Available on: PC
If you’re looking for a new spin on a football game, allow me to turn your attention to a game you might not have tried: a turn-based strategy football hybrid called Blood Bowl.
With teams made up of brutal orcs, the undead, amazon warriors, and more, the humor and emphasis on exaggerated violence bleed through every detail. Each player on the team has different stats, determining things like how far they can run, how well they can catch, and how strong they are. While you want to use your players for what they do best, you’ll often find yourself in a pinch, sweating whether or not you want the clumsy sod you have close to the ball to try and pick it up or guard it until your next turn. You can also influence the game in creative ways. For instance, you have cash that you can use to bribe the ref or hire cheerleaders to win the favor of the crowd, which offers in-game benefits.
Blood Bowl is interesting because it allows you to break a football game down into individual parts and coordinating players one at a time instead of having everything happen in a few chaotic seconds. While there is a set number of starting positions, you can move each individual player to specific locations, so long as there’s a path on the field within the number of spaces they can move. On your turn, you’ll want to knockout or knock away opponents to clear a path for your own players. You need to think several moves ahead as to where you want receivers, blockers, and interceptors. If you’ve ever looked at the playbook of a normal football game and wished you could move players to places of your choosing, this feature will really click.
When a player runs beside an opposing player without stopping to attack, the opposing player will automatically get to attack. If the attack is successful, your turn ends. Thus, moving players in safer positions first becomes a necessary strategy, as does risk assessment since one lucky hit means your turn ends. There are no downs. Your turn doesn’t end until you move all of your players or if your opponent successfully counterattacks. You have around three and a half minutes in a turn, but I always finished my turn before time ran out.
Because bad luck means your turn could end at nearly any time, you must be willing to abandon a failed strategy in a moment in order to adapt to whatever happens during your opponent’s turn. This uncertainty helps keep the tension up during your opponent’s turn, whether the computer or a friend online controls them.
The unpolished parts of the game are unfortunately mostly at the beginning, which may sour a lot of new players. Because of the level of details you can control, the gameplay may seem slow. Blood Bowl offers too many variables during each turn to keep your adrenaline pumping throughout. The excitement is more of a steady build, the only heart-pounding moments coming from waiting to see if the odds will be in your favor when you’re attacking, defending, or watching your meticulous plan come together. Your opponent’s turn can feel too long if you want to get into the action. Fortunately, the + and – keys on the keypad speed up and slow down the game, decreasing the time until your next turn.
And because the tutorial is poorly structured, you’ll need to read the instructions to get the most out of the game, slowing you down further before you can really bite into it. But once you get into the rhythm Blood Bowl creates, these nitpicks become less troublesome. It’s easy to find yourself learning from past mistakes and itching to give it another try.
If you’re looking for something more akin to Blitz: The League or the classic Mutant League Football, you will probably be disappointed. But if you want the power to control every part of a football team and clobber your opponents with an unexpected blindside, Blood Bowl will strike your fancy. It’s plenty of light-hearted fun mixed with deep strategy that rewards planning and adaptability.