Back in the time before, when I spent my days battling all sorts of venomous spiders, snakes, kangaroos and sheep in my beloved homeland while simultaneously living solely on beer and lamb and daily risking spontaneous combustion as the glaring daystar beat down upon me with its baleful rays, I played a little footballish game with some of my university pals. We played seasons, leagues, and teams entered in to the mists of legend. The Bifrost Guardians. The Nuclear Postmen. The Dregs. Players carved their names in history. Teapot Rutherford III. Little Timmy Witherspoon. Bityer Bleck. I could go on… but the point is?
Blood Bowl is Back.
Cracking open the box we find a bunch of stuff packed in such a manner that, frankly, without a diagram I couldn’t make it all fit again. It’s a thin box, which means you won’t be able to store your assembled models in it with the board and stuff, sadly. Mind you, you should be putting your painted models in KR Multicase foam anyway. #BlatantSponsorPlug
The rulebook is pretty much everything you’d want it to be, with the glaring omission of rules for teams other than the humans and orcs that come in the main box. [Edit: We have teams! Linky!] Some of these rules are available in the Death Zone Season 1 supplement (which we’ll get to in a minute), but with the main box designed to teach you how to play the game (as opposed to those pesky leagues and seasons and all the things that made the game so damn enduring and popular), the rulebook has everything you need to know to master the core came itself.
Blood Bowl Boot Camp leads you through the updated mechanics of the game, from passing and blocking to dodging, going for it,and of course, sinking the boot into a prone player while the referee is looking the other way. Old variable elements like the weather remain as well.
The book has plenty of evocative full-colour art (and a few black and white pieces), and culminates with an assembly guide for your models and a fairly detailed painting guide, with separate sections for different components of the models… even socks.
The dugouts are larger than previous iterations, so less concern about cramming your entire team into one little box. While the orc dugout is nicely thematic, I think I like prefer the more traditional look of the human dugout.
Also included are two handy reference sheets – one for each player – with all the basics, from the agility table to a chart showing block dice results, the kick-off and injury table and most common skills, to summaries of movement rules, how to throw the ball, sequence of play and of course, how to win the match. I hear that’s a thing.
Moving on to the board, itself, it’s double sided for your pleasure. One side is decidedly orcish, while the other is more traditional (he said, fully aware that he used to play on a grey styrofoam board back in the day).
One last pic before we get to the sprues: Transfers, bases, dice (including 16-sided), stat cards for the teams and star players, and special plays.Product quality is very solid, but then I’d expect no less if GW wants BB MkWhateveritis to succeed.
The template sprue is needlessly ornamental, though of course for many that’s a large part of its charm. I boggled a little that the throwing template is in two parts. The lacing on the footballs is a handy reminder of the difficulty level of the throw.
Humans are blue. Maybe they’re just depressed about their life expectancy against orcs. The sprues are well laid out, with the components for each model in immediate proximity to each other – for example, the bottom right corner of the left sprue has the body, front torso and head of a lineman all next to each other. Any spare spare is filled, as GW is wont to do, with extras. In this case you’ll end up with 6 balls, 4 of which have pegs to slot into model bases, two of the blue fists, and two circular markers to tracking score, etc.
Detail on the models is clean and crisp, with component joints hidden neatly, and suitable clear spots left to paint team nuumbers (or use the provided transfers, of course). I clipped the components off the sprues but otherwise did no cleanup on these models.
Like the human sprue, the orc sprue has components together for ease of assembly. The orc sprues do include more fists and round markers, and you’ll end up with 6 green balls. You may or may not want to see a Painboy.
Mean, green, and writes letters home to his muvver on a regular basis. Also loves kittens.
Now, that’s the last of the component pics from the main box, so let’s move on to the supplement that also released this past weekend…
Death Zone Season One is the first expansion for Blood Bowl, and while it’s pretty much critical if you’re going to make the most of your Blood Bowl experience, I’ll confess I found it a little underwhelming. The book provides the rules for 7 more teams – Skaven, Nurgle, Dwarf, and four – FOUR – different elven teams. Still absent are Chaos teams of any other variety, including just plain straightforward Chaos, any Undead teams, Goblins, Halflings, Lizardmen, Goblins… Here’s hoping Season Two isn’t far away, I’d love to be able to put those Greebo Renaissance Skeletons to good use. [Edit: Again, Linky!]
The book is pretty much text all the way. Very little in the way of illustration. Each race is given a biography, teams of renown, player and team profiles – a lot of fluff, which as a fluffy guy I do welcome – and, of course, the chart for building your own team
After you get through the teams, full League rules take up the remained of the supplement. How to start a league, drafting, casualties, star player points, the full post match sequence. *THIS* is what makes Blood Bowl special. Every game you play has consequences. Do well, and your players improve and the team purse increases with it. Do poorly, and your players start accruing injuries that impact their ability to perform. Games in a Blood Bowl league *matter*. This is what made Blood Bowl a success, and the same can be said for Necromunda and Mordheim. Yes, the mechanics are solid, the models a great (and you don’t even need a lot of them compared to most miniature games), but you have an active reason to be invested in the success or failure of your team. There’s a reason I can still remember the names of individual team players from games I played over two decades ago.
If you’re looking to get into Blood Bowl, I cannot stress enough the significance of getting a league rolling.
Ahem. (*steps off of soapbox*)
Expanded skills, coaching staff, exhibition play, and more. Just do it.
Full rosters for the Bright Crusaders and the Orcland Raiders appear as we push towards the end, along with a reference guide and a team roster for you to photocopy. If there is one physical thing notably absent from this boxed set and book, it’s a pad of roster sheets. [Edit: PDF available here – Linky!]
All in all it’s a beautiful looking new set of a game I’ve loved for a looooong time, and just for good measure Death Zone also has some pretty pics in the inside covers…
Yes, including pretty Skaven. We’ll look at them tomorrow…