Blood Bowl Review (iOS)
Blood Bowl makes my blood boil.
The classic board game adapted to a video game has been released for some time now on consoles and PC, and it must be performing well on those systems if it keeps getting ported to other places. The newest port is the iOS version, which admittedly is my first exposure to the game at all. I had no idea what to expect, but I thought I could learn what all the fun was about. As it turns out, learning is impossible with just the game, and that's an outrage.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me explain what Blood Bowl is: this is a game that takes the sport of American football and turns it into an absolute bloodsport. The game still uses pro football terms like "blitzing" and "blocking" but very little about this game is true to football. This is Dungeons and Dragons on a football field complete with dice rolls, ability modifiers, and specific player skills and ability values. Those expecting Madden or even Mutant League Football (as I did) will not get what they expect here.
This approach makes for a much deeper, more strategic game, so much so that the original Blood Bowl tabletop game came with multiple editions of a giant handbook explaining more nuanced rules. No big deal, right? D&D did the same thing. The problem is that the digital game, instead of incorporating all of the rules in the rulebook for easy access by the player, tells the player to reference the handbook while playing the game. It's not enough that you purchase the Blood Bowl app and download it to your iPad, you now have to purchase a rulebook to make sure you understand everything that's going to happen instead of it being available in-app. That's absurd.
What does that mean for me? It means that no matter how many times I played the tutorial and tired to learn the basics, I'd still be going into the game completely blind because of the lack of a handbook. This is akin to the lame paper maps that used to come with Grand Theft Auto games; players want to have all of the information available to them via their controller, they don't want to have to stop and reference an external source in order to understand the rules! That doesn't make any sense!
That's not to say I didn't try to play the game. I loaded up a few teams, tried to take the pitch against the AI, and got my butt royally kicked every single time. Each team gets eight turns, with a turnover or touchdown being the end of a turn, but before the first half was over I was consistently down by multiple scores.
As frustrating as it is, I can totally see the appeal of a game like Blood Bowl. This is true "fantasy" football, with giant orcs and demons and other kinds creatures lining up 11-on-11 like our favorite NFL teams on Sundays in the fall. This is a popular sport made for the Warhammer enthusiast, replacing athletic prowess and physicality with games of chance and mental fortitude. This is a thinking man's football game, and under different circumstances I could see myself really enjoying it.
However, because I have to buy a guidebook in order to get the rules down, what is the major difference between this and buying the board game version? What about the iOS version makes it the top version to own? Unfortunately nothing, as there's no game modes to play outside of single- and multi-player, and the touch controls, which should lend themselves well to turn-based strategy-esque square selection, aren't as receptive as I'd like them to be. I imagine the Blood Bowl board game offers a bit more in the "getting the overall experience" department than this app, which just makes me feel inferior.
Longtime fans of Blood Bowl who are down with the lingo and the rules should have no problem jumping in and enjoying this new tablet-based version of the classic game. Those new to the bowl, however, should do a LOT of research before jumping in, or else you're going to feel slighted, cheated, and lost. Oh, and don't forget to buy the Rulebook!
This review is based on a download of Blood Bowl provided by the publisher for iOS.
App Store Link: Blood Bowl for iPad | By Focus Home Interactive I Price: $4.99 | Version: 220.127.116.11 | 320MB | Rating 12+