Reviewed: December 3, 2010
Released: October 28, 2010
If youíve ever been disappointed by fantasy football because it had too much about keeping track of statistics and not enough about ogres breaking the necks of Halfling linemen, or elves throwing long bomb passes over the heads of dwarves, then Blood Bowl is probably the game for you. A translation of Games Workshopís classic miniatures game, which combines football, rugby, and unflinching violence into a single pseudo-sport, Cyanideís Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition finally manages to nearly bring the full experience of the tabletop game to players on the PC.|
In Blood Bowl, players create and manage teams from numerous fantasy races. Cyanideís original attempt kept to a roster of mostly serious teams, with Blood Bowl staples like Humans, Dwarves, Elves and Goblins. Legendary Edition, meanwhile brings in a wide variety of new teams, such as the strong but relatively fragile Norse or the tough, versatile Undead.
Adding to the Goblinsí delightfully dysfunctional side of the roster are teams such as the Halflings, where having the bulk of your players pounded to jelly is to be expected and the best way to score might be to have a tree-man physically throw the ball carrier into the end zone, or the Vampires, who are an excellent high-performance team at every part of the game until half your players drain the blood from the other half or run off the pitch to assault a member of the crowd in a fit of bloodlust, or even the Ogres who have a good chance of simply being too stupid to remember how to play the game. The one conspicuous absence is the Chaos Dwarf team, though Cyanide has mentioned that they might come in a future release.
Itís not uncommon to hear Blood Bowl compared to chess, but thatís only half the story. While Blood Bowl is an intensely strategic game thatís easy to learn but hard to master, a lot of the gameís charm comes in its unpredictability. Blood Bowl is a game of minimizing risk, but even the most careful player might run into the time when their star quarterback trips and dies when running for the end zone, or their werewolf breaks his neck trying to tackle a miniscule snotling. Itís one of the things thatís given the game its charm, and the gameís graphics and animations add to this charm, seeing the field slowly covered in blood as player run into accidental and deliberate mishaps that send them hobbling to the sidelines.
While the heart and soul of Blood Bowl is in exhibition or league matches against the computer or your friends, Legendary Edition adds a story mode that takes players through famous matches in Blood Bowl history, as described in the gameís living rulebook, beginning with the gameís original rediscovery as a ritual in praise of the lost god Nuffle, and stretching to the present day. While the story mode is a good way to teach new players about the various ways to play, with the objectives it provides for each match, experienced players might want to dive right in to the online league, or try out the Blitz mode for the twists to the core gameplay it offers, spicing up the classic elements of Blood Bowl.
When it comes to the online element of Blood Bowl, Cyanide provides support for both private and public leagues and matchmaking within the global community. While players in public leagues can be troublesome, Cyanide has taken steps to penalize disconnections and prevent outright cheating. Still, the best bet is to find a private league or form one with your friends, living out the highs and lows of Blood Bowl as it was meant to be played.
That said, Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition isnít without its faults. While itís a pitch-perfect copy of the board gameís rules, aspects of the presentation leave something to be desired. While the gameís commentators have been given new lines, their lines donít last very long, and by the second or third time you play as a given race, youíll be itching to turn them off. To make it worse, their lines tend to be short skits more about as often as they have anything to do with the play thatís happening on the field.
Additionally, the field positions can sometimes be a pain to read, which makes me wish for a simplified view with static miniatures as an option, in the way that some modern strategy games such as Civilization V are beginning to do. Perhaps the greatest flaw is that while Blood Bowl is based on the gameís sixth revision of the Living Rulebook, it doesnít seem to be anywhere to be found in the game. While itís available for free online, having to decipher all the particulars of how the game is played is an intimidating barrier to entry for new players.
Still, whether youíre looking for turn based strategy or the best violent, dirty sports since Mutant League, you canít go wrong with Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition, which adds enough content to leave the original Blood Bowl video game and the Dark Elves Edition which preceded it. It might not be perfect, but itís a great introduction to a classic game that does its work to bring in new players and satisfy the old.