Review – Blood Bowl II

Blood Bowl II (PC Version). 2015. Developer: Cyanide Studios. Publisher: Focus Home Interactive.

I have long been obsessed with all things Warhammer. I’ve painted up several Kill Teams for 40K, I’ve got five Warhammer: Underworlds warbands, and I’ve built some terrain out of cardboard and hot glue. The one thing I haven’t done? Actually play a game. Em isn’t interested in Games Workshop’s worlds, and my pre-COVID schedule and my anxieties prevented me from going out and finding strangers to play with. Luckily, there are digital options.

One of these options is 2015’s Blood Bowl II. If you’re familiar with Warhammer and Warhammer 40K as video game franchises, you’ll know that there are many fantastic games in these worlds, such as the Dawn of War series and Total War: Warhammer. However, those are video games set in those universes. What drew me to Blood Bowl II is that it is an adaptation of the tabletop version of Blood Bowl.

Because it is a straight adaptation of the “fantasy football” board game, it features all the things you’d expect: turn-based action, characters with numeric stats, weird dice that never seem to roll the way you want them to…well, maybe that’s just me. Your mileage may vary.

Dice are weird.

The Good

This game is pretty faithful of the tabletop experience. You build your team from several factions that are included (or are included with DLC), You buy (with in-game money) players of varying skill levels for each position on your team. Then, you play. It’s classic “get-the-thing-to-the-other-end-of-the-thing” game play, like many other sports games. However, to get the thing (in this case, a ball) to the other end of the thing (in this case, the “pitch”), you’ll have to get through your opponents. And to get through them, you’ll have to inflict pain. Punch the members of the other team. Use special abilities to drink their blood. Push them into the hooligans in the crowd and watch them get stomped. You know…SPORTS!

Hi kids! Do you like violence?

If that were all the game was, it would be a good time. However, your players level up as they play! They gain new skills! They…get injured and die, removing them from your roster. And if they’re lucky, they retire. You can play your team as a long-running campaign, in which you play through seasons and seasons of your franchise, earning money to buy new, better team members and to upgrade features of your home stadium. For instance, my Chaos team, the Thousand-Yard Sons, are clumsy and keep tripping when I try to push them to run an extra space or two, so I bought some lush Elf-Grass to cushion them when they tumble.

Elf-Turf. Accept no substitutions.

The feature that really sold me on the game, besides the career mode, is the solo mode. Blood Bowl II was meant to be played against other flesh-and-blood opponents online, but you can also play a solo career against AIs. My office has spotty wi-fi, so I love that I can get the full gameplay experience without having to worry about bailing on an opponent halfway through a game.

The Bad

Blood Bowl II isn’t without its problems, however. There are times when that AI I love so much plays in a…let’s say sub-optimal manner. Instead of going for the ball, the opponent will occasionally just try to take out your players, which is fine, except that they will try it when it puts their players at a strength disadvantage (i.e., having a single player run up on a cluster of my bruisers).

Also, there are times where the AI seems to take too long to decide what it’s going to do. I’ve waited two minutes while everyone was stationary on the pitch, only to have the opponent come at me, miss, and end its turn. This might be an issue with my computer’s RAM, rather than the game itself, but it’s still annoying.

Lastly, while there are lots of uniforms to choose from, you can’t really customize the colors of those uniforms, or of the flesh tones of your players. This is fine, but as someone who paints minis, I wish I could really get in there and make my team my team.

My team. “Ball is dust!”


Still, even with those few, mostly minor complaints, Blood Bowl II is a lot of fun, and captures the robust-yet-silly number-mashing and dice-chucking that Blood Bowl fans have come to expect. In the time of social distancing and online gaming, Blood Bowl II is definitely worth checking out.

I give it 7/10 victory points.

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