Monday, January 16, 2017

Review: Blood Bowl- Games Workshop

I have played Blood Bowl since 3rd edition.  I was very sad when the last boxed set was discontinued with the demise of Specialists Games.  I had never gotten around to purchasing it and always depended on the kindness of others for templates and the pitch.  I currently have 3 Blood Bowl teams, Skaven, Khemri, and Chaos.  Only the Chaos team is the old official models, and the other two I bodged together with Warhammer Fantasy kits.  These teams have served me well for many years, and Blood Bowl is one of the games I have played the most over the years.  

Therefore, I was very excited when Games Workshop decided to reboot the Specialist Games line and decided to make the new Blood Bowl box set.  I tracked it down and bought it from my FLGS.  I also bought the new Death Zone: Season One book. 

The format of this review is going to be very different than most of my reviews.  Not enough has really changed for me to do my normal breakdown.  Most people reading this are probably pretty familiar with the old LRB.  Let’s go into the locker room and find out more.

First off let’s take a look at what is in the boxed set.  If you have bought a Blood Bowl boxed set for any edition you will see all the familiar pieces.  There will be the Pitch, but this time it is two-sided; one side is a green pitch and the other side is a wasteland.  The dug-outs are also interesting as one is a clearly primitive Ork dug-out and the others is more civilized human stadium, but they are basically the same as the old dug-outs, if a bit bigger.  The pass and scatter templates have been given a make-over just like the starting Ork and Human team.  Finally, there are a set of special play cards, specialized dice, and the rulebook.  The biggest change is that they have a d16 instead of using chits.  I didn't even know d16 existed!    

The rules themselves look pretty much the same as the last Living Rulebook I had read.  There are a few rules clarifications to streamline the rules, but overall if you have played Blood Bowl before there is nothing really new to see here.  Timed turns, hand-offs, and fouls are now “advanced rules”.  You can still do those things, so no real changes.   Why change a winning formula? 

The biggest changes are in the Death Zone league rules.  Even here, there is nothing earth shatteringly different.  The rules expand a bit on the multi-season campaigns and they removed the Petty Cash to make inducements easier.  There is also a mechanism to remove large chunks of banked Gold pieces in the form of mishaps.  This is a nice change to keep teams even.  Otherwise, it pretty much looks the same. 

The last thing you will probably want to have is the Teams of Legends PDF on the Games Workshop website.  With this document you can use all the old teams.  You can find it here:  Teams of Legend

I set-up the Pitch and placed a few of my old models on it to see if the size of the boxes had increased.  They had.  However, I see that as a good thing since now there is more room for guys that get knocked down and more dynamic posing.
The new teams themselves look like they were designed to be snapped together to try and appeal to the board game crowd.  However, the snap-fit models still need painting.  They seem much bigger than the old starter set teams.  Here is a closer look at the sprues.

Now if you have never played Blood Bowl, you probably want to know a bit about the game?  Okay, I will do a normal review now.  If you have played Blood Bowl before, you can skip this part.

Things I like
In Blood Bowl, your turn is active until either all of your actions are completed, or until you mess up.  When you mess up a roll or fail to complete a task play moves over to your opponent.  You screw up by getting knocked down, missing a pass, or trying to complete an action but failing to accomplish it with the dice roll.  That means you need to think about what needs to be done when and in what order. 

Players can assist other players with blocking and resisting blocks.  In Blood Bowl, you can roll more dice to succeed IF you have a higher strength than your opponents.  Therefore, making sure your blocks are mutually supporting is critical to the success of the game.  You are essentially always trying to minimize risk because if you fail, play turns over to your opponent. 

Tackle Zones are an area that each player can control or influence.  Other players can move into or through, but it limits how those players can do things.  Other players in the Tackle Zone will be given negative modifiers to actions or be unable to help support in blocking.  If a model is knocked down or injured then their tackle zone is removed from play.  Therefore, you need to try to remove tackle zones to successfully do things.  Remember, if you fail to do things then the other play can take over initiative.

The game also has a campaign mode where figures play a season.  Players get improvements via star player points, get injuries, earn gold, and buy Star Players and replacements.  This adds a ton of fun as you are playing Fantasy Football with Fantasy Football!  Plus, the tone of the game and rules is anything but serious. 

Finally, a team is only 11 to 16 figures.  Therefore, you have a small investment to get a team on the field.  This is great for new players and expanding the number of teams you are playing. 

Things I Do Not Like
I am not a fan of specialty dice, and this game uses specialty dice.  That is one good reason to get the Boxed Set, but there are versions out there made by other manufacturers.  These specialty dice are used to determine the results of Blocks and Blitzes.  You could knock yourself down, both get knocked down, push back your foe, or knock them down!  The more dice your roll, the more result options you can choose from.  The system with the dice works well, but again specialty dice are a pain because I tend to misplace and lose them.  Such dice can be a barrier for entry.  Also, I have to use the Quick Reference guide a lot as I fail to remember what means what.

Some of the weaker teams can lose guys pretty fast and make it hard to field a credible force.  When coupled with fouls, it is possible to take out an opponent’s team before the end of the first half.  I know, this has happened to me playing fragile Skaven teams.  The Foul rules and teaming-up to foul can really cause problems in this regard if you are playing with a spiteful git as a few guys fouling all at once can really ruin someone’s day.  It is not fun trying to play a game with only 7 or less players. 

Meh and Other Uncertainties
There is all sorts of weirdness like weather, kick-off table (random events), Out-of-Bounds, Interceptions, and Special Play cards that you can use to keep your opponent off guard.  However, the heart of the game is minimizing risk when blocking, rolling as many dice as possible, using re-rolls, and knowing when to “Go for it” and when not to.

Final Thoughts  
If you liked Blood Bowl, then you will not be disappointed with the new boxed set.  However, if you are a long time player you really do not need this boxed set to keep playing.  You may want to buy it just to show that Blood Bowl makes money but that is a personal choice.  If I didn’t need the templates, Pitch, and blocking dice I would have skipped it. 

If you have never played Blood Bowl, this is the grand-daddy of miniature sports games and there is a reason why it created a genre.  There are a number of claimants to the thrown such as Guild Ball, Elf Ball, and Dreadball; but this one is still pretty good at what it does.  There is a lot of decision making and risk mitigation built into the game and still a lot of just outright jaw dropping coolness.  No matter what type of game you like to play you can find it in Blood Bowl.  Jervis Johnson should be super proud of what he put together here.    

Real nerds play the original Fantasy Football game.  J

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