Blood Bowl II (PC) - game review by SgtT8ie

Date of Review: 07/09/16 or 09/07/16 whatev’s
Score: 5 — Solid all around. Provides some good entertainment, but has some issues.
OpenCritic Link:

Blood Bowl II(2015)– PC review by SgtT8ie

Is it time for a change of pace perhaps from all the action going on? How about a nice, simple sports simulator? No? How about one that combines the violence of the NFL with the setting of the WarHammer Fantasy Universe, the randomness of a d6 based boardgame & the ridiculousness of a drinking game?

Or is it the ridiculousness of the NFL, the setting of a drinking game, the violence of a boardgame and the randomness of the WarHammer Universe?

Welcome to Blood Bowl, or rather the sequel, Blood Bowl II. I never played the original, mainly due to the poor reviews; and my own personal experience with the original boardgame was a couple of wet afternoons during the 90’s. This review is going to ignore a large part of the game, that of multiplayer, mainly because I despise everybody and do my utmost to avoid human interaction. In other words “I hate to lose”. So my review will focus on the core mechanics of the game and the offline aspect, which thankfully there is a reasonable amount.

The core concept of Blood Bowl is an 11-aside fantasy football game, played on a board of squares, representative of an American football field. The game is split into 2 halves each comprising 8 turns. Each character has core stats to determine their attack, defense, agility and movement; as well as some skills that can enhance their play styles. As with most oval ball games the idea is to get the ball into your opponent’s end-zone to score a touchdown, but in this case the manner in which you do it is prefaced on ultra-violence. You have the ability to knock your opponent off their feet, stun them, injure them and even kill them; though my personal favourite is hitting them into the stadium where they are set upon by rabid fans for the rest of the game.

All mechanics in the game revolve around the randomness of rolling d6. Pushing beyond your range of movement will require a chance to trip, moving through an opposing player’s tackle zone (the 8 squares surrounding them) will also require rolling against a tackle chance, picking up the ball; throwing it, catching it, they all rely on being lucky with the d6. This is where your skills and abilities come into play. Having modifiers to the dice can make all the difference between success and failure. Likewise when “blocking” an opponent (really you’re bashing the ever-loving crap out of them) special dice are rolled, the number dependent on how much strength you & the opponent have and supporting (unmarked) teammates each player has, the resulting chosen die indicates whether or not the attacking player succeeds in moving their target backwards, or knocking them down, or getting reversed and put on his own arse. The more you outmuscle your opponent the more dice you can roll to choose the best result. Additionally teams get a limited number of re-rolls that allow them to ignore a poor result and re-roll again, having to accept the second roll no matter what.

Inside League mode your Team’s players gain experience point during play & as they gain enough, they level up unlocking the chance (there’s RNG again) to improve attributes, skills or even mutations. Experience points are relatively difficult to come across though, with the players needing to injure or kill an opponent or catch/score to earn anything. But the pay offs will increase your team’s power and allow you to gain more money to increase your roster or stadium, to attract sponsors and so on. It is typical sports sim team building, but with a decidedly fantasy twist.

This randomness and chaos perfectly fits with the boardgame premise, and is excruciatingly painful when you get on a bad run of luck. Added to the on-field statistics of the players there are a number of off-field factors that influence the play by play nature of the game. At the kick off a die is rolled to see what happens within the stadium, with effects ranging from wind pushing the ball in a random direction or holding it up to allow an easy catch, to bottles thrown at the players incapacitating them or a full on pitch invasion causing the loss of a full set of turns for the players.

Additionally during play the occasional incident like hidden weapons or wizard cast fireballs erupting can dramatically alter the flow of the game. Also this is a game where a partisan referee doesn’t just make bad calls, but will physically run onto the field and drop kicks one of your defensive line into next week.

The game wears its lack of reality & tongue in cheek nature proudly with the commenters chiming in constantly, referencing FaceTomb, Tweeter, Bloodweiser & McMurty’s. Imagine if Terry Pratchett decided to forgo all subtlety and just make ever increasingly ridiculous puns instead. It creates a lovable atmosphere of sports-based idiocy, with a very wry eye on our own modern professional sports.
Where the game falls over though is the fact that it is at its heart a board game. So everything is turn based, and turns can pass with a grinding similarity. The game does its best to relieve this with the commentary and the great animation, skeletons and zombies shuffle when moving, while the minotaurs and beastmen thunder with animalistic intent, but with each pounding hit you slowly drop into a sense of having seen it all before. As the characters are effectively table top miniatures there’s little customization, which is a pity as mutations aren’t visible and being able to instantly see which one of your guys is the tentacled blocker vs the crab clawed-horned blitzer would be quite useful.

I would recommend this game to people who want a board game simulator as opposed to anyone wanting a sports sim. The RPG-style experience building & team management is good but not especially deep. It would also be a great option for playing against friends as say a games night event, but tough to devote an ongoing amount of solo-time to. This is not an action game; despite the premise of a full contact gladiatorial ball sport, instead this is a slow and steady tactical game with full-on elements of blood and gore. But what this game does have over the flashier action based sports sims is soul. The gaming machines of 2K, EA & Konami are all flash but more often than not leave me with a feeling of corporate sterility & style over substance. Blood Bowl 2 won me over with its humour and a feeling of dread every time I relinquished control of my destiny to the dreaded RNGods of the holy d6.

Personal Highlights:
• Humour: there’s some great dialog hidden here – especially on the splash screens
• Depth to player building once you get deep enough
• A great setting with nice player models.

Personal Low points:
• Same, same, and same again
• Slow & steady will win the game – despite the frenetic feel of the game
• Lining up against a full opposing team with only 6/11 players after 1 knock out, a crowd push, 2 injuries and a death in the first half.

Definitely for the thinkers. So not me.

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