While I’m a big fan of the Warhammer universe, it’s been a long time since I played a football game. In fact, I think the last one I played was on the original Playstation. So it was with some hesitation that I decided to give Blood Bowl 2 a shot, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a unique turn-based strategy game filled with interesting characters and an equally interesting concept.
Blood Bowl has its roots as an odd tabletop offshoot from the Warhammer universe (apparently still tied into the lore), and the video game version uses the same rules. At its core, rather than have high-fantasy medieval armies annihilating each other on a battlefield, you have high-fantasy medieval football teams beating each other to a pulp on a football field.
The game does surprisingly well melding the two genres of sports and turn-based strategy. It has the characters and combat of Warhammer, but with the team management and season-based progression of a football game.
The basic concept is what you’d find in a football match, where your task is to get the ball to the other side of the field, or stop your opponent from getting their ball to the other side. In Blood Bowl, however, there’s a key difference. You’ll need to strategically shove, punch, and knock-out the enemy players to strategically.
It’s basically football, if fouls were both allowed and encouraged (even the referee joins in from time-to-time).
When the game starts, the foul-based strategy doesn’t seem too deep, but as you progress you’ll find there’s a lot to it. You see, if a character wants to run in a square next to an opponent, that opponent will have a chance to knock-down your player. So, if you want to get your character through a line of enemies, you’ll need to strategically pick-off some of those players to make a path. And just the same, if the enemy has the ball, you’ll want to strategically eliminate their defenses while also forming a wall of your own players.
Just like a tabletop game, a lot of what happens is decided by chance. Want to catch a ball? Roll for it. Want to punch an enemy, dodge a player, or dash beyond your usual distance? Roll for it. These rolls will also change based on each character’s stats and abilities, and the result are many instances where you’ll choose between playing it safe, or taking risks.
You’ll also need to build your team, and the characters you’re offered will differ between the race you choose. The basic roles, however, are the runners, catchers, blitzers, linemen, and your special heavy-hitters. You’ll need to build your team yourself, using gold earned from matches, and you’ll also need to decide how to balance your team according to your playstyle.
The teams themselves also bring an element of a strategy, as each plays very different from the next. Play as the Dwarves and you’ll get slow-moving characters who pack a punch. Play as the Skaven (rat-folk) and you’ll have fast runners with glass jaws. Dark Elves get bounding gymnastic moves. Wood Elves are specialists at dodging attacks. Want something balanced, then go with the Humans.
And on top of all this, there are several ways to play the game. You can go with the campaign mode and bring a failing team up through the ranks, join a league and play in either a multiplayer or solo ranked league, or you can just play a friendly match with a friend.
What really makes Blood Bowl 2 shine, however, are its characters. Each match is narrated by two commentators—an Ogre and a Vampire—who have a fairly broad dialogue. The two help quite a bit with immersion, and make the world of Blood Bowl 2 come alive. Each of the players is just as lively—from the Dwarves with their beer steins hooked onto their belts, to the towering Minotaur who may or may not listen to your orders.
The game also has some drawbacks—namely when it comes to performance. Now, my computer can run Witcher 3 on high graphics, but for some reason I can only play Blood Bowl 2 on low. It’s not a frame-rate issue either. If I bring the graphics higher, the game starts overheating my machine, or crashes. Reading some player feedback, it seems these are common problems. And while the developers at Cyanide Studio have released a few patches, some problems still persist.
But with that aside, Blood Bowl 2 is a very enjoyable romp—especially if you’re a fan of the Warcraft universe. The league features give the game plenty of replay value, and there is enough variety between each faction to keep things interesting.
Blood Bowl 2 is available on Steam for $44.99, and is also available on PS4 and Xbox One.