I’ll Take the Red Pill
One thing I loved about the Star Wars pen and paper game was the concept of the ‘red’ dice. SW was played with all d6 – and on your rolls you always had to had an off colored dice. That dice was the “special” dice. We called it the fate dice. It may have officially have been called the ‘Force’ dice. I’m not sure. Its been 15 years. The crux of it? You rolled real bad on that dice, even if you rolled all 6’s on the others, and crazy things would happen. Crazy bad. It also worked in the reverse, where a good roll – on that one dice – would make amazingly incredible things happen. Out of the ordinary. At least, that is how I remember it – and I was reminded of it while trying out Blood Bowl.
To hell with ordinary and predictable. While I can’t recommend this game to everyone, it has brought to my forefront that despite pretty graphics and neat mechanics, the predicatbility of gaming is killing me. So I kill my enemies on the Blood Bowl pitch. More chatter after the jump.
I had never heard of Blood Bowl before, which has a long, interesting and successful tabletop history. I heard about it through reading a couple of posts at Hardcore Casual (sorry for the tri-pingback Syn, but they are all older articles so shouldn’t mess up your clean blog too much!) and a few thoughts gleaned from those articles made me purchase.
- I was looking for a strategic challenge – but not too crazy difficult
- I like sports, and fantasy, and bloodletting
- I wanted something completely out of the comfort zone realm of my gaming
- Something turnbase, easily pausable, saveable, etc. A game I can play for 15 minutes and walk away and come back when I have time
The fact the game has been around for years was a bonus – the rules have been created, updated, and tested extensively. BB is considered a very true port of the tabletop version so hey, let’s see how those years of refinement would translate into a gaming experience. Not surprisingly, very well.
I chose Elves. I know, make fun of me, whatever. While Orc and Human teams are supposedly the better learning teams the team description for Elves was pass, pass, and pass. I like that style of play, so I chose them. I tried to do the tutorials – sadly, it took longer to load a tutorial than to complete it (and the game itself loads really slow before a match – can’t figure out why, considering there isn’t much in the way of moving parts). I downloaded the ruleset pdf, read through it a bit before realizing without a board or visual reference in front of me it was hard to grasp the core concepts. So, in the end, I just dove right into campaign mode. I would learn through trial, error, and failure. It took about 5 matches before I really understood and got the hang of it – so the learning curve wasn’s so bad. Shortly after that, after competing in 6 tournaments over the past few weeks, a team rating of just over 2000, 1 trained up star player from a rookie, 2 trophies to my name, I can safely say I am hooked on the game.
The basic mechanics are beat the snot out of your opponent in a footballesque setting. It just works. Your players improve and you can customize their stats and bonus skills (not much in the way of visual customization except at purchase) and you can tip the advantage in the game through other mechanics – rerolls (wish I had invested in them earlier), cheerleaders (assist in certain rolls during the game), and apothecaries (can stop your players from permadeath, or perma injury).
That’s right, permadeath. Ther permanency of it all is great. Break a leg? Lose one Agility point – permanently. Your players can – do – and will – die. My favorite player on my team was a Wardancer. She kicked serious ass. Got up to level 5 – an emerging star. I was playing a first round tournament against a far weaker opponent and bam – she was blocked by a small goblin and the injury roll came up “Death”. Dead. She’s gone. That’s it. Bring in the sub, and exact some revenge. That kind of randomness is what I really like about the game – although I am certain it will frustrate some incredibly. You can setup your offence perfectly, knock down opponents, send a receiver deep, have your Thrower go to pick up the ball and pass it into the endzone for a quick point – only to have him fail a pickup roll. No one around him, nothing in the way, just a bad dice roll. Now, the tables are severely reversed if you don’t have a contingency plan for that error roll. He fails the pickup roll and automatically its a turnover and the other team gets their moves. One runs up and breaks the Thrower’s collarbone, the next picks up the ball, and trots into your endzone. No matter how well you plan, how good your players are, and how sound your strategy is – you are at the mercy of a random dice roll that can turn the entire game upside down with with fatal 1 roll.
And that, my friends, is sweetness. Pure sweetness. The unexpected and unpredictability of it all has me in love with it. Imagine an MMO, where you go to cast your fireball of doom on the Big Mob, and you fail a roll for it – causing it to explode around you, damaging anyone nearby? Interrupting a heal on the tank, causing the tank to die, and more craziness to ensue? That may not sound like a lot of fun in current MMO iterations, but if encounters were scripted to allow failure in the first place (without wiping) we could really have some fun with it.
I haven’t tried Multiplayer yet, and granted, I am only playing the game on the Easy setting – I am still understanding the different races and how they play, and how to counter their strengths. The only team that gives me a major headache right now is the Lizardmen team, with Dwarves close behind (they are tough little buggers, and push around the Elves fairly easily). The Goblin team is the easiest for me to beat, and Chaos is hit or miss. I am looking forward to digging a bit deeper into the game, reading the official rulebook for the tabletop version (now that i have played a bunch of matches, I’ll be able to understand it better) and throw myself to the BB wolves out there. I expect it won’t be pretty. But hey, maybe their Runner will roll a 1, fall down flat, and give me a chance to win. I fully suspect at the mercy of the RNG even an average player has a shot at a great player. I suppose I’ll find out soon.
The directed experience feels like Uwe Boll is the one calling “cut” right now. Throw in some twists, have some fun. Play some Blood Bowl.