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Subject: Blood Bowl PC Review rss

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James Carlton
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Intro

Ok so this isn't a boardgame review as such, but it's a review of a computer simulation of a boardgame which I've seen on the Geek before. Apologies if anyone finds this inappropriate.

I played the 2nd edition of Blood Bowl on the tabletop a LONG time ago and don't really have the time to get a team together anymore let alone find people to play the game with. My Blood Bowl fix has mainly come from playing FUMBBL, the other online Blood Bowl game. I enjoyed it quite a lot (and the competition was fierce) but living in an Australian timezone and finding games with acceptable opposition was tough - plus sometimes I like playing three games in a row or pausing a game for an hour in the middle. Neither of which is all that likely with random human opponents.

So when I heard there was a proper port of the game to PC I was pretty excited.


Overview

The game is currently available for digital download at http://www.bloodbowl-game.com

IMO it's a very reasonable price at USD$49.99 and at only 1.5Gb it's not too bad on your download cap either (if you live in a stone age country that still has them like I do).

The game includes a fairly faithful replica of the Blood Bowl Living Rulebook version 5 as well as a live action version of the game that uses an RTS style control system that can be paused at any time. Both versions support single matches, comptetitions and cups and a campaign system against either AI or online, LAN or hotseat opponents.


The Good

The game looks and sounds great. The models mostly look nice - they've even got all the mutations modelled with a wide range of animations and the stadiums are brilliant. I can't really find any flaw in the eye-candy department allthough apparantly you do need a reasonable system to run it. The audio is nothing to write home about and the commentary is cheesey and pretty repetitive. Strangely enough though I haven't grown bored of it enough to switch it off yet.

The game feels like Blood Bowl. Some people have been complaining on forums that the random number generator is screwy or that the computer cheats or that the game is too hard. I haven't found this. All my old strategies work, I pull off ridiculously risky plays about as often as I get completely hosed on a simple 2+ roll which is to say rarely. The game is still all about maximising your odds and minimising risks and I really cannot tell any difference with the way the game plays and the way the tabletop game or FUMBBL plays.

Off the pitch the game is pretty good too. Managing your team, checking stats, upgrading players and buying new ones is all pretty simple. The game also keeps track of loads of fun stats like the best rusher, most violent player, best passing team etc. for any particular campaign or cup.

The extra touches they've added to the 'Blitz' version (which can still be either turn based or real time) are really nice IMO. In the campaign you can buy randomly generated 'star' players in the off season (allthough 90% of them have pretty weird skill sets.) You can buy new helmets and pads etc. for your star players which look fantastic and give a small chance of a stat upgrade for each game. Nice to have a little bit of extra padding for your best players without it being overpowered. There's also a kind of gimmicky 'training' function that provides a similar bonus at the risk of losing the player for the match. All of these things are completely optional so if you want to play vanilla LRB5 that's fine.


The Not So Good

The AI. This might be the biggest issue for some people. I'd probably rate the AI (on hard mode) as equal to someone who's played the game maybe 10-12 times. It does its best to protect the ball carrier, forms cages, tries risky plays at the end of a half and does its best to stomp your players into the mud. Unfortunately it still makes some stupid decisions, tries dumb moves first and is far too conservative. If you're a Blood Bowl veteran you will concede the occasional touchdown but you should still win every game barring a string of horrific injury rolls.

The good news is that even if you're a veteran it will still throw some very curly problems for you to solve, and I always thought of Blood Bowl as a very well themed puzzle game. Yes I win every game but it's still requires a good mental workout. The computer definitely plays fast passing teams better than running teams but I wouldn't be surprised if a patch comes out that beefs up the AI. Having said all this if you're a Blood Bowl beginner or intermediate I cannot think of a better way to brush up on your skills.

Multiplayer is a bit of a mixed bag. If you want to play an organised game or cup with friends you are more than catered for whether it's in the same room or over the net. If you want to play against total strangers you might have more difficulty. There is no easy way to hook up with quality opponents and joining a random league looks like an excercise in frustration.

I won't comment too much on the real time game as it doesn't really interest me. I had a bit of a bash at it and to be honest it's not quite as awful as I thought it was. It's still a chaotic mess and telling your players apart is nearly impossible (it can be difficult enough in the turn based game for some teams) but to be fair the short time I played it was still kind of fun. The dynamics of the game change a lot as there are no turnovers so you get to see plays that would be nearly impossible in the turn based game (like a Troll taking 4 attempts to pick up a ball but then running the length of the field flattening everyone in his path for a touchdown.)


The Rotten

Yes there is pretty hardcore copy protection and there have been some bugs reported. I haven't seen any and I don't have issues with Securom but your mileage may vary. Patches have been pretty frequent and hopefully will continue to fix up any lingering problems.

No Dark Elves, High Elves or Undead! This sucks as Dark Elves are my favourite team but I guess they needed something to put in an expansion pack. There aren't Amazons or Norse or any of the other more obscure teams either but Goblins did make it into the mix.

There are some things missing from the full tabletop game as well. Goblins don't have bomb throwers, each team can only get one named star player so there's no Morgn'thorg or Hakflem Scuttlespit and journeyman don't work quite the same way. The biggest thing missing in my opinion is weather effects which means the kick off table is less interesting.


So Should I Buy It?

If you've got an organised group of friends who want to start a cup or league but don't have the time to paint miniatures or get together in one place then this is a must buy IMO. It's got everything you need plus the eye-candy to boot.

If you're looking to join a worldwide league and pit your team against the best the internet has to offer, you're much better off sticking with FUMBBL. Cyanide's game just isn't robust enough to deal with the griefers and crybabies you'll find online.

Finally if you just plain like playing Blood Bowl, then seriously consider it. If you're a halfway decent player the AI as it stands isn't going to be a huge challenge but you'll still have fun and there's something to be said for being able to have a game whenever you have a spare hour lying around - especially if you've never played the game before.

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Yoki Erdtman
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Nice review and I agree with almost all your points.
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Jack Defevers
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Jasta wrote:
I can't really find any flaw in the eye-candy department allthough apparantly you do need a reasonable system to run it.



It would be helpful if you'd describe your system specs, along with the settings you're running, to provide context for that statement.
 
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Gordon Watson
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The download price for the UK is £40, which I think is expensive - at the current exchange rate would make it $64 (US) yet I'm sure the OP is correct when saying it's only $49 to the US.

Out of curiosity how much are Germans/French/Spanish being charged for the download in Euros?

 
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Guy Steuperaert
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it says its 49.99 euro.
Hope that helps
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Shane Yeager
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$49.99 USD

So far, I think you are generous in rating the AI. A fix of opening formation decisions on offense would help as well as a more robust AI use of assists.

My PC is only slightly above minimum spec, and I have experienced some instability (crashing) and slowness. I haven't explored real-time mode, which may be where major problems lie for borderline PCs.
 
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Scott Everts
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Thanks for the review. I was intriged by this game and have never played the boardgame version. Price wise, It does seem abit steep. Considering the DS and PSP versions will probably be $30-40. But then the PC version will be vastly superior I expect. I'll watch for it to show up on Steam and might pick it up then.
 
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Andy Van Zandt
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I'll add a couple of things, since I've been playing it as well (I played a lot of the board game, and was very excited about this).

it's a faithful representation of the board game system. not all teams and star players are implemented YET, but my understanding is that's just a matter of time.

the cool thing (as in the board game) is that your players earn exp (called Star Player Points) for doing various things, and this lets them gain new skills and attribute points.

and best of all, you can ALWAYS find a game against a real person- 2am, 4am, whenever, just click on "public league" in the online play, and say you're a "human (or whatever race you are) team, looking for a game", and someone will usually challenge you within a few seconds.
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James Carlton
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syeager wrote:
$49.99 USD

So far, I think you are generous in rating the AI. A fix of opening formation decisions on offense would help as well as a more robust AI use of assists.

My PC is only slightly above minimum spec, and I have experienced some instability (crashing) and slowness. I haven't explored real-time mode, which may be where major problems lie for borderline PCs.


I guess it depends on your skill level as well. I'm not an amazing Blood Bowl player. I could hold my own on FUMBBL (where the competition is really tough) but I still got beaten pretty regularly. There are also a TON of people saying that this game is way too hard and they get thrashed every time. Almost certainly noobs, but it proves the AI isn't a pushover.

I usually thrash the AI 3 nil at least, but having said that after writing this review I played two campaign games against a decent Orc team (the good old Gouged Eye) with my Skaven and both matches were very close one nil wins where I only just managed to keep them from scoring an equalizer. Playing against AI teams with decent skills goes some way to making up for their sloppy play.

System specs wise I am running a dual core 2.4 Ghz with 4 Gb of RAM and a GeForce 260 GTX on Windows Vista 64. I haven't seen any noticeable slow down or the graphics card 'overload' mentioned on another thread.

As for the price, I am used to extortionate Australian mark ups on games so $49 US is a bargain for me.
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Dean Thomas
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I have to agree with the comments about the AI. I must be getting close to 100 games on the board and my electronic Dwarf's average just under 2 TDs a match with my worst result being a 1-1 Draw with a Skaven team that refused to go down and stay down.

I hope they can beef up the AI to a more difficult level in one of the patches in the future.
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Gert Corthout
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Quote:
If you're looking to join a worldwide league and pit your team against the best the internet has to offer, you're much better off sticking with FUMBBL. Cyanide's game just isn't robust enough to deal with the griefers and crybabies you'll find online.

Unfortunately fumbbl isn't lrb 5 yet. When it is, I think I'll be playing fumbbl as the online match making is a serious negative in this game.
As to level of competition, I try to build a friends list with decent opponents.
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ScottE wrote:
Thanks for the review. I was intriged by this game and have never played the boardgame version. Price wise, It does seem abit steep. Considering the DS and PSP versions will probably be $30-40. But then the PC version will be vastly superior I expect. I'll watch for it to show up on Steam and might pick it up then.


DS version has ugly graphics, AI is nearly as PC version and the League system is nice, similar to PC with the logical limitation of a handheld console. There is a big mistake in my opinion: the multiplayer only allows DS to DS connection, no matches through Internet.
 
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Jonathan
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For those who are going to buy this game for multiplayer only. It is a lot of fun, and you can get a game in whenever you like. However, be prepared for technical issues. I would say I crash out of the game when starting a multiplayer match just about every other time. It's extremely frusterating. I can't even begin a single player match, as it crashes me out. My system specs are good, and I ran the beta with absolutely no problems. I'm sure these issues are going to be fixed, but not right away!
 
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Yoki Erdtman
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jmw23 wrote:
For those who are going to buy this game for multiplayer only. It is a lot of fun, and you can get a game in whenever you like. However, be prepared for technical issues. I would say I crash out of the game when starting a multiplayer match just about every other time. It's extremely frusterating. I can't even begin a single player match, as it crashes me out. My system specs are good, and I ran the beta with absolutely no problems. I'm sure these issues are going to be fixed, but not right away!

This should fix that:
http://www.cyanide-studio.com/forumBB/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=2...
 
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Zopper Alf
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Multiplayer is a blast - each game is like an own story: full of twists and turns. Community is also great so far. Most players online also know the boardgame.

I'm really really enjoying the game - looking forward to see you guys online!

Simon
 
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dave boulton
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i managed to wangle a beta play test posistion for this!

but teh stiupid thing wouldnt work GRR
 
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James Carlton
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Got my butt handed to me by the AI for the first time last night.

My Skaven were really lucky with injury rolls up until this point but the Orcland Raiders absolutely destroyed me. I think by the end of the match I had 5 rats badly hurt or worse.

I just snatched a 2-2 draw with a one turn TD on the last kickoff in turn 16 by pure luck in getting a quick snap with a gutter runner on the line of scrimmage followed by some very lucky dice rolls.
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James Carlton
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Been reading some encouraging news on various forums:

Apparantly the game is very moddable and people are already tinkering with the AI files etc.

If the devs don't release an serious AI patch I wouldn't be surprised if someone else does. There's already a few preliminary tweaks floating around.
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Ed Sherman
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Great review. I'll probably pick this up when it gets on Steam (and is a little cheaper).
 
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Matt Price
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I've played a few matches now and the game runs fine for me (2-3 year old AMD Athlon 64 X2 3GHz Dual core processor, 2GB RAM, NVIDIA gforce 8800 GTS).

I must say the user interface really bugs me, but I suppose there's often a learning curve in that regard with any new game.

I also found the team-creation process annoying. I (still!) can't find the "back" or "delete" button, so if I accidentally buy too many linemen, I have to start all over! I can't imagine there's not an "unbuy" button, but it was an irritating process to get started - I just made my teams on paper, then carefully entered the info into the game. Pretty funny, really.
 
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mattprice wrote:


I also found the team-creation process annoying. I (still!) can't find the "back" or "delete" button, so if I accidentally buy too many linemen, I have to start all over! I can't imagine there's not an "unbuy" button, but it was an irritating process to get started - I just made my teams on paper, then carefully entered the info into the game. Pretty funny, really.


Go to the Team Roster screen and click on the red X next to the Player Number to delete a player. If you do it before you play any games you'll get your money back.
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Anders Gabrielsson
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I've only played against the AI so far and my experiences are similar. I'm not a great player but I consider myself solid and so far I've won or drawn all my games. The AI is solid in normal play situations, but when it gets into trouble it tends to "freeze" and not dare to do anything at all, and like the OP noted it is a bit too conservative in many situations. Sometimes it doesn't seem to realize it won't have time to score and runs the ball carrier to within a few squares of the end zone with a cage in the last turn instead of concentrating on beating up on the other team.

But like the OP said: even for a very good player the AI is good enough to be challenging. You can't just cruise through a game without considering your plays and expect to win. The AI may not be as devious as a human opponent and sometimes makes odd choices (particularly regarding skill allocation - why put Dauntless on a ST 4 player?) but it's no moron either.

I also agree about the above comment about the interface: sometimes it's hard to find the right path to what you want to do (like modifying which optional rules to use in Blitz mode, which took me ages) and it's not always easy to see what is important on a particular screen. In general it works well enough, though.

I'd also like to mention that they have succeeded extremely well in capturing the feel of the Warhammer/Blood Bowl world. So far I haven't seen anything that seems out of place or wrong - the art, the characters, even the look of the interface is just right IMO. I'll gladly put up with the minor interface issues when I can get this great a Blood Bowl experience.

And if it's true that the AI is easily moddable then that minor quibble will also be gone soon enough. Then they only need to fill up on the teams (Undead, High Elves, Dark Elves... and Halflings!) and it will be pretty darn close to perfect.
 
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Anders Gabrielsson
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I should also note that you can change the amount of time you have to take your turn. I'm not sure how much this would hamper the AI - in difficult situations it can take a minute before it starts making any moves - but even a veteran player should have a hard time making a perfect play in 40 seconds.
 
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Viktor Karlsson Mantel
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I have it for the DS.
And I must say that I really love it.
I havent played BB befoure, only read through the rulebook once...
And am doing very well with my dwarf team on the tournament I play =)

the random die rolls are wery good on the DS version, have read that it was pretty bad in the PC version.
I play on rookie, and there is also veteran difficulty.
And what I can see they have maid the rookie good, casue im doing good =)

The tutorutal wasent that good, but it covered the most basic parts, I recommend that u read the rulebook also...

GET THIS GAME! So much fun =)

Sry for the bad english.
 
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Gregory Stephen McCallum
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I just got it for my PC. Sure, the AI is pretty easy to beat...but I am playing Blood Bowl vs an AI!!! The first time in years!
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