Guest Author - James Shea
A direct port of the board game by Games Workshop, Blood Bowl is part football, part rugby, and part gladiators set in a world of fantasy, magic, elves, dwarves, and orcs.
Blood Bowl is, in essence, fantasy football taken literally and interpreted as a turn-based tactics game. The rules are a bit counter-intuitive if you're expecting a Madden-style experience, but they're not particularly hard to learn. In essence, it's less about moving the ball and more about taking down (or taking out) opposing players through rough play and fouling. Players are organized on a grid and have different stats, such as movement, attack, and defense. Some players are more suited to handling the ball, some players are best used as a screen or defense, and some players are best piled onto the enemy to remove them from the field.
The gameplay isn't difficult or hard to understand, but it takes some practice to learn how to use it. In essence, teams alternate turns. On a team's turn, they can move all of their players, but their turn ends if one of their players is knocked out or messes up an action. Limitations on attacking and moving mean that one team can't just steamroll the other during their turn, and the turnover rule means that players must learn to do simple things like moving before they attempt risky things like passing or blitzing. In essence, treating it like it's real football is a quick way to lose.
Blood Bowl also has some in-depth RPG mechanics. Teams can be managed and upgraded in a style not dissimilar from existing sports games, managing player salaries and ability upgrades while also increasing the team's value with cheerleaders, doctors, and marketing appeal. This can be done either in single player, or a team can be kept online to play in different leagues. The acquisition of veteran status by experienced players means that keeping players protected is important; a team can suddenly find itself without its star if that player is isolated and stomped during a game.
The "Legendary Edition" of the game (a re-release that followed the initial release and an expansion pack) comes with a total of 20 playable races from the Warhammer world (of which Blood Bowl is essentially a parody). This includes fairly normal or tame races like humans, elves, and dwarves to more unorthodox races like beastmen, undead, or goblins. Each team has its own strategies and play concepts; some are tougher, some are stronger, and some rely on strange technological gadgets or custom playsets to get the job done.
One somewhat annoying part of the game is the fact that games rely heavily on random chance. This isn't the fault of the PC adaptation, but it's worth noting: even if two people know the game, random chance can take out key players or mess things up totally for one side. A league I played in ended up consisting entirely of one-sided beatdowns (by different players, too) because of that, and that resulted in some bad feelings all around.
Overall, though, Blood Bowl is a pretty great product. It's an accurate representation of a board game that takes out a lot of the low-level calculations and adds graphics, sound, and ease of play. It looks good, it plays good, and it's got a lot of depth to it. Fans of the board game couldn't have asked for better.
Purchased through Steam with our own funds.