"Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition" is a (mostly) faithful computer representation of the tabletop game "Blood Bowl" by Games Workshop. The tabletop game is played with miniatures of fantasy creatures and was first released in 1986.
Blood Bowl is a turn-based football-like game played by fantasy races in a grossly violent Universe (with a parodistic streak) that is very similar to the Warhammer Fantasy setting. According to the lore surrounding the game, denizens of a fantasy Earth discovered a rules book for American Football, mistook it for a holy scripture describing a sacred game, and proceeded to settle future conflicts through Blood Bowl matches. Due to translation errors, the rules differ considerably from the football known to us. For example, permanent injuries or even deaths occur frequently (and may even be expected for a "proper" match), injuring an opponent by collectively stomping him into the ground is a viable tactic, goblins may try to smuggle bombs and chainsaws onto the pitch, and halflings often score touchdowns by clutching the ball and letting fellow treemen hurl them across the field.
The game has turn-based, tile-based movement: one coach moves all of his players until a turn-ending failure occurs, then the other coach does the same. Available actions include moving, attacking opponents, dodging away from opponents, throwing and catching the ball (as well as intercepting it and picking it up), fouling opponents on the ground, throwing team-mates, and scoring touchdowns. Teams consist of 11-16 players. 20 "races" exist, each of which have several options to form a team. Players differ in their strength, agility, speed, armor, and skills (of which the game features 75). They gain experience for successfully completed actions, and can learn new skills when they rise a level. Players can also be injured or killed. Teams can engage each other in leagues, the developer's server offers a matchmaking service.
The game offers substantial strategic depth and variation, as can be expected from a tabletop game that has been continuously developed and expanded for more than 25 years.
BB should mainly be seen as a multiplayer game - a single player component is included, but the AI is woefully incompetent. It can provide a challenge to a coach who is still learning the game, but competent coaches typically never lose a match against it. There is an active online community which currently plays about 1600 matches per day through the developer's servers. The game also allows direct Internet connections between coaches, so the future of the game is not tied to the existence of this official server.
The graphics are of high quality considering the immense number of different creatures that had to be implemented. Skills from the "Mutation" category are visibly represented, i.e. a creature that has been given the "Extra Arms" skill will actually have a visible third arm. The textures may look a bit crude when zoomed in, but you usually want to see the tactical situation on the pitch, so you zoom out anyway. For coaches who want higher resolution graphics and models, a community-made modpack is available.
The art style fits that of the official Blood Bowl miniatures. As players rise in level, they successively obtain more features and details seen on the official figurines.
The animations are beautifully done and show a lot of attention to detail. For example, every creature has its own touchdown animation, some quite hilarious.
The stadiums, complete with fantasy advertising walls and animated spectators, are varied and very atmospheric.
The game's sound effects and music are adequate. The voice acting of the two commentators is spectacular and contributes a lot to the atmosphere.
The interface for playing games is decent. All standard actions are simple to do, non-standard actions may require a bit of trial and error, but you'll get there eventually. The interface of the online lobby on the official server, however, is horrible, and you'll probably need someone to walk you through the very non-obvious ways to perform simple actions. Thankfully, the chances of finding a helpful hand in the lobby's chat are high.
EASE OF USE:
For someone new to Blood Bowl, getting into this game can be a nightmare. The ruleset, while being less complex than many tabletop wargames, is definitely more complex than that of most computer sports games, and needs explanation and practice. Unfortunately the game's tutorial doesn't help much, it tries to explain too much at once, confuses learners by using jargon terms without explaining them, and it only brushes the basics. The game manual has a bit more information, but is woefully incomplete as well.
For new coaches, I suggest reading through the "Competiton Rules Pack" (a PDF of which is included in the game's installation folder). Play a few games against the AI until you have mastered the basics, then go online and play against other people. Prepare to lose frequently in the beginning, but eventually you will learn to play better. It will take a while, but if you like this type of games, it will be worth it.
OTHER THINGS OF NOTE:
The game's rendition of the rules is not perfect, but a thorough understanding of the rules is required before one notices the differences and bugs. Coaches interested in an even more faithful rendition of the rules (though much less visually attractive) may want to take a look at the free FUMBBL client.
Apart from the regular turn-based mode, the game also feature a real-time mode, in which all players move at once. This mode, and several additions that can be used in turn-base mode as well, is specific to the computer game, they are not based on the official tabletop ruleset. These additions haven't found many fans, and it may be difficult to find other coaches who want to use them.
The game is still actively being developed. A new "Chaos Edition" is announced for September 2012. A descendant, "Dungeon Bowl", will be announced shortly. Unfortunately, the legal situation surrounding the game is a mess (with three involved companies who all don't think very highly of each other). Although patches are still released, it is currently unclear how many of the remaining bugs can be fixed, since none of the original developers is still working on the project, and the (currently) only programmer has to deal with a codebase that he hasn't created and that seems to be difficult to work with. Some of the remaining bugs are quite annoying (crashes that let you lose matches, or a recurring bug that lets players disappear or adds one more player than allowed to a coach's lineup), but the game is still very enjoyable.
The game comes with SecuRom DRM and has a limited a number of allowed activations per key.
This game is not without flaws. It has bugs, it is very hard to get into, and it can frustrate coaches a lot (even the veterans, when the dice destroy their well-formed plans, or when an ideally developed high-level players dies from an unlucky roll). However, nothing of this changes the fact that this game contains hundreds of hours of fun for the players who like this kind of games. This massive replay value, combined with the game's unique setting and atmosphere, the vast amount of features, and the fact that the implementation of the rules is mostly faithful, is still worth five stars.
Review Date: 13/Apr/2012 -- Program version: 18.104.22.168 -- Progress: about 100 matches played (50 in multi-player) with varying teams