I really wanted to like Blood Bowl. I love the board game. And as co-commissioner of a board game league, with an undefeated undead team called (the Charnelhouse Plague), I couldn't have been happier when I heard the game was coming out for the PC. While the computer version of Blood Bowl remains true to the board game in many respects, there are several aspects that are different, and not as good.
Most of the rules transfer to the computer well. Each team gets eight turns per half to execute moves with each of their players. A turn ends when you decide that all of your players have taken their actions, or one of your players attempts to do something and fails. It's that last rule that really makes Blood Bowl work because you have to prioritize what you want to accomplish on every turn. If you fail at an action, your turn is over. A missed block, an incomplete pass, or a tripped-up player ends your turn prematurely.
On a turn, you can commit your players to a number of actions with each player having a certain number of spaces they can move. However, if they are adjacent to a player on the other team, moving is much more difficult. Players can block an opposing team member in an adjacent space. Additionally, once per turn, one of your players can blitz -- a block in combination with moving. Your players can also pick up the ball, hand it off, and throw it to each other. The real "charm" of Blood Bowl is not in the scoring of touchdowns, but in the fact that you are encouraged to hurt and kill players on the other team. In fact, once per turn, you can commit a penalty by taking a cheap shot at a player lying on the ground. However, if the ref spots you, your turn is over and the player committing the penalty is ushered off the field.
There are eight teams to choose from, each with a different playing style. The Orc team, Gouged Eye, for instance, is a power team that controls the game through running the football. While skilled passers, they aren't that good at catching. The Dark Elves, the Darkside Cowboys, on the other hand, aren't that strong, but have an excellent aerial attack. Then there's the Halfling team, the Greenfield Grasshuggers, who play for the post-game buffet.
When your players accomplish a significant act, like completing a pass, scoring a touchdown, or killing another player, they get experience. With enough experience, players can improve their natural abilities, or gain special skills like Safe Throw, which means no interceptions, or Sure Hands, which prevents fumbles.
So where does Blood Bowl fail? The computer AI isn't as good as a human player is, and because of this, the game has a tendency to cheat in the computer player's behalf. For instance, in a single game I was called on four of five penalty attempts, while my opponent was called on none of his three. The computer player seems to have incredible strings of luck that defy any reasonable odds. Also, while this is a reasonably good re-creation of the board game, it lacks the addition of the board game's Death Zone expansion set that adds additional teams, creatures, and players, making the league even more interesting. Another problem is that you can only play single seasons -- you can't continue a team through several seasons to explore the available free agent players. By the time you earn enough money to purchase one, the season is pretty much over.
Admittedly, Blood Bowl is a complicated game to learn, taking several games of getting your butt handed to you before starting to understand game dynamics. So if you've never played the board game, Blood Bowl for the PC is a fun, strategic spin on classic American football. If you have played the board game, you'll end up feeling a little hollow after playing because it's not everything it could have been. My recommendation? Get the board game instead.
Graphics: Cartoony, but fun.
Sound: The annoying music is mostly representative, but the best sound is the squish you hear when you splat an enemy player.
Enjoyment: It would be hard for Blood Bowl, even a watered-down version, not to be fun.
Replay Value: Eight teams, with different strengths, makes for plenty of possible seasons.
This computer adaptation of Games Workshop's board game brings a fictitious and violent sport to life. The Champions of Death, The Underworld Creepers and The Elfheim Eagles are among the tough sides contesting single matches or a full league.
In each match you give the orders and watch your players act them out. Pitch invasions and referee bribes are among the features on offer. After successful matches they will receive new powers at random, although the special cards from later versions of the board game are not present here.
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