Monday, October 12, 2020

Blitz Bowl: Unboxing

Blitz Bowl!

Multiple times In the past, we have tried to play Blood Bowl, both in the form of single games and in a league, but always struggled to continue after a few games. Despite this, every year we get the desire to get some tiny athlete models and roll some dice with friends. With the COVID pandemic keeping us home, coupled with the long playtime for a single game, we had resolved to put off Blood Bowl for another year. This changed when we saw that Games Workshop just released the second season of their Barnes and Noble exclusive game Blitz Bowl, set in the Blood Bowl universe. Designed by James M. Hewitt, known for writing the rules for the new version of Adeptus Titanicus and the Hellboy board game, Blitz Bowl streamlines and simplifies the mechanics of Blood Bowl, creating a game with a similar feeling that can be played in 30-45 minutes rather than two hours. Using half the number of models of Blood Bowl (6 rather than 12), Blitz Bowl seemed like an obvious place to get into the Blood Bowl universe. With a Dark Elf team largely assembled, we decided to get the second season of Blitz Bowl and give the game a try!

The box of Blitz Bowl: Season 2 is heavy, glossy cardboard.

Like the re-release of Blood Bowl in 2016, Blitz Bowl has high production values, from a glossy, heavy cardboard box, to a vast assortment of nicely-printed cards. Unlike before, it also comes with a convenient plastic organizer to store the cards, dice, models, and other cardboard components. The playing pitch is a double-sided mounted game board, giving you additional play options. The included dice are reminiscent to those included with Blood Bowl, however, the Block dice are unique, reflecting the simplified ruleset. The human and dwarf teams are identical to the plastic Blood Bowl models, simply giving you one sprue of each, enough to make a team of six players. They are cast in colored plastic and are snap-fit, not requiring glue. I believe the Dwarf team was actually recut to make them snap-fit, from their original release in 2016. The box includes cards containing the rules for both the Dwarves and Humans, but also 11 other teams, allowing you to use any Blood Bowl teams you might already own in the streamlined Blitz Bowl.

Directly inside of the box is a small, full-color rulebook, a pad of campaign sheets, and a double-sided mounted game board/pitch.

The box contains an excellent organizer that holds all of the models, cards, dice, and cardboard pieces.

Having played a handful of games, I can immediately say that the game fulfills its promise of being a fast-paced sports game of gladiatorial sports mayhem. Veterans of Blood Bowl and new players alike can pick up on the rules quickly and start playing and strategizing. Our first games took about an hour, but subsequent games were between 30 and 45 minutes, far quicker than its counterpart, Blood Bowl. Like Blood Bowl, Blitz Bowl still centers on scoring touchdowns by running the ball into the opponent’s endzone, but it also adds refreshing Challenge cards that give additional tasks that can be achieved for points. This inclusion of additional conditions to get points is a fantastic addition. It allows teams that are not as adept at quickly scoring touchdowns to have alternative win conditions, making each turn more interesting, while also allowing traditionally weaker teams to have more room to excel.

Beneath the dugout and throw markers, you can see how the plastic insert nicely organizes all of the components of Blitz Bowl.

A selection of the cards included in the box. Along the top are some of the player cards; the game comes with cards for the majority of the current Blood Bowl Teams. Along the bottom are some of the Challenge cards, which give Coaches additional ways to score points, alongside touchdowns.

Another important simplification in Blitz Bowl is that each turn you can only make 3 actions, unlike potentially an action for every player per turn in Blood Bowl, which makes turns substantially quicker. Additionally, none of the actions available in Blitz Bowl can result in a turnover, meaning you always get your 3 actions. Blood Bowl has a variety of turnover options, most of which revolve around failing a die roll when handling the ball, something that can be incredibly frustrating, particularly for new players. Removing this mechanic streamlines the play experience and reduces analysis paralysis, making the game more accessible and more fun. Blocking (tackling another player) in Blitz Bowl is very similar to Blood Bowl, using special block dice that can result in knocking a player over, to pushing the player back a space. Although the same dice are used in both games, their symbols mean slightly different things in each game. Despite the differences, blocking in Blitz Bowl maintains the same feeling as the original Blood Bowl, making it just as exciting and pivotal.

A game of Blitz Bowl set up, with a selection of Challenge cards along the top.

The assembled human team.

The assembled Dwarf team.

A game of Blitz Bowl with the Dwarves playing against a Human team.

In addition to containing all of the basic components to play the Blitz Bowl, Season 2 includes a host of additional cards and components to expand the game. This includes the aforementioned additional cards for 11 other teams, as well as Ball cards that introduce rules for team specific balls, adding some additional flavor to the game. There are also a selection of 16 Endgame Challenge cards, of which you can randomly select 6 to add to the bottom of the Challenge card deck, to make the last few turns more exciting. Lastly, they include rules for League play, something that was not present in season 1. Instead of your players gaining skills, you as a Coach gain abilities. This fits with the lore behind Blitz Bowl, where novice players are attempting to score touchdowns or complete challenges to be selected as new players in upcoming seasons of Blood Bowl. As a result, the members of your team are constantly cycling out, as they accomplish things, removing the possibility of following a single player over a season. I have not tested the League rules, but hope to soon!

A Human team playing against the diminutive Halflings.

A Dark Elf team is badly pummeling a Dwarf team.

Blitz Bowl is an excellent modernization of the classic game of Blood Bowl, maintaining the same frantic, chaotic energy, but streamlining the process. I get the same thrill playing it, without the frustration of getting a turnover at a critical moment, which happens frequently in Blood Bowl. It is also quicker to play, something that I increasingly appreciate as I get older, and makes it more likely for me to play games. Having teams of only 6 players also makes it easier to assemble and paint teams, something I hope to be able to have some blog posts on soon! So far, I have only played a handful of games, but it has been incredibly fun and something I plan to continue. We even played a game on Twitch, something we might try to do more often!

- Eric Wier

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