Some games are quick, easy affairs that you’ll learn in a few minutes! Maybe you’ll then take years to master them; heaven knows plenty of folks are still hooked on Tetris, after all. Other games…well, you’re going to need to set some time aside to really get going. Anything made by Paradox, for instance, or many of the titles produced by Games Workshop. That includes today’s topic, which recently received an expansion in the form of the Blood Bowl 2: Legendary Edition.
What’s Blood Bowl? Well, it’s American football…sort of. It’s more violent, which is saying something, and the players aren’t all human by any means. The ref tends to be a little more open to bribery and the crowd tends to be a little more physically involved in the game, by which I mean they’ll beat the ever-living crap out of any player that ends up out of bounds. Your only real hope of coming out of a Blood Bowl match alive is by paying proper respect to Nuffle, the Chaos God of the sport (who has no relation to the NFL, none at all), and even then there’s no guarantees.
Football is a deceptively complex game, especially if you’re not already familiar with the sport, and the same can certainly be said of Blood Bowl. You’ve got player stats, field conditions and positioning to think about on top of other coaching duties like managing the team and buying extracurricular boosts with the team’s slush fund. While there’s a tutorial available to help out with the basics, it can’t really get across every last quirk you’ll need to learn and remember to do well here. There’s way too much to get into every facet of how to properly play the game in this review, but the bottom line, so far as I understand it, is that Blood Bowl as a whole is all about risk management.
Nearly everything you do in a Blood Bowl match carries some element of risk, represented by die rolls and percentages. Running down the field is safe, for instance, but by accepting a chance that your player might trip you can push them just that tiny bit further. Tackling other players runs the risk of your own player taking the hit instead. Even picking up the ball can be dangerous – that thing’s slick with gore, after all, and it’s entirely possible your player may drop it! Success means prioritizing what you’ll do and when, typically by taking your low-risk actions early in a turn (to secure at least some degree of success) and saving anything more dangerous for later. You’ll also want to make life hard for your opponent in such a way that they have to take more risky actions to try and get anything done.
The race you choose to play is significant when it comes to how you’ll approach the action on the field, of course. You’ve got your basic humies, for instance, who are jacks-of-all-trades that can do a bit of everything. More aggressive coaches might prefer the Dwarves or Orcs, who are naturally great at clearing their path to the endzone via copious violence, while more tactical coaches might have better luck with one of the agile flavors of Elves. If you’re the more adventurous type, you could try Chaos, who start off a little bland but grow exponentially more powerful if you stick with them, or the Halflings, who are straight up awful at everything and require some cheating to make it through. The Legendary Edition expands your options a little bit more, offering Vampire, Goblin and even a Circus team featuring football-playing bears among others. There’s bound to be something to suit your playstyle.
That’s not all the expansion adds, of course. You’ve also got the new Challenge Mode, which is essentially a series of problems you need to solve in a single turn a la chess problems, and the Eternal League where you can play a team until…well, until you get sick of playing them. Along with the story-focused campaign mode and the extremely extensive suite of online options, there’s plenty for Blood Bowl fans to take in here. I’m not kidding about that “extremely extensive” thing, by the way – if Blood Bowl happens to click for you, you’re never going to run out of things to do and people to tackle here. It’s more than a little overwhelming.
Players familiar with the Warhammer Fantasy universe are bound to love Blood Bowl 2’s presentation. Beloved races and players come to life on the field, tackles look appreciably devastating and the stadiums (including the new Egyptian-themed Khemi stadium) look fantastic. It’s lovely, especially on a beefy PC. Also lovely, at least for a little while, is the commentary from the vampire-and-ogre duo of match announcers. These guys provide hilarious anecdotes and discussion about what’s happening on the field, but they run out of lines pretty quickly and you’ll be hearing repeats within a couple of matches.
Blood Bowl 2 is a slow burner, there’s no two ways around it – you aren’t just going to dip your toes into this one and expect to get much out of it in a hurry. As a strategy game that owes everything to its tabletop roots, you’re going to need to study up and practice to really appreciate what’s going on here. If you’ve got the time and patience to make that happen, though, then there’s an unquestionably huge amount of content here that’s bound to tickle any gridiron warrior, and MVPs who’ve played the original version of the game and loved it are certainly going to want to check out the additions made in the Legendary Edition.