Taking board games from a set of cardboard pieces and translating them into the virtual realm can be tricky business. We’ve seen countless franchises try to make the leap to a disc, but it’s rare to find one that truly advances and improves upon the feeling of playing the genuine article. Blood Bowl is the most recent of these attempts. It’s based on a Warhammer-style universe with orcs, elves, humans, goblins and other mythical creatures playing against one another on a football field. As with any board game, there are dice, and as in any football game, the object is to possess the ball while crossing into the end zone. The combination of those two core ideas is executed as you’d expect, but it’s the presentation and technical hang ups that really keep Blood Bowl from reaching its potential.
The core gameplay of Blood Bowl is exactly what you’d expect with an added twist of being able to access a real time mode to differentiate the experience from the more traditional turn-based affair. You select your players from different classes that range from giant lineman to characters who can throw, catch and run with the ball. There are modifiers that can be purchased through in-game cash, all of which are designed to give your squad a bit of an advantage on the pitch. There are stringent rules like not being able to move to a spot on the field that is directly adjacent from other players for fear of an attack that could knock the ball out of your hands. All of that action is dictated by dice rolls. If you’re over a certain number, or if you happen to catch a 6, then you’ll be able to dodge or launch a counter attack. While this type of gameplay isn’t exactly my cup of tea, I could certainly see how fans of the board game could enjoy Blood Bowl.
Click above to watch a clip of the orcs against chaos.My real issue with the title is in its technical shortcomings. Graphical detail is relatively low unless you zoom the camera in, but that limits your view on what players are doing on the field. Slowdown creeps into the experience, often for no reason at all. Other IGN employees mistook the game for an original Xbox title and once you see it, I think you’ll agree with them. Thankfully this brand of game is in no way dependent on pleasing aesthetics, so Blood Bowl gets a pass of sorts in that regard.
Sadly there’s also an abundance of text to wade through and plenty of guidelines to memorize to be able to enjoy the feeling of victory. It all harkens back to a previous era of gaming that seems like it would be better left in the past. I understand that some players enjoy the abundance of statistics and rules to be memorized, I’m just not one of them. It doesn’t help that everything was clearly designed for the PC, with little attempt to pretty it up or smooth out the menu navigation.
Click above to watch goblins take onthe elves.If the turn-based gameplay is a little too slow for your taste, there’s also the option to play a real time version. Sadly that quickly degrades into entering into a “concentration mode” every five seconds that pauses the game, thus everything feels very similar to the mode that you were trying to get away from. There’s also Xbox Live play available for two people and, in my experience, everything ran smoothly.
Blood Bowl is a respectable attempt at bringing the ideals of a board game to a videogame. It has decent elements of personality, but the abundance of text and rule memorization can be a downer when all you want to do is get into a game. With so many other great games from the holiday and early in 2010, it’s difficult to recommend Blood Bowl unless you have a serious hankering for a board game on your TV screen.