Review: Blood Bowl


Blood Bowl 2016 Edition Review
Blood Bowl's latest edition was released in 2016, after having been discontinued by Games Workshop for just over 15 years. Despite being sold by the same people who make Warhammer et al, it is not a miniature wargame - it is a board game, first and foremost, as you can see from the picture.

Cool. What is it?

Blood Bowl is, believe it or not, a sports-based board game. It is essentially an American Football/Rugby mash-up in a fantasy setting. If you have a child that is taking a liking to the nerdier type stuff, and you can't stand it, then Blood Bowl is a fantastic way to bridge the gap and give you both something to do together that ticks both boxes. In the box you get a fold up card pitch (a sturdy one, I hasten to add), a team of Orcs and a team of Humans. You don't have to paint them, they come on coloured sprues and the miniatures are push-fit, though a bit of glue works wonders for durability.

How do you play it?

Included in the box is everything you need to play the game. You get two dugouts, turn counters, Special Play cards, and cards with all the stats of your team's players on them, the pass measuring stick and all the dice you need.

You, the player, are the coach of your team, sat on the sidelines deciding what happens. You pick your team of 11 players, as does your opponent, and you line them up on the line of scrimmage. You must have a certain amount of players on the line of scrimmage, and then you flip a coin to see who kicks off. The game is 16 turns each, with 8 on each half. Your team is made up of different types of players, and each team really does have a specific play style. The Human team has two Throwers (read: Quarterback), two Catchers (read: Receivers), two Blitzers (read: Linebackers) and 5 linemen (read: jack of all trades). The Orc team has two Black Orcs (seriously tough linemen), two Throwers, two Blitzers, and 5 linemen.


The Human team, painted as the Reikland Reavers.
The pitch is divided up into what are essentially little chess squares. You can move a certain amount of these squares each turn. Once you've set up and decided who will be kicking off, you pick up the little ball and place it on a square in your opponent's back field. You then, using a little template and a die, see where the ball bounces when it lands - hopefully into the awaiting arms of one of your players. It's then the returning player's first turn. Everything you do, except moving, requires a dice roll based on one of your player's characteristics (most often Agility). Failing any one of these rolls results in a turnover. As such, it's important to carry out all of your least-risk actions with your team's players before you start diving into tackles and the like.

Keeping things summarised, the aim of the game is to batter your opponents, create some great plays and score. The humans have the advantage of a bit more speed and better agility, meaning they're better at handling the ball and getting those passes completed. The Orcs, however, are brutish and powerful, so if you play seriously aggressively carrying the ball in running plays where you can beat the shit out of your opponent's players on the way to the end zone. Making a blitz tackle, and rolling the armour dice to find your Black Orc just killed your opponent's quarterback can make for some seriously amusing times.

Is it difficult to learn?

The game is quite in depth, and there are ways you can play your own league, where your team actually gets better after each game. You earn more money and fans and sponsorships from various companies such as Orca-Cola, Bloodweiser, and other funny nods to the real NFL counterpart. Thankfully, the boxed set has the full rulebook, and also a quick reference sheet to just get you going. Once you get your head around the order of events, it really is a fun game that has infinite replay value.

Okay, sounds good. Is it expensive?

No, basically. The set above is £55 from Element Games, and then you can buy additional teams for about £20 each. Once you have your 'team', though, you don't really need anything else. It's all optional. Games Workshop release updates for the game called Death Zone, which are great additions to the game, but you don't have to buy them.

As I said earlier, if you're someone who likes the fantasy type setting but don't have the time or inclination to play full on table-top wargames, then this is a great way to scratch the itch without breaking the bank. Again, if you have a kid who loves all this stuff but you'd rather gouge your eyeballs out than learn the intricacies of Warhammer, I highly, highly recommend this as a way of 'bonding' doing something he or she enjoys whilst still being hugely enjoyable for you too. I only say this as I recommended it to a pal who was having a similar issue, only saw his son every other weekend and it was quickly becoming apparent that their interests were wildly different. Beyond the odd Xbox game, he was a pretty sporty guy and his son an avid Warhammer fan, so he picked this up and it went down an absolute treat.

Good game, great value (for once), I give the boxed set a solid 9/10!
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