Blood Bowl is the most-balanced and least-intimidating way to get into complex minifig-based tabletop games
Even in the strange, semi-exclusive world of hardcore tabletop gaming, where titles tend to have been around for years and own the brand recognition to prove it, there are those games that get all the attention, and those that don't. As of 2017, Blood Bowl is one of that latter muddle of games that, quality aside, gets pushed to the hard-to-see back of the crowd, overshadowed by IPs like X-Wing and, of course, proper Warhammer in its many, many incarnations.
But, you know what? Tradition -- and whatever we could reach to label as the mainstream of tabletop -- be damned. It legitimately sucks that Blood Bowl is such a less-seen game, because it’s a good one. In fact, in some ways, it's bad for the hobby as a whole that Blood Bowl isn't as well-played or well-known as the other titles, what with it being quicker and cheaper than Warhammer (and 40K), far more balanced than Mordheim, and with a lot more flavor and depth than X-Wing.
Blood Bowl is the most-balanced and least-intimidating way to get into complex minifig-based tabletop games, and it’s the best introduction to proper Warhammer-style combat strategy. It's fast, fun, funny and yet still has a ton of strategy going on. Perhaps being based on American football keeps Blood Bowl out of the limelight, in a lot of ways, but I think that's doing it a disservice. Blood Bowl is a football game the way Alien is a traditional haunted house movie: it's bigger, bolder, (a hell of a lot) bloodier and is all about fun.
So lucky for us all, then, that the best way yet to try out Blood Bowl has just dropped: the Legendary Edition of Blood Bowl 2, the PC incarnation of this unsung hero of the tabletop canon.
The only real question is, is it worth the money? The answer to that depends on you.
If You Don't Own Blood Bowl 2 Already
If you're not an owner of Blood Bowl, but you're interested in tabletop, Warhammer, football, or strategy games, whether or not you should buy Blood Bowl 2: Legendary Edition depends on (a) just how interested you are in those things, and (b) how much spare money you have.
Because while this is a damn fine strategy game, it's also a niche one, and while this is the best version of it ever (including the tabletop iteration, which I say because that thing is even more expensive and hard to get people together to play in most cases), it's also one for which the cost is going to feel heavy unless you really are very interested in it. Let's break down some highlights that might entice you to get this, as well as a few things that might swing you the other way.
Highlights for new players
-There is strategy on top of strategy here, as this is a serious tabletop title with all of the extensively polished rules, huge numbers of units and wide variety of skills that that comes with. If you like depth, it's here.
-And, unlike many serious strategy titles, this game balances the strategy with some of the absolutely best-written and best-executed flavor of any game I've played in years, much less deep strategy titles. If you're familiar with Warhammer 40K titles, this won't be a surprise to you; this IP has always been great with humor when it comes to the official games and other texts. Most of this revolves around the utter ridiculousness of the units fighting each other – one unit is a Goblin on a pogo stick, some Dwarves literally bring their beer steins onto the field, Norsemen literally wear only underwear, Ghouls carry their helmets in their teeth, the list goes on – the combat they inflict on each other (hilariously brutal punches, trips, flipping kicks, thwacks, you name it) and, best of all, the incredible live commentary on the game via the fictional Cabalvision TV channel, hosted by racist (against fantasy races, mind you) Ogre Bob Bifford and blood-starved Vampire Jim Johnson.
-This isn't your typical combat strategy game. It does have a football theme, and playing the football-esque matches is all you're going to do. This isn't a bad thing if you're okay with weird strategy concepts that use complex mechanics within a limited setup to achieve a deep game, but for some, this could get repetitive and/or the whole sports-ish concept might be off-putting.
-This isn't an easy game, and it’s meant to have frustrating moments, even if you play very well. Like most all tabletop games, you're going to have bad matches here. Bad dice rolls, injured or dead characters, and last-minute losses to weird plays are going to happen. Again, if you're used to this kind of game, such as Mordheim or X-Wing, this isn't going to surprise you, but newbies could find it punishing in a way that could make it un-fun.
If You Do Own Blood Bowl 2 and Are Thinking About Upgrading
The other category of players that are interested in this review will be those players that have Blood Bowl 2 and are wondering if the Legendary Edition is worth the upgrade cash. Here's a list of what you actually get in the upgrade, in case you're wondering:
-All races, including the DLC races of the Norse, Undead, Nurgle, Khemri, Lizardmen, Wood Elves, Chaos Dwarves and Necromantic, and the Official Expansion races of the Halflings, Ogres, Goblins, Vampires, Amazon, Elven Union, Underworld Denizens and the hilarious Kislev Circus (which has a giant mf-ing bear on its team). Considering there were all of eight races available in the original game, this is a HUGE addition, even if you don't play these teams yourself, as you'll end up playing against them. Much fun, much blood.
-A new Khemri stadium. Not bad, but nothing thrilling.
-The Eternal League and Challenge modes, which solo gameplay galore. The Eternal League is a campaign that goes across the Warhammer world, and Challenges are specific difficult situations, dropping you into already-happening games and asking you to achieve certain tasks (sort-of like chess problems, for those familiar). These are both cool for players that don't like getting into multiplayer especially, but they're also just generally interesting content, particularly the Eternal League. The game's campaign before this expansion was fun but limited, being only human-focused, and Eternal League allows for any team to be used in a series of tournaments, so this is a neat way to extend gameplay.
-Some new multiplayer set-up features, including a chat before and after the game and some new tournament formats and options.
Though, unless you absolutely love this game (for which I would not blame you at all, me being a huge fan myself), players might consider waiting for the Legendary Edition itself to go on sale, because it is pretty darn expensive, even if it's good.
Is this a great version of a great game, and is it worth the money for fans that have it? Hell yeah. This is the bloodiest, funniest damn sports game that has or likely will ever be made, and if you dig the IP, like strategy and have the cash, I say grab it like a mad chainsaw-wielding Goblin going for the spike-covered pigskin and get your feet moving, because once you pick this thing up, you're gonna find in yourself a powerful need to get your ass to the endzone a time or two. Unless, y'know, you actually like Frankenstein's monster-lookin' dudes smashing your head into painted grass. I dunno what you're into man; people are weird.