About this time last year the Blood Bowl community were hit with a single leaked picture on twitter (see below) which led the way to thousands of coaches wondering what this game could be, was it a remake/reimagined edition of the Blood Bowl spin-off ‘Kerrunch’ from the 90′ or was it be an expansion for the fully fledged game? One thing a lot of them did know was that they wanted it, and they wanted it now.
A few months later at Gen Con, Games Workshop finally officially announced Blitz Bowl, what the game entailed and when/where it would be available. This is where a lot of the controversy of this game comes in. They had only planned to release the game exclusively in the US and Germany!?!? see link
Why?! This was the big question making it way around the community, for what reasons would they only release the game in these two specific countries? Is it an attempt to make it a gateway game into the full-fledged Blood Bowl in areas that do not have the biggest gaming scenes? I don’t think this is the case as I know that the US has a very extensive tournament schedule all year, as for Germany im not too sure about but they do have the German team tournament, one of the biggest team tournament around.
If it’s not this could it be an attempt to entice the next generation of bowlers into the game early? I find Blood Bowl a difficult game to get new players excited about, once you get them past a certain stage the game does it all for you but it’s that first 10 games or so that can be a slog for new players. Is Blitzbowl an attempt to get people hooked on the fluff and thematic shenanigans without the complications of quite a complex set of rules and skills.
Well only Games Workshop knows the reason behind it and im sure there are some facts and figures behind the decision but that still doesn’t help us astrogranite addicts who do not live in the US or Germany who have to make other arrangements to get our hands on the game which can turn out to be very expensive. I think the question on our minds right now is will this game be released to us in the future?
Its Match Day
So let’s have a look at the game itself, what goodies will we find in the box? If there’s one thing that coaches love in this game is unique goodies that they can use or collect, this can be seen in the sales of Dwarf and Skaven dice when they were first released. They sold out in seconds and people were paying 10x the RRP on eBay because they wanted these team specific dice, they wanted to bring some flare and something personal to their team. This pursuit of these dice stems from the fact that Blood Bowl is at its heart an RPG game. Dont get me wrong the game mechanics are great and unique and do draw in a huge crowd of competitive gamers but at its base Blood Bowl is about the creation of your team, watching them grow and surrounding them with as much character and history as possible, well in my opinion anyway. So when the contents of the box were announced people got excited about not only the new game but the new dice. Lets have a look!
As you can see above the box is of a high quality, great finish with a unique piece of artwork on the front (for me these little things make a big difference, as much as the old recognised artwork is great, there’s always something special about a fresh creation that keeps the thematic cravings at bay) So what exactly do you get in the box? well here a quick list
- 6 Humans (3 Lineman, 1 Blitzer, 1 Thrower and 1 Catcher)
- 6 Orcs (3 Lineman, 1 Blitzer, 1 Thrower and 1 Black Orc)
- 1 Pitch
- 2 Sets of dice (2 block dice, 1 D6 and 1 D8)
- Player stat cards
- In games play cards
- Templates and Dugouts
So lets talk about these! Firstly the models, there’s not much to say about these except you get the exact same sprue as you get in the Reikland Reavers or Gouged Eye box sets, the only difference being the colour of the plastic (yellow and red). These are more than sufficient to play this game, the models are great and the fact you get the already loved miniatures in a board game esq version of the game is generous, although one could have dreamt for some unique sculpts, which would obviously not have been possible due to cost. I did say dream!
Onto the pitch itself, now this is where Games Workshop have done an impressive job in not only creating a fast paced board game in the Blood Bowl universe but have created a platform for enthusiasts to show off their creative ability and love for the lore. Blitzbowl is set around an event in the BloodBowl universe called ‘The Crush’. The Crush is an exhibition/test match used by aspiring players to show off what they can do and convince coaches from around the old world to hire them for their upcoming squad. It is set in a dungeon surrounded by a talent hungry crowd who set challenges for the players to see what they can do. The pitch itself is incredibly thematic with statues of some the most famous star players around such as Griff Oberwald and Morg n’ Thorg overlooking these starry-eyed athletes not realising what they are getting themselves in to. The reason I like what they done here so much is what it means for the extension of the hobby. There are a lot of coaches out there (like myself) who have spent a lot of time painting teams and writing backgrounds to go with them but Blitzbowl allows us to step away from the traditional Blood Bowl setting and start creating smaller ‘teams’ which we can have more flexibility with. For instance in the infamous DBL, last season a team entered made up purely of human lineman name ‘Logan’s Loser lineman’. The idea behind this team is brilliant and despite having the some of the most plain players in the game, the coach did a lot better than anyone expected and probably had more fun than a lot of other coaches. On top of this, the fluff created to go alongside them had a lot of effort put in and really drew the team together. The idea of a team of aspiring lineman lead by the most famous lineman around, ‘Logan’. Its ideas like this that can really be taken over to or from Blitzbowl to enhance our full on Blood Bowl experiences.
One last point I have to add about the pitch is the way that games Workshop have listened and learnt from other companies. They have incorporated a scatter template into pitch to save you carrying it around/losing it. I hoped they would have started doing this on the Blood Bowl pitches but I think they are already too invested into the current format in order to change it now.
Did you Know!?
The Crush dictates that all available players are placed in a room with representatives from all teams, NFC and AFC, stand outside observing. At the word of “Go!”, all players rush through the small door to get to the team they want before the slots are filled.
The Crush takes place two weeks after the Blood Bowl Championship, the start of summer recess, and then the participating teams spend around a month trading players, negotiating contracts, and commencing training. While many teams use The Crush as a strong recruiting tool, other teams (mostly Orcs, Goblins, Chaos Dwarves, and Ogres) use the time-honored tradition of filling their ranks from their own tribes or clans, or using slaves they “purchased” from random settlements
The Dice! lets talk about the dice, the reason some people I know wanted the game. Yes as mentioned earlier you do get a set of yellow and red dice, the only problem being they only give you 2 block dice and 1 D6 as that is all you need for this game (we will talk more about this later but there’s no 3 die blocks or armour rolls) On top of that the quality of the dice were disappointing, some of the block dice had misprints and infills missing. It seems like they weren’t produced by their normal supplier. Overall a little disappointed but still shiny new Blood Bowl dice at the end of the day.
The translation of each teams and it strengths/weakness over to Blitz Bowl is a topic that you could discuss for a while but at the end of the day it all depends on how you are receiving this game. If you accept that Blitz Bowl is a stand alone spin-off board game then its a lot easier to accept but when your like me and enjoy intertwining the two thematically its hard not compare how each race performs in each game. Blood Bowl has been played competitively for years now so there is a fairly common understanding on which teams perform well in what situations as we all know the game is not balanced when it comes to team selection. But will those be the same with the relevant race in Blitz Bowl? well in my short experience no, but lets talk about why and look into the statistics of each race.
As you can see from the cards above each positional now only has 3 statistics, Move, Throw and Armour. Move is pretty self-explanatory, this is maximum number of squares that player can take in one move action, Throw is the roll required before any modifiers for a pass action to be succesful and Armour is the roll required before any modifiers for the armour save to be successful.
Lets start with throwing, as I don’t think we need to elaborate on the move statistic. We will talk more about actions in a bit but if you wanted to throw the ball to another player you would need to roll the equivalent on the players card. Now this is modified by a few thing such if it passes through an opposing player or the target is marked, but if you do succeed the target automatically catched the ball.
On the other hand, with armour, where as in Blood Bowl you need to break their armour value with 2D6, in Blitzbowl the knocked down player needs to beat their armour roll in order to stay on the pitch. This leads to a lot more removals but as you will see later they do come back. So in order for these player stats to make sense we will need to look into how the game pans out, whats the objectives of the game are and how this can be achieved.
If I were to compare Blitzbowl to another game it would without a doubt have to be what Warhammer Underworlds is to Age of Sigmar. A hugely popular and complex game system condensed down into a fast paced board game which can be played in a pub (well Blood Bowl is best enjoyed in a pub but that’s not the point). The reason I say this is down to two main points.
- They both combine cards and tabletop miniatures (Underworlds obviously being the more deck builder esq of the two)
- They both run off an action system, slightly different, but both giving the same tactical atmosphere to the game.
I’m not going to go into Warhammer Underworlds here, if you have played it you will know what I mean if not it’s not an issue but lets look at how a turn is structured in Blitz Bowl
As you can see each player has 3 actions they can make in a turn, these can used to perform a variety of things ranging from moving to blocking. Here is a list of available actions and what they do.
I will be using the term ‘ tackle zone’ but there are not such things in Blitz Bowl. It’s just an easier way to describe it.
As you guessed this is where you may move a player their maximum move distance. It is also the only way you can pick up the ball (without an extra skill), in order to do this you just need to run through the square where the ball is and you automatically pick it up. The only problem is you cannot run through ‘tackle zones’
A mark action allows you to move a player 2 square which can be through ‘tackle zones’ but also you must end your mark action next to an opposing player.
A throw action lets you pass the ball to a target player, the throw roll is modified by factors such as whether the target is marked or if the throw is in the second half of the template.
Blocking in Blitzbowl is fairly similar but with some small differences that make it a completely different action. In order to Block you need to be adjacent to the target and then roll one block dice. If you have and assist you can roll 2. Assists in this game are not cancelled by other players and even if you have 5 assists it’s still only 2 dice. Here is a list of what each result does.
As you can see above, even on a both down or skull result you do not knock yourself over and even if you did turnovers do not exist in the game. This makes blocking a lot less risky and takes away a lot of the risk management side to Blood Bowl and changing the flow of the game completely.
Whenever a player is knocked down from a block and they fail their armour roll they are removed from the pitch and placed in reserves. The difference here is you can use an action in order to bring a player from reserves onto the pitch. This doesn’t make the physical side of the game as irrelevant as I first thought it would as making your opponent waste an action bringing them back is worth it.
Side Step Action
A side step action allows you to move 1 square when you are marked away from you opponent and end your move outside of their tackle zone.
Stand Up Action
You can spend an action standing a player up in the square they were knocked down in
With the amount of available actions each being key in different situations it is crucial to spend your 3 actions wisely as they are over before you know it. For example in order to Block a player who is more than 2 squares away ,aka Blitz, you would be required to use all 3 of your actions. Firstly Run, then Mark to get next to the player and then Block. This really opens ups the games tactically so it doesnt turn into a brawl and shows of some of the more spectacular aspects of the game, just like The Crush was designed to do.
So what makes Blitz Bowl so tactically different to Blood Bowl is the objective of the game/how you score ‘points’. Where as in Blood Bowl it is purely down to whomever scores the most touchdowns, in Blitz bowl theres is a point system where points can scored in different ways such as scoring a touchdown or completing objective cards. The objective cards are where the game will balance out the teams, apparently. You automatically score 3 points for scoring a touchdown (which is more than most challenge cards) so if you can keep doing this you are most likely going to win the game but in order to balance the game and give slower, bashier teams a good chance a lot of the challenges will include objectives such as ‘claim this card if an enemy player is knocked down or injured this turn’. This gives them more of an oppurtunity whilst the Elves, Skaven and Goblins (we will get to them later) are scoring touchdowns all day long.
After Scoring a challenge card you get to take it into your ‘hand’ On the back of every card is a ‘play’ which you can activated in order to give you some sort of bonus, this where the games creeps even closer to Warhammer Underworlds. Some examples of the plays are that you gain an extra activation that turn which is extremely helpful or it allows you reroll one dice that turn.
When you start playing with different teams and find out how they play, you quickly come to realise how well this game has encapsulated the thematic of each team and how they are expected to perform from their fluff. It’s very hard to do this in modern complex games as there will always be a meta where theory goes out the window **cough** 40k **cough**.
One thing I would have hoped for would have a larger variety of challenge cards and not as many duplicated, im not sure how that would turn out, whether too much variety would destroy the balance I was just talking about but would be good to give it a go. Finger crossed hey!
Other Teams, GOBLINS!!
Alongside the standard Orcs and Humans that come in the box game, they do supply you player cards for other teams, so that you can use your Blood Bowl models to expand your game. In the box I believe you get Skaven, Dwarfs, Pro Elves, Chaos Chosen and Goblins. I think this is a nice touch from GW as they didn’t have to supply them giving them the opportunity to expand on the game making more revenue in the future. I’m not sure if this means that they will not be supporting the game much further therefore giving you as much as thy can in the box or if it was simply a generous touch.
So in order test out the game longevity we had a few more games with different teams. First of all I decided to use Goblins, they allow you to have 8 standard ‘lineman’ and nothing else, I had to see how they played as 8 Goblins running around seemed great fun. In this Game Chris decided to see how Skaven turned out, their Gutter Runners still move a ridiculous amount on such a small board.
Soooooo…….Goblins? from my first two games with them I have to say they are awesome in this game. The reason for this is their skill Small and Stuny. What this does is allows Goblins to move through ‘tackle zones’ when they make a run action meaning they can pick up the ball when it’s marked. Now this nullifies a lot of standard tactics. Normally being such a small pitch you can block of the opponents route to the end zone or mark the ball denying the opponent the opportunity to pick up the ball without knocking your player down (which takes all 3 actions) but with Goblins you can’t. They are extremely slippery and frustratingly good in this game. It was a pretty simple victory for the Goblin and I could see the frustration on Chris’ face when there was nothing he could do stop touchdown after touchdown without being able to pick up the ball himself.
So in the second game we decided to swap, Chris took Goblins and I gave Pro elves a go. Now this game went a bit different to the first one and this was mainly due to the elves getting the right challenge cards at right time. As we spoke about earlier, touchdowns are great, but if the opponent can capitalise on the challenge cards every turn it will be a tough game. The Goblins performed like the previous game, slipping through tackle zones, picking up the ball and scoring touchdowns but the Pro elves were able to keep up with passing plays and killing goblins to score points every turn. This seems to be the only way to have chance to beat goblins, you need to get some luck with the right challenge card and really make sure your playing to score them.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying Goblins are broken but they are surely a very strong team in the game. They have the ability to be consistent in their scoring forcing your opponent to make sure they keep up and take every opportunity they get.
In regard to any of the other teams, we are yet to try them out but will be definitely doing so in the near future.
When going through the rulebook and learning how to play the game, they suggest you leave this bit out until you completely understand the rules. The reason for this is that ‘The Endgame’ are extra challenge cards that are put at the bottom of the deck so that they indicate the end of the game is approaching and opening up the game. The reason these cards open up the game is that they are on the extreme side in terms of not only how to achieve them but also how many points you gain and also what ‘play’ you receive on the reverse. Now this adds a lot of randomness to the game and can also make what has happened up to this point irrelevant as one player could get fortunate and win a few challenge cards winning them the game. Once again whether you like this side to the game depends on how you are receiving it. If you are playing for the competitive aspect and really want to win then ‘The Endgame’ could make the game inconsistent and frustrating but that is not how this game was designed. It was designed in the shadow of Blood Bowls crazy shenanigans and unbalanced randomness. I suggest playing with these and not taking this game too seriously, I doubt there’s going to be a Blitz Bowl Grand Tournament any time soon.
In order to wrap this up and decide whether or not this is a game you should buy we should go over some of the key points from above
- If you wanted a new Blood Bowl game that you can play competitively and will be as widespread as the original you may need to adjust your expectations of the game if you are considering the purchase. This is 100% a throw in your bag, pub/coffee shop game that can be picked up and played without much setup and played in an hour.
- Another thing to consider when purchasing the game is its longevity. Yes they have given you extra teams but that still only mounts up to 7 (including the dark elves that were free in the American White Dwarf). We do not know if they will be expanding this game further in the future and if they do not, it could become stale quickly if you play regularly. Like I said above, I think this game was designed as an every now and then game.
- If you are a Blood Bowl enthusiast and simply crave everything about the game, this will give you the fix you’re looking for. The rule book has a little fluff and artwork and overall the quality of the product is great.
- How to get your hands on the game if you’re not from the US or Germany? If you do not live in the only 2 countries selling the game it can be fairly expensive to get your hands on. A £40 game then turns into an £80 game which may not be worth it. Is it worth holding out and seeing if they release the game elsewhere? I think so, not that anyone knows if its going to happen but £80 is is bit steep.
So overall I would highly recommend this game, if you know someone who has it I would suggest having a go. The copy we played with was Chris’ but after our first couple of games I am already working out how I am going to get my hands on it.
Here is a copy of the rules for you to have a read over
OTT Attempts – 0 (I don’t think its possible in this game)