I'm not a huge fan of Italian food (which got me some stick, due to the poor international reputation of British food), but we managed to find various restaurants near the hotel that served things I'm happy with (I'm honestly not a fussy eater usually, it's just that Italian food relies on more of the things I am fussy about than other cuisines). The 03:30 start to get us to the airport on time on Thursday was starting to tell, though, and despite not drinking or staying out late I was starting to feel myself flag by Saturday.
Good thing I love Italian coffee! In fact, more or less the only Italian I learnt all weekend was how to order different amounts of coffee. You need your priorities in life ;) I also picked up thank you in Swedish, thanks to a team staying in the same hotel, and in Hungarian, thanks to my first opponent on day 2.
As a quick reminder, I'd brought halflings to the biggest Blood Bowl tournament the world has so far seen, having had so much joy with them at the NAF championship last year. Rather than worry about winning lots of games, I set myself a few challenges. Having completed two on day one, my list looked like this:
Score using Throw Team Mate (game 2)
2) Score by walking in with halflings
3) Draw a game
Kill a big guy (fouled a Krox to death game 1. He apo'd it: fouled it to death again)
Nice to haves:
5) Kill a big guy with a fling on a block
6) Score with a tree
7) Win a game
vs Gulo Gulo of the Hungarian Blooderhood (Hungary) using Torpcsopat (Dwarves)
(I've probably misspelled the team name. I wrote it down from her team sheet but can't read my handwriting)
I was worrying about this: dwarven tackle is a pain, and halflings are only a tiny bit faster so struggle to outrun them the way my elves or stunty lizards would. Having said that, dwarven slowness vs treeman strength and stand firm does give halflings an unusual advantage when defending against the dwarven grind. I just needed to do something about the troll slayers, as dauntless meant they were even a threat to Deeproot.
I killed the first on turn 2 to start a very exciting half. I'd received and was running halflings down the pitch in the hopes of getting a score, leaving the trees to try and do some damage and fouling left right and centre because I knew I needed numbers. A dwarven runner got his tackle zone onto the ball carrier: turn 7, the halflings accepted a both down result to remove that, but it meant I'd need to hand off then go for it on turn 8, and one dwarf was in range to blitz, also needing a GFI... huge relief as a '1' came up for that one, but gutted when the same happen as my guy tripped on the white line.
For the second half, the ball landed in a back corner. The dwarves had lined up to avoid giving all trees easy blocks, which meant I had a free tree to throw a fling on the inevitable blitx result. The scatter was good, leaving the fling in range to pick up the ball for a turn 0 score... only in his excitement, the halfling failed to land and was stretchered from the pitch. Ah well - it would have been a little cheeky. The dwarves struggled to pick the ball up; halflings struggled to dodge (bloody tackle!). Dwarves like rolling double skulls (I counted 4 through the game, and the one she had a reroll on turned into skull/both down). Deeproot failed a go for it and neither he nor a blocked tree were prepared to stand up until after the dwarves had scored.
A riot meant the halflings had a few turns to try (again) to score... They smashed their way through the dwarves and ran up the pitch, only to fail crucial dodges. Never mind. I was delighted to think I could have drawn against or even beaten the dwarves had the dice fallen very slightly differently. It was undoubtedly the game against dwarves I have most enjoyed.
CAS 2-3 (+1 foul to me, and an extra dead halfling from TTM)
sent off 2-1
stolen rerolls 4
vs Bonjino of Banditto (Italy) using Kill Bill Rats (skaven)
Skaven are another team I was dreading: they're so fast! The biggest advantage is that gutter runners are the same strength as my halflings, so it's a bit easier for me to hit them, and the rat ogre (which I don't remember him having) is weaker than my trees.
This was also my first opponent who was a bit shyer about the quality of his English - it was still far superior to my Italian (due caffè per favore!), but did make me think about the way I speak: I tried to speak slowly and use simple vocabulary. For me, the amount of language was one of the joys of the world cup.
Anyway, onto the game, and it largely was a game of dice. By which I mean, he rolled an awful lot of ones and my chef prevented him rerolling any of them. I managed to walk in a touch down in the first half, killing one line rat on the way (whilst another died from a failed dodge). His luck was slightly better in the second half, but I still felt he was battling more against his dice than me and almost felt guilty for stealing all his rerolls. Still, if I hadn't he might have done better than a draw and I was very happy to have it.
CAS 3-2 (+1 failed dodge)
sent off 1-0
stolen rerolls 5
vs ? of ? (Italy) using ? (ogres)
I may have failed to get full details from my sixth opponent. Very sorry - if you read this, please let me know and I'll update!
I suspect Italian dice have too many ones printed on them, or are at least badly weighted...
Other things I learnt in this game: ogres are squishy but halflings aren't. Trees really like to take root (yay for grab meaning I can keep opponents close and keep hitting them, at least).
He managed to prevent me scoring in the first half, but couldn't reach the end zone. It wasn't until we were setting up for the second half, though, that I noticed among his dead was the snotling with leader - that was a relief, because ogres rely on rerolls and he'd only brought one which my chef was doing a good job of keeping away from him.
In the second half, he left an opening for the tree with block to blitz the ball carrier - and in true tree fashion, Mr Oak then caught the ball. I counted the squares, heart pounding: close enough to the end zone that I could score with a single GFI... I decided not to risk the GFI until the end, in case I needed to hand off later, or maybe he'd give me a little push and I'd surprise him by electing not to use stand firm...
Side step on snotlings is a real pain, but rather than put snotlings against my tree, he used them to block the path so it was easier for flings to get rid of them. In a final, desperate play, he left 2 snotlings against the tree and intended to have a one die blitz with the last remaining ogre... I was delighted: if he shoved the tree, the tackle zones would be removed and there would no need to go for it. If he fell, there was a good chance of another ogre casualty, and if the tree fell, well, there were more halflings than snotlings around, and most in range to score. So I think I was more disappointed than he was when the ogre decided to bone head instead. I needed to risk a hand off to a halfing in a tackle zone. Not too bad, I thought: a 4+ with a reroll. So I rolled a 3... and a 3. BOOOO!
I was very pleased with my draw - which again was largely down to the chef - but I think I was the better player (well, I've been playing a lot longer) and would have liked the win.
CAS 5-0 (+some fouls and misc that I forgot to write down)
sent off 3-0
stolen rerolls 6
End of day 2 and I couldn't be more thrilled with my chef. There had been a few times when I wished I'd brought the babe rather than the guaranteed reroll, but hindsight's a fine thing and overall I was very happy. Hundred Feet Heroes' write up revealed that not only did no halfling coach lose in round 5 (of 8 coaches, there were 2 wins and 6 draws), but also that I was now tying for most violent halfling!
Walked back from the coach to the restaurant with a French team, so I got to practice my Franglais and had a lovely compliment when one member didn't realise how poor my French is and spoke quickly using advanced vocabulary - he offered to switch to English when I asked him to slow down, but I miss speaking French so like to use every opportunity I get, even if I do it badly. It did make me reflect on language again, particularly given my second game of the day and the way I'd adapted how I speak to help him: it made me more aware that I do this, and more aware of when French speakers do it for me.
It was another accidental late night and I was starting to worry about day 3...