Also On: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Blood Bowl 2 is as close as one could get to playing football in chess form. Because it’s a video game version of a tabletop game from Games Workshop, it’s layered in lots of rules, a healthy dose of randomness through die rolls, and tons of personality. This is the second edition of the game on consoles and PC.
Like football, the goal of the game is to move the ball into the opposing end zone. Unlike football, the field is divided into squares for each player and the action is turn-based.
Football: Violent hits, tackles and blocks are encouraged, but there are rules meant to mitigate damage done to players.
Blood Bowl 2: Entire teams and races (we’re looking at you, Orcs) are built around removing players from the field via stomping, eye gouging and a lot more.
Football: Blocking is fundamental. Slowing down defenders for even a second is usually all it takes to move the ball.
BB2: Blocking means knocking down your opponent and, if you’re good at it, rendering them unconscious.
Football: Forward passing is easier every day.
BB2: Forward passing is a great way to lose.
BB2: Players are degenerates and, often, complete monsters.
Blood Bowl teams are built with linemen, blitzers, throwers and catchers. During your turn, every time you select a player you’ll see his options for movements and odds for how successful they’ll be. They can do a lot without having to roll a die, but at some point they’ll need to take a risk and try to run past a defender or block a defender that’s better than them. Risks taken with a ball carrier that don’t work out end up in a fumble, at the very least. It’s a strategy game of constant risk vs. reward decisions, which is right up our alley.
New for this version is a new single player campaign mode managing the Reikland Reavers, a glory boy team fallen on hard times (yep, it's the Cowboys). It serves as a great tutorial, but is much more. The story gets pretty involved and is easily recommended as being worth the time.
Online multiplayer is where the game gets extremely deep and competitive and the differences between the races (Humans, Dark Elves, Dwarves, High Elves, Orcs, Skaven (rats), Brettonnia (snooty humans) and Chaos) shine even more. Difficult actions reward xp to specific players, who are customizable and improveable. But they aren’t immortal – players age and aren’t available forever.
Make no mistake, the level of play online is very high. Games Workshop is known for deep, complicated games that reward investment, so even with team strength handicapping there aren’t too many casual players out there – at least not casual enough for us. This second edition of the game is much more user friendly than the first, but explanation is still relatively thin. The campaign mode and increased detail in the interface widen the door for new players to get started learning this very complicated game.
Players have a great amount of detail and are animated whenever they interact with one another. The game looks great, but one of the more disappointing aspects is how slow the game can become because of animations. We don’t need to see every knockdown, and they can make the game drag on. One other worry are the teams missing from the roster. Halflings, Underworld (so goth and pouty), Nurgle and Chaos Dwarf have been part of the game in the past, so here’s hoping they are available soon as add-ons (ok, maybe not halflings).
Traditionally tabletop games are getting more and more attention on screens, and Blood Bowl is one that benefits from the evolution. There’s a lot going on in every move, and the game is enjoyable at several different levels. It can be dissected and studied to very detailed level of understanding for maximum effect. Or, we can load up a roster with vicious, snarling beasts and eye-gouge our way into the end zone. Until Madden figures out which one is more fun, we’ll be spending a lot of time with Blood Bowl 2.