Publisher: Focus Home Entertainment
Release Date: September 2009
Have you ever wondered what a game of Madden would be like if you replaced Tom Brady with an elf or Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson with a dwarf? Well there's really no need to be curious — just ask someone who's played Blood Bowl. The game, which features characters from the Warhammer universe and has existed as a tabletop game since 1987, is getting the gaming treatment, and football as we know it will never be the same.
The similarities between Blood Bowl and real football begin and end with the fact that two teams composed of 11 players each square off in an attempt to score the most points before time runs out. After this point, the game turns into a turn-based strategy title, where maiming and killing opposing players is just as important as running for a first down or throwing a 20-yard post pass. If this sounds too delightfully strange to pass up, then read on, as you will surely be pleased.
Fans of the tabletop game will be happy to know that the digital version of Blood Bowl takes its league regulations straight out of the fifth edition of the Living Rulebook, so if you're already familiar with how the mechanics work, you should be able to dive right in and start playing. Newcomers will find a steeper learning curve, though, as not only do you have to secure a sponsor and sign up players, but there are many other issues to handle before kickoff, such as hiring cheerleaders to keep the crowd on your side, sliding the ref a little money under the table to look the other way during some of your rougher hits or doling out steroids for members of your team. (You also have the option to have members of the opposing team tested before each match and potentially suspended if they're caught doping)
Also worth noting is that the game is keeping all of the different races intact (Chaos, Dwarves, Goblins, Humans, Lizardmen, Orcs, Skavens and Wood Elves), each with its specific strengths and weaknesses. For example, Wood Elves can run and pass better than any other team, but they can't take a hit to save their lives so if you have a couple of Wood Elves trapped in a combat situation, they'll be injured or dead very, very quickly. Dwarves, on the other hand, are slow and clumsy as they come, but if they incapacitate everyone on the other team thanks to their superior strength, then it's really easy to score points when no one is left standing to stop you. Half the fun of games like this is trying to figure out which team truly fits your play style, and there is no shortage of options here.
Out on the field, there are two different game modes, Classic and Blitz. Classic is the traditional, turn-based version of Blood Bowl, with all the strategy and dice rolls intact. Blitz is the real-time version of things, so even though the dice rolls may still be happening, you'll never see them as you run, pass and block your way to what will hopefully be victory. Both modes can be played in online or offline multiplayer, and those who are looking for a real challenge can sign up for tournaments and leagues and take on the best players from around the world.
It should be interesting to see what kind of a following Blood Bowl garners when it launches on the PC, Xbox 360, PSP and DS. Will fans of the tabletop version shell out the cash for a game they can play online or versus a computer opponent, or will they simply stick with starting an old-fashioned tabletop game like they've been doing for the past 20 years? Also, will the title be accessible and enjoyable enough to draw a substantial number of newcomers into the fold? The unique premise and somewhat wacky presentation may spark some interest, but will the game be too complicated and strange for someone looking for a football game and instead getting what is essentially a turn-based strategy title? Will Blood Bowl score big or turn over the ball on downs? We'll find out later this year about the same time the NFL is kicking off and Madden players are hunkered down for yet another season.
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