Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Blood Bowl

A good friend of mine passed unexpectedly about a month ago. He's someone I gamed with in the mid-Nineties, in between high school and moving out on my own. Jeff introduced me to a lot of games - and a very different approach to some of them. If you've enjoyed reading my blog over the years, then you owe Jeff a small amount of gratitude, too.

The most impactful introduction he made for me was Blood Bowl, and so the weekend after he passed, I went to a Games Workshop store, and I picked up the new (2020) edition.

I have a ... complicated ... history with GW. They, for their part, have vacillated between rabidly anti-fan moves and actively supporting fansites, depending on who was in charge at any given time.  Right now, they're starting to swing back to being anti-fan.

But Blood Bowl has always been That Game for me. Prior to it, I'd never played a board game that had an advancement mechanism - that'd been something I'd considered a dividing line between RPGs and Board Games.  I'd also never enjoyed a sports-themed game - I'd tried a few, but they were always either oddly clunky or super-dry. Or both.

But Blood Bowl hit that sweet spot for me. They've released it a couple of times, and each time, there were some minor tweaks and adjustments. I got good at the game - I even won a couple of tournaments, including an official Rogue Trader tournament which gained for me the World's Ugliest Trophy.

Since then, other games have hit similar spots - especially when Games Workshop was at their absolute worst. I really enjoyed Elfball and Dreadball and Guild Ball, for example. But I kept coming back to Blood Bowl.

A week ago, I spent my weekend assembling figures.  For 3rd Edition, the Blood Bowl figures were pretty much all two-piece single-pose or one-piece metal figures (other than some Big Guys and Star Players). When they re-released the game in 2016, they upgraded the figures to the current GW standard, which is ... a mixed blessing.

With 3e (which was 1994 all the way up until the 2016 release), I could buy a box and press-fit the Orc and Human players. I was ready to play in less than an hour from the time I opened the box.

With the Second Season Edition, I spent hours assembling figures. And the instructions in a couple of cases were so bad that I had to keep going to their website to see what the finished product was like. It was a continual exercise in frustration.

And that's bad.  Blood Bowl had been an excellent gateway game for budding miniatures game hobbyists. Their simple figures meant that rookies who painted them often got decent results (but experienced hobbyists could still get spectacular results). 

For example, here is the classic Champions of Death team. They're all metal figures, and it's clear which figures are zombies and which are skeletons, ghouls, or mummies...

The new version is all-plastic - and the poses are much more dynamic. But these guys are not easy to assemble, and are difficult to paint, too. Especially if you want to make it clear which figures are ghouls vs zombies or wights vs skeletons.

Every team is similarly changed. And, while they look nice, they're not a good entry point into the miniature painting hobby like they used to be. The assembly is frustrating, and the painting is - frankly - intimidating.

With all of that said, however, I've got a team of snotlings on their way to me. Because one of my first memories of the game was Jeff showing me a snotling, and expressing dismay that they were not playable in the (then-new) 3rd Edition.

When they get here, I'll be painting them in Seahawks colors. Classic Seahawks colors, not the current ones. Because Jeff loved the Hawks.

If things ever open back up again, I may look into joining (or hosting) a league again, too.