It’s a hard hitting spectacle as the Ork Boyz take on those filthy huminz in the latest adaptation of Games Workshop’s fantasy football title Blood Bowl. But does it work on mobile platforms?
Straight up admission time. I haven’t played a full game of Blood Bowl in about twenty years.
Damn, but I feel old just typing that.
Still, if you’d said to me twenty years ago that I’d take a two decade hiatus from the fantasy football pitch, I would have sent a blitzer around to rapidly rearrange your face. Still, there it is.
Twenty years ago I was obsessed with Blood Bowl. I played in and helped organise local leagues, won a few, lost a lot of players, traded for a few, and even begrudgingly accepted an Elf catcher transfer on my team. Hey, he was a very good player… but I fell out of the Blood Bowl habit.
I briefly mucked around with the very primitive MS-DOS version, albeit not for very long…
And the same was true for the 2009 PC/Console version. I’ve dabbled very briefly with the Xbox 360 version, but could never quite get back into the flow of the game.
Blood Bowl is what happens when you give a bunch of fantasy games designers well steeped in Orcs, Elves and the like the rules for American football and tell them to go to town. The setting is (more or less) that of Games Workshop’s own Warhammer universe with the satire meter set up to eleven. You’re actively encouraged to foul and injure other players, and the attributes of each race are dialled up to the point of stereotype. This can be a quite serious strategic game, but it wears the cloak of satirical silliness quite well.
The mobile port, for iOS and Android is a port itself of the 2009 game, although it appears to be based on the more rules-complete and less buggy Legendary Edition. One nice aspect of having established code to port from is that it also brings along the game community with it, meaning that it’s feasible to engage in cross platform play against PC, iOS or Android Blood Bowl players. Yep, that’s right. Android and iOS gamers, playing together nicely.
While the Xbox 360 version failed to grab me, the mobile port is a fair bit more accessible. Touch and tap controls are well implemented, and it’s simple to flick between player names, positions and experience when laying out your moves. There are a few quirky interface parts, with buttons for adding apothecaries and the way you have to manually type in your budget per game standing out as especially clunky, but once you get your head around the rules, it’s mostly good.
Blood Bowl plays, as it has always done, as a rather more violent and risky game of chess, with each piece moving in turn, blocking, blitzing and all too often falling over when failing a move. This is the crux of Blood Bowl’s strategy, because a single failed move — a roll, because this is based off a dice board game — causes an instant turn change to your opponent.
Re-rolls can fix this to a small extent, but it’s still feasible to have a run of turns consisting of a single failed player move over and over again, while the opposition swarms all over the field like jackrabbits. You’ve only got a limited number of turns per half, and a timed clock to make sure you complete all of your move promptly, but this is still an old-school slow strategy title at heart.
Having said that, there’s going to be a significant barrier to many new players to the sport, and that’s understanding all the rules and how they work together. There’s a simple tutorial that takes you through how the interface works, but not the ruleset as a whole.
The learning curve is relatively steep, and you can expect to lose a few games early on through simple misunderstanding of how certain dice work, or when you’re best off using inducements, for example.
Equally, because it’s all based on dice principles, it can be hard to work out why a particular move didn’t work. An option to at least see the dice rolls as they happen would add a little tension. As it is, you only see rolls through a simple re-roll interface after you’ve failed.
The price remains the same for each platform/store, although it is a little deceptive. $6.49 only scores you the Human and Orc races. If you want Dwarf, Skaven, Wood Elf or Chaos races, they’ll cost you $3.79 each as DLC.
I do get that setting up a game at $21.65, which is what the “full” Blood Bowl experience would cost you might look foolish in a world of 99c apps, but it’s still a touch annoying, especially as the developers have to be aware that not every player will drop the full twenty-plus bucks out of sheer irritation at the DLC plan.
At $15 for the lot, I would have jumped in a much more happy fashion, quickly followed by smashing in some Elf heads, because hey, this is Blood Bowl.