NOTE: For a better understanding of this review, I recommend to visit the GeekList that I've created where I explain the aspects that I cover in my game reviews:
My 10 criteria for reviewing a game
Some other general points have been added to this review such Overall opinion although this is not a mathematic average of every criterion but just my overall feeling of the game.
Feel free to add your suggestions and/or comments!
As in my other reviews, and especially on a complex game like Blood Bowl, I won't focus on introducing the game or explaining the mechanics since it’s not my goal.
EXTRA NOTE: Special thanks to Choubi and BookandGame for their tips that let me get my Blood Bowl fan microbadge!
If I had to define Blood Bowl (BB) I’d call it a crazy cocktail of strategy, some luck and… tons of fun!
As an addict to strategy games, I love BB because of the many strategies it offers, actually bigger than it seems.
Some of its detractors might say: “you call strategy rolling a 6 at the key moment?” And I’ll agree that luck can play a determinant role in some important situations, but although there are ways to minimize this, the strategy of the game rely on plenty of different elements. In BB you have…
- Multiple possible actions and where execution order matters: move, sprint, pass, hand off, block, dodge, tackle, foul, magic spells…
- Lots of different races (more than 20!). Some are versions of one main race, but others are unique with different ways to play and tactics according to the race.
- Different player positions. Beside your linemen, you have throwers, runners, catchers, blitzers, etc. Everyone is focused on some particular tasks where you must take the best of them.
- Special players, from a stunty goblin with a chainsaw to a terrific dwarf deathroller!! The variety is really big.
- Tons of skills, and of different categories (general, agility, strength, pass, mutant). Skills are a key piece in the strategy of the game. Not only in the way you use them but mainly when you assign them to your players when they level up. The players skills roads are quite critical as they define how you want your team to play.
- Several tactics, offensive and defensive. I’m not gonna compare it to a real football coach, but you would get surprised with the tactics book you can create yourself.
Beside, BB is such an open game that you can discover new strategies or tactics when playing against other coaches. That’s one of the things that I enjoy the most when I play BB.
As a drawback, strategies for bashy and agile teams end at a very similar philosophy (for each kind of style): bashy teams will try to injury as much as possible and score in 8 turns, and agile teams will try to score as many times as possible and stay away of contact.
I’ll cut down a bit my level of enthusiasm here. BB is very strategic but since luck happens, that means making plans for long term can be too optimistic sometimes. Nevertheless I find BB quite deep. You can plan some actions that will lead you to a benefit/mistake afterwards. Here are some examples of decisions to take:
- Leave a player near the attacker End Zone so he may score a touchdown (TD) if you steal the ball, or use him to support in the defense.
- Save a valuable player in the dogout to not be killed, or get him into the pitch to give his best.
- Foul an opponent key player to get him out of the match, or stay away from ejections.
In addition, most of the tactics (mainly offensive) are planned considering several turns.
3. PLAYER INTERACTION
Brutal! And literally taken
BB is a continuous battle between two coaches where their players crush each other to lead a spiked cucumber ball to the End Zone, at any price!
Every action you take interacts with your opponent team.
Veeeery high. If you really like this game, you can play it forever. BB dates since 1987 and a PC game was released in the market 22 years after. It has a strong community of players after such a long time. There are many reasons for that…
Every game and (usually) every team are different. There are many strategies and every coach has a playing style. And having so many races helps a lot: tired of your porcellaneous wood elves? try then the tough orcs. Just want to have fun? The crazy goblins are your team!
Another great thing that helps replayability too is that rules keep evolving in the LRB (as its name suggests ). I was gladly surprised when I discovered the changes from 3rd edition to LRB 5. And LRB 6 is available since some months ago.
In addition, BB has some expansions like Blood Bowl (Second Edition): Elves, Dwarfs and Dungeonbowl and Blood Bowl: DeathZone, although I think this last one is already part of the LRB.
One more point: the learning curve in BB is pretty long. There’s a lot to learn in this game and as one coach discovers new tricks and tactics, they want to put it in practice in the next match, making the game quite addictive.
But the most important ingredient is the experience points system that allows your players to get new skills as they gain experience points by scoring TDs, throwing accurate passes, injuring other players, etc. This makes the game really addictive, again.
Still not enough? OK, I suggest you then to arrange a tournament with your BB mates. This is the real “sauce” of this game (is that proper English? )
The two handicaps that I find in BB for not seeing the table more often are:
1. Games may take quite long (2-3h)
2. Playing against the same coaches may turn boring.
5. THEME INTEGRATION
Exceptional. The game perfectly fits its crazy theme: fantasy football. I’d say that the theme integration in BB is one of the main reasons why its fans love this game.
Playing BB feels like being on the playing pitch. You celebrate when you score a TD. You suffer when you lose a player. The tension is present when a critical play is about to happen…
And the game contains lots of ingredients to be highly realistic: star players, fans, ref brides, players careers, weather conditions and a long etc.
Also, it’s very common that coaches make up the story of their teams, and think of funny names for their players. This contributes to the lore of the game.
6. LUCK FACTOR
BB is a game where luck happens. No discussion here. But the greatest thing in BB for me is that luck contributes greatly with the fun and epic of a match that can be remembered for years. And that's priceless!!
And not only that: a good coach knows how to minimize that luck factor. So if you think BB is a question of rolling good dice, try challenging a veteran player. You will be beaten 9 of 10 times. However, that doesn’t avoid that you can win or lose a tight game by one roll.
Believe me, I'm a player that dislikes the luck factor in games, and I love BB deeply!! You have a LOT of strategy on this game, and even if luck makes a game crazy, you still can get a lot of fun.
Anyway, I don’t pretend to defend BB as a no-luck game. Be sure that if Nuffle is against you, you have little to do.
Does anyone know any game based on fantasy football where players kill each other to place a spiked cucumber ball at the end of the playing pitch:?
8. COMPONENTS QUALITY
I bought the 3rd edition long time ago so I’ve checked the Games Workshop web site and the content seems to be the same.
These are pretty OK. The miniatures are made of plastic (metal would have been better, but I don’t know of any game that brings metal miniatures by default) and the game board is quite stable and clear. I saw the 2nd ed. board and found it more confusing and uncomfortable to place the miniatures. The dogouts boards and rest of chips are acceptable. The transparent plastic rule for measuring the pass distance is nice. There are also reference sheets, boards for the star players, and blank sheets for making your teams.
On top of all this, and as a plus, BB is a game that can be nicely customized: you can paint miniatures at your own, personalize them with addons, and build your own stadium! This heavily contributes to a nice atmosphere in the game.
Rules are one of the weakest points in BB. Not because the rulebook is not good enough (which I find pretty OK) but because it’s usual to come up with doubts along the match. I personally find BB rules clear and straight forward enough if you pay attention to the rulebook, but it’s true that it’s common to see players asking about some rules, especially about the skills, although the answer is usually “RTFM!”
Although BB is a kind of complex game with several things to consider, the good thing is that it’s very difficult to find a scenario where the rules interpretation is open.
As an extra comment, the rulebook also contains funny anecdotes, stories and quotes of the characters of the BB world. Commenters Jim Johnson and Bob Bifford are part of the history of this game with their “Good evening sports fans and welcome to the Blood Bowl fortonight’s contest.”.
10. FUN FACTOR
The fun factor in BB will depend on your tolerance to the bad luck impact (that’s why I’ve chosen an average rating). So if you lose your nuts after rolling two 1s in a row (which probability is less than 3% and happens quite often), then definitely this is not your game, as you will be most of the time complaining and crying about your bad luck with the dice. But if you are mentally ready to have bad and memorably good days, then you will enjoy above all.
In addition to this, BB has tension. Lots. You won’t even blink when you or your opponent start that play that will lead one of you to the victory in the last turn of the game. Imagine this: turn 8 of the 2nd half (last); your blitzer blocks one of the opponent defenders who is carrying the ball; it bounces to an empty square. Good! Your thrower now moves, tries to pick up the ball… he makes it! now he dodges… he makes it! He approaches to your catcher… he throws a long pass… and… and... he makes it!!! Now your catcher tries to catch the ball… it’s a good pass… and… oh, yes!! he makes it!! The ball is his!!! Now he runs towards the End Zone… he is just a few yards away… but he needs to sprint… he makes it once!!!!... he needs another one… and… and… wait!!! Noooo!!! He falls down on the ground and get injured for the next match!!!!! Turnover and end of the game!!
You will like it if...
- You like the theme. This may sound obvious but one hardly ever cares about the theme in many (euro)games, do you?
- You like the Games Workshop games universe.
- You are mentally ready to get pain with dice roll in exchange of epic plays.
You won't like it if...
- You drive crazy with low chance dice rolls against you.
- If you get really annoyed when your opponent kills your players that you have brought up with so much love and patience.
- You are happier moving colored cubes from one part of the board to another and things like that, you know.
I’m sure you already noticed how deeply I love this game. I hope I explained clear enough on this review why.
In the last years I’ve become a heavy eurogamer but still enjoy playing games like Blood Bowl. I guess it’s because gives me the atmosphere that I usually miss in most eurogames.
The only pity about BB is that it’s not easy to find players to play with and to arrange a tournament, which is the great thing on this game. I hope this reviews helps to make that changes
If you've liked this review, you can see my other reviews in My compendium of Reviews using 10 criteria.
I just can totally subscribe to this review!
Bloodbowl is, despite all the dice rolling, the most fun game I've ever played. And as you said, I remember some games, though years ago, to this day (You remember when the Troll threw the little goblin behind the finish line....).
Life is too short to be angry all the time. Smile and enjoy the ride.
Embrace the randomness. This game is worth it.
"If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason." -Jack Handey
I think you underrated the luck factor. It's absolutely true that good players mitigate luck with proper play. However, the use of single dice (no curve) allows for monstrous changes in fortune in a very short time to occur quite frequently.
Nice review! Blood Bowl is to this day my only 10 on BGG. You've reviewed the 3ed version though, and it took until LRB3 for Blood Bowl to realize its potential as the greatest two-player campaign game ever. The following LRBs have continued to improve on this, and the game is humorous, exciting and challenging. I've been thinking about aspects of this game every day for the last five years: my last game, planned tactics, skill choices, team-building etc. Every day! I expect this will never change! Perfection.
Many thanks for your replies! I'm really glad that you liked the review.
About the luck factor comment, I agree that sometimes it is too determinant.
I hope to upload pictures of some miniatures soon.
The game does have a lot of dice rolling, and therefore a lot of luck, but like many games, how you manage the luck and resulting chaos is what makes Blood Bowl such a great game. Blood Bowl is the best themed "push your luck" style game out there, and maybe the best overall, with the possible exception of the sid sackson classic Can't Stop.
Players that rely on luck in BB, taking extreme chances, will eventually be punished for it. Because failing a roll ends your turn, people that play a "risky" style leave themselves open against more conservative players.
I think you captured the essence of the game perfectly! Well done!
I think this game is the bane of "good players who manage their luck" because, there's really very little they can do. So much randomness WILL destroy the safest plans and often reward last resort rolls and create a lot of unmanageable chaos.
I hate to play this game seriously with a focus on winning because strategy means very little compared to what the dice will decide in the game.
On the other hand, I absolutely love playing it for what it's best at. You only have to embrace the chaos, randomness and fun, and try crazy shit all the time (goblins and trolls highly recommended).
- Last edited Fri Oct 14, 2016 2:23 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Fri Oct 14, 2016 2:21 pm