I fantasize of a different kind of football.
When I first booted up Blood Bowl II, I was actually really excited to see what this game had to offer. I had never played the previous games or even the board game before, but with some knowledge of the Warhammer universe, and being quite the Dungeons and Dragons player, I was ready to try out this fantasy football game. Well, after seeing the “true” Blood Bowl experience, I was left frustrated, bored, and completely done with the game.
Derived from the board game of the same name, Blood Bowl II has players controlling characters on a board (football field) and moving them around in table top fashion. Much like American football, the goal of each team is to score touchdowns by obtaining the ball and running it into the opponent’s end zone. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, let’s get into the nitty gritty of the mechanics.
Platforms: PC, XB1, PS4
Price I’d pay: $20 if that
Tutorial lied to me.
The campaign mode serves as a tutorial while playing through a story mode of sorts featuring two actually funny commentators as they talk about the human team and their new coach, which happens to be me. The first few games go over basic rules, how to block, pass, injuries, abilities, etc. During these games, I was having a fun time. Sure, I would mess up every once in a while and do a move that knocked my player down or fumble the ball, but I was able to compensate for it with my other players I hadn’t moved yet. Then I get to a point in the campaign where the game introduces the real rules for Blood Bowl. That rule being a failed roll results in a turnover. Not the kind of turnover one would expect from standard football, but a turnover meaning my turn is now over if I fail a roll. I then realized how many times I actually failed rolls in previous games and was able to keep moving characters. Yeah, this is going to be difficult.
Much like a board or table top game, everything has a dice roll associated with it. If I want to tackle or block a lineman, I need to roll for it, if I want my catcher with the ball to run farther than normal, I need to roll to see if he can make it. Even picking up the ball off the ground has a roll associated with it. Nothing is a given. That is very important because if a roll fails, the player’s turn is automatically over. There are 16 turns in a game. 8 turns in each half. During a turn, players each get to move their teammates on the field, attack the other players, move the ball, and all other moves. If I were to fail one single roll, it results in a turnover and it is now my opponent’s turn. I have 11 men on the field. I can easily fail the roll with my first move and then lose my turn, but it’s not that bad if it doesn’t happen every time right? Well, that’s what I said until I actually played games with other people. Oh, it does.
Mess with them it’s like rolling the dice.
The game revolves around skills, probabilities, and random dice rolls. Each team and individual characters have stats that affect the field and rolls. If a ball carrier is surrounded by three linemen on the other team, he will have a hard time trying to get away from them due the each player having an attack of opportunity when the ball carrier moves. On the other side, the three linemen will have a greater chance of success for a tackle because more players surrounding an attacker will result in an assist that allows more dice to be rolled. This would be fine if the rolls and the probability weren’t so lopsided and even if they were, the blow would be so bad if a failed roll didn’t result in a turnover. On top of that, there a many dice rolls that aren’t even shown. They happen off screen and are not controlled in any way. Running extra yardage, dodging attacks of opportunity, and many others are all done behind the scenes with only a percentage chance to go by.
I decided to try out a versus game online. I am not lying when I say that both my opponent and I failed all our rolls in each turn, 16 turns passed by, and the game ended 0-0. It lasted about 10 minutes. Three of those turnovers on my team were my catcher actually trying to pick up the ball off the ground. There is a 67% chance my catcher will pick up the ball and a 33% chance he will drop the ball. Three times in a row, I tried picking up the ball and failed each time. That’s three turns I lost immediately. At the same time, my opponent was equally having a hard time with succeeding rolls. We both failed most of them resulting in a fast, boring, and frustrating match where nothing was accomplished. After that match, I went back to solo play and experienced the same results. That’s when I decided to turn the game off.
There’s a lot here in Blood Bowl II. There are eight playable races each with unique abilities, stats, and special units that offer different strategies and play styles. The number crunching for the hardcore RPG players is all here, and the full customizations of teams, leagues, and rosters really add a lot to the game. The extensive online leagues that are offered are very impressive for those that want to get deep into it. This is all well and good, but when the main game itself is halfway broken the way it is, there’s not many people outside of the hardcore fan-base that will experience much of it.
Blood Bowl II’s concept was like it was tailor-made for me. American football mixed with a fantasy setting using D&D dice rolls for actions? That sounds like a geek dream come true for me, but unfortunately, implementation mixed with probability that may have my advantages in mind, but untimely work out to my disadvantage makes for a game that is both frustrating and unfortunate for me. There are those out there that will really love this game, but for the casual and even some hardcore RPG fans, this can quickly become a mess.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.