Rolling the Dice on the Gridiron
Cyanide Studios’s Blood Bowl 2 is the result of combining two contrasting concepts – American football and the savagely brutal world of Warhammer Fantasy tabletop games. That concept isn’t the only thing that makes this game stand out. Tabletop turn-based strategy football is an even more peculiar melding of ideas. Idealistically this game can be described as genuinely genius, but this doesn’t mean that this game is free of flaws.
If you’ve ever watched American football on any level, this game will already have a sense of familiarity with you (coin toss, kick off, the end zone, etc.). In spite of the familiarity that you may feel with the presence of the uprights, there are a myriad of aspects that may befuddle you. For example, instead of plays and the use of formations like the Power I and the Wishbone, you play directly from the kickoff alone. There aren’t traditional positions either, instead it’s the same players on both side, and they are relegated to positions like “thrower”, “catcher”, and “blitzer” as opposed to being a quarterback, wide receiver, and linebacker. There are also specific positions for all teams, many of which are race variations such as Ogres and Minotaurs. This provides more diversity to the teams, both visually and strategically. This is a welcome addition as diversifying the teams prevents the game from becoming monotonous but it comes at the cost of having unbalanced teams.
There are a plethora of gameplay concepts that are essential in understanding how Blood Bowl 2 works. After the coin toss, you set up your team to either receive or kick the ball away. Once the ball is kicked, the receiving team’s first of 16 turns is initiated. From that point that team is immediately faced with balancing between preventing the opposition from moving and protecting the ball carrier. Once the turn is over then it’s the defense’s turn to stop the offense, so on and so forth. There are limits so that not every play is a touchdown, this can be frustrating at times but necessary in most cases. These include restrictions such as one pass per play, one blitz per play, and limiting how far a player can move, distances that are decreased even more so after being knocked down. If you are standing next to a player, you can make an attempt to “block” them. The action is determined by the roll of a virtual D6 die, which is a nice touch. The possible options include pushing, knocking down your opponent, making your opponent stumble, getting knocked down yourself, and both players getting knocked down. If you are knocked down during your turn, then it’s a turnover. This is not a possession turnover, but instead the message that your turn is over. The other way to be knocked down is if you try to run into an opponent’s “tackle zone.” The tackle zone is all spaces directly next to a player. The more tackle zone’s you go through, the higher the chances are that they’ll knock you down. This makes you weigh out risk versus reward, but at times feels excessive. For instance, in an open field there’s a 66% chance to pick up a ball. once you pick up the ball you’re allowed to throw it, but depending on length the percentage can vary from 33% to 66% for both the throw and the reception itself. You also get a turnover if you lose possession of the ball. The game offers you rerolls, if you purchase them with in-game currency, but this doesn’t guarantee that it will be a favorable outcome. Another item that you can purchase is the apothecary card. This allows you to heal a player if they are injured, which can occur if the player is knocked down. Other items available are Assistant coaches, cheerleaders, and even fan factor.
One of the most enjoyable portions of Blood Bowl 2 is the campaign, which is accompanied by insight from the commentator duo of an ogre and a vampire. These characters are well written with a clear sense of personality as characters rather than just some humdrum commentary, but you are bound to hear some repeated lines every time you play. The campaign works as a way of being both a gameplay mode as well as teaching you the ropes. In the campaign you are given challenges, ranging from something as basic as winning the game to injuring five players on the opposing side. The result of completing said challenges comes by way of the in-game currency. Often times these will become required to continue, and may cause you to restart the games and hope it falls in your favor. Seeing on how there’s no adjustable difficulty and games can last to around the one hour mark, this is a crucial issue. AI turns alone can last anywhere from two to eight minutes alone.
Blood Bowl 2’s multiplayer is extremely customizable allowing you to create leagues with up to 128 teams, and curating how regular season and playoffs will transpire. You even have control to choose your team’s race, players, logo, name, motto, stadium name, and color scheme. Be wary as injuries and deaths are possible, so you are certainly prone to losing and having to sign new players.
The Verdict 6 out of 10
Blood Bowl 2 is an enjoyable game with tons of personality, but it doesn’t feel it’s worth the price of admission ($50). It’s certainly not for everyone, but it offers an interesting experience that tabletop gamers and strategy game fans will appreciate.
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