Blood Bowl: Shambling Undead Review

Hello folks,

This is Dolch again, your correspondent on all things Blood Bowl from Games Workshop. This time, we are looking at one of the most recent releases, the Champions of Death.

I have been waiting three years for an Undead team… and wow! It was totally worth the wait!

Look at those beauties!

Shambling Undead are a top tier team in a lot of tournament formats. They are strong in a lot of leagues, and they are a balanced team. Let’s talk about ‘balanced’, ‘bash’, and ‘run’.  I will be calling them a Undead team to distinguish them from the Necromantic Horror and Khemri Tomb Kings teams.

Many teams win through bashing the opposing teams into submission.  After all, it is hard to score any points when few of your players have their legs underneath them. Your typical Ork or Ogre team is often too focused on pounding their opponents onto the turf to care about what happens to the ball.  Through careful blocking (and sometimes fouling and pushing opponents into the crowd), you may even be able to knock out all of the other teams models.  Depending on tournament rules, this Pitch Clear may even result in a touchdown!

The other extreme is a run team.  These teams rarely use block, instead rely on high agility and dodges to get their players into scoring positions.  They may even pass the ball! The elven teams are like this (though the Dark Elves are known to throw blocks with some of the best). Elven teams have been known to score with as few as three players still on the pitch!

In-between these two extremes are balanced teams.  They have enough strength and attacking skills to bash well.  They also have pieces with high agility and movement that allows them to run.  They will not out-bash a true bash team, but have enough agility that they can adjust their play style to be more like a run team (with a few blocks to hold up those truly nasty elements of their opponents army).  They cannot out-run a true run team, but have a few pieces that can stay with the high agility pieces while taking apart the opponents defenders.  Humans and Undead are great examples of a balanced team.

The Skills

There are a few skills that are found throughout the  Undead teams.

First is Regeneration.  When this player suffers a Casualty, there is a 50/50 chance that they will pull themselves together and be placed into the Reserves box instead (not Knocked Out).  This is a great skill and one of the reasons that Undead Teams are great for Leagues.

Next is Thick Skull.  Players with Thick Skull are resistant to casualties and on an injury roll of 8 as a Stunned Result rather than a K.O. result.  Models with Thick Skull are just harder to get off the pitch.

I put this down as a skill even though it isn’t technically.  Instead of a head coach, this team is managed by a Necromancer and cannot take an Apothecary.  In exchange, if you kill a player on the opposing team you get to add that player (in their Rookie-zombie form) to your roster for the rest of the match.  And, you can hire them on full time after the match.

You can also induce Igor.  He can give you a once a match reroll on a failed Reanimation for the same cost as an Apothecary.

It’s pronounced eye-gor.

The Roster

Undead are one of the few teams to have multiple 0-16 or 0-12 players.  These are the non-positional players that you fill your roster with. The first is the Skeleton Linemen, your basic bag of bones.  Skeletons are five moving with the same strength as a human.  They are less agile with only a two, but have seven armor with both Thick Skull and Regeneration.  They can take General skills when they level up normally and Agility, Strength and Passing skills if they roll doubles.

Zombies are your other 0-16 choice.  They are not as fast as Skeletons, and are on par as far as strength and agility.  Zombies are much hardier in terms of having eight armor with Regeneration. They can take General skills when they level up normally and Agility, Strength and Passing skills if they roll doubles. Plus, once per match your Necromancer Head Coach can reanimate an opposing player who died.  That’s right… you get free Zombies.

There is endless debate on which is the better lineman.  They are both extremely inexpensive and have the same possibilities for advancement.  Skeletons are faster than zombies, but Zombies are significantly tougher.  In general, I come down on the side of the Zombies… for at least most of your linemen.  I still like to have a skeleton or two just for the little bit of extra speed, especially if you don’t have the cash for a fourth Ghoul Runner.

Ghoul Runners are interesting… they are demented cannibals and aren’t really dead (yet). They don’t get Regeneration like the rest of the team, but they do have Dodge which makes them hard to knock down.  They move seven spaces and have both strength and agility three, and have an armor value of seven.  They are allowed both General and Agility skills when leveling, though may choose Strength and Passing skills on a double.  Ghouls are either your running back or your safeties.  They are likely to be scoring a lot of points and will gain CP’s (experience) faster than most of your other players.  They are also target number one for your opponents and are likely to see a lot of Blocks and fouls.  In general, they should not be throwing blocks unless there is an elf in scoring position.

Wight Blitzers are essentially better put together skeletons.  They have six movement and three strength and agility.  They get better armor too, the same as the zombies.  They come with both regeneration and Block.  In general, these guys should be throwing a block (or Blitz) each turn.  They get Strength as well as General skill access with Agility and Passing skills on doubles.  Strength access for these models is what really makes this model, as we will see when we get to builds.  You may occasionally need to hand off to one of these guys so that they can get CP’s for advancing, but these guys are hitters rather than runners.

And finally, we get to the Mummy.  Whether the Mummy is classified as a Big Guy is up for some debate.  What isn’t up for debate is that the Mummy is a strength 5 and AV 9 behemoth with Mighty Blow and Regeneration.  The downsides are that it is only Movement 3 and agility 1.  When you stand him up, you won’t get any additional squares of movement unless you risk a Go For It.  You’ll not be dodging with this guy.  He comes with Strength skill access and may take General, Agility and Passing skills on a double.  He doesn’t come with any negative traits, like Really Stupid, so that is definitely a bonus. You also can get two Mummies for your roster

Undead In League Play

In league play, Undead teams take a while to develop.  While your Ghouls will get a lot of CP from handling the ball, the rest of the team will need to rely on MVP and casualty points. If you have a drive well in hand, it would be worthwhile to hand the ball off to one of your Wights so that they can get some points off the Touch Down.  The good news is that you won’t have to spend a lot of your game winnings on replacing your players… between Regeneration preventing half of all casualties and your Necromancer’s ability to steal players from your opponents Dead and Injured box you will have plenty of zombies.

A typical 1 million starting build for a Undead team would look like this:

  • 1 Skeleton
  • 3 Zombie
  • 3 Ghoul
  • 2 Wight
  • 2 Mummy

11 players and three team re-rolls

That build uses all of your starting gold.  You’ll want to save up what you can to get a 4th Ghoul or replace a Ghoul that takes an early, unfortunate casualty. You don’t really need to pick up many more rerolls… I feel that even four would be a waste.  (And rerolls bought after team creation cost twice as much).  As the season goes on Cheerleaders and Coaches would be good things to pick up to keep your cash levels in check, but you will want to keep enough money on hand to replace a Mummy or Wight that suffers and untimely true death (and they will).

Some teams will want to have a lot of models on the bench.  Thirteen or fourteen can be pretty common in league play. If you have stunty players then you would see even more, up to the cap of sixteen.  Undead run much leaner with only eleven or twelve players.  The first reason is that Zombies are so easy to come by when you can reanimate your opponent’s team.  Second, experienced Undead teams tend to have very high team values.  Team Values are used to determine how many and what type of Inducements your opponent gets against you.  This can vary from Star Players to very powerful wizards to the decks of special plays, dirty tricks, and magical items.  In general, you want your team value to be such that you have the advantage, but your opponent cannot induce the truly devastating things.

Dirty Tricks inside… but only if you have enough money to use them.

Notes on managing Team Value for Undead in League Play.  Just because a player has picked up a skill, it doesn’t necessarily make him more valuable to the team. This is particularly true for Zombies who are so easy to replace.  Keep your skills on the Mummies, Wights, and Ghouls as much as possible.

For example, a Zombie with Guard is an amazing piece to have up front with the Mummies.  Guard is a strength skill that allows that player to contribute to a block even if they are in a tackle zone.  This makes the Mummies effectively 6 strength and allows you to use three block dice for them against most models.  Having the right double skill on one of your Zombies almost doubles his value… both on the team and against your Team Value.  I would keep this player around for as long as I could.

A Zombie with Fend however might be a piece that you cut.  Fend is a general skill that prevents your opponent from following up on a block.  It is tremendously useful in throwing a Bash team off their game, but if your league is mostly running teams you won’t get much of a chance to use it.

If you want to play the team right out of the box, I’d drop the third ghoul for a second skeleton and an assistant coach and cheerleader.  Not much changes, but you’ll want to find additional ghouls relatively soon.  Forgeworld may eventually help, but who knows how soon that may be.

 Undead in Tournament play

There are some many variations on tournament rules that it is hard to come up with a hard and fast list.  A lot of tournaments will give you a gold total for you to purchase players and then a skill package (6 single skills or 2 doubles and 2 single skills, etc) or gold allotment to purchase skills (100,000 gold).

For example Chaos Cup, which is a NAF Sanctioned Blood Bowl Major that takes place in Chicago each year has the following rules for their teams.

Each skill that a player takes costs at least 20,000 gold.  If that skill is would require a double to be rolled when advancing a level it costs 30,000 gold.

For example, a Zombie with Kick would cost 60,000 gold.  Kick is a General skill, and Zombies have access to that on any skill roll.  That skill increases the cost of the Zombie by 20,000 gold.  A Zombie with Guard would cost 70,000 gold.  Guard is a strength skill and only allowed when a Zombie would roll doubles for their upgrade when leveling.  Guard then costs 30,000 on a Zombie.

A Mummy with Guard would cost an additional 20,000, because Mummies take Strength skills as a single skill. If you wanted to give the Mummy the Kick skill it would cost 30,000 gold.  (Don’t actually do that. It is a really dumb idea as it would require your Mummy to be behind the line of scrimmage.)

Here is a list that I might take to Chaos Cup

  • 1 Skeleton w/ Kick
  • 2 Zombie
  • 1 Zombie w/ Guard
  • 1 Ghoul w/ Tackle
  • 1 Ghoul w/ Sure Hands
  • 1 Ghoul
  • 2 Wight
  • 2 Mummy both w/Block

11 players and three team re-rolls

Between the Guard Zombie and the two Block Mummies, I have a very strong offensive line.  As long as I don’t let them get pulled to one side of the pitch or the other, they should effectively stop my opponent from using the middle of the field and/or tie up his big characters.

The Tackle Ghoul is my free safety… putting him onto an Elf Catcher will make the that player’s day much harder. The Sure Hands Ghoul is my ball runner.  The Wights are my linebackers, flowing to fill where there is trouble.  The Kick Skeleton helps me pin the offense into a corner since it halves the distance that the ball bounces on a kickoff.

In review, the Champions of Death box gives you a strong, flexible army.  The models are amazing, and playable right out of the box.

Until next time,

Best Blitzes


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