Game Time: Blitz Bowl

Game Time: Blitz Bowl

Background

I’m a bit of a casual Blood Bowl player. Ran a few campaigns with my friends, but never been in an actual tournament. Love (and hate) the game though. This post will be my thoughts on the Blitz Bowl game, which is ‘Blood Bowl based’. Much of this post will be comparing the two games, Blood Bowl and Blitz Bowl.

 

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What is Blitz Bowl?

Blitz Bowl, is essentially a quicker version of the fantasy football game “Blood Bowl”. Blood Bowl is a two player game by Games Workshop, where each person takes on the role of a coach. Their teams are chosen from a variety of fantasy races, such as Elves, Orcs, etc. Whereas Blood Bowl is a ‘professional’ league, Blitz Bowl would be the rookie/recruit league.

 

What isn’t Blitz Bowl?

Yea, bad grammar. Blitz Bowl doesn’t have a campaign mode, Star Players, rerolls (technically), or levelling up. That pretty much makes sense thematically, as Star Players wouldn’t be caught dead (well, maybe the Undead would!) playing for a Rookie team. Rookies that excel, should be getting snatched up for (Blood Bowl) teams, hence no need for campaign mode, levelling up, or rerolls.

Unfortunately for Blitz Bowl, campaign mode is really what makes most games (like Blood Bowl) shine. One could probably tack on some rules, but it doesn’t really make too much sense unless you want to run a rookie team for a season. Levelling up also is an issue. Again, thematically it doesn’t make too much sense, but it also doesn’t work well with the already printed cards and the simple nature of Blitz Bowl. As one example, the stat card for Linemen represents all 3 linemen for most races. So if your “Lineman” levelled up a stat or got a skill, does that mean all of your linemen level up or do you now make separate cards? Even worse, with Goblins you have 1 card for 8 characters.

It seems tacking on rules for levelling the characters would just bog things down overall. It’s also one of the things that bogs down Blood Bowl, but also makes it fun as your players become better over time (hopefully).

Which leads me to another point, no injuries or death in Blitz Bowl. In Blood Bowl, your characters often get injured or die, and are frequently benched for the rest of the game. It’s not uncommon to slowly watch your team dwindle down to a few players over the course of a game. In Blitz Bowl, when your players get hurt, they are sent to the Reserves box, and can be brought back later. In a way, that’s pretty nice, but without that risk, the reward of succeeding is not as strong.

 

So Blitz Bowl isn’t Blood Bowl?

It is, and it isn’t. Blitz Bowl borrows a lot from Blood Bowl. Even using the same block dice.

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Blitz dice on the left, Blood on the right. Just a few extra die for Blood Bowl.

Faster

But it’s somewhat of a streamlined and different version of Blood Bowl. Our game times averaged 45 minutes. Blood Bowl typically takes us about 1.5-2 hours per half, so about 3-4 hours per game. Depending on how fresh the rules are in my head, and more often than not I’m the only one who knows how to play the game. So, Blitz Bowl ends up being a very fast game for us. We found we could play 2-3 games in a night, which was really nice.

There are different elements that make the game faster. Fewer players on the team (6 versus 11), so fewer pieces to move. Smaller size field (x squares vs x squares). Fewer rules overall (rulebook is X pages). Key players (“positionals”) have one special attribute at most. In Blood Bowl, positionals typically star with one skill, but sometimes have more. Also, no “Big Guys” (Ogres, Minotaurs, etc.), which add additional rules and complexity. There is also no ‘setup’ after a touchdown or game half. In Blood Bowl, you have to take all your players and set them up again after those events, and roll on the Kick-off table once again for a random event. In Blitz Bowl, the player who made a touchdown goes into the reserves box and the ball shoots back out a trap door at the start of the next player’s turn. Play just keeps going and is not interrupted.

Another thing that lends to the “feeling” of Blitz Bowl being faster, is the turn structure. In Blood Bowl, one Coach essentially makes all their moves until they fail an action. You could think of it like a game of chess, where one player gets to move any and all available pieces, before the next person can take their turn. Yes, that can take a long time. In Blitz Bowl, you get 3 actions and split them up amongst your 6 players. So most turns go by very quick. This is really nice, as it keeps both players actively engaged in the game. It’s an element that I really thought they were going to change when they re-released Blood Bowl in 2016. Though long turns and the fear of failing, seem to be a key element of Blood Bowl.

 

Some Confusion.

For those of us who have played Blood Bowl and know the rules, Blitz Bowl can be a bit of a confusing beast. They use the same dice, but the results on the Blitz Bowl dice are slightly different. Same with other rules, and I sometimes have to go ‘Ok, I know it works this way in Blood Bowl, but in Blitz Bowl…’.

In our first game, I was hesitant to do things like pick up the ball or make blocks using only 1 die. Why? Because both of those things are very risky in Blood Bowl, and failure results in you ending your turn (or worse, getting injured). But in Blitz Bowl, the worst result you can get on a block die, is ‘nothing happens and your player can’t make additional actions this turn’. Picking up the ball is automatic. So things deemed highly risky in Blood Bowl, are pretty laid back in Blitz Bowl. I found I had to change my mindset from ‘anything can fail’ to ‘anything will likely succeed’.

Another point of confusion, was teams. With the additional cards in the Blitz Bowl game (and using some additional minis I have), we were able to play the game with Humans, Orcs, Chaos, Elven Union, Dwarves, and Goblins. However, once again I found things to sometimes be quite different. In Blood Bowl, I would never block with a single Goblin player without expecting to get clobbered. Well, you can still end up in the Reserves in Blitz Bowl, but the Goblin has just a good a chance to take someone out as anyone else does. They just end up in the Reserves more often than other teams (granted, with 8 players, it’s not the end of the world). When playing against Dwarves, I expected them to slowly trot up the field, but no…their movement was nearly the same as my Humans! Little things like this, are just enough of a twist to make things a bit confusing.

I wonder what this will mean for new players entering Blood Bowl, who were first exposed to Blitz Bowl. The more punishing aspect of Blood Bowl could be a turn off, or maybe they will be more excited by finally being able to squash players out of the game? Will dice roll results be more confusing? Will they forget they need to make a roll to pick up the ball? Or will they get enough of the basics from Blitz Bowl, that they will be able to transition into Blood Bowl more easily. Sounds like we need someone to setup a scientific experiment to test it out!

 

It’s all in the Cards.

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Best for last? In Blitz Bowl, every turn, there is a row of 3 ‘achievement’ cards. If you meet the condition of one of those cards on a turn, you get to take one card. This will score you more points, but also gives you a special ability you can play later on. Conditions range from things like ‘score a touchdown’ to ‘move three players’. Abilities range from ‘reroll a die’ to ’take 4 actions this turn’.

Honestly, in our first couple games, I didn’t like the cards. My opponent was tougher than me, and gained a bunch of points through cards by thrashing my team. While I tried to focus on making plays and gaining a touchdown. It seemed like a broken system and I thought that maybe I should try and fix it.

Subsequent games (still using the same rules), were different though. Maybe I realized that you can’t simply ignore the cards? Maybe it’s because I haven’t used the Human team again, but I found I could win with just about any team. The rules/cards seemed pretty even no matter which strategy you wanted to employ. Ah yea, in Blood Bowl there are two main strategies. “Bash” where you try to beat up the other team so severely they concede or can’t field enough players, or possibly they are so beat up that they can’t stop you from scoring. “Finesse” where your team tries to beat the other team by scoring the most points, usually employed by fast teams who run/pass the ball at lightning speeds. Either of those two types of strategies seem to work in the game.

As mentioned above, we played nearly all of the teams that they have stats for. I didn’t have good proxy minis for Skaven or Dark Elf (yes, there were rules released for the Dark Elves in a White Dwarf issue), so those are the only two teams we didn’t try. I typically selected teams that the other players thought didn’t work. “Chaos sucks”. “Okay, I’m taking Chaos.” Wins game. “See, they are okay.” Are all the teams evenly balance? Probably not. But neither is Blood Bowl. Still, it seems like most teams have a decent shot at winning if you play to their strengths and maximize on your opponents weakness.

 

3-Player Game

Yep, that’s right. You thought Blitz Bowl was only 2 players, huh?! Well, not in Faust’s House!

It’s been a dream of mine for years, to play a multiplayer game of Blood Bowl. It was the goal of a campaign game I ran a long time ago, the end culminating in a 4 player Deathbowl match. I had the rules, and even made up a 4-player board, drawn up on a sheet of foamcore. Sadly, it didn’t come to fruition.

After playing a few games of Blitz Bowl, the multiplayer game idea sprang into my head again. Our niece would be coming to visit over the winter break, and had expressed interest in Blood Bowl. Which was a perfect opportunity. I had found images of a 3-player Chess board online, so surely I could make something like that?

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Early one morning, armed with a ruler, pencil, and marker…

 

I came up with this:

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Not too exact, but it would do the trick. It ends up being the same distance from end zone to end zone at the shortest paths, so that’s pretty much the most important part.

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The Blood Bowl Bounce template (in center of pic), works nicely for this board too.

And it was quite the treat. I was actually pretty shocked how easy it was to add a third player. In Blood Bowl, I imagine it would have taken us all day to run a 4-player match. In Blitz Bowl, 3 player games ran around 60-75 minutes. We even finished one game in 45 minutes (the same time it took us to play a 2 player game!). Quite amazing to be able play with the three of us in such a short time. Rules wise, everything went swimmingly. No real hiccups to adding a third player. We ran into one card that we had to think about, but a quick ruling on that card sorted it out. Otherwise, everything played pretty much exactly the same. Each coach taking their 3 actions and then onto the next coach. Oh yea, there are a few tricky diagonal spots that can catch you off guard in the middle of our board, but we quickly adapted to that. Hmm, maybe I should come up with a four player board next?! Oh, one last thing…we did house rule a -1 point if someone scores on our end zone. Which entices people to protect their own endzone.

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Prototype complete! Might color the squares grey, possibly glue onto some foam core…but it is pretty playable as is.

 

What Faust Thinks

Fun. That’s basically my reaction to Blitz Bowl. It’s not Blood Bowl exactly, but I find it to a be a fun game. Even better is that I can get the game played. With life being pretty busy, it’s hard to find the time to get longer games of Blood Bowl in. Being able to play 2-3 games of Blitz Bowl in a night, just awesome. Is there still a part of me that wants to play in campaign mode and have risky die rolls. Oh, yea. But then there is the other part of me, that says ‘Hey, I can enjoy this with anyone, at almost anytime’. When we have the time and the itch to play something longer though, then it will be time to dust off the Blood Bowl pitch.

 

Next Up!

For regular followers of the blog, you probably already know that I had a bit of a Winter break and got some game time in during that week. So much game time for me! In addition to getting a good number of Blitz Bowl games in, I also managed to dive deeper into the Underhive of Necromunda! So the next post will be focusing on experiences with that game.

 

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16 thoughts on “Game Time: Blitz Bowl

    1. Thanks man! It would be much easier to make a 4 player board, but I have to wait until one of the younger kids “levels up”.

      Blitz Bowl is worth a look, if you can find it. I enjoy how quickly it plays.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Hey that’s pretty cool – the board and game both. Thanks for the write-up as well. I’ll have to see if I can teach it to Marouda. She’s asked about Blood Bowl before, but to be blunt it’s a pretty heavy, unforgiving and punishing game, especially for a new player. I still love BB, but it’s not exactly newbie-friendly!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Azazel! Yea, I feel like Blood Bowl is sadly an anachronism. It was great when I had loads more time. Also, I think my years spent playing super hard video games, probably inured me to games like Blood Bowl. 1 pixel off in Donkey Kong? Waaah-waaah, spend another quarter! Spent hours playing your character in Moria, but then get killed by a rat? Start from scratch, because perma-death!

      Even with all the beatings I took, BB can still be tough. Hit a major losing streak where everyone is bashing on your team, and it’s just a big suckfest.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah. I don’t have the time to play games on hard anymore. Since I have a week off now from looking-after-everyone-else responsibilities I’ve been playing Crysis (and now Crysis 2) on XB1 backwards-compat (because my beast of a PC back in the day would always crash at the start of Crysis 1 – drivers or some shite). The games are over a decade old, the MP is dead, and the graphics are 360-era. Just play through them, see the story. Onto the next one.
        I could probably definitely make time for BB, though new games of equal or more complexity/crunch.. I don’t have the time or interest to learn them. Sorry, Infinity!

        Liked by 1 person

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