Blood Bowl is back for a third helping of fantasy football in 2022 and I’ve given the game a go on PC to see what all the fuss is about.
First things first, let’s put my idiocy front and centre, and then we can get on with it. I took on this preview based on my diary on the day of the online preview event having a free spot. That space was probably going to be nap time anyway, so I thought I’d use it for something useful and sit in on the presentation put together by publisher NACON and developer Cyanide Studios.
My understanding of Bloodbowl was that it was a sports game set within the Warhammer universe – a universe I’m vaguely familiar with as I’ve played the awesome Vermintide games. My thinking was that it’s basically a blend of American football and rugby, with the twist being that you can knock seven shades of shit out of your opponents who could be orcs, elves or any number of creatures from the Warhammer casting sheet.
I was kind of right, and that was purely going off the trailers I’ve seen. When I got into the preview version of the game – which I played on PC – I was soon left feeling very, very foolish. Stupid, actually. See, to look at the trailers I thought that the games played out like Madden – real-time action. They don’t. They’re turn-based board games – the complete opposite of what I believe sports is about. For me, sports is about skill, technical ability, and giving the nerds playing Yu-Gi-Oh in the school cafeteria a hard time. Yes, I was a football player in school (the real football, obviously) and I was also a bit of a dickhead to the nerdy kids. Back then the battle lines were clearly drawn, but now I learn that the nerds also want to play sports, but on their own terms, which means sitting at a table with clicky pens tucked into their shirt pockets, notepads for tracking their moves, and a rulebook fatter than my mum’s ankles. Great.
Still, a job is a job and I’ll try anything once. So I got into the game and tried my best to understand it. After a handful of completed matches, I still don’t fully understand it, but I think I have a grasp of the basics. If you’re reading this then you’re probably a fan of the series with a much better understanding of the game’s rules, procedures, and so on. If you’ve come into this preview wanting to know more about a series that you’re clueless about (I should be you…) then I’ll try to sum it up concisely.
Bloodbowl 3 is a turn-based sports game set in the Warhammer universe. Orcs, elves, and other magical creatures play a twisted version of American football. You start each match by setting your players up on the pitch which is set out as a grid. Much like real American football – which I’m not all that familiar with, as a Brit – you need to organise your defenders and your attackers before ending your turn. Then a minging little gremlin fella will flip a coin to decide who kicks off, and that’s the start of the game.
The ball gets hoofed by one team towards the other team’s end zone. The goal is to get that ball to the edge of the other team’s side of the pitch to score a touchdown. Full disclaimer: I never actually managed to score a touchdown, but I know how to do it because the A.I did it against me plenty of times…
You move your players around when it’s your turn and you dictate what actions they will take. However, you’re at the mercy of lady luck, because with each action comes a die-roll that can help or hinder, and most of the time you have the choice of rolling again or accepting what has already been rolled.
Each rolled number has an effect and I imagine that if you’re a returning player, you’ll know these by heart. If you’re not, you’ll spend your time staring at the bottom left corner trying to decipher what each roll means. I should also point out that the preview build I played did not have any kind of tutorial to teach new players. There was a big button marked “Learn to Play” that sent me to the game’s website where 16 videos showed the basics, but they were really not much fun to watch so I made do with scrambling through by sheer will.
I don’t really have much to say about the game one way or another. I can see why some would like it but I can also understand why some would loathe it. It’s sports, but not as I know it, and the fact the ball can be left lying on the ground while players are being moved around just gets on my nerves – it would never happen in real sports! Why are the orcs running around battering me guys instead of picking up the ball and running towards my touchdown area? I don’t know. What I do know is that I will 100% not be the guy reviewing this when it releases in 2022.
Disclaimer: This preview was carried out using a code for the game provided by the publisher.