Review: Blood Bowl 2
Blood Bowl 2 poses a question that initially piqued my interest: What if a football game took place on a grid-based tactics board? It’s the type of mashup that I approach with open arms, eager to see what weird concoction comes from blending two disparate ideas. I hadn’t played the original Blood Bowl, so I was coming at the sequel without much context, another method with which I love to approach media. My first impressions were a bit mixed, but mostly positive. Aside from the tiny text that’s nearly unreadable from my couch and the lengthy loading times, the production values are fantastic. The game looks and sounds polished as hell. Right from the start, I could tell that this is a game with some serious depth. Unfortunately, it only took a few matches for me to find myself shying away from booting up Blood Bowl 2 anymore.
The entire game takes place on an other-worldly SportsCenter show headed by two dry, somewhat humorous color commentators, Bob and Jim. The first is a former Blood Bowl player; a hulking ogre with a hankering for action and a first-hand knowledge of the sport. The other is a witty vampire who tends to focus on the more strategic side of things, such as business partners, owners, etc. The show airs on Cabal Vision HD. The game hits its satirical mark for sure. The pre- and post-game analyses, the in-game commentating, and more are all accurate representations of real sports commentating. This accuracy leads to a decent amount of immersion – the player certainly feels like they’re playing a full-fledged sport. After a few games, it’s the playing that really got to me.
I love board games. I play a wide variety of them on a regular basis, and the myriad mechanics, experiences, etc. offered as of late are enlightening, to say the least. One mechanic I tend to find lazy and lacking is dice rolling. I understand the nearly integral roll that probability plays in most games, digital and analogue, but there’s something about rolling dice that doesn’t feel game-y to me. When I make a meaningful choice in a game, I don’t want the risk/reward of the choice to be left up to chance. Attacking an enemy with a 90% hit chance and missing in a tactics RPG always felt cheap to me. In Blood Bowl 2, there is a ton of dice rolling and probability checks. When I was first learning the game, I was okay with rolling dice to tackle opposing players. I was fine with there being a probability check for passing the ball. I was shocked, however, to see that even picking up the ball has a success rate attached to it (around 60-70%). Not only does throwing the ball have a chance of failure, but catching it does to boot. Anytime your player moves from, to, or through a square adjacent to an opposing player, there’s a chance that your player will get tripped and fall on the ground. The next turn, you have to spend that player’s action getting up. There is an agility stat and a strength stat for each player that determines whether or not he’ll succeed, but I also felt like it would be fine if one or two things didn’t rely on rolling.
There are 11 players on a team, and each player gets an action each turn. To make a long story short, a match of Blood Bowl takes about an hour. With all of the failures, turnovers, bobbles, trips, tackles, etc, it was frustrating trying to find some flow during play. You can purchase rerolls and other perks with your earnings from matches, but that still didn’t speed up the game or lead to a more enjoyable experience overall. Off the field, there are a ton of management options that sports simulations fans will really enjoy. There are custom online leagues, stadium enhancements, and team staff/player tools that make you feel like a legitimate coach. The game also supports local multiplayer, which I’m always a fan of. While that’s all good and fine, it’s the core experience of playing Blood Bowl that wore thin in no time. If you’re a hardcore D&D or Risk fan, you may not trip over the dice rolling and the success checks. If not, you may find yourself bobbling and dropping Blood Bowl 2 before too long.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Overall production value
What I Dislike:
- Slow gameplay
- Every action having a probability
- Load times