The original Blood Bowl tabletop game took Game Workshop’s fantasy Warhammer license and crammed its various races into a violent sport. Like to American Football, the objective is to get the ball into the opposition’s end zone. Indeed, the only real difference between the sports comes from the fact that smashing your opponent into a bloody pulp is intended, rather than just an entertaining byproduct.
After Blood Bowl's lengthy, but highly recommended tutorial, it is time to hit the field. You can choose to take control of either an Ork or Empire team, with more races available through in-app purchases.
Despite offering a single player season and exhibition matches, there is a clear focus on the multiplayer. With the option to battle people both online and locally on a single tablet, it is only by playing with friends that you can unlock Blood Bowl's full - if limited - potential.
Turning any tabletop game into an electronic experience comes with advantages and pitfalls. Blood Bowl's need for counters, dice, and player charts, makes having it on a iPad a cleaner and faster experience that can be played anywhere. Unfortunately, there is a downside to this, with the loss of its tangible nature making it far blander.
Tap, tap, thwak
Blood Bowl's interface is quite straightforward. After setting your squad's formation, tapping on the desired player selects them, while another tap has them execute the desire action. A single turn may see you controlling any number of your 11 players. You can have them run, throw, catch, or tackle, with your go only ending when the timer runs out or you lose possession.
Player's success is dependent on a selection of dice throws. While in the original game each roll would be a tense moment, here it is automatically dealt with under the surface. This makes Blood Bowl seem incredibly unfair, with you being repeatedly cut down and losing possession for seemingly no reason.
This streamlining makes the game feel sterile. The tactile nature of the board - with the inevitable arguments about distances, dice rolls, and the subtleties of the rules - lost in favor of convenience.
The other odd upshot of this is that, with the game taking care of each of your player's abilities, you lose track of why things are happening. This makes it hard to plan future moves because you are never certain of what specific characters can do. While these stats are available in menus, it just isn't the same as combing through a rulebook.
An ugly tackle
To make matters worse, the loss of these physical elements are not made up for in the move to the digital format. The animations - which should have bought the game to life - are flat, making your squad look as rigid as the pewter figurines that inspired it.
Audio effects do nothing to aid the stilted “action”. There is no impact to anything, with passes and tackles sounding unimpressive and audio samples jarring against the comparative silence.
Celebrations are not much better. The brief cheer that goes up with each touchdown feels almost patronizing, with the lackluster wooden animations of you team doing nothing to break the illusion.
The one upside is the voice work. The commentators that chatter away as you play at least do a good job of elevating the single player mode, offering some small piece of entertainment as the computer rips you apart.
Blood Bowl is a tabletop game filled with so much potential on a digital format that this uninspired attempt to move it to tablet feels all the more disappointing. With the ability to face any two groups of fantasy creatures off against each other on a playing field, the atmosphere should have been a blend of the Super Bowl and Lord of the Rings. Instead, all you get is an experience that offers all of the drama of a slow game of Monopoly, where only one player knows the rules and seems to have rigged the dice.
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What's New in Blood Bowl - Version:188.8.131.52Convenient way to play
Tap controls are simple
No sense of the crowd
Unintuitive, even for fans
Hiding the dice makes play hard to follow