Sunday, 29 September 2013

Blood Bowl Team Manager

We didn't have anything definite arranged at the club this week, so I took along Blood Bowl Team Manager for a trial run.  This is one of Fantasy Flight's Games Workshop licensed games, based on the classic fantasy American football tabletop game.
Each player takes control of one of six teams for the course of a season, draws players, drafts star players, recruits coaching and backroom staff and participates in each game week.  It's quite an odd affair, especially considering the original game; players don't complete individual matches.  Instead, each turn consists of the players drawing a highlights reel - a row of cards with different combinations of rewards - representing something like a a sports summary television show like Match of the Day or NFL Gameday.  Individual player cards are placed next to a highlight in an effort to collect the reward on that card.

Essentially, you're getting a snapshot of what happened over a course of series of games, not winning and losing specific matches.  The aim of the game is also a little left of centre; instead of accruing the most points or "winning" most game weeks, the aim is to accumulate the most fans.  Not a problem in the game (in fact, the fan mechanic is handled very well,) but these two factors make Blood Bowl Team Manager a little counter-intuitive.
Still, once you've got your head around the unorthodox set up and premise, quite an entertaining little game unfolds. BBTM plays pretty quickly and, as every player regularly acquires new cards to use, there is very little down time in the game.  There are a nice mix of mechanics in the game; most cards have optional abilities to use, tackling uses dice, cheating needs a risk/reward decision, star players are (unsurprisingly) powerful.  Even the scoring system gives you some interesting choices to make; do you take the fans to get an early lead, or do you forgo fans to try and recruit better players or coaching staff.

Six teams are available to choose from in the base game, all from the Warhamer world; humans, dwarves, wood elves, orcs, skaven and chaos.  FFG have done a great job in differentiating between the different teams, the Skaven for instance, sneaky and underhand, make heavy use the cheating mechanic, the Orcs favour bludgeoning their opponents while the humans, who can do a bit of everything, are simultaneously great at nothing!
FFG say this game is for 2-4 players, but we realised very quickly that the two player experience is very disappointing.  Simply put, there's only one real tactic for both players in a two player game and once one player gets ahead, it's nigh on impossible for the other player to catch up.  However, I've no doubt that in a three or four player game, neither of these issues would be a problem.

Overall, Blood Bowl Team Manager is a decent enough game, one I really want to like, but would need to play a larger game to make sure.  The game itself is full of Blood Bowl humour and flavour; two commentators appear and have witty banter printed on many of the cards and the artwork overall is excellent.
I picked up the base game and the expansion well below the RRP.  I can't say I would pay full price for them, but if you get a cheap enough copy and enjoy multi-player board or card games, Blood Bowl Team Manager is a pretty good deal.

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