Blood-bowl-2 review 2

There are some things you can learn and some things you need natural talent. For me I’ve always looked enviously at people who play piano, can do parkour and paint Warhammer figures. These traits can be taught but you need to have the coordination to be able to create what you mind pictures. Unfortunately I have a shake to my hands and an issue with getting my extremities to do what I ask. When I’ve tried painting tabletop figures they come out blobby and mainly one colour, I then go to a GamesWorkshop and see the amazingly intricate designs in their windows and resent the people inside. I picked up a copy of Blood Bowl, the table top game, cheap online a couple of years back, I wanted to play Warhammer but the rules and space required were too much. I thought Blood Bowl was an easy middle step, unfortunately it turns out the manual is about the size of the yellow pages. Thankfully years later Cyanide Studios created a digital version of Blood Bowl and now Blood Bowl 2.

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At its most base level Blood Bowl is a game of American Football set in the Warhammer universe. Two teams of varying races; orcs, elves, humans, beasts, dwarves, all vie for victory to try to score the most goals, whilst at the same time keeping as much of their team alive. A game is two halves each broken down into 8 turns, that’s right, this is a turn based sports game. Keeping true to its tabletop origins Blood Bowl 2 limits the amount of actions and time you have to complete the actions each turn. Every player can be moved a set distance each turn but only one player can move and attack, though others can attack if they start by an opponent. Very quickly you’ll learn what the limitations are, you’ll also learn to never click off a player until you’re completely done because much like chess, once you’ve let go of a piece that’s it. Being British and not really into sports I can only assume that this game is quite close to American football and Rugby in its own way, although I doubt the real games feature the sounds of dice rolling as much as Blood Bowl.

Pretty much every action has a percentage chance of completion, e.g. a pass from one player to another requires a virtual behind the scenes dice roll for the throw, but also another separate roll for the catch. A lot of your time in a turn will be spent working out whether it’s worth the risk for a 33% and 57% chance at throw and catch. Rain, distance and opponents all come into the equation as to whether you’ll succeed. The problem is that certain races just seem to be screwed from the start. Playing as the Orcs I had numerous matches where just picking up the ball from the floor with no enemies around gave me a 57% chance of succeeding, with different players attempting I still only succeeded once in 12 tries. Pushing yourself to run a bit further or just running past an opponent and dodging their attack all require some rolling to happen in the back end. Not seeing how close you were to succeeding makes it a lot tougher to know whether it’s ever worth trying again.

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There is the option of creating your own teams and building a line up to suit yourself but in exhibition matches and multiplayer it’s often simpler to just pick a race and choose their best team. Each team is made up of players with strengths a weaknesses, the Orcs have a big troll-esque creature who is great at pure brutish strength but also is so dumb it just won’t react at times. On the flip side the Orcs have a goblin player who is incredibly fast and can run great distances, just don’t expect him to be good at anything else. On the rare occasion my goblin would pick up the damn ball I sent him straight over to my troll. It turns out that small players can be thrown by large creatures meaning I could just told my player, with ball, right over my opponents defensive line.

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Aesthetically Blood Bowl 2 is fascinating, there is obviously a source material it follows but it’s managed to create a really interesting representation of the world, the arenas especially are grand affairs with a huge level of detail put into the stands. Player animations for the attacks look great and brutal. Normally you’ll be wanting to have the zoom pulled right out to see what’s going on all over the field of play but when an attack is going to end in an injury the camera flies into to show you a head stomp or clothesline up close. The audio however is just there, it’s neither good nor bad, it just exists. As with all sports games there’s the pre-cut nearly related commentary, given by a troll and a vampire, which sometimes can be witty but mostly is just a distraction from your turn time running down.

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Blood Bowl 2’s biggest issue is its UI. On all menus and especially in game the text is horrendously small and illogically placed. This comes into play mostly on attack rolls, 2 floating dice appear above the players involved in an attack and show what the potential outcome is on 2 dice, you as the attacker get to choose which outcome you want, be it push or knock down etc. unfortunately there are a number of variations of these and so its often best to read it’s associated text before making your call. More often than not however the default view would leave some other text floating over the dice. I on numerous occasions couldn’t see the dice for a giant “OK?” blocking my view.

Blood Bowl 2 isn’t a game that explains itself well, the tutorial gives you the basics but with each team, and player within each team, having their own abilities, strengths and weaknesses it’s impossible to know what half your team does. The amount of times I asked a player to perform an action and they flat-out refused is mind-boggling. Blood Bowl 2 almost seems to expect you to have played the physical board game and know that inside and out.

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Blood Bowl 2 isn’t a perfect game, there are some major HUD and UI design issues where it’s hard to tell what on earth is going on, you also are expected to remember a lot of rules with very little on-screen help or time. Thankfully though, when you look beyond those issues, you are treated to a surprise gem. Blood Bowl 2 has such an amazing depth both in terms of its rule set and gameplay but also the strategy required of you to get through a half, let alone a full match. The story mode is lacking but that’s not where the fun is at. Get yourself online or, even better, on a couch with a friend and you will be cursing and cheering every play whether it’s yours or your opponents. Blood Bowl 2 is a sports game for people who don’t like sports, it’s bloody, it’s clever, it’s funny and more than anything it’s fun – once you accept the fact the dice hate you.

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Ruaidhri

Big-Boss of PixelBedlam.co.uk
Ruaidhri has been writing for a number of sites over the past few years, spewing his vitriol and love in equal measures on all topics from Video Games to Film and Board Games to Geek Culture. He started PixelBedlam in September of 2012. Follow him on Twitter!

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