Welcome, sports fans, to the violent, bloody game of fantasy American football that we call Blood Bowl.
Blood Bowl was originally created way back in 1987 by Jervis Johnson for the hobby game company, Games Workshop. As a fantasy based parody, Blood Bowl took the game of American Football and threw it into the already established Warhammer world. Featuring a huge number of different races that spent most of their time at war with one another, teams were expected to want to maim as many of the opposing team as they could, whilst occasionally trying to score a touchdown. There were rules to this general carnage though, and mostly the rules were ignored.
The games first edition came in the form of a boxed set, complete with cardboard representations of all of the players from all of the major races. I remember buying this and taking it into school the next day and setting up a Blood Bowl league. My team were the mighty Halflings, as I enjoyed a challenge. The idea of taking a team of vertically challenged peace lovers appealed to me. Over the years the game changed a lot and I lost contact with my beloved Blood Bowl. Now the game has come out, after such a long wait, on PC, DS and PSP, with an Xbox360 version in the pipeline. To say I was excited would be an understatement.
Blood Bowl has been developed into a video game by Cyanide Studios. The game can be played in two different ways, either classic mode or Blitz mode. Classic mode follows the rules set down in the Living Rulebook version 5 and allows the player to experience the game in a turn-based manner, as if playing the table top game. Blitz mode allows for a number of modifications to the classic rules, including playing the game in real-time mode orÂ turn-based.
There are eight races for the player choose from to create their team. These are Human, Wood Elf, Skaven (ratmen), Lizardmen, Orc, Goblin, Dwarf and Chaos. Each of these races have their own strengths and weaknesses, which the player will have to take into account when choosing. For example, the Wood Elf team is fast, nimble and great at throwing and catching, although they are lightly armoured and relatively weak. Alternately, the Dwarf team has huge amounts of armour and they are as tough as nails, but they are slow and clumsy. There are no right or wrong teams, it’s just that the player will have to adapt their play style to suit.
The game is played with 11 players on the pitch and the objective is to get the ball into the oppositions endzone and score a touchdown. In the turn-based mode, each player gets the chance to move each member of their team and perform certain actions. If any of these actions fail, be it picking up the ball or dodging an opponent, then a turn-over occurs and play moves to the other team. The game will continue for 16 rounds each, with half time being after the eighthÂ round.
In Between the matches, the player has the opportunity to purchase extra players, or replace dead ones, and other game enhancing goodies. These include a much needed Apothecary, to administer to players wounds,Cheerleaders and dice re-rolls. Also, before a match, the player can train players, provide stat enhancing potions and even try to bribe the ref.
Campaign mode takes the players team on a journey through the Warhammer world, competing in various tournaments until the team is strong and popular enough to compete in the famed Blood Bowl. Take the game online and there are both public and private leagues to join and compete in, where players can test their skills against human opponents all around the world.
Being a huge fan of Blood Bowl, I was expecting a lot from this game. Graphically, it is just how I would want it to be. The cut scenes look glorious and are humorous, the player animations are great, and faithfully represent the table top games art style. The stadiums also fit into the Warhammer world perfectly, with the small fields from early in your career, through to the large stadiums from later in the game. The sounds from the game are also great, with plenty of bone crunching noises. There is a commentary that runs through the matches which is quite funny, although does become repetitive after a while.
Real-time mode is complete chaos. It is just too much to think about at any one time, to actually be enjoyable. I can understand why this was put in, but I would advise anyone who buys the game to stick with turn- based play. Turn-based mode is a faithful replica of the table-top game, and plays exactly how it should. I would say that the AI is perhaps a bit too lucky at times, making for some really frustrating moments in the game. There are times when you simply can’t believe that the AI team managed to pull off a particular play.
The games menu is also a bit intimidating, with not much by way of explanation given for all of the different options available. This is a shame, as newcomers to the game may well be put off at this point. However, I advise that they persevere, as over the course of a few matches, the menu will make more sense.
Playing the game online is a much more satisfying experience. The player will probably lose matches far more often, but at least you will be losing to another players skill, rather than losing because of a slightly biased AI.
Despite a couple of small niggles with the games menu and AI, Blood Bowl is a great game. Perhaps it is because I have waited so long for a faithful representation of my favorite table-top game to appear, but I will be playing this game for a long time to come. New players may find the game a bit confusing to start with, but with a little commitment, I think they will find a great and involving game.