Despite what one might typically think, football has a lot in common with tabletop games. People who love stats will be ecstatic to know what a quarterback’s passer rating is, and plays are often drawn up in ways that forces the coaches to use their imagination. In the same way, people who play tabletop games such as Warhammer keep track of each unit’s statistics, and have to come up with strategies to beat the opposition.
So when both football and tabletop games are blended into one, it makes a great deal of sense. Both come together in developer Cyanide’s Blood Bowl 2, a video game adaptation of Game Workshop’s popular tabletop game that is set in the Warhammer universe. It may seem odd, but it probably seemed strange to combine peanut butter and jelly at first, too. And thankfully, the end result in Blood Bowl 2 is just as tasty.
The rules are quite similar to actual football, as players will be attempting to drive the pigskin into the end zone for a touchdown. There are also similar positions, such as a quarterback, wide receivers and linemen. The main way that Blood Bowl 2 differs from something like Madden is that the game is turn-based. This means the offense will take a turn, do all of its moves, and then the defense will then act accordingly.
The turn-based structure turns the sports genre on its head, as fast reflexes are no longer a recipe for success. Instead, the player with the most strategy will always come out on top. You’ll have to choose your moves carefully, though, as one failed maneuver (which is determined by a roll of dice) will end the turn.
Every single play done in Blood Bowl 2 will have a success rate attached to it. From simple maneuvers such as picking up the ball, to more complex ones such as dodging tackles. Each positions’ stats will play a large factor in this, so you don’t want to pass the ball to the hulking ogre that is your linemen. Making smart decisions first, and saving riskier ones for later in your turn will allow players to do the most in one sitting.
The core gameplay is very complex, and you’ll have to learn the strengths of every class (Humans, Elves, Dwarves, etc.) that’s in the game. In fact, if you run straight into an online match you’ll be awfully confused. Thankfully, Blood Bowl 2 has an excellent campaign mode that serves as a tutorial. By introducing gameplay mechanics slowly, and adding to them in each subsequent game, Blood Bowl 2 manages to teach new players how to play a very complex game.
Even more depth is shown off in the League mode, that allows you to create your own team and take them on the field to battle the best that Warhammer has to offer. Players will earn coins in-game that can then be used to purchase items that will help give them an edge on the gridiron. These range from the ability to re-roll (and potentially save a turn) to healers that will help keep players healthy.
While the gameplay is as serious as it gets, Blood Bowl 2 features some hilarious commentary. Unlike most sports games that try their hardest to sound professional, Blood Bowl 2 matches are announced by an odd pairing of a vampire and an Orc that’s a former player. Both will crack wise constantly during games, and it’s surprisingly witty. The commentary ends up doing a great job of keeping you laughing even at the most tense of times.
Once you learn all of the systems in Blood Bowl 2, you’ll likely want to test your luck against other human players. Blood Bowl 2 features online leagues, with a full blown ladder system, and has a pretty active user base. That said, players might want to find friends that also picked up the game since matches are pretty lengthy. It isn’t uncommon for a 10-turn match to take close to an hour. It can get pretty boring, too, if you can’t converse with your opponent.
The length and turn-based nature of the product may be off-putting to some, but the game can’t be critiqued for those points. In fact, there isn’t all that much wrong with Blood Bowl 2, although it’s certainly an acquired taste. The biggest flaw would be in its graphical presentation, as the in-game models are far from pretty when viewed up close. But even that is a minor quibble when the player spends most of the time viewing players from a top-down position.
Overall, Cyanide has done a fantastic job in adapting a difficult to learn tabletop game into a digital format. The campaign is masterfully crafted, and allows rookies to learn a lot of systems in a short amount of time. While the long matches may limit the appeal of Blood Bowl 2, those who stick around will be in for a real treat.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version, which we were provided with for review.
Blood Bowl 2 will require patience to learn its ins and outs, but thankfully it has a great way to teach you the ropes throughout its campaign.