Published on April 24th, 2013 | by Gregg Miller
Rose Bowl? Try Blood Bowl!
Gregg Explains- Blood Bowl: Team Manager Card Game
Blood Bowl originally appeared as a table-top fantasy football miniatures type game. Perhaps if I get an actual copy of the original version of the game or get enough friends with the computer version to run a league via Steam, I’ll go into more details about how the original Blood Bowl game runs.
In Blood Bowl: Team Manager, some ideas carry over from the minis game in the form of mechanics in this card game. There’s six teams, in two subdivisions (or leagues) that are part of the greater Team Managers Union (TMU). Humans, Elves, and Dwarves make the Old World Association (OWA). Orcs, Chaos, and Skaven make the Chaos Wasters Confederation (CWC). Now, the game can be played with two to four players, but it really shines if you can round up three buddies to play along with you for the full four people.
The game focuses on action management, and has a luck factor for the resolution of certain aspects. Primarily, the Tackle mechanic revolves around rolling one or two dice. Three sides of the die have a tackle icon, two sides are blank, while the sixth side shows an X or fumble. So, half the time you get something good, the other half it’s bad, but a third of those bad rolls are super bad. When the tackler and “tacklee” are uneven in stat strength, two dice are rolled, and one person decides which die face is used out of the two results. When the two are even, one die is rolled, and you take whatever result is on the single die.
This week, Matt “The Favorite” drew the Gouged Eye team, which runs similar to the orcs faction from Warhammer Fantasy. Tackling is their main mechanic and they get bonuses and boosts for it. Travis “Buuut Anyway” drew the Athelorn Avengers, the elves faction who excel at passing and keeping possession of the ball. Dave “You’re On Maps” drew the Grudgebearers, the dwarf faction who specializes in taking a hit. They’re a more defensive team, but they can bring on the smack down in a few situations. Finally, yours truly “The Explainer” drew Reikland Reavers, the human faction that gets the best players in the league, as well as having adaptability.
One of the unplayed factions were the Chaos All-Stars who specialize in the cheating mechanic, for a bit of a more wild-card feel of play. The other was the Skavenblight Scramblers, a team that excels in the Running mechanic, meaning you cycle your deck rapidly, and an odd tendency of winning through losing.
The game is meant to simulate the highlights of the “week” during the league. Tournaments, special events, and everything leading up to the mother of ultimate showdowns, the Blood Bowl. A deck listed with the TMU logo dispenses the special events, and tournaments that will randomly affect the “week” of highlights. If it’s an event, it adds special rules, like extra points for winning, laying the cheating on thick, or other zany things that can turn the tide of battle. If a tournament shows, then you’ve got a special highlight where everyone can participate for big payouts.
Once you’ve revealed the special event or tournament, you’ll reveal a number of highlights equal to the number of players. Each highlight has a fun in-theme name, appropriate art for the zany and brutal setting of Warhammer Fantasy, as well as the most important notations, the victory and participation rewards. On the left and right side of the card is a participation reward. Win or lose, the side you pick is what you walk away with, so long as there’s a team to claim it. In between these two, is a victory reward for who actually won that highlight. It’s not enough to just be there, you gotta win it! On top of the card is placed a football token that’s worth two points towards deciding who won any given highlight.
Once turn order is determined, you work around the table in a clockwise fashion taking one action. Generally it’s playing one of the players in your hand to do any of the listed traits, or special effects listed on the card. You’re also jockeying for positions on the highlights presented. Once there’s a team on each side of a highlight, it’s locked in for those two players, unless one player can eliminate the other side, thus “opening up” a spot for any remaining players to step in.
Tackling, passing, running, and cheating are the four core traits, as well as passive traits that bend the rules and make exceptions. With Tackling, you can weaken and remove enemy players at a highlight. Passing moves ball possession towards one of the two sides in the game, with ball possession giving boosts to some characters, and a significant lead in the final tally. Running allows you the option to draw an additional player from your deck, at the cost of having to discard one of the player cards in your hand, making a deck cycling mechanic when you’re trying to get more appropriate players in your hand, and on the field. Cheating causes you to draw from a pool of face down tokens. At the end, when you’re tallying up who’s got the most points to win a highlight, you reveal what’s on the underside of the token. Boosts, points, and ejections can cause massive upheavals in who wins or loses a highlight.
During each highlight you’re fighting for Fans (victory points), team upgrades (signature boosts that make your team do what it does best), staff upgrades (medics, coaches, or just dirty tricks), and Star Players (Better player cards to add in your roster, or outright replace weaker cards in your original roster). In the end, every reward can lead to potential victory. The bottom line is whoever has the most Fans at the end is the winner, but certain teams generate Fans for having certain star players, for having lots of Staff Upgrades, Team Upgrades, or just doing something great.
The first time I ever played this, I had managed through pure luck to pull out from the back of the pack all the way to the lead. This week? It was a rather decisive victory with Matt’s orcs, as they tackled their way to victory with 56 points. Travis racked up an impressive 41 points, while Dave snagged a respectable 37 points. As for me? I found with mutual observation that the human faction has a rough time winning, if you don’t get certain cards in your hand at the right time. While they can adapt well, if you don’t have the right elements in play, they kind of flounder.
There’s a lot of luck, a lot of skill, but above all, a lot of laughs and fun with this game. If you get an experienced group, the games can go fast, or calculatingly slow. Depending on just what’s on the line in a given play. For small groups of friends, this is definitely a great game to have some laughs, and an all around good time.