Monday, 11 September 2017

How To Run A Successful Blood Bowl League

There are few things in life more difficult, frustrating and often fruitless than trying to arrange for a group of gamers to have a series of constructed games and events, and feed important results back to you in a timely manner. The only examples I can think of which would be more difficult, frustrating and fruitless would be using your vote for the good of the country, telling your wife that "we can't have any more pets", and trying to forget the lyrics to Barbie Girl.

Every club and friendship group needs that person though, that woman or man who is prepared to pour the same level of energy into an upcoming league or campaign as an engine boy shovelling coal on the Titanic. Often though, like the Titanic, the best laid plans will be sunk by an unforeseen event, and the most common iceberg for gamers is long term commitment. I don't blame people for this though, as promising a lot of your hours on a single system for a prolonged length of time can be hard, especially if you find yourself not enjoying it or if 'real life' just happens to get in the way.

After the re-launch of Blood Bowl I decided to take the plunge and arrange a league; the M.A.D. Open! We're now at the very end of the season with only three games left to be played (one Semi-Final, Final and 2nd Runner Up games) and the season went unusually well, with all the participating coaches being very receptive to the format which helped things run smoothly. We had sixteen teams split over two divisions, with ten players finishing all of their required games (which is amazing, more on that later) and a total of forty five games being played in total!

Before we get into the meat and gravy of the post, I recommend having a quick surf around the league's website;

Here is a list of why I think it went so well, and tips to get your league or campaign up and running!

1) Choose a popular system and gauge interest

This isn't Blood Bowl specific and needs to be assessed first. And well yes, it's obvious right? Not really. It's all well and good telling people you're going to be running a Mordheim campaign (couldn't think of an example from the tennies), to later realise that only you and Rufus Bobington play the game and can't get anyone else into it (and nobody wants to play six games against Rufus Bobington). It doesn't matter how good a game is, if people aren't actively playing it or need to buy a brand new set of models it is always going to be an up hill struggle.

Even in the case of popular games which are played regularly, people may just not be up for the commitment of an entire league, so you need to ask about and see realistically how many people will be interested in a campaign. Either use your talkhole and approach your fellow gamers human to human, or use social media to ask the question and make a list of interested parties. If you deem there to be enough bodies to start something worthwhile take a look through your list and do the following;

2) Check the character of the interested parties

This seems a little harsh, but everybody knows a few characters (and have definitely been one at some point) who promise their commitment and seem really up for it, but you know that they'll only come for one or two games and then never bother again. If you have eight people in your list and five of them are flakier than a 99, then is it worth your time? If you don't think it is you don't need to address these people, just say it turned out 'real life' got in the way. G'damn Real Life, always getting in the way...

3) Make sure you are committed

Who's ever drafted the most kick ass character and gotten one session into an RPG Campaign only for their GM to never bother doing it again? Hands up! Yes, you at the back, be honest. That's right, every single on of us has suffered that disappointment. Don't be that person, and be in it for the long run.

4) Get your league rules prepared, Ball season is here

Right, lets's get Blood Bowl specific! After sounding the Gorn of Hondor on our clubs Facebook group I had about eighteen potential coaches answer the call, which took me a little by surprise. I knew that BB had gathered momentum after the re-launch but hadn't expected quite so many teams to turn up! It was a mix of old and new players, and I needed a lay out which catered for everyone.

The material in BB Death Zone S1 for running a league is very helpful, although needs Salt Bae levels of seasoning to be applied to the real world. I decided to split the League into two divisions (North and South) of eight players, each of which had their own separate league tables. The top two teams of each division would then qualify for the play offs, consisting of a semi-final and final, as well as a second runner up match.

From experience I knew that as our club meets up once a week on a Friday, and that most people either don't want to play Blood Bowl every single week and / or can't attend weekly, and also that we were bound to get drop outs, we would never get every coach to play each team in their division within a reasonable time (or realistically ever!). With that in mind I decided on the following;
  • Each Team may play a maximum of six league games.
  • League games can be against any team in the whole league, and not just from their own division.
  • The league ran from one specific date to another, the total time being approximately four months.
There were a bunch of other rules which can be found here, but these three were the most important. Six games seems easy enough to arrange but if you only meet up once a week that's a month and a half of gaming time. Do you want to play one game in a row for over a twelth of the year? And that's not counting any potential friendlies you agree to! I don't want to have my BB experience compressed like that! So four months seemed an appropriate amount of time to allow coaches to fit in all their games, and as noted before most of our coaches got all six games in, and about a third of the coaches even squeezed in some friendlies!

It was also important that coaches had the ability and opportunity to actually play their games and not be stuck in a league with no active teams, so I was very keen on allowing everyone to play anyone. It was worth the risk and didn't affect league results wildly, if at all.

5) Get organised

I can't stress this enough, your league will dissolve like a bath bomb in a sewer if you are not organised efficiently. Here is a list of everything I got together (either through making myself or finding online) and distributed where appropriate to the coaches;

Website - This probably isn't a must have but it's so easy to set up a blog to keep everyone informed.

Standardised roster - As you will often end up checking team rosters it helps to have each one coming through in the same format. Also it was my intention for rosters to be visible to all coaches for transparency and found one which would copy & paste easily for my intentions (have a look at what I mean here). I hosted the roster file on a Google Drive and distributed it through the website and also on our Facebook group.

League table/s - Make one in Excel or paint or whatever, or download one that you can manipulate easily. If your league table is confusing people will moan and you don't want that, it's just a pain in the hole. Decide your points awarded per game (3/1/0 normally) and tie deciders for position (TD/CAS/FAT normally, and I added Div Played to encourage games within divisions). You will want to find somewhere public to display the league as people will be interested. I know that there are online leagues, possibly through the NAF, but I have no experience of these (if the excellent community is anything to go by though, they are probably superb).

Record of all games and full results - This is the trickiest part of the whole process. Most coaches can be relied on to track their teams correctly, but you are expected (and rightly so) to keep a track of every other little thing. In order to do that you will need a robust Excel document displaying week on week games, see a screen shot of mine next to this paragraph. It's the most important part of your organisation and you need to be on top of this at all times.

Record of team rosters - Keep each roster for continuity.

Record of team total league achievements - A team's final roster can't be relied upon to give accurate data to the number of TD, CAS and FAT across a season, because the sad truth is that players die and that will skew data. Keep a running total of a teams league achievements from the start and you won't regret it. It also helps if you mess up the league by accident!

Record of player achievements - I actually only realised this too late, but if you plan to do some kind of end of season awards you will need to keep individual records of players too. This is important as you may have high scoring players who end up dying and become forgotten, much to the annoyance of their coach. This is easier than it sounds as not every player will earn SPP each game, and will just be a heap of copy pasting if your rosters and records are Excel files.

I think that's everything... It's a lot, right? I told you, you have to be committed! Once the set up is done though the maintenance isn't actually too heavy believe it or not.

6) Keep your coaches invested

I think one of the main reasons the momentum for our league persisted week in, week out, was that I posted weekly updates from each game and shared it with the club. A narrative was created to be the voice of the league by writing 'highlights' from the perspective of two presenters, Phillipe Flabbybun (a bubbly Halfling Ex-Pro) and Arnild Swoonzenorger (a coarse Norse Barbarian), and asked coaches to let me know of any special events that happened in game (a successful Dwarf dodge, a Goblin getting eating by a troll, a Khemri team actually managing to pick up a ball, etc) and described them within the context of a match report. It engaged people and brought a visualisation of their game to life! 

I understand that this isn't for everyone. It can be time consuming and difficult if you're not inclined to writing, but there are other less intense ways of connecting with your coaches. A post or two a week on a clubs Facebook page or forum to whip up some friendly banter will go a long way to making sure that your league makes the distance. Not everyone will get all of their games finished which is fine and unavoidable, but if you can get the majority of coaches over the line you can regard the league as a success.

7) Hound those lazy buggers

Coaches are going to get slack and not send over important information at some point. I was very lucky and didn't have to chase much, but when it was necessary I was polite but forceful. You are providing a service, which is most likely free, and the very least they can do is send you a bloody roster! If a coach continues to ignore or not send what you need then just tell them that they can't play any games until they do. You don't need the hassle, and if they're not really committed to the league then you also don't need the dead weight.

And that's it! If you are running a league for a club to keep people attending then I suggest incentivising any matches played at the club. In our case, an extra 10k GP was awarded to each team in the 'money' phase of a games end for playing at club, as the game was 'streamed over Cabalvision'. More narative, more fun, more bodies down club.

I hope this helps and if you have any questions or comments just ask, and if you would like any of the Excel material used send an email to ( and I can ping it over!


  1. Many thanks to Dan for running this league, I had long been out of regular Bloodbowl gaming and had forgotten how much I missed it, there is nothing quite like a good league to rekindle an old flame!

  2. Great post Dan! I have no clue what a BlodBoowl is really, but the advice on running a campaign/league is spot on.

    I'm going to favourite this article, for when print it out on A0 paper, roll it up into a big cylinder and use it to slap Frostgrave players around the back of the head when they get notions of Flakeyness.

    1. Thanks lad, you should borrow a team for next season (starting in Nov), happy to give you a demo if you like?

      I'd recommend carving it into a stone slab, 10 commandments style, and using that to slap your players. It'll get quicker results!