This is Blood Bowl! The most popular sport in the Old World!
Yes, it’s Tuesday, so it’s game day here at spalanz.com! Today I’m going to take a look at an old favourite of mine, Blood Bowl: Team Manager! The Warhammer version of the Superbowl, crossed with fantasy football, with a great deal of violence thrown in.
Where else can you see a minotaur drop-kick a goblin? Where else can you watch an ogre flatten the entire opposing line?
Published in 2011 by Fantasy Flight Games, Blood Bowl: Team Manager is a game for up to four players, who take on the roles of team managers of one of six teams – three teams in each of two managers’ unions, the Old World Association and the Chaos Wastes Confederation. The object of the game is to collect enough fans to be awarded the Spike! Magazine “Manager of the Year” award. To do this, managers need to use their players to win a series of Highlights during each week of the games, as well as potentially the Spike! Magazine tournaments, culminating in the Blood Bowl itself.
Managers start the game with twelve players, which they can add to as the game goes on by drafting star players to add to their player roster:
Managers commit their players to each Highlight and/or the week’s Tournament one at a time, before the the matchup is resolved in the scoreboard phase. Certain cards have specific abilities, such as cheating (which is mandatory), passing (taking hold of the ball from midfield – that is, from the Highlight card), sprinting (drawing another card) or tackling (a bit like combat, I’ll explain in a minute…)
Once all these abilities have resolved, the winner of each Highlight is determined by comparing each team’s star power at each matchup. The player cards, as you can see, have two stars on them, a larger one in the top left corner, and a smaller one in the bottom left. If a player is still standing, the top number is used; if he has been tackled, the card is placed on its side and the lower number is used. If any players have successfully passed, they also add the star power of the ball. Then, the managers each receive the payout from their zones, and the matchup winner receives the central payout as well.
Highlight cards (above) offer managers the opportunity to gain Staff Upgrades (the ball icon), Team Upgrades (the helmet icon), Fans (the flag icon) or draft Star Players (the star icon):
The number of fans you gain is added to the scoreboard track.
The game ends when the Blood Bowl is revealed from the Tournament deck, though there are also other high-stakes games where managers can commit their players:
Are the refs really going to let this slide?
Cheating is mandatory. When a manager commits a player with a skull icon to a Highlight, he gains a cheating token. During the scoreboard phase, the tokens are turned over and resolved; they have a variety of effects, from adding star power, giving managers more fans, or getting the player sent off (the whistle icon):
Tackling (the burst icon shown on Headsplitter, above) is optional, however. When tackling, the manager declares the target of the tackle and the star power of each player is compared before the manager rolls the tackle dice to determine if it succeeds or not. If a standing player is successfully tackled, the card is downed – placed on its side, contributing less Star Power to the matchup. If the player was already downed, he becomes injured, and is removed from the matchup. However, tackling is not exactly cut-and-dried, as the tackle dice could mean the tackler himself becomes downed as a result.
Wow, I’ve never seen a nose bend that way! Did you see that, Bob?
Of course, Jim, how could I miss that? He’ll need to find a good apothecary!
I’m really not a sporty person, but I really like this game! If you haven’t got the impression already, this game is over-the-top hilarious, complete with snarky little comments from Jim and Bob, the Blood Bowl commentators! It’s lots of fun, and can be really hilarious when you throw yourself into it.
In case it hasn’t become obvious yet, I really like Fantasy Flight Games, and I also really like the Warhammer universe. That alone should be enough to recommend this to me, but it’s also unlike any other game I own. Rather than being some sort of war game, where you build up opposing armies and whatnot, it’s a sports game, but more like a combat sports feel to it, if that makes sense at all?! I find it’s a really awesome choice, and as I’ve said, it’s also really fun and rewarding when you get into the spirit of the game. It is quite tongue-in-cheek and stuff, but that’s something that I really like about it!
There have, to date, been two expansions released for the game – Sudden Death in 2013, and Foul Play just a couple of weeks ago. Each expansion adds a new manager’s union – the Dark Sorcery Syndicate in Sudden Death, and the Putrid Players Guild in Foul Play. In addition, each one brings new mechanics to the table, such as Contracts and Enchanted Balls (*snigger*), Diseases, Penalties and Stadiums. I’ve yet to play with either of these, but nevertheless, I’m really impressed with the way in which the game has been expanding, and have been looking forward to trying these out for a while now – needless to say, when I do, there will be updates here!!
The base game has a lot to recommend it, and I can definitely suggest you all pick up a copy today!