Blood Bowl II
Blood Bowl has been around in one form or another for quite some time now with the original tabletop game being released back in 1987. It has gone through various iterations since then, before developers Games Workshop dropped it as part of a massive streamlining process that saw them slim down to just their three core games. Many of the games lost in the cull currently have digital versions in development and it would be hard to argue that success of the original Blood Bowl videogame hasn’t contributed to this trend.
In the maelstrom of seemingly countless versions of this game, it’s easy to forget that they all – digital and physical – share some things in common. The latest release, Blood Bowl II, is no exception. Taking place over two halves of eight rounds, Blood Bowl is a turn based tactical game very loosely based on American Football. The aim of the game is to score more points than your opponent by forcing the ball into their endzone. It’s elegant, it’s brutal, and as it’s enduring fan base surely proves, it’s also fun.
Players can choose from a plethora of fantastical races, including orc, elves and dwarves, to make up their team. Each race has it’s own strengths and weaknesses with the human teams representing the all rounders, the orcs the powerful units adept at inflicting harm on opponents while the elves are talented passers of the ball. All of these elements are present in the original version of Blood Bowl just as they are in this sequel and so the question for those interested in a brutal sports-inspired, turn-based strategy game is what does the more expensive Blood Bowl II offer that it’s predecessor does not.
Unsurprisingly the game has had a surface level overhaul. The players are more detailed, everything is sharper and the stadiums more impressive. However on top of these basic graphical flourishes there are also a huge number of improvements to the user interface. Selecting units and action is simple and intuitive and the game will offer you the percentage odds of successfully completing your desired action. It’s a useful addition that will make the game more welcoming to new players and represents a useful time saver for veterans.
The effort that has gone into creating a manageable learning curve for new players is to be applauded. The final printed version of the rulebook weighs in at a intimidating eighty pages, but Blood Bowl II’s tutorials breaks this down into manageable chunks, adding layers of detail to every game so that the player is never overwhelmed.
Sadly though this isn’t an entirely triumphant sequel. Whereas the previous release, Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition, had over twenty playable teams Blood Bowl II has only eight and long standing fans of the franchise may feel limited by this lack of choice. Blood Bowl II also carries over the characters of Jim and Bob who offer commentary on the matches and their double act is significantly more prominent in this sequel. They represent an attempt to inject humour into proceedings but fall utterly flat. Thier jokes are adolescent, puerile, and frankly make the game almost embarrassing to play. But despite their cringe worthy gags they are more an irritating side show than a gamebreaker.
There are essentially two groups of people that Blood Bowl II will likely appeal to. The first are players entirely new to the series and for them this game is a solid introduction to a venerable franchise. Fans of turn based strategy games willing to forgive the teenage wit of Jim and Bob could do a lot worse than this. For players of the previous releases the answer is trickier. The improved user interface, while useful, is unlikely to be a selling point for someone familiar with the nuances of Blood Bowl and while the significant graphical improvements are welcome this isn’t really a game that relies on flashy visuals.
However, for veterans and rookies alike this is a fundamentally strong adaptation of a tabletop classic and with continued support from Cyanide Studios, the niche appeal of high fantasy football could be long lasting for those willing to immerse themselves in the sport of Blood Bowl.