Friday, May 13, 2011

Blood Bowl: The Most Dangerous Game

With an average of two long term injuries and one death per match, Blood Bowl is a sport that would make even the hardest rugby or American football player squirm a little.  This game has been passing through the large group of people who surround our house (there are 8 of us to start with, plus visitors) and everyone has been getting thoroughly addicted.

The video game is based upon a board game produced by Games Workshop based on a sport.  It is set (presumably) within the Warhammer universe, because putting it in the 40k universe would be a truly horrific sight.  Warhammer is a bit friendlier, a lot more playful, and is twisted instead of dark.  The game is essentially, a game of American football played with teams made up of the various races in the Warhammer series.  You have elves, humans, skaven, undead, dwarves, halflings, orcs, and all sorts (if you have the Legendary edition, there’s something like 20 races to choose from).  Each have strengths and weaknesses, for example the orcs’ strength is, well, strength, and the skavens’ weakness is, well, weakness.  Some are better at running, some at hitting, some at being generalists.  And goblins are just dodgy little cheaters.  It is, as the name suggests, incredibly violent.  Fouls are standard practice.  Death is not a rare occurrence. In fact, slaughtering the other team until there are only a few players left is one of the more effective strategies.  Bribes, mercenaries, spells, and steroids are offered to you in a menu before the game begins.  It is not a nice, friendly game of cricket.

I play it turn-based, similar to the board game, but there is a real-time mode that I have yet to try.  Considering how much my laptop lags while playing it, I suspect it would not go so well for me.  It’s not an overly high-spec game, but my laptop is terrible and so the result is only so-so.  The graphics are good, even on the lowest setting.  Each race looks really cool and individual, and the graphics during gameplay are smooth and helpful (green squares showing how far you can move, for example).

One of the highlights of the game is the commentators.  The two of them chat away about the glorious and gruesome sights they have seen in the game of Blood Bowl and add a bit of character and background to the whole experience.  Suddenly you feel like you’re not just playing a board game made video game, you’re participating in a ruthless sport.

The game manual isn’t overly helpful, and there are a number of mechanics which, particularly without the Legendary Edition, you simply don’t understand.  But once you come to grasp the meaning of each part of the game, it becomes even more enjoyable.  There is definitely a learning curve though.  The last game I played the opposing team did something I didn’t think was possible, and I’ll have to investigate that.  Then again, I didn’t play the tutorial, so maybe that would have helped...

Overall, Blood Bowl is an excellent game for those with a sense of humour and some time to kill.  There is definitely months of gameplay possible in this, not least of which because certain elements of the game, such as seasonal contracts, only matter if you play for a long time.  Oh, and you need to be willing to play dirty.  Very, very dirty.

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