For those of you unfamiliar with the first Blood Bowl videogame or the Games Workshop miniatures it’s based on, Blood Bowl is a fantasy version of Grid-Iron portrayed in the form of a turn based strategy game. Blood Bowl 2 is a faithful representation of the property it’s based on, but how does it stand up as a game?
In Blood Bowl 2 you need to effectively mix offence and defence, as well as manage a distinct lack of throwing ability, to score touchdowns and win the game. There is an emphasis on strategy, such as positioning players so that your opponent is forced into an attempt to dodge as they go past or creating a line of players to support each other in defence. The other key part of Blood Bowl 2 is violence. Not only can you push opposition players back or knock them down, you can completely knock them out and sometimes kill them, leaving them with a man down for the rest of the game. The focus on strategy leads to a game of push and pull as you balance making plays and trying to protect your players.
Blood Bowl 2’s campaign has you follow the Riekland Reavers as you take control of the team after enduring the longest losing streak in your history. The story is portrayed through pre-game shows where the match commentators discuss what is happening in the world of Blood Bowl and your team specifically. The writing during these pre-game shows is humorous and well written, and is one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. This extends to the in-match commentary as well, although there can be a fair amount of repetition after you’ve played for a while.
The campaign also serves as the games tutorial mode, with each subsequent match in the story introducing a new mechanic to the gameplay and new team races. Mechanics aren’t always super well explained, leading you to need to feel your way through the game more than necessary. While too much information at once can be overwhelming, the slow drip feed on information given here can be frustrating. Especially when you take into consideration that each match easily takes upwards of 30 minutes due to the slow and strategic nature of the turns.
In fact, the match lengths can be one of the most frustrating aspects of the game. The board game can take a while to play as well, but the difference there is that you also have a friend or opponent to talk to and heckle as you play, as opposed to staring at a screen. The worst feeling in the game is having a campaign match end in a draw and then have to play the entire match again from the start. Multiplayer matches run into a similar problem, easily taking upwards of an hour to complete. Blood Bowl 2 is not a game that you play without making sure you’ve blocked a decent length of time aside for it.
The variety of players and races in Blood Bowl 2 is vast, which is expected from a game set in the Warhammer universe. Ranging from swift moving elves to slow, but strong, dwarves, each race has its own distinct strengths and weaknesses. This leads to matches playing out in different ways depending on which race you are playing and playing against. Because of this, matches continue to feel fresh for quite some time.
While player models themselves look quite nice, the rest of Blood Bowl 2 can be quite rough to watch at times. Spectators in the stands are quite sparse, and their animations are so jerky that it almost looks like they’re missing joints. However, the worst animations in the game are shown whenever a touchdown is scored and the cheerleaders come onto the screen. When the cheerleaders appear you’re graced with either a full shot of the troupe, which consists of the same cheerleader model copied and pasted a few times, or a zoomed in shot of them from behind before zooming out to show their jerky animation. I’m not sure who that particular zoomed shot is meant to appeal to, but it’s out of place, poorly rendered, and felt pretty sleazy.
All in all, Blood Bowl 2 is an incredibly faithful adaption of the miniatures game, and is also a very competent game in its own right. It’s somewhat rough around the edges graphically, but not enough to detract from the overall experience. Games of Blood Bowl 2 are slow, methodical and violent, and if that sounds appealing then you should definitely pick up the game.
Variety of races
Strategy feels important
Drawn out tutorial