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.