Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition - the Dice Hate Me
Blood Bowl is possibly one of the greatest ideas for a tabletop and/or video game ever. You take the races from the Warhammer fantasy universe and pit them against each other in a brutal game of pseudo football. Orks kicking the crud out of Elves, what's there not to love?
I'd known about the game for a few years, but never really developed an interest in playing it until recently. I've always had a passing interest in Games Workshop's products, but I never wanted to fork out the ridiculous cash they ask you to pay to get into any of their tabletop games.
Thankfully, there is a (few) video game version(s) of the Blood Bowl IP. A few of my friends expressed interest in it, so, when it went on sale a few months ago, we picked it up.
Initially, I was super excited for the game. It seems to do a good job of recreating a tabletop experience with its mechanics revolving around virtual dice pools and rolls. Unfortunately, the execution fell a bit short and, well, you'll see:
The sound in Blood Bowl is passable. I really feel like there is nothing special that stands out in a positive way. The various sound effects do what they need to do and nothing more. The music that was present in the game never stood out to me. It was okay.
There is one area in sound where the game really falls flat: commentary.
Everyone knows that sports games need commentary. Even though I haven't touched a Madden game since Bush's first term, those games had commentary that did a good job at lasting for a while without getting too repetitive. I'm assuming that they've even improved on it since then.
Blood Bowl has two commentators, Jim and Bob, a vampire and an ogre. When you first start playing the game, they entertain you with their jokes and observations. Then they repeat them over and over. By the time you've played your third match, unless you collect broken records, you're going to turn off the commentators.
The graphics in Blood Bowl themselves are, for the most part, on par with what you should expect from a game which originally came out in 2009. There are some really awesome designs for the character races and stadiums, but said stadiums are filled with the same repeating crowd models that just make that aspect of the game feel half-assed.
Here comes the heartache. As excited as I was originally for the game to recreate a tabletop feel, it was ultimately the dice mechanics that made me not click with this game.
In real life, when you play a tabletop game, you yourself get to roll the dice. You build a bond with your favorite set and you generally can trust one that you feel has gotten you more crits than other sets.
In Blood Bowl, the dice are rolled virtually. These should end up with the same results, but there are times where a game will give one or both teams rolls that deviate from what they should be averaging.
Sometimes, you get bad rolls in real life. You just happen to have an off day. However, there is a sense of control that comes with rolling your own dice. In the game, this is removed and it just sometimes feels unfair when your opponent is rolling extremely high and you are rolling extremely low. When the tables are flipped, it feels like you're cheating.
This lack of agency with the dice rolls feels especially bad when your players die. I mostly played teams with lower armor values which translated to tons of injuries and deaths. After each game, I'd have at least one player dead, sometimes two or three.
When you're a low armor team and you play against a high armor and/or high strength team, you're going to lose players. This is a truth you deal with. It becomes especially harsh when you lose players early on in the game, more or less making the victor clear before the first half.
Due to the ongoing League multiplayer nature of Blood Bowl, continuing with a team that's lost multiple players due to deaths and serious injury, you're basically forced to scrap teams that have particularly bad games. There's no limit to how many you can make, but this still becomes tedious and spirit breaking after a while.
On the subject of multiplayer, when playing Blood Bowl, my friends and I had a handful of disconnects that were the fault of the game. In addition to that, setting up an online game in the first place is kind of a pain in the butt, especially when you first start playing and aren't familiar with the clunky menu system.
My last complaint is about the game's complexity. Now, don't get me wrong, I actually really like the complexity of the game and it actually makes me still want to try the tabletop game, but I feel that the tutorial the game gives you is inadequate in properly acquainting you with the game.
If more editions of Blood Bowl come out, I hope that they further develop the tutorial system and maybe teach the player a thing or two about strategy.
There are more issues I have with Blood Bowl's inherent randomness that I could harp on for a while, but for the sake of brevity, I'll leave it at this: at least in the initial stages of building a team, the majority of the game is luck based. With enough bad rolls, even the most optimized team can lose in Blood Bowl.
I was severely disappointed with my experience in Blood Bowl. I did manage to have some fun playing with my friends, but ultimately, the dice were unforgiving and ruined my experience.
If you're interested in playing it, do your research and/or pick it up when it's on sale. It seems like it would be a solid game in the hands of some people, but I just couldn't get into it personally.
For Blood Bowl making me watch my handsome Elves and beautiful Amazons die over and over while assaulting my ears with horrible commentary tracks, I give this game a 5/10.