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 games online, I wanted to talk about that and how it differs from the single player game.
The actual online client for Blood Bowl is serviceable, but it certainly won’t win any awards. Aside from random errors (usually solved by logging out/in), it’s overall somewhat slow when compared to say Battle.net or other services, and the layout/design is a bit crude. It gets the job done, but it has lots of room for improvement, the first being an auto-matchmaking feature. All that said, it DOES get the job done, and 95% of the time it gets me into a game with another player, and 95% of the time that game gets finished without a crash or a disconnect. In other words, while future patches will hopefully add on to what BB currently offers, what is there works and won’t impede your online gaming.
The online interface aside, BB online plays basically like BB single player in terms of game flow and rules, with the obvious difference being that the other team is controlled by a player rather than the AI. In a true showing of great game balance (BB the computer game is just a copy/paste of the rules from BB the table game, with its years of player testing and balancing), online play is not who comes up with the cheap combo to insta-win like other RTS/Strategy games (WC3, Civ, HoMM), but who has the better overall strategy. Oh, and who gets lucky, as BB is 50% strategy and 50% luck. It’s that 50/50 split (if not more towards luck TBH) that might, depending on the player, drive people crazy. You might have your best player in the best possible situation, but if the dice gods are not with you, what should be an easy score might turn into a tragic death for your star.
It’s because of this somewhat random nature that makes playing online BB a huge test of deal with adversity. Your team might be coming along nicely, with key players picking up key abilities, and in one game 2-3 might get injured or die and your entire team reduced to little better (or even worse) than a fresh starter team. You can curse the gods all you want, but that truly is the nature of BB, and part of the fun is learning to accept the bad breaks and roll with the punches. BB is anything but ‘serious business’, and if you play it as such, you won’t have fun with it regardless of your skill level. But when approached with the right attitude (something that took me 3 teams to accept), BB is not only a challenging strategy game, but a damn entertaining one as well. As often as luck will ruin your plans, it will also swing in your favor and help you pull off an upset.
Due to how random the game can be (even upgrading players is in part random, as you roll dice to determine if you can select a stat increase or just certain skills), I’ve found that generally online players have adapted and take each game for what it is; a game. I’m sure the ‘power gamer’ types are out there and will do anything to win, and if things don’t go there way make a fuss about it, but overall my games with others have been pleasant, with both of us joking over incredibly bad streaks of luck one way or the other. (I had one game against a goblin team, and the guys two Trolls rolled 1s for their stupidity check almost every turn, which must have been infuriating)
It’s also important to remember that while the games score determines the winner, a huge part of gaining player levels is causing injuries, so it’s only natural for everyone to try and cause as much damage as possible. The other guy is not trying to destroy your team because he hates you; he is simply trying to improve his team as best he can, and in BB that means beating the snot out of you both with touchdowns and elbow drops.
As I said in my previous post, Blood Bowl is a surprisingly entertaining strategy title, with tons of humor and charm. As an online game, it also delivers due to its somewhat random nature in any given game, but also because if you play well, you WILL win more often than not as over the long haul the luck will even itself out. Highly recommended for anyone looking for some turn based, fantasy sports themed fun.