Blood Bowl: a nice turn-based surprise.

Most of this past weekend was spent playing Blood Bowl by Cyanide Studios, to the point that my fiancé calling me a crack addict because of my want to play it constantly. So in Eurogamer terms, the game is a 2/10, although I’ve now played it for too long to meet the high EG standards.

Top-notch journalism aside, Blood Bowl, in its turn based version (I’ve yet to try the RTS mode) does a lot of things right. For starters it looks great, which cements my belief that any new game released now must at least look decent, no excuse. We are beyond the point in time where developing 3D graphics is uber-expensive and only massive dev teams have the resources. If your game looks like trash today, it’s your fault.  Along with the graphics, the sound is entertaining enough, although the commentating tends to get repetitive after a while (but its good stuff the first 10-20 times around), and can be turned off anyway. Game balance, from the 10-15 hours I’ve played is also very solid. Each race has its preferred style of play (speed and dodging, strength and beating you up, trickery), and you must also change up your style based on who you are playing. The same plan game to game is also not possible due to the wide range of random elements.

For example, in my current campaign I’m playing as the humans, which like most humans are average at everything and generally don’t have any glaring weaknesses. When I play a fast team like Skaven, Goblins, or Wood Elves I try to play a more physical game and beat them up as best I can before trying to score in the second half. This means playing more lineman over receivers, and if possibly bribing the ref not to call fouls. Assuming things work as planned, by the second half the other team can’t field 11 players, and their best players are on the sideline nursing injuries. On the other hand, if I play a team like the Dwarves or Chaos, I try to score as often as possible and avoid a slugfest, and hopefully my guys last long enough to get 3-4 touchdowns before too many injuries happen. An extra Apothocary is a big help in those situations.

What I really like about Blood Bowl is that careful planning is rewarded, which is a huge key for a turn based game. If you go into a game with a plan, and have the pieces to make it happen, you SHOULD come out on top, but the game has enough random elements to always make it interesting. If you just go in and play it by ear, often times the other team will dictate the game and pull of a surprise or two. Planning is fairly deep as well, as you buy players and team-wide bonuses (rerolls, cheerleaders, apothecary), upgrade your players when they get enough points with a wide variety of skills or possible stat upgrades, and you must also work around the inevitable injuries your players will sustain. Teams also have an overall ranking based on the number of players/bonuses you have, and the amount of gold awarded before the match is based on a comparison between the two rankings. This gold can then be used to buy special players for one match, or extra bonuses, to help balance out imbalanced teams.

I’ve yet to try online play, though the game does have the usual matchmaking service, along with an option to play in a custom league with friends. I’m hoping this aspect is implemented well, as it would be great to play competitive matches versus other players online. Once I’m done with the campaign, I’ll hop online and see how that goes. Cyanide has also indicated they will add more races in the future, which should keep the game nice and varied.

With a cost of $50, I was expecting a top-notch game and not some indie ‘fun but small’ product, and Blood Bowl has really delivered. If you are looking for a solid, entertaining, and comical turn based strategy game, you won’t be disappointed here. Hopefully I’ll have a follow-up once I’ve tried the RTS mode, and online play.

18 Responses to Blood Bowl: a nice turn-based surprise.

  1. fizzlebixx says:

    Dont you get tired of ripping on Eurogamer like some sanctimonious stuck record?

    • syncaine says:

      At some point I will, like say… around the time they admit to publishing garbage ‘reviews’?

  2. Andrew says:

    Goddamnit – now I have to buy it. I enjoyed the board game eons ago, and everyone who has reviewed the game so far has said it’s a good buy.

    • syncaine says:

      Yea I never played that game (played Warhammer Fantasy and Necromunda), but from reading the forums a bit it sounds like people are overall happy with the translation, and from the FAQ and such it sounds like the devs really tried to make a faithful recreation.

      I think that also explains why the balance works so well, all those years of players balancing the rules pays off.

  3. Kyir says:

    Downloading as I type this, looking forward to playing.

    Any chance that you might set up a league for people who’re reading this?

    • syncaine says:

      It might be tough, with timezones and everything else. I know a few people from my DF guild have the game, and we might try to get something together. Without having played online yet, I don’t know exactly how it would all work.

  4. Werit says:

    Is there a demo?

  5. Bonedead says:

    I played this game called Celebrity Pedigree. Talk about fucked up. I spent almost two days beating it multiple times only to be let down everytime I clicked “continue to play” (in hopes of achieving the bonus objective) which instead reset the game.

  6. I can’t play Blood Bowl. I was given the board game when I was a kid and incredibly sick at the time and now every time I think about it I want to puke :( True story.

  7. Kyir says:

    So I got it, and this game is actually challenging.

    I think I got too complacent in my time away from TBS games.

  8. Hudson says:

    Man miss this game. I had Bloodbowl in 1987 back when the board was made of styrofoam and it was a blast. I never really kept up with it though with the new rules and such but always saw people playing it still at my local GW shop. Glad to see this game works for the hardcore fans

  9. evizaer says:

    I bought it last night. Great game. There seems to be a lot of strategic depth. The randomness factor is pretty severe at times but it really makes each game unique. The AI is surprisingly good, as well.

    I’d suggesting reading the Blood Bowl rulebook (LRB5) if you want to learn how the game works. The game engine is almost a direct translation of the rulebook.

    http://www.bloodbowlonline.com/LivingRulebook5.pdf

  10. Kyir says:

    I’m a little annoyed by the lack of a function to talk to people while they’re in other matches.

  11. [...] Bowl: Multiplayer goodness. A few days ago I commentated on Blood Bowl (BB) from the single player aspect, found here. Now that I’ve played a decent number (30?) of [...]

  12. oakstout says:

    You’ve piqued my interest. Not a huge fan of digital downloads but this might be the one that gets me.

    I never got the chance to play the board game, although I often saw it at my local comic/hobby store and dreamed of playing it one day. This might just be my chance.

  13. oakstout says:

    As a side note, a translation of the Talisman board game would also be fun to see. Especially if they made expansions similar to the actual board game.

  14. [...] before, which has a long, interesting and successful tabletop history. I heard about it through reading a couple of posts at Hardcore Casual (sorry for the tri-pingback Syn, but they are all older [...]

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