Tobold's Blog
Monday, June 29, 2009
Blood Bowl - First Impressions

About 20 years ago I visited a little shop in London and bought one of the games they produced themselves. The shop was the Games Workshop, and the game was the first edition of Blood Bowl. Blood Bowl is a strategy game in which two teams from the Warhammer universe play a game not unlike American Football, after having discovered an ancient religious text with the Lore of Nuffle (that is an NFL rulebook). At the time the rules were rather complicated, and not all that well balanced. But Blood Bowl is a game that kept on going, and the ruleset is now is the Living Rulebook 5 (LRB5), which contains a lot of input from the player base.

Last week Cyanide Studios released the PC version of Blood Bowl, currently only available as download either directly from that site, or from a few download platforms. It has both a turn-based mode adhering strictly to the LBR5 rules, and an optional real-time mode, which can be paused to give orders. I played it over the weekend, and it is quite fun. And the computer is playing Blood Bowl quite well, for somebody like me who hasn't played for a long time, or a new player, even on easy difficulty the game is still quite challenging. Besides all these strong points in gameplay, Blood Bowl also is pretty. There are several different stadiums, with fans, cheerleaders, and everything. All with a comic style tongue-in-cheek humor.

The only weakness of Blood Bowl is that this isn't really a casual game. There is a campaign mode, in which you start out with a limited amount of gold, buying players, creating a team, and then earning gold and levels by playing in competitions. But leveling up is extremely slow, you're lucky if you have one single player level up from 1 to 2 after one or two games, and thus your team is mostly defined by its race and the types of players that race gives you. If you start for example with the orcs (recommended for beginners), you'll quickly find that every game against a particular other race, lets say skaven or dwarves, plays very similar to the last game against that race. Of course the strong random elements make every game different, but the basic strategies stay the same. So you'll be playing a lot of similar games, giving you plenty of opportunity to refine you strategy, but advancing rather slowly. Of course the positive side of that is that a Blood Bowl campaign offers entertainment for many, many hours. And with a strong community from the board game, there is plenty of sources if you want to read up on strategy.

So if you are interested in a rather different Warhammer fantasy strategy game, check Blood Bowl out.
I am intrigued, but also disappointed. AFAIK, this is the first official treatment of GW tabletop rules to a computer game where one can play AI opponents. Blood Bowl is a fun game, but I wish one of their more standard games was ported.
Hi Tobold,

Thanks for the article and the quality of your blog in general.

I'm considering buying Blood Blowl. As such, I would be very interested in a "second impressions" post of yours, describing what you feel after a few days' playtime.

Keep up the good work.
Oooh, Pricey!

Am I the only one who thinks the price is a little high for a game like this?

Even Dawn of War 2 was cheaper on Steam (even more so on D2D)

Like sosobaba says, I'll be interested in your views after playing more!
I picked this up last week, and I can say that I found it to be fantastic. It's very faithful to the original tabletop game, so if you like that, you will definitely like this. The AI is reasonably challenging as well.
Strange, I got this on Friday as well, and played it WAY too much this weekend (Xfire does not track it yet, but I think over 10hrs is accurate)

I'm a big fan of GW and Warhammer tabletop, but never played BloodBowl, so the rules and everything was new to me. The tutorial is alright, but it took a few games to even learn the basics. Writeup on my site coming soon, but overall it's a very impressive and fun turn based game (I've not played the RTS version yet, and can't say I'm really motivated to, considering how rare good turn based games are)
You should look at Enefel (, an online adaptation of Bloodbowl as a MMORPG. It's based on the BB rules, but every player plays one team member and one of them plays a coach. It's free, browser based and exists for several years now. Really a great game if you have somethin like 6-7 friends and want to participate in real BB games.

Unfortunately, it's french only.
IIRC the way Blood Bowl Players (you, the human, are not a Player but the Coach) gained XP and leveled up was by scoring touchdowns and injuring (or killing) opposing Players. There may have been means as well, but XP-earning actions were still limited in number so very few Players gained XP during a game. It sounds to me like the PC Game is sticking fairly closely to the Tabletop's Rules with respect to Player advancement does the real-time mode work? Can you actually control your Players during the real-time moments? Or do you pause to issue orders based on how the play is developing, then resume real-time and watch the action unfold? I guess you weren't able to multi-play a real-time match with a Human opponent (online)? I assume pausing a real-time Human vs Human game would pause the action for both Coaches, likewise I would assume your opponent could issue orders when you've paused play, and vice versa?

So is there a timer on the real-time pause, based on how long since your last "pause"?

Do you have a certain number of "pauses" per game?

Or just a "bank" of "pause-time" and once you use it all up you're forced to give orders on the fly (a la competition Chess)?

I'm really curious as to how well they've developed the real-time mode.
Omfortuneately the book of the same name isnt that great
I would love to read a more detailed write-up of how the game works and what it's like to play the PC game. I don't have experience with BB (as I'm sure is the case with most people) but I'm very interested.

I played the online MMO "Monster Bowl" while it existed. I think it was similar to BB.
Thanks for writing about this, Tobold. I am a huge Blood Bowl fan (it's the only Games Workshop game I've ever played) so I was hoping this would turn out right. Looks like I'll be giving it a try as well.
I had the tabletop version and loved it, made up my own rules and teams and everything though lol. Still was curious to try this since I saw it, I'm glad you posted on it. Will look forward to a more thorough review if you make one, I might just get it for nastalgia.
Pros: Running down Slayer hero with the ball and KO'ing him 1 square away from my endzone, and then picking up ball and tossing it to opposite side of field for breakaway touchdown.

Cons: Skaven running through my line, picking up fumbled ball, being surrounded by five of my players, and successfully dodging them all for easy score.
I had the chance to create the Deff’eads Orc team and have a go on the “classic” campaign mode for a few hours.

The game has two separate modes, “Classic” which is by the rules Blood Bowl which we’ve all played, and “Blitz”, which is a faster moving game. I of course wanted the “classic” experience.

And it is, just that, Blood Bowl, by the rules, with very good graphics, voice commentators and all the dice rolling done for you. I think it’s a testament to the game that the Deff’eads lost their first three matchs and only drew their 4th match… and I loved every minute.

The game does all the upkeep on players star player points etc for you as well as injuries. The game also plays “by the rules” with a clock starting on almost every in-game action, though weirdly, in the online environment I never seemed to take more than about 2 minutes to make all my moves (of lose my turn via turnover)

The campaign mode looks awesome, especially as you seem to be able to export your campaign mode team to a multiplayer cup environment to play with your friends. The game uses the team points system as per the rules, and the inducements so you could actually quite happily play someones 1900 point Blood Bowl team against a newbie 1000 point starter team… and the starter team would be full of 900,000gps worth of bought in Star Players, Bought refs, extra re-rolls etc.

Graphics: Very good, I’m looking forward to trying the Blitz game to see what that’s like.

Gameplay: I love Blood Bowl. The classic game mode is Blood Bowl, by the rules. I’m in heaven.

Playability: Each classic game took about 25 minutes to do, and it feels like a tabletop game. The commentary is fun at the moment, though I’m sure, once I’ve heard it all, I’ll probably switch it off. I can see clearly a couple of months solo play here, and huge potential for online multiplayer action. In the end, it’ll be the multiplayer element (which I have yet to try) which will be the interesting part.

Sound: The commentary is very good (the two commentators are insane! ) The sounds is quality (the tackles sounded a little crunching on my quad sound system).

Overall: A lot of love has gone into this game. The game studio clearly wanted to create the “classic” game as something the tabletop players couldn’t find a single quibble about. And I can’t. It’s tabletop BloodBowl, by the rules. I’m looking forward to trying the faster Blitz game, by for the classic game alone I can see months of gameplay ahead.

If you loved the tabletop Blood Bowl this is a "must buy".
I love bb to death so I picked up the game last night and played about 10 games in the campaign. It is a great translation of the table top game, but I am finding a lot of bugs and unfinished content in the game. The official store box version of the game is set to launch later this year so I am just assuming they will continue to polish the game before then. While some of the bugs do crash the game or make it unplayable until restarted it has been a very pleasurable experience and I would highly recommend it to any bb fan.
It's amazing how different our experiences have been, as I have yet to have a single crash, graphics error or anything.
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