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Blood Bowl is a fantasy gridiron game created by Jervis Johnson for the British games company Games Workshop (but now under the aegis of their Specialist Games division) as a parody of American Football. The game was first released in 1987 and has been re-released in new editions since. Blood Bowl is set in a Fantasy Universe similar to, but not the same as, Warhammer Fantasy, populated by traditional fantasy elements such as human warriors, goblin teams, dwarf teams, elf teams, orcs and trolls.
Strictly speaking, Blood Bowl is not a tabletop wargame, though it is probably closer to other Games Workshop inventions such as Warhammer Fantasy Battle than it is to traditional board games such as Monopoly.
The most recent purchasable edition of the game remains the third edition. However, the latest edition of the game available is the Living Rule Book 5 (LRB5, also known as Perpetual Blood Bowl League or PBBL).
Game basics Edit
Blood Bowl is a two-player, turn-based board game that typically uses 28 mm miniatures to represent a contest between two teams on a playing field. A board containing a grid overlay represents the field. Using dice, cards, and counters, the players attempt to outscore each other by entering the opponent's end zone with a player who possesses the ball.
The "Blood" in Blood Bowl is represented by the violent actions available to players. Game play is based on a hybrid of American Football, Rugby, and ultra-violent fictional sports events such as Rollerball. Players may attempt to injure or maim the opposition in order to make scoring easier by reducing the number of enemy players on the field.
The player teams are drawn from the ranks of fantasy races and have characteristics that reflect the abilities of those races. Elves tend to be agile and good at scoring, while Dwarfs and Orcs are more suited to a grinding, physical style of play. Players are also divided up into positions suited to their role on the field, including Throwers, Catchers, and Linemen.
In league play, players gain additional skills and abilities based on their accumulation of experience points. Players face potential injury or even death on the field throughout their careers. Teams improve by the purchase of off-field staff such as cheerleaders, assistant coaches, and apothecaries.
The Coaches Edit
The human players controlling their Blood Bowl teams of players are referred to as Coaches. This title is meant for flavor, and coaches have no special abilities or affect on play other than leading their team to victory.
Blood Bowl Players Edit
At the heart of a Blood Bowl game stand the players. Each player is represented by an appropriate miniature and has statistics and skills that dictate his or her effect on play. There are four player statistics:
- MA (Move Allowance) indicates how fast the player is.
- ST (Strength) indicates the player's basic fighting ability.
- AG (Agility) indicates how well the player handles the ball and evades opposing players.
- AV (Armor Value) indicates how difficult it is to injure the player.
In addition, players may have special skills that affect any number of circumstances in play. Some of the more commonly used skills are Block (for fighting), Dodge (for avoiding fights), Sure Hands (for picking up the ball), Pass (for throwing the ball), and Catch (for catching the ball).
Player Actions Edit
In his or her turn, a coach may have each player take one of the following actions:
- Move - Move the player through empty squares (opposing players may try to trip the moving player if he or she moves close to them).
- Block - Fight an adjacent opposing player who is standing.
In addition, the following four actions may be taken by one player per team turn:
- Blitz - Move and then Block an adjacent opposing player who is standing (or Block and then Move).
- Foul - Move and then foul an adjacent opposing player who is prone.
- Pass - Move and then throw the ball.
- Hand-Off - Move and then give the ball to an adjacent player.
Some skills also allow for special player actions.
If a player action fails, the team turn ends immediately (with some minor exceptions). This defining game mechanic is called the turnover rule. The turnover rule makes every action tense for the coaches, and together with the four-minute rule (a team turn must be completed within four minutes) it can make the game very fast-paced.
Each Teams represents one race (with lesser allies) typically equivalent to the armies in Warhammer Fantasy Battle. The game box supplies the coaches with players enough to field Human and Orc teams, which are also the teams recommended to newcomers for ease of learning.
The difference races progress at different rates, so not all teams start at equal strength. Some become more dominant only after they accrue some experience. Certain teams, such as the Halfing's and the Ogres, are designed to provide more of a challenge for experienced players due to their built-in weaknesses.
The Blood Bowl universe has its own fictional background story which establishes the tone and spirit of the game. Additional background exists to describe the demeanor and character of the Blood Bowl players with frequent reference to rule breaking and over-the-top violence in a lighthearted manner. The over-the-top nature of the game is reflected through the game's mechanics, including the use of stylized secret weapons, the ability for large teammates to throw small teammates down field (even while they possess the ball), as well as in-game effects like fans throwing rocks and injuring players prior to kickoff.
Blood Bowl includes numerous tongue in cheek references to real life products and companies. The deity overseeing Blood Bowl is Nuffle - a pun on the pronunciation of NFL. The game spoofs at least three real-world companies, including McDonald's (McMurty's), Budweiser (Bloodweiser), and Adidas (Orcidas). Many team names in the game's background are spoofs as well such as the Orcland Raiders (Oakland Raiders) and the Darkside Cowboys (Dallas Cowboys). Famous sporting personalities are parodied as well, with the most famous (and oldest) coach in Blood Bowl's background being Tomolandry the Undying (Tom Landry), and one of the most recently added stars being the Ogre thrower, Brick Far'th (Brett Favre).
With the advent of the 3rd edition, Blood Bowl moved closer to the traditional Warhammer Fantasy Battle world by changing the miniatures to look more similar to their Warhammer Fantasy Battle counterparts. Jervis Johnson, designer of the game, has admitted this was not the best direction for the game, and has since stated that the Blood Bowl world is similar to, but definitely not the same as, the Warhammer world. Recent changes to the rules reflect this, and newer miniatures for the game look more sporty in nature.
Blood Bowl has evolved through a series of rules revisions, boxed set releases, and electronic media.
First Edition Edit
Released in 1987, the first edition of Blood Bowl was a simple game that used many of the elements of Games Workshop's existing tabletop games. Players in the first edition boxed set were represented by small pieces of cardboard illustrated with their likeness. Citadel Miniatures did release 13 metal miniatures to represent players for 1st edition, but this covered only a small portion of the available races.
Second Edition Edit
The second edition of Blood Bowl, released in 1988, began to move Blood Bowl away from the battlefield mechanics of other Games Workshop systems and toward more brutal sports-oriented play. The game was played on an astrogranite pitch represented by a polystyrene board, and the boxed set included plastic 28 mm miniatures of Orcs and Humans, with another set of metal miniatures available from Citadel Miniatures to represent most (but not all) of the other races. Games Workshop later provided two source books, Blood Bowl Star Players (1989) and the Blood Bowl Companion (1990), which added to the basic rules, creating games with greater variation which could easily last several hours.
Third Edition Edit
A new edition was released in 1994, radically changing the game play from the complex, lengthy second edition game to the simpler, more dramatic third edition game. Key changes were a set number of turns and the turnover rule. These changes increased the pace of the game and allowed it to be played within the span of an hour or two.
The third edition also featured a completely new range of miniatures, including new versions of plastic 28 mm humans and orcs in the boxed set. The new range closely resembled Warhammer Fantasy Battle miniatures. Combined with the newly-available races mirroring Warhammer armies, Blood Bowl moved much closer to Warhammer Fantasy Battle. In 1995, the Third Edition Blood Bowl won the Best Miniatures Rules of 1994 Origins Award.
Fourth Edition Edit
Jervis Johnson produced a new official Fourth Edition of Blood Bowl and presented it in the Fanatics Game's Official Blood Bowl magazine issue 1, with follow-up rules presented in issue 2. The new rules were a large departure from the previous edition with numerous changes, and Johnson later admitted that, "some of the changes would have benefited from rather more rigorous playtesting". In 2001 the 4th edition rules, with corrections and retitled 4th Edition Gold, were placed on the Games Workshop website as a downloadable pdf file, and Johnson announced that the rules were now "experimental" and announced the creation of the Blood Bowl Rules Committee (BBRC), a group of Blood Bowl players, some GW staff, some not, that would look at the rules once a year and produce new official rules changes and experimental rules for possible inclusion in the future rules changes. The BBRC would meet in October each year, and their first release was the Living Rule Book 1 (LRB1).
Living Rulebook Edit
Since its release, the third edition of Blood Bowl has experienced many changes, largely driven by the large and vociferous player base. These changes have been combined into the current version of the rules, known as the Living Rulebook. The majority of Blood Bowl is now played by these rules, though variants do exist due to house rules or the transition to online play.
The Living Rulebook, currently in its fifth edition, is available from the official Blood Bowl site. Originally there were plans to release a printed version for Blood Bowl's 20th anniversary, but this has since been cancelled. Work on this fifth edition, known as LRB 5.0, began in March 2004. The final product, based on roughly two years of play testing, was released on August 1 2006.
LRB 6 is now current as of 2013 and are refered to as 'Competition Rules'.
An unofficial website known as [fumbbl] offers a comprehensive online Blood Bowl experience, where coaches can create and maintain teams, run leagues, find opponents online, and use the discussion forums and private messaging system. Actual gameplay takes place through a java-based client. The service and the client are free, and play is very close to Living Rulebook 4 rules.
Video games Edit
In 1995, an MS-DOS version of Blood Bowl was developed by Strategic Simulations, Inc. and released by MicroLeague, featuring the base teams as well as many of the free agents.
In August 2007, Cyanide Studios announced that a new version for Windows computers would be developed, due to be released in 2008. On November 14, 2007, the Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, and Xbox 360 versions were announced.
Leagues and tournaments Edit
League play is the foundation upon which Blood Bowl games are based. There are many kinds of league activity, but they all tie in to a general campaign where teams battle each other over a period of time, developing new abilities and suffering injuries or worse while attempting to earn the crown of league champion.
Tournaments are one-off events where large numbers of Blood Bowl teams gather to play against each other and try to become the tournament champion. This form of play differs from a recreational league. Games Workshop holds 4 Major tournaments across the world each year. The Blood Bowl is held at Warhammer World, itself at Games Workshop's HQ in Nottingham, England in the spring and attracts around 200 players to play in the two day event. The Dungeonbowl is held in Germany, the Spike! Trophy is held in Canada, and the Chaos Cup is held in Chicago, Illinois, USA in October. Numerous other events are held throughout the world at Games Workshop stores and events or independently. In January 2003, a website was opened for the purpose of helping people organize their own Blood Bowl tournaments, to promote Blood Bowl to the wargaming world, and to rank players' performance at tournaments. The organization took the name NAF, after the fictional rules body in the Blood Bowl history.
In October 2007, the NAF held a "World Cup" Tournament in Nottingham, England over 3 days, with teams coming from as far afield as the United States and Australia. 272 players attended, making it not only the largest Blood Bowl event ever held, but the largest Games Workshop related event in history. In the end, victory was awarded to a team from France, whilst a German coach won the individual coaching award.
In November 2011, A second "World Cup" was hosted by the Dutch Bloodbowl community in Amsterdam, topping the number of attending coaches at 478. Once again teams from as far as Australia and the USA participated in a 3 day, 9 games event. In the end, the English Waterbowl team carried the team trophy home. Best individual coach was Kaltenland from Italy.
Chaos League Edit
Games Workshop has announced that Cyanide Studios now have a license to create computer games based on Blood Bowl, and that "Any differences between Games Workshop and Cyanide have been amicably settled for an undisclosed sum, and as part of the settlement the Chaos League title has been assigned to Games Workshop".