Nothing says bone-jarring face-punching edge-of-your-seat sports action like throwing a couple of dice and methodical turn-based tactical game play. This is not something many people know, but Blood Bowl 2 aims prove it with a successful attack roll and a spiked boot to the noggin.
Blood Bowl 2 is Cyanide’s follow up to its 2009 release Blood Bowl, which in turn is an adaptation of Games Workshop’s original tabletop game of the same name. Set in the Warhammer universe it is essentially American Football, except that the teams fielded are not just human, but Orks, Lizardmen, Elves, and a surprising number of other Warhammer races.
Each race has its own specific strengths and weaknesses on the field that need to be exploited and managed. Orks, for instance, are powerful hitters but lack ball-handling skills, so an aggressive face-punching attacking game is key.
Wood Elves, on the other hand, have a strong passing and running game, but lack any real offensive of defensive abilities, and so will be dominated in close quarters. Humans – as it the norm for fantasy settings – are the jack of all trades/master of none race that provides a decent balance between offense and defensive play.
Finding the right approach for each team, or finding the team that best fits your personal playstyle is important if you hope to win. The game its self is played out in halves, each consisting of eight turns for each team. Each turn allows you to attempt one action per on-field player: running, passing, or attempting to smash the stuffing out of the opponent are all actions requiring a dice roll. A failed die roll equals a failed action, which ends you turn.
This is the fundamental mechanic of the game, but for some reason it’s not something you’re initially taught when going through its tutorial section.
The campaign itself is a rather laborious and irritating experience, artificially drawing out the early matches in order to teach the basic rules of the game. Unfortunately, it fails to do the latter on a number of levels. It does teach the basics of running, passing, blocking, and the dangers of being knocked out of bounds – where your player will be viciously beaten by the crowd and removed from play – but the rules are modified for the first couple of games, which teaches you some bad habits.
These need to be unlearned if a new player like myself expects to win any matches moving forward. Coupled with an annoying pair of announcers and their dire attempts at humour, it’s an experience that almost ruined the game for me. Thankfully, there is a wealth of gameplay found outside this best-forgotten story mode.
It is in league play that Blood Bowl 2 really shines. Here you build a team, manage and develop your players, make sponsorship deals, and maintain your stadium. It’s a rich, multi-faceted experience that can be played solo or in multiplayer.
Both are rewarding experiences but new players should spend some time learning the mechanics and tactics offline before entering the fray online. Real-world competition is unforgiving, and practice will be required for new players, otherwise you will be picking up your spleen from the opposition’s half more often than the ball.
Once you’ve gotten to terms with attacking and defensive formations, dice roll risk mitigation, and utilising specific racial and player strengths, you will discover a wellspring of depth to the tactical game – far more than is alluded to early on.
Having had essentially no experience with either the tabletop or the previous digital versions, I cannot attest to how true the game is to its source, or how it compares to the previous game. All I can say it that while its tabletop origins are clear for all to see, it works well as a digital game. And so, after a few hours of avoidable tedium and irritation, Blood Bowl 2 comes out and punches you in the face, and you’ll love every tooth-jarring blood-spitting second of it!