Thursday, September 13, 2012

The king of games?


So, pretty much for the entire time I've had ANY engagement with miniature gaming, I've heard about this one game.  Best game GW ever made, they said.  Best game ever, they said.  Hugely popular at the local club, to the point where I've not been able to play other games at times because everyone was playing "in the league".  But somehow, I'd never managed to actually try it for myself.  Thanks to Otherdave, however, that all changed last night.  I'm speaking, of course, of:

Otherdave was kind enough to lend me the use of a team (one of several rather spiffy ones he owns) and the use of his custom pitch, and gave a run-down of the basic rules, before rather thoroughly curb-stomping my hapless players ;)

What I'm led to believe is a fairly standard deployment.

The first thing I must admit, is that the game isn't at all what I imagined.  My impression had always been that BB was sort of the king of "beer and pretzels" gaming.  In fact, it's remarkably "thinky".  It plays out much more as a sequence of puzzles than anything else, with sequential positioning tactics being regularly manipulated by the random effects of the dice.  Very cool, but very different, and I think the process of adjustment led Otherdave to the conclusion I didn't like it.

An early attempt on my part to be clever.

This isn't the case at all; in fact, I liked it a lot.  I was, however, prepared to like something else entirely, and shifting gears will probably take a few games.

The first time I attempted a foul.  My player was ejected from the game.

For those of you unfamiliar, the game really revolves around the relative positioning of the playing pieces, and their ability, moderated by dice, to move, remove, or avoid opposing pieces.  Players position pieces in formations for attack (to advance the ball) or defence (to inhibit ball movement), and the opposing player is presented with the problem of how to pick apart the opposing formation(s).  Like I said, the overall impression is kind of a fluid sequence of competitive puzzle-solving challenges.

Otherdave scores for the first time.

Although we were using a couple of Otherdave's elf teams, we actually played a mirror match, using bog-standard "human" stat lines, and no skills.  The latter add tremendously to the complexity of the game, as well as its strategic depth in terms of team design.

Roles reversed, Otherdave kicking to me.

Add in the possibility for team development (accruing experience and resources) through a league, and I can start to see why people find the game so appealing.

My girls adopt what's apparently a fairly standard protective formation for the ball carrier.

One of the things I picked up on quickly is that there's a real demand for flexibility in play style.  You need to be able to both execute coherent plans on the table (how will I get the ball up the field?), and be able to react and exploit circumstances as they develop (he just failed a dodge, how do I exploit this?).  While there's clearly a random element to it (it is a dice game) experience and insight into the game count.  That balance, being able to influence outcomes but not determine them, is something I really enjoy in games in general; it's one of the reasons I like Impetus so much.

This is about as well as I did in the game.  My ball carrier failed to dodge the next turn when trying to score.

I've got a pile of the old, 1990s era space orks lying around, many of which I think would be viable for Bloodbowl with a little conversion.  I'll be putting a team together with an eye to getting in some more games, and maybe playing in a league if one starts up again.

The rest of the game was anticlimactic.  I got tangled up in my own end, and Otherdave scored on a turnover.

For all that my initial impression of the game was that it was anything but "beer and pretzels", I may be missing something.  After the game, Watts commented my best bet would be to "stop trying to score and just kill stuff.  The game is called Bloodbowl."  He may be on to something, especially if I play orks ;)

Otherdave's player hotdogging it.

In other news, the second round of our Maurice campaign has come to an ignominious end, with your humble author once again on the losing side.  I'm starting to wonder if a Prussian-style "from the ground up" rebuild is in order.  Depot Battalions and a la Baionnette haven't been cutting it for me, and I'm wondering if there's another combo that would suit me better.  In the meantime, I keep plugging away at the Gladiator when opportunity permits, and may have at least a more advanced WiP for the weekend.  Until then,



  1. I've never played this game but for sure its reputation is great...and your nice pictures make you want to play!

  2. I've played BB since 2003 or thereabouts and the game does retain it's appeal. Every now and then you will be extremely frustrated when all your brilliant plans keep going down the drain because of your ability to fail a 2+ roll three turns in a row. You can do a lot to avoid turnovers but sometimes Nuffle just hates you. Still, the game has loads of depth and it is very fun to play once you learn the basics. You will be destroyed by the experienced players in leagues though, make no mistake. This shows you it is not just dice.

    Orcs make a good newbie team for a league. They have a good variety of positions and allow you to play several types of game. In addition, they have a very good armor value, which means they usually end the game on the pitch and rarely die. I suggest getting four blitzers from the start, they're excellent players. Also, a troll and a goblin for obvious reasons ;)