Friday, December 9, 2016

Blood Bowl: Unboxing

Blood Bowl is back!

When there were first rumors that Games Workshop was going to re-release their classic fantasy football game, Blood Bowl, I was a little skeptical.  After all, the game has had a very strong following for years, despite a lack of official support.  Would GW really do enough to make it worthwhile?  As the months progressed, and more pictures leaked, it became increasingly clear that they would live up to the legend.  Their use of classic Wayne England artwork along with newer pieces from Karl Kopinski, and a fantastic cover by Filipe Pagliuso, was one element that really sold me on the whole endeavor, reassuring me that they were not cutting corners.  We were fortunate enough to pick up a copy of the game during the opening weekend, and wanted to do an unboxing, taking some time to go over the components!

All of the plastic components are neatly arranged, including a set of custom bases that have a slot for the ball.

They put a cardstock spacer between the plastic sprues and the other materials to keep them from getting scuffed and damaged.

One of the most striking aspects of Blood Bowl (past the aforementioned cover art) is how much effort was put into making it an excellent out-of-the-box-experience.  Traditionally, Games Workshop has not been overly concerned with providing pleasing aesthetics when you open one of their boxed games.  Rather, you could expect a flimsy box filled with grey plastic sprues strewn haphazardly about along with a bent up rules manual.  And while objectively I would always try to convince myself that I was getting a good product and a solid value, the lack of care and presentation was always a turn off.  Games Workshop has turned over a new leaf with Blood Bowl, completely reversing this phenomenon.  It starts with an attractive, thick cardboard box that that should hold up to much abuse.  Inside is a host of nicely stacked plastic sprues, bases, and a bag of custom dice (with a set for each team!).  Remarkably, they even put a nice printed cardboard divider beneath these sprues, to prevent the rulebooks and other printed material from getting damaged by sharp plastic edges.  While many might not care about this too much, it speaks volumes to me, suggesting that they realize that this is a quality product that people might want to keep nice.  They take this a step further by sealing all of the other printed materials in shrink-wrap, including the player cards, rulebooks, dugout sheets, and the mounted board.  All of these little elements, while minor in isolation, really add up and suggest that the team which worked on this edition, and Games Workshop in general, really love Blood Bowl.  This release is not simply a repackaging of old material for a quick dollar; it is a labor of love.

All of the printed components are carefully shrink-wrapped, to ensure they are not damaged!

While people have come to expect quality miniatures from Games Workshop, they often do not expect the other components of their games to measure up to the same standard.  With this new version of Blood Bowl, however, their attention to detail and generosity in the printed components deserves special mention.  It would have been easy for GW to give you a cheap, flimsy board/pitch to play the game on.  Instead, it is a mounted board with printing on both sides, one a lush green pitch (for the humans), the other a muddy wasteland (for the orcs).  By having such a nice colorful board, the game is instantly more immersive, just like playing a game of 40k on a board filled with carefully constructed terrain.  Towards this end, Blood Bowl also comes with illustrated cardstock dugouts for both teams, allowing you to track rerolls, the turn count, and touchdowns, as well as having boxes to keep your extra players and hold those that were injured and knocked out.  The fact that each is made to reflect their team is another small aspect that makes the experience more immersive.  The dugouts could have been left out altogether for that matter, relying on personal bookkeeping, but as with all the other aspects of this version of Blood Bowl, Games Workshop went the extra mile.  The game also comes with nice large cards for the various Special Plays, in addition to a set of cards with the stats for each player type for both teams (and special players!).  These, in addition to the large reference cards, should minimize how much one needs to consult the rulebook for queries.

The mounted, double-sided board also came shrink-wrapped. It is of exceptional quality.

The play-aids are not limited to printed components, however.  The game also comes with a quality plastic range ruler for passing the ball, and two templates for determining the scatter and throw-in directions.  While these could have been flimsy pieces of cardboard, the decision to use plastic makes them much more durable and impressive looking.  They also designed new 32mm slota bases for the game that have a small hole in them, allowing one of the plastic footballs (of which 4 are given for each team) to lock into the base.  This makes keeping track of which player has the ball substantially more convenient, another nice touch that makes the game easier to play.

They even include a thick cardboard piece that serves as the dugout to track the turn, your touchdowns, and keep players that are not on the field.  This is the orc one.

And this is the human one!

Although I intend to do a future post talking about the models more in depth, briefly, they are quite nice, cast in blue and green plastic.  Each comes in about 3 parts that snap together, not requiring glue.  Each team has six unique sculpts contained on a single sprue that you are give in duplicate to get a total of 12 models per team. The plastic quality is good, on par with other Games Workshop kits.  While I do not think the designs are spectacular, tending towards caricature, they are a strong effort and much better than the old avalible teams.

Each team comes with two identical sprues, containing both the team and all the tokens and balls needed to play.

All the models are snap fit and due to the different color plastic, they do not necessitate painting.

Lastly, the rulebook is very nice and thoughtfully presented.  Unfortunately it does not contain rules for any additional teams, just humans and orcs.  Furthermore, the rules for season play are also left out.  They did release a supplement book alongside the game that contains eight more teams in addition to the rules for league play.  While I would have prefered if this was included in the base game, I can understand why it was left out.  With only the orc and human rules, it allows the boxed game to be a self contained boardgame, which might be appealing to some, particularly those that have no intention of trying to join a league.  To Games Workshop’s credit, they also put up a pdf on their website containing rules for other teams not included in either book.

The first model the I assembled, a human Blitzer.

While there is still a lot to explore with Blood Bowl, including assembling and painting all the teams, and playing a few games, I feel confident in saying that the release is nothing short of remarkable.  It is not just because it respectfully honors the rich legacy of Blood Bowl, but because it shows how passionate everyone is at Games Workshop for every aspect of the hobby.  And perhaps most promising of all is that it paints a bright future for GW re-releasing some of their other classic games and new ones in the future!  Look forward to more Blood Bowl posts in the future!

- Eric Wier


  1. You forgot one element :) It's significantly larger than the original, meaning scale of pitch. Personally I'm on the fence for buying this set, I think I'll settle for the Deathzone supplement as I have the old set and scale isn't really an issue.

    Great write-up though and I look forward to more :)

    1. That is true, they did change the scale to 32mm, but as you said it really does not change much. As mentioned in the review, the thing I was most impressed with the game were all the other components, and not the models. I feel the high quality board, dugouts, and other materials will really make the game more fun. This is coming from someone who originally played Blood Bowl with a lot of makeshift materials though.

  2. Good thorough review of the unboxing Eric. We've discussed my interest already but I am really looking forward to getting my hands on a box of my own. I hope to cobble together my Skaven Trashtown Sewer Boys team eventually. If GW keeps this up maybe next year we might see a Battle Fleeet Gothic release? Or maybe they'll go all the way and release some new RPG books that make me eat a big ol' bowl of "I was wrong."

    1. I would love to see your Skaven team in plastic! I think you will be really impressed with the quality of the box. We can only hope they release Battle Fleet Gothic and some of their other games!

  3. Good review. Looking forward to seeing/hearing some of the results of your painting and gaming with this.

    I don't see why they had to change the size of the pitch, which is fairly annoying as I have the old stuff still, but I'll still probably pick this up at some point! Good to hear they did a good job of it. Like you,I agree the little stuff is very telling.

    1. Yeah, I cannot wait to get play, I have assembled most of the teams now, but an in the process of converting some to make then look a little different.

      It is a little annoying they changed the pitch, but at least they made it larger, allowing you to still easily used old models. If it was the other way, you really would need to rebase all your old teams.