When someone tells you an event is for charity, that doesn’t always conjure up images of high quality. It tends to suggest a half-arsed attempt to desperately squeeze as much money from a bunch of people, with some veneer of circumstance to give the gathering an ostensibly ‘interesting’ feel.
Thrudball is an event for charity.
Thrudball was one of the most fun weekends of my life.
It started with a three hour drive that went by in seconds. The collective hype that hangs around Thrud like Batman’s cape had me so excited.
I rocked up with Rubick at about 8pm to find the huge firepit BBQ well underway, Jimmyjazz manning the tongs (which, if I remember right, made lightsaber sounds. I say ‘if I remember right’ because it was here the booze started with gusto). The sun was setting, the mood was excited.
Plenty of people were there already with tents ringing the field behind the social club. Most of us had taken the wise option of setting up the tent before the drinking, though that can’t be said for everyone. Merrick and I had a race to set up (with Landrover admonishing anyone who dared attempt to look at the instructions, demanding we return our Man Cards), and despite having a tent 1/4 of the size of mine I left him tangled in a mess of wires, pegs and plastic. To be fair, he was fairly sloshed by this point, so he was definitely winning that race! My booze-highlight of the day was Glowworms Own Bru, blue and creamy in appearance, which tasted something like cough medicine. Papa Glow happily poured a sizable helping into my cup, the cup that already contained not a small amount of rum. It was a cocktail that I don’t think I’ll be repeating in a hurry (despite numerous attempts by said cocktail to repeat on me).
Fast forward a few hours and the TO, Tweety Rawdon, announces the Most Thrudlike competition about to commence. I’d turned up with the intention of getting a bit blotto, but nothing too rambuncious, but after a heartfelt discussion with a close friend of mine around the fire I decided ‘Thrud it’, and threw my hat into the ring. “I’m sure it’ll not be too bad,” thought I in my ignorance!
At this point, my knowledge of Thrud the Barbarian was this:
- His name is Thrud
- He’s a Barbabian
- He has some form of link to Blood Bowl
What I didn’t know was Thrud, Large of Arm and Small of Head was a big, tough manly man who makes Conan look like Chicken Little. What I also didn’t know what that the most Thrudlike contest consisted of four parts: The Test of Strength, The Test of Pain, The Test of Drink and The Test of Tales.
There were four of us competing; Loki, a gruff Scotsman in a kilt; Hawk, a Bouncer that could literally break me in half; Buggrit, the human-representation of Gotrek the Slayer, and me, a chubby vegan with floppy hair. But, it was for charity!
So, first was the Test of Strength. This was in the form of Leg Wrestling, so I was thankfully not pitted against Hawk, though I didn’t fancy my chances either way… I faced Loki, and somehow won despite getting a face full of far too much, er, skin (let’s just leave it at that.)
Hawk defeated Buggrit, probably because he weighed three times as much. So, I wasn’t optimistic! And, sure enough, within about 2 seconds of lying on my back on the cold, dark, wet grass, I found myself face first on the cold, dark, wet mud. First round to Hawk!
The Test of Pain next. Spicy food is not my thing. I can just about handle a Korma. So when Tweety cracked a beardy smile and told me to get ready to munch on a series of hotter and hotter chillies, I got a little worried. Buggrit was chuffed, as he told me, one drunken hand stroking his illustrious ginger beard. I was fairly certain I was about to lose, badly. Not only that but we were placed a mere arm’s length from the BBQ pit that had been converted into a roaring fire.
Loki bowed out after round one, Jalapenos. Hawk and I shared worried glances as our sloshed brains imagined the horrible sensations to come. As we were handed deceptively mild looking peppers, we each grunted and chewed our way through a mouthful of fire. Buggrit didn’t care. Buggrit wanted more.
I got five peppers in (Scotch Bonnet) before I couldn’t handle any more. Second from bottom, with a tongue like a welding iron, I started hopping around trying and failing to think of anything else than shoving my head neck deep in mud. Andy conceded shortly after, granting the Round of Pain to Buggrit.
It was at this point that I was discreetly sick behind my tent, which I was told wasn’t technically a disqualification as it was not because of the booze, but the peppers. Hooray!
The third round was the Test of Drink. The challenge: Two pints of lager drunk from a watering can, fastest drinker wins. Andy didn’t even compete, I think he was too far gone. Loki had lost his shirt, was just in Kilt by this point. He managed it in 1 minute 50 seconds. I was next, and put my mind to a faraway place, and managed to drink the lot in just under 50 seconds, getting a whole minute’s lead. Buggrit, hater of lager, tried a bit, drank a lot, then sprayed it on the fire, laughing all the while. Point to Trumpkin!
The final round, the Test of Tales, was a contest of who could tell the most embarrassing story. Buggrit’s story was repeated no less than four times before he was dragged off to bed. Hawk’s revealed a certain mystery involving a bidet that had until this point been vehemently denied. Loki was so far gone he sort of swayed on the bench log, shouted something, then ripped his kilt away before falling on the food table. Thankfully, my story seemed to go down well. I won’t repeat it here… But suffice to say, I was embarrassing enough to win the round, despite Jimmyjazz pulling my leg and pretending I didn’t, up until the horned crown was placed on my steamy head. There was much shame in them all being beaten to most Thrudlike by a vegan, and I’m not planning on letting them forget it!
— DAY ONE —
I woke up feeling less like a brutish barbarian and more like a wet paper towel. I grabbed my dressing gown (I knew I packed it for a reason) and limped to the ashes of the fire, where I sat in a chair for about three hours, trying to scrape together enough energy for three gurelling games of Blood Bowl. Looking around the pit my fellow contestants didn’t fare much better, one of them managing to stumble from his tent, bare chested, vomit on his face, bloodshot eyes, before slumping onto a camp chair and being rather quiet for a while.
Moving on to 10’o’clock, the actual games could begin.
My roster was a particularly nasty Nurgle list. Beast and four Warriors, each with Stand Firm, plus Pro on the Beast and Guard/Block/Diving Tackle/Leader on the Warriors, coupled with a Claw/Mighty Blow Pestigor. That much Stand Firm is bound to give anyone a headache! Combined with S4 and Foul Appearance, it was perhaps the least fun team to play against ever, but I was determined to make a competitive Nurgle team.
My first match was against a person I’d not met until the night before, a fellow by the name of NinjaGoSplat, and his Orcs. Funnily enough, I have memories of drunkenly imparting my (pathetically meagre) wisdom on How To Play Orcs, as he was undecided on his roster until the night before. Thankfully, Nurgle were able to stack up on skills, and with a sea of Stand Firm and a dash of Claw/Mighty Blow, Orcs were a relatively favourable matchup. My Nurgle could do no wrong during the match, with the poor Orcs barely getting a chance to do anything before being caught in a swampy mass of Nurgle, with my Pestigor sweeping in and out wiping out Greenskins all over the place. When the Orcs did receive, they were so few in players that they didn’t really have a chance. They couldn’t fight past the Foul Appearance/Stand Firm combo, and with relatively little Guard and Block they suffered heavily. I walked away with a 2-0 and 4-1 in Casualties.
My next game was against another Orc coach, the very talented ref/player/TO Lunchmoney. I’d played his Undead at Gert V with my Elves, so knew the speed at which we made his moves. He didn’t run Speedbowl for nothing! I’ll kill the suspense now and say that I lost a miserable 2-0, with 2-1 to casualties in Lunch’s favour, too. He’ll be the first to tell you it was a dicing though. My chaps couldn’t succeed in even simple blocks, while Al was darting this way and that, making one-die blocks like a dwarf, dancing like an elf. The only Foul Appearance roll he failed was on Turn 16, on a ‘why-not’ final block. Not a good day to be a disgusting Nurgle player.
The last game of the day was against the delightful Mr_Frodo, a fantastic gent who, when I asked him about his roster, said:
“A political aide, if presented with this roster by the MP she or he is working for, would describe it as ‘brave’.”
It was a Halfling team with no chef, no skills and no rerolls. However, it did have two Trees, Deeproot Strongbranch and Morg’n’Thorg. My first run-in with the big man himself! Though it doesn’t take a Blood Bowl veteran to notice that the roster, being eleven ‘men’, wasn’t exactly hugely competitive… Though, saying that, it was surprisingly tough. There was a moment where Morg had the ball in a cage consisting of Deeproot and two Trees. Even a tough Nurgle team would baulk at that. Thankfully, being flings, I just had to wait for him to fall apart and capitalise on the chaos.
Highlights include Morg hiding in fright from my Claw/MB. He was stood quivering in a cage of Halflings, from which he would blitz out and then cower back into each turn. Wuss!
I walked away with a 2-0 win and 3-0 in casualties, pretty low considering.
With that, I finished the day on 2-0-1, which I was chuffed with. The only thing left was the auction…
The auction is a thing of beauty. People donate all sorts of stuff, Blood Bowl related or not, and the organisers, assisted by a group of enthusiastic volunteers, each try to squeeze money from the crowd by either upping the ante or calling the bidders manhoods into question. There were some delicious objects on offer, with some frankly mind-boggling prices paid for some, either because people got them cheap or people paid through the nose. Sets of block dice went for £30, with other, rarer dice going for more. A single set of metallic silver Block dice was the subject of a huge bidding war, with the price climbing and climbing. I had in my special dice bag an identical set, with the only difference being it was gold instead of silver. I’d told myself that if the bids went to £50 I’d donate them. As the bidding hit fever pitch, I grabbed the auctioneer and handed him the set, at which point he divided the bidding between them. In the end the silver dice went in the region of £75, and the gold-coloured dice (with a gold D6 and D12) went for £100! In total over £2200 was raised for charity in that evening alone.
Bearing the scars of the night before, I had a single pint and went to bed. Very Thrudlike!
So, going into the second day I was drawn against Cassius, a relatively new-to-the-Tournament-scene player from the local town of Bognor. He was rocking a Chaos Dwarf team, so it was yet more bash. He’d gone for a Claw Minotaur and only one Bull Centaur, but had thirteen men at the cost of several skills. A damn solid coach, the game was nearly over before it began. I was receiving (incidentally, I won every single kickoff this weekend), and Cassius rolled a Blitz. In my desperation to recover, I started with a block to free some Warriors to help, and rolled Dub Skull, reroll, Skull/Both Down, so uh oh!
Thankfully, mostly due to Stand Firm, I was able to recover. I just sat my big fat Warriors in his face and let him come at me. The Pestigor and the Minotaur threw blocks at each other with gusto, but neither of them really did any damage. At least the Pestigor caused some hurt later on, but the Mino was a veritable pussycat throughout the whole match. There was a time where a Bull Centaur made a frankly disgusting play, dodging into two tackle zones (Twice!), including escaping a Diving Tackle roll, to single-die POW the ball carrier. I wasn’t chuffed! I surfed him for it later though, which made me feel happy.
I scored my turn 8, and set up to defend.
Again, everything just went right, and I squashed his team against the sidelines, all that Stand Firm and Tentacley goodness holding him fast. When he did try to make his desperation play to escape, he managed to fail a Foul Appearance, throw a 2d block and get Skull/Push reroll Skull/Push, and was stuck! He tried to make a run for it, but his Bull failed his Break Tackle and fell on his face. I was able to score to walk away with a 2-0 win.
The next game was against Loki, on Table Two(!) That was the highest I’ve ever been during a tourney, especially this late into the competition. He also had Chaos Dwarves, aptly named In Block We Trust as he had 11 players, 10 of which had Block, including two Bulls and the Mino. Again, Dave will tell you that I didn’t stand a chance. It was raining to start, and my Leader managed to die turn one of both halves (after regenerating). Using my last Reroll to try and pickup (and failing), it meant that by turn two I was reroll-less. I swear 50% of every block was a Skull/BD or worse, for both of us, but as Loki was prepared with Block everywhere he just dominated me. The turning point was a failed 2d block to free the ball carrier from the Mino, at which point I was at Loki’s mercy. If I’d made it, I could have been free, and placed my Warriors in such a way to hold Dave’s whole team back. But alas, ’twas not to be! I had Nurgle Warriors and the Beast getting KO’d, I was failing blocks all over the place… It was frustrating! There were a few funny parts though, like my Block/SF Nurgle Warrior holding three Chaos Dwarves in place for three turns single-handedly through a combination of Block, Stand Firm and Foul Appearance.
In the second half, the kick landed very short and I got a Perfect Defence. I slapped two players in the ball’s TZ, but Loki knocked one down and casually picked it up on a 5+ (AGI3 + TZ + Rain), and danced away into a tough cage. He scored turn 6, so I set up again aiming to maybe get some Cas points in… But failed again to cause any damage, at which point Loki zips in with his Bull Centaurs, knocks me out the way, picks up the ball on a 5+ again and scores turn 16. Ouch!
I lost 3-0 in the end, which is not a normal thing to do vs Chaos Dwarves. But Loki is always fun to play, and I beat him in the Thrudlike contest, so who’s the real winner here?
In my last game I was placed against Val and his High Elves. He’s a solid coach, and I respect a man that takes High Elves. He had a fairly standard build, with three blodgers and a Mv9 catcher. This was a fun, close, tense game. It was nice to have two totally dichotomous teams. I ground up and scored my turn 8 in normal Nurgle fashion. My Beast was being a total champion today, at one point holding up five elves simultaneously. What a hero!
Val tried to score in two turns, and very nearly did so. He made a dodge, hand-off, catch in a TZ, dodge again, two GFIs and a Long Pass without a reroll, but failed a 2+ rerollable catch on the Touchdown line – Oh man was it tense! The ball fell off the pitch and landed eleven spaces away, right in a blob of Nurgle… on the side lines. I had a hard choice. Try and hold on for 6 turns, or try to pick up and score again… If I dropped it and it fell off the pitch I was as good as a chocolate teapot. I elected to stand my team around the ball and weather the storm. However, Val is a fantastic Elf coach and managed to knock me onto the ball, which promptly fell into the crowd, who threw it another 10 spaces into safety. Another 4+ pass and the ball was scored on turn 5. I’d actually have preferred it to be scored on turn 2, as that would have meant I had longer to score again.
Eventually, I simply couldn’t make the winning TD. I nearly did, but Val was able to take out the key players in scoring positions. The game ended 1-1 with me leading 4-0 in casualties. It was a hell of a game, the closest of the day, with no one side having a huge dice advantage. Just how Blood Bowl should be played. Maybe Val would have a different opinion though!
I talked to Landrover at the end, while waiting for the award ceremony, who was also taking Nurgle. “I’m pretty happy,” said I, “Nurgle are a tough team to get a good record with. How did you do?” “Oh,” says he, “well, it was the first time I’ve taken them to a tournament. I got 4-1-1.”
I was thrilled.
He ended up winning 3rd place overall. Fair play to him! Ultimately, I strutted home with the Most Thrudlike certificate tucked under one arm, and a respectable 3-1-2 record with Nurgle. That, and the memory of one of the best weekends of my life.
PS, the winner was Mike Davies, NAF Presidente himself, who won entirely due to a hugely broken star player called Belly Smalls. If you see him in public, make sure to boo him accordingly.
Photos by Al ‘Lunchmoney’