|Multiplayer:||Yes, locally or via private server|
|AI:||Yes, 3 levels|
|Purchase for iPhone:||None available. Buy an iPad now!|
|Purchase for iPad:||
GD Star RatingBlood Bowl,
Any Games Workshop fan is familiar with Blood Bowl, a miniatures-based sports game that blends American football and Australian rugby with orcs and dwarves. After the settling of a court battle as epic as anything that has ever been seen at the Chaos Cup, French firm Cyanide Studios wound up with the official license and have now brought the game in all it’s bone-crunching glory to the iPad. Will Nuffle smile on the offering?
Set in a world that is based on, but not exactly the Warhammer Fantasy universe, BB pits rival teams against one another in a never-ending quest to be named Blood Bowl champion.
BB, it should be noted, is a fairly complex game, so this overview will only scratch the surface of what lies beneath. At it’s basic level, BB pits 2 head-to-head teams of 11 players against one another. As in American football, you’ll pass and run the ball, trying for a touchdown in the other team’s end zone; at the end of the 16 turns, the most touchdowns wins, but the game doesn’t have quite the structure of a football contest, as players are free to roam about the field and every player can (and frequently will) play every position.
The core of the game lies in skill tests. Dice must be rolled for nearly every action you take – kick-offs, pass attempts, tackles, sprinting for extra squares of movement, even picking up the ball. In the case of a contested skill check (such as a tackle) the relative stats are compared between players, and any modifiers from skills are considered. Based on the difference, the player rolls a certain number of custom D6s, which will result in one player being downed or injured, one player being pushed to an adjacent square, or the players bouncing off one another with varying results.
When a skill check isn’t contested but is just a check, you simply roll a standard D6 and check your required score. Either you succeed and pull off the maneuver, or you fail, which usually results in a Turnover. Each player can move up to their move stat or block (attack) an adjacent player; additionally, once per turn you can Blitz, allowing one player to both move and attack in the same action. Your turn proceeds until you have either moved all your players, or until you fumble badly enough for a Turnover, at which point all remaining actions for your turn are lost and play shifts immediately to the opponent. Though the game is turn based rather than real time, note that you’ll also suffer a Turnover if you take more than 4 minutes on the chess clock to contemplate your turn.
Halftime happens at the completion of the 8th turn; if there’s still a drive going on, it simply ends, and turn 9 begins with the other team receiving possession of the ball. At the end of 16 turns, the team with the most touch downs is the winner – no field goals or point-afters in this game.
Just checking – did we mention that Blood Bowl is a complicated game? While the base gameplay is sort of broadly summarized above, BB is a game of nigh infinite intricate interactions (try saying that five times fast) as modifiers pile upon modifiers. Each player has individual stats, which are in turn modified by their own experience. They also have individual skills – anywhere from 1 to a dozen – that will make it easier for them to do certain things, or harder for their opponents to do certain things to them. And that’s before one even starts to contemplate the various strategies that go into the sport itself.
An interactive tutorial does exist, though it’s rigid pace and tiny text won’t be to everyone’s taste. The tutorial is at least narrated by Bob and Jim, the game’s color commentators, so between their highly accented British English and the tiny text, you should be able to get through – note, however, that Bob and Jim’s color commentary can get a bit repetitive once you start playing. This tutorial does cover the very, very bare bones of the game, well enough to eek out a rudimentary understanding of the basic strategies at play, but even admits in its text that it’s an incomplete survey and the rulebook should be consulted. Said rulebook – all 30 pages of it – is an external link to a PDF, which will require an Internet connection and patience. (It’s also worth noting that multiple users are reporting only getting 1/3 of the rulebook via the app’s own link, a finding we can confirm at press time.)
The physical implementation of BB relies heavily on dice rolls, and the iPad implementation is no exception. Shockingly, the vast majority of these rolls won’t be revealed to the player – the only way you can see what’s happening behind the scenes is by enabling the log in the info window. (NOTE: the info window has a couple of options, and we HIGHLY suggest that new players turn on both Tackle Zones and Positions. The former should help you figure out where the lanes are, while the latter will give you a quick at-a-glance shorthand for the function of each individual player, especially useful when you’re still learning the fundamentals.)
There are, at least, quite a few game modes to sink your teeth into. On the solitaire front, new players should probably start with the Exhibition Mode – a no-stakes single game that serves as a great practice ground to get the hang of the interface. You can also create a Campaign, in which you can start a new team, building it up from scratch in game after game. There is also a Competition mode allowing you to enter a team into a more focused tournament scenario. On the multiplayer front, you can tackle a live opponent either face to face with local pass n play or over the Internet. BB uses its own custom server for matchmaking, and features cross-platform play to really widen the player base. The interface for online multiplay is somewhat obtuse, but it gets the job done.
The initial $5 download gets you humans and orcs as races, and you can choose several prebuilt teams within those races. A total of 23 races exist on the PC version – a mere four of which (dwarves, wood elves, skaven, and “chaos”) can be purchased via $3 apiece IAPs. While we haven’t had any progress-halting crashes, we have noticed a few bugs and quirks in the interface, and would advise to always save the game if you’re leaving the app, as our experience with the game’s ability to remember your location from play session to play session is inconsistent.
BB is almost slavish in its devotion to the analog game, to mixed results. On the plus side, the strict adherence means that anyone already familiar with the game will be right at home, and the game’s background systems take care of an almost shockingly large amount of the upkeep that otherwise goes into a game. On the minus side, the game caters almost exclusively to veterans. The support documentation is minimal and the learning curve is steep. While the rulebook does contain a lot of examples and diagrams, the decision to make it a separate download is an odd one, as the rules have been essentially frozen since 2010. Existing fans will likely be drawn to the portability, ease of setup, and automated record keeping. It remains to be seen if that’s enough of a market to make this game a success.