb!’
The Divisions and Draft Night
Before the coaches were able to roll some skulls there was the small question of divisions, who plays who? With 50 coaches the organisers decided to split us up in to 5 divisions of 10 teams which were then divided further into conference A and B. The divisions were named North, West, South, East and Central meaning overall each coach would be placed into a conference with 4 other coaches which they would have to play twice over the period of 12 weeks demanding a play rate of 2 games in 3 weeks. This to me is an optimum pace giving coaches who find it hard to get games in some leeway whilst on the other hand not forcing the others who can play regularly into having to wait weeks after they have completed their matches. In order to decide who is in which division it came down to the draft night!
Before we move on as you can see from the image above there in an extra division represented with the letter ‘U’. Now believe it or not after enlisting the 50 competitors there were still MORE people who wanted to join in but unfortunately were too late to join or capacity had been reached. Due to this they decided to put together a division separate from the Dragon Bowl League in order for them to get involved and there it was, The ‘Underworld University’ was born! Seriously!! what other league does this? It is incredible! the community that these guys have built in and around London is superb!
So lets talk about the draft night. The first official meeting of the DBL 18 included, if I remember correctly, roughly 35 of the 50 competing coaches getting together in order to sort out the divisions. Now how was this done? Well there was a set theme to the evening which was the 80’s and we were encouraged to come in fancy dress, some of the costumes were great but I was not brave enough! To top this off the bar had an offer for £3.50 a pint all night. Very early on I could see where this night was heading but due to having to work the next morning I had to resist the temptation and be sensible. So for the cherry on top of these antics, the draw itself was done using a bingo machine with each team having a dedicated number, it honestly felt like we were involved in a 80’s saturday night TV games show. After this anyone who had an opponent to play were able to get going and play their first game. It was a great night of Blood Bowl and a superb way to kick off the next 6 months of the Dragon Bowl League.
It was then we got to meet our divisions ‘Guvnor’. Let me explain, im guessing due expansion of the league and how it grew over a couple of years, the commissioner now has Guvnor’s who look after a division each. They try to arrange the best ways for everyone to get their games in, report back to the commissioner on any issue and keep records up to date. You didn’t think it was all done by one person did you?
The Teams and Fluff
In this section I would like to talk about, for me, one of the most important and enjoyable parts of the game, the fluff and role-playing side to the sport. In my opinion the DBL are one of the best in the business when it comes to this. I would like to talk about why I believe this and just how dedicated the majority of the coaches are to the game which rubs off on the rest making it such an enjoyable league to play in. Lets start with the Teams, when naming a team and players etc I have known a lot of people to come up with a pun for the team name and fill the roster with unimaginative names and call it done. Well not these guys! let’s have a look at the quality and effort put into some of the team names and Logos below.
I’m sure you will agree with me about the quality of these logos, well it doesn’t end there, this effort is followed through with everything they do from match reports to the paint jobs. The character that is created in some of these teams is second to none.
‘It really allows you to immerse yourself into the league and community they have created and leaves you itching for more’
This brings me on nicely the next topic, match reports/commentary. On top of everything the DBL do in order to make a coaches league experience as enjoyable and thematic as possible we have not come to mention the match reports, commentary and publications. As a coach competing in the DBL there is as much Blood Bowl action to get involved in off the pitch as there is on. It’s an absolute pleasure to be able to keep up to date with games in your division as they are happening with some great commentary and pictures. These updates are posted through the leagues Whatsapp group and can have as many as 12 games going on at once. Its something I’ve not really thought about until now nor thought that there was a need for it but I will be the first to admit that I have been caught checking scores in the pub and having my non Blood Bowl playing friends ask ‘oh, who’s playing?’ Trying to explain I was checking the score of a board game that’s going on was interesting.
See below for an example, of course numbers blacked out etc.
Alongside any weekly commentary posted on the groups whatsapp page, the league also publishes an article every week to sum up some key highlights from the past weeks games. This is where the league excels, the level of professionalism is incredible. All of this combined really gives you some great Blood Bowl content to enjoy throughout the week and not just on the night you end up playing your league game. It really allows you to immerse yourself into the league and community they have created and leaves you itching for more.
‘high quality Logos, team photos and History, not to mention a weekly publication show casing this brilliance really brings out the magic of the beautiful game that is Blood Bowl’
On top of the weekly Backbreaker Sport articles shown above, once a month they publish the ‘Backbreaker Bulletin’. Now the bulletin to too long to show screen shot here and I wouldn’t know where to start in order to describe how immensely inspiring this content is so I will leave a link below for you to admire and succumb to the jaw dropping creativity in this document. It is everything you dream of when you were a kid just getting into the hobby now being fulfilled by these extremely talented individuals who are passionate about the game as anyone I’ve ever crossed paths with, Bravo! link below.
The Deadwood Rams
So the only question left to answer was, what team should I play? After my first ever league season at the ECBBL playing humans and finishing as mediocre as I thought I would, I was set on playing a team with a bit more diversity/character. I wanted to play with a team that had a clear plan going into each game, with humans it changes quite a lot. One game you may have to play the agility, passing/ throwing game against dwarfs for instance well on the other hand you can hold your own bashing against teams like Skaven. Well it was not long after GW had released their Chaos Chosen team the ‘Doom Lords’ that DBL18 was set to start and I had really appreciated the chaos models since I frist saw them. On top of that the team is fairly unique, 4 strength 4 pieces and then the rest beastmen with horns, not to mention the ability to hire and Minotaur and upgrade your players with mutations which is great fun. So that was that, I would be playing Chaos Chosen in DBL18. I present to you the ‘Deadwood Rams’
I must admit this is the first time I have sincerely put together a logo for a Blood Bowl team and I loved it. It was my first time using any sort of graphic design/editing software and don’t get me wrong it’s nowhere near as good or professional as a lot of the others but something as simple as this really adds a level of enjoyment to the hobby. It adds to the role-playing element to the game and really brings the league together, it’s not just Dave vs James (not the actual names of the following teams), it’s the ‘Alqualonde Falcons’ vs ‘The Artful Dodgers’. Yes, I know you can announce games with their team names by just naming each team, but when they are all backed up by high quality Logos, team photos and History, not to mention a weekly publication show casing this brilliance really brings out the magic of the beautiful game that is Blood Bowl.
So how have the Rams been getting on?
Well not terrible but could be doing better, they are currently on a win, a draw and two losses. The first four games have been tough, to begin with I played my first ever game with chaos a week before DBL started in a pre season friendly so it is taking time to get my head around them. Chaos Chosen have a tendency to be unreliable and difficult to get results with until they are skilled up. After the first four games they are getting there and fingers crossed the second round of games will be more rewarding.
After the last result against Taylor and Swifts amazon team, I now need to beat Brain Munchen in my next game in order to have a chance of doing well in the division, if not the aim of the game will be to progress as much as possible in order to go into the knockouts with the best team possible. That will be a tough game, after playing them twice and a record of one a piece it could go either way but I am currently missing my star beastman with Tackle and Wrestle which could make it difficult. I’m sure either way it will be an enjoyable game, it always is. Also I have to give credit to my division, they are all great coaches which makes the games more challenging. Finger crossed the Rams really take off the next few games.
So what software do they use in order to keep track of the games and teams, most league will use the thoroughly tested and loved OBBLM (Online Blood Bowl League Manager). But for some reason that I am not aware of the DBL has gone with creating its own Google Drive with shared documents, team sheets and standings there for everyone to edit when needed. This is something that I will find out more about as to the reasons but it works so why not. It has its advantages and disadvantages, it allows a lot more freedom when it comes to design etc something the DBL is keen on but on the other hand it requires a lot more manual involvement when editing team sheets which I can imagine being an issue with newer coaches. Like everything else, they don’t do anything half heartedly therefore the drive is arguably as robust as OBBLM and at the end of the day is something they can keep improving on season on season.
So to end this post I would just like to sum up my thoughts on the DBL. Honestly if you are in the London area and are looking for a good Blood Bowl league, I could not recommend this place enough. The effort put in, all for the benefit of the participants is second to none creating such a diverse community ranging from coaches who are there for the social side, have fun and play a game to the others who are very competitive and want to win the title. There is something for everyone!
I cannot wait to continue the rest of the league and, fingers crossed, the knockout stages. Let see what else the DBL has in store towards the end of the league as im sure there will be some more goodies and surprises, for instance I believe they are planning to start live streaming some of the games. Talking about Goodies, every Blood Bowl player loves specific accessories for anything they take part in whether it be a tournament or a league. It is normally just a set of custom dice, sometimes more depending on the size of the event. With the DBL on the other hand, the amount of ‘stuff’ we got just for joining was incredible. We each got given a set of division specific dice, badges with out teams logo on it, beer mat scatter templates (awesome idea) and my favourite, a mug with our teams logo printed on the side. This was a really nice touch!
So all there is left to say is, Commish and every one else involved in managing and organising the DBL………
TAKE A BOW……
You done it right!
I will be back to discuss the second half of the league and the knockouts soon.