Game Reviews

Blood Bowl

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Blood Bowl

Blood Bowl has a simple, yet brilliant idea at its core. Take all the magic and brutality of fantasy adventure, and shoehorn it into a fictional sport based on American Football.

After its first appearance as a boardgame in 1987 it's undergone several revisions. That chaotic concept has become a surprisingly thoughtful and much-loved franchise.

Fans have long believed the game was ripe for the digital treatment, and there have been several home brew attempts on PC, like FUMBBL.

Then Cyanide got hold of the licence and put out a widely derided turn-based version that was riddled with bugs and terrible AI.

And that's the game we've now got on iPad.


But here's the good news. Cyanide patched out most of those problems. And although the computer opposition remains weak, the game has blossomed as a popular way to play against human opponents online.

When you play Blood Bowl it's not hard to see why it's gained such a devoted following. It strikes an exquisite balance between careful strategy and exciting randomness. And while its slow, deliberate pace feels a bad fit for the zany theme, enough madness remains to just about fill a box of frogs.

Much of this derives from the turnover system. Doing anything in Blood Bowl - throwing, catching, tackling, dodging - requires a dice roll for success. Fail and your turn ends, passing the initiative to the other team. Proritising your moves is thus an essential skill, and every action a snake pit of terror.


While one-off matches are fun, what every Blood Bowl player salivates after is league play. Here you build a team from scratch, manage your players, and watch like a proud parent as they gain new skills and experience.

But of course a league implies lots of games, and that in turn implies lots of time. Hence the appeal of a digital version, whether playing carbon or silicon-based opponents.

If you're playing alone, league play is the best way to go. Once you know the rules, exhibition matches become laughably easy against the feeble AI. Plus you can only play Humans against Orcs unless you shell out for the other teams.

In a tournament, by contrast, you'll be playing against all six of the different teams included in the initial release. Limited funds mean you start as the underdog, and even experienced players may struggle to maintain momentum over the opening games.

Own Goals

Inexperienced players shouldn't bother. There's a tutorial, which drowns you in reams of fake commentary but provides little in the way of useful information. The interface is a direct port from PC, and feels clumsy and unintuitive on touchscreen. This is no easy passport for getting to grips with this relatively complex game.

Existing fans are likely to have mixed feelings about it. Aside from the leagues and tournaments, it's thrilling to see the ludicrous world of Blood Bowl bought to life on your tablet. But the weak AI soon becomes tiresome, and occasional failures in an otherwise faithful implementation start to grate.

It is a great way to hookup for a quick game against a random human opponent. The fact the pool includes people playing on PC is a big bonus here, as is the portability of this port.

But the lack of an asynchronous mode is disappointing. There's no good reason to make you play your match from start to finish when the rules are well suited to short bursts of activity.


The level of criticism that the original release of this game got was ill-deserved. Especially when you consider Cyanide patched most issues shortly after release.

Much of the fury came from disappointed fans of the excellent original. And it does seem a shame that even this stable and handy mobile version falls so short of being a definitive conversion.

Especially when you consider the studio is working on a sequel, making this late, rushed port seem a bit of a cash cow.

But the entry price isn't that high. So while new players should stay away, existing fans may welcome a new way to enjoy their favourite fictional sport.

Blood Bowl

A rushed port of a clumsy adaptation can't disguise the quality game shining underneath
Matt Thrower
Matt Thrower
Matt is a freelance arranger of words concerning boardgames and video games. He's appeared on IGN, PC Gamer, Gamezebo, and others.