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Games Workshop’s venerable game Blood Bowl is back with a new boxed set (and just in time for Christmas, too!)
Blood Bowl was first released in 1987 but the 3rd edition, released in 1993, is seen as definitive. As a non-Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000 game, Blood Bowl has languished without an official support from Games Workshop for about a decade now.
Unlike other games to suffer this fate, Blood Bowl did not sink into obscurity. The game has enough general appeal to be self-sustaining, and so this new box set is released into a market that is already playing the game. This is both good news and bad news. Good, because there is a ready-made audience. Bad because this audience needs to be convinced that the new game is worth their while.
With leagues up and running around the world, can Games Workshop convince people to pick up and run with this new version?
Early signs are that they can.
For the uninitiated, Blood Bowl is a game of fantasy football, which pits teams of humans, orcs, elves, goblins, and others against one another. Play lasts for a number of turns and once the game has ended, the winner is the team that has scored the most touchdowns. Touchdowns can be scored by a player carrying the ball into the end zone, after running, dodging and thumping their way there. Injuries are a constant occurrence and few games pass by without a serious injury (or death!) occurring.
Games can be played as one-off encounters, but it is in the longer league format that the game truly shines. Taking a team of raw recruits and nurturing them into a group of hardened veterans is a challenge many coaches have taken on.
For this 2016 edition, Games Workshop have taken a light touch approach to the updates. The core rules have not changed from 1993, although a few skills have been tweaked slightly. These rules are fairly simple to understand, allowing new players to focus on their team selection and tactics.
As with the 1993 edition this box contains a human and an orc team to get you started. The models in 2016 are significantly more detailed and dynamic than before, and if the Skaven team are anything to go by, this will continue for future releases too. The figures require assembly, but there are visual instructions for this in the rulebook and you’ll be up and playing before long.
The new game board is double-sided, allowing both the humans and the orcs a ‘home’ pitch to use. This is a nice change and future boards themed this way would be a great addition.
League play is left out for the new Deathzone supplement. For all intents and purposes, this box allows you to play a series of one-offs between the human and orc teams. This will provide you with some variety, but ultimately you’ll want to explore more teams and league play options as soon as you can.
This release gives Games Workshop the opportunity to revitalise a game which has survived without official support for along time, and may represent a sleeping giant in terms of latent demand. Time will tell if they can do this -organised play is a notable absence right now – but early signs are encouraging.