Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Big Game Hunting - Actual Play: Blood Bowl Team Manager

Bit of a confession to make before I start this – I really wasn’t expecting much from this game – I’m from a generation of gamers that remembers the polystyrene pitch for Blood Bowl (yes, I’ve been playing a very long time!) and it’s not that I dislike card games, because that’s really not the case at all, but I do find some of them very limiting and tedious.

Not so with Blood Bowl! A game for 2-4 players, we decided to dive in at the deep end and play with four of us, so got two friends over one evening and began to play.

Blood Bowl takes the form of a basic card game, with several piles of cards to draw from, depending on the matches you play in, win or lose. You get something out of every match, and that ‘something’ is split into manager upgrades, team upgrades, new players and fans. There’s also definitively a strategy to how to play, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Your basic hand consists of a basic team. No Star Players, and no manager/Team Upgrades. You separate out your Star Players, which then go into a pool shared between the OWA (Elves/humans/Dwarves) and the CWA (Chaos/Orc/Ratmen). As you play through, each match has a set ‘reward’ – one for playing in it, and a prize for the winner. It gets to be quite tactical, because sometimes there are three rewards per card – one for each team on each side (which can vary), and a central ‘win’ prize. There are also cards which modify the style of play, and where you can also play in cups.

Overall, it’s a lovely game that takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you do, it can be very fast paced, and hilariously funny. The ‘Cheat’ mechanic is also very nice. You draw from a pool of tokens which you play on any characters that have the ‘Cheat’ icon (because, of course, cheating is mandatory – you can choose to Pass, or Sprint (draw one and then discard one) or Tackle, but you can’t choose to Cheat). You can either end up with fans, extra ‘star’ points (which helps determine the match winner), or get sent off if you’re caught. Much like the game, cheating is often rewarded, but is also sometimes spotted.

The game is quite a riot – and as for tactics? I’d suggest maxing out your team upgrades and match them, if you can, with manager upgrades. Then in the last tournament go all out fans if you can, because the team and manager upgrades *add* fans at the end of the game. Star Players rock, and they mean you can put one of your basic linesmen back in the box (so your deck always remains the same size), but they are also useful on their own for taking the fall, so it’s all a question of balance.

D Kai Wilson-Viola isn't finishing pounding the other players into submission!

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