Blood Bowl in one form or another has been around for a very long time. It started out as an incredibly lengthy and complex board game and then moved to something with much more pace to it around the third edition of the games rule revision. It was here in 1994 that we at Retro 101 first really fell in love with the game as it required much less commitment in terms of time and money than many of Games Workshop's other releases. The last digital version of the game was excellent (on PC at least), so we were more than ready to dive right into the sequel.
In truth not that much has changed from the first version of the game on the PC. There are strong graphical improvements and the commentator characters are nice (even if they do repeat themselves a little too often). But the rules and way the games play out isn’t much different. This is actually a good thing as the last thing you want is to start mucking around with the rule set for the sake of it. It does mean that Blood Bowl is still a turn based strategy game much in the same way as Space Hulk: Ascension or Talisman.
The graphical improvements are very noticeable as well with every crunch and thud drawing quick intakes of breath from players. The stadiums and crowds are also much more detailed and it really does help to draw you into the fantasy world of blood and touchdowns.
The main addition is the campaign mode which has players take hold of the Human team – the Reikland Reavers, who have fallen on hard times and had their star player disappear after building up a sizable debt with a group of ogres. The campaign acts to introduce you to all the basics of how the game flows as well as showing how hiring and firing staff and players works and sorting out the stadium and other matters away from the pitch. For newcomers it’s a much more approachable introduction than in the first game and it’s both sizable and fun to play through.
For those not familiar with Blood Bowl it’s basically a fantasy version of American football where different races of creatures square off against each other. The aim is to score touchdowns but more often than not it just turns into a massive fight. Different races have different strengths and weaknesses (with Elves being quick and agile while Orcs are strong and slow for instance), and it’s about working your strategy to play to your strengths while anticipating how your opponent is going to approach you.
Everything is carried out via dice rolls with blocking, throwing, catching and even picking up the ball at the mercy of the specially designed blood bowl dice. When players are tackled they can also be stunned, injured or killed for added drama and there are numerous events such as pitch invasion or players being pushed into the crowd never to be seen again. It’s wonderfully crazy and chaotic while also being deep in terms of strategy needed to succeed.
This version comes with eight races available from the start with the Humans, Orcs, Dwarves, Chaos, High Elves, Dark Elves, Skaven and newcomers the Bretonnians ready for action. It’s considerably less teams than the last game ended with and with Lizard Men and Wood Elves already available as DLC it’s fairly obvious that the others will be making an appearance in the same way later on. It would have been nice to see more teams added from the start though as eight really isn’t enough.
Aside from the single player campaign there are leagues you can set up and play against the AI with pre-made teams or you can start your own. There is also a small amount of team management involved with the buying and selling of players and the development of the team’s stadium and it should keep you occupied for a while. There are of course online options and this is where Blood Bowl should really shine as players test out their plans against each other. How long the community lasts for on the PS4 remains to be seen.
Overall, this is undoubtedly the best version of Blood Bowl to appear in console form. It’s far superior to the previous console version of the original game and it kept us more than happy for far too many hours. It’s a more difficult sell to PC gamers who may have the Chaos edition of the older game with almost all the races included. Aside from the limited races though there is very little to dislike and it will keep both strategy and Games Workshop fans occupied for weeks. It’s also decidedly cheaper than trying to track down the board game and teams.