I’ve got no idea how it happened. Honestly, I don’t know, but Blood Bowl has made a stunning recovery.
What first charged its way into my world years ago as a superbly designed miniature board game from Games Workshop has managed to make its way back into my hobby time in the form of a pretty spectacular multiplayer video game. Cyanide Studios has invoked a strange moment of nostalgia, and it has caused me to reconsider this game, from its miniature-based origins, to its shiny new digital form. When I look at Cyanide’s Blood Bowl, I see Digital Amber: It has preserved a truly impressive game for the ages, but in doing so, has ultimately created a barrier between what first attracted me to the game and its new audience.
To be honest, I don’t remember when exactly I was introduced to Blood Bowl. I think it was a Superbowl Sunday. Early on in my life, I was a fan of miniature game, mainly those coming out of Games Workshop. The feeling of commanding an army of Chaos Warriors or Space Orks was incredibly fun, but I also really enjoyed the aspect of creating things. Being able to sit down on a Saturday afternoon and paint a platoon for the next days match was a great bit of artistic expression for me. Spending a weekend with friends constructing a battlefield out of Styrofoam, toilet paper rolls and kitchen scrubbers remains a very fond memory.
Though this love of miniature warfare introduced me to it, Blood Bowl was an entirely different beast. Sure, I still got to paint up teams, and I enjoyed being able to kit bash models together to simulate throwing or charging Beastmen, but its hard to call Blood Bowl “epic”. Completely Insane would be more apt. Blood Bowl actually gave you quite a bit of freedom to create whatever crazy thing you could think of, because the entire game was mad: American Football played between classic fantasy races, where killing the enemy team and ignoring the ball was an entirely valid tactic. Like any dice-based game, you had your moments of luck and of crushing defeats, but because BloodBowl failed to take itself seriously at all, loosing could be even more fun than winning, and it was almost always more entertaining. The Original Blood Bowl is still a really solid game, and if you can find a group to play it with, it is certainly worth giving it a shot.
But, as I went to University and life progressed, Miniature Wargamming sort of fell to the wayside. It was a pain to ferry all my models, paints and sculpting tools with me to university, and there was never a large interest in playing Blood Bowl among the group of players at university.
But then, a few weeks ago, something wonderful happened. While wasting my time on Youtube, I happened to notice a new video from TotalBiscuit, and it had Blood Bowl in the title.
I was flabbergasted. I’d known that Blood Bowl had a digital counterpart, but to be honest, I’d never given it the time of day. It’d looked clunky to me, and I wondered if it could ever replace the evenings moving plastic pieces across the cardboard playing field. I’m’ glad to say that I was wrong to ever doubt Cyanide’s reproduction.
Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition is a superb game because it IS the original Blood Bowl. The game is based on the Living Rulebook, an ever-growing and ever improving set of rules for the core Board Game. The rules are constantly being reconsidered and re-tweaked by fans of the game, The game changes, more or less, in ways that fans want to see it change (within reason of course). Cyanide as stuck to the rule book, and like a well made film adaptation of your favorite book, your smile only get larger the more you see.
So, as a veteran sitting down to Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition, you know exactly what to do. The same Kick-Off table is used, the same team compositions and statistics. As a new Blood Bowl player, you’ve got a solid set of rules to learn, and even a rule book you can study. It’ll likely confuse the piss out of you at first, but give it time: The game has lasted since 1987 for a reason.
However, Cyanide’s Blood Bowl doesn’t have everything that the original game did. There are no hand-crafted miniatures, no insanely-converted teams lovingly put together over a month and a half. The digital click of dice is nothing compared to the tense rattle of Tackle dice in your closed fists. What the digital version of Blood Bowl ends up losing most of all is the tactile qualities of the original game. While this isn’t a mind-blowing revelation, a new player might not realize what they are missing out on.
I can’t help but be a little sad every time I fire up Blood Bowl from Steam. Sad isn’t the right word, because I know that hundreds of people are experiencing Blood Bowl who never would have before. More than that, old friends who played the game on a table top can now revive old rivalries over an internet connection (I know I have!). It’s a deep sense of nostalgia that I feel, causing my fingers to twitch and remember the hours of detailed painting, and my mind to wander, wondering if those old friends still have their Blood Bowl Templates and Rule Books in their closets somewhere.
Perhaps it is time to bring the Marshwater Manglers out of retirement…