For most Blood Bowl players the release of Death Zone Season 2 is probably something most coaches have already gotten their hands on. Alas, being a wage-slave of the Government I was banished to a remote wilderness for the past two months and barely had enough internet connection to order up some of Games Workshop’s new releases. Now that I have returned back to civilization I can finally sink my teeth into Season 2 and all the goodies it has to offer.
I’ll be honest that from the initial re-launch of Blood Bowl I have been a little skeptical of the ‘Season’ book concept. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Blood Bowl Video game and how many times it seemed I had to repurchase the game just to add an additional handful of teams. This feeling was compounded when Death Zone Season 1 also didn’t do much to woo me over. This disappointment had nothing to do with the content or format (although typos are always disappointing) but just with the lack of ‘new stuff.’ I will admit that this feeling was probably more of the grumpy old man not liking change. Blood Bowl players of old have been sticking with the game over the long haul so sometimes it can feel weird when the winds of change begin to blow. If Season 2 had come out a couple of months earlier I am not sure I would have ordered it, but whenever I’m out of civilization and money starts to pile up in the bank account the need to blow cash on game stuff becomes uncontrollable. Anyhow, enough rambling from me and on to the review.
The quality and materials is on par with the Season 1 book and I was surprised with the overall feel of the book. It comes in at 80 pages and despite not being a hard back it has a good solid weight to it. In classic Games Workshop style both inside covers are sporting some sweet minis-porn to remind me of my inadequacies with the paint brush but nothing that hasn’t already been seen on the Games Workshop websites.
The layout of the book includes a total of eight sections: New Star Players, New Optional Rules, New Rules, New Teams, Skills Update, Hall of Fame, Official Reference Guide, and Star Player Summary. Starting with Star Players, the book offers a total of 12 star players with half being new or at least the first time offering any information on their backgrounds. In my particular group of gaming friends we shun the use of Star Players in league play but we all routinely will put them on the field during tournaments. Of the new Stars there was certainly some creativity used when putting them together. For a small fortune the Swift Twins will give you two very talented Elves that will certainly pump up any offense. Valen Swift sports a 5 agility combined with Safe Throw and Accurate, I’m not sure how anyone would defend against that kind of nastiness! Glart Smashrip was a bit of a surprise coming in with only Strength of 4. From the sheer size of the model I had imagined him being on par with most ‘Big Guys’ but having both Block and Claw and a moderate price I could certainly see him being taken in tournaments instead of a Rat Ogre.Moving on to the Optional Rules, I must say this section alone made me happy with my purchase. For years we have experimented with rules to spice up our seasons with stadium and weather varieties. GW has now offered up random tables to determine the type of stadium you are playing in and I must say that I think they are great. A random roll determines the stadium type and another quick roll will give you the stadium quirk. The options are varied and allow you to play in luxurious stadiums where you can collect extra income to less desirable fields where the field is unlevel and bouncing balls will always scatter downhill. The rules go more in-depth to allow teams to purchase the stadium that they played in during the post sequence. These rules seem to add a level of micromanagement that 2nd edition Blood Bowl was (in)famous for adding, but any permanent boosts to your team are offset by the very high price of the stadium and also the possibility of getting booted out of the stadium if your team fails to perform. The sponsorship and famous ref rules are light and fair in my opinion. The sponsorships can offer you an income stream but none come cheap and all have the possibility to go bad. Star Insurance Guild comes with the possibility of insurance agents showing up to collect or McMurty’s causing your players to lose a point of movement from all the free fast food they have been inhaling are just a couple of examples of how they are balanced out. The refs also seem like a good opportunity to spice up league play. My personal favorite is Thoron Korensson who as a cranky old ref will eject an additional player off the field if coaches fail to argue the call. Coaches can argue the additional player but another bad roll means the cycle can continue as long as the coach wishes to test Nuffle. The new rules section expands the options for team coaching staffs. Personally I don’t see our group adopting any of these, but for teams that have money to spare you can add a good variety of people. The rules seemed to be well balanced and from casual observation they don’t seem too overpowered. Horatio X. Schottenheim the master mage does give two fireballs a game (one per half), but both will scatter prior to landing so the potential for backfiring on you is there, and as most followers of Nuffle know, that is usually how it goes.
Moving on to the ‘new’ team rules, the Goblin, Underworld, and Chaos Renegade teams take to the pitch. The Goblin team is expanded with a couple of new options with the Hooligan and Doom Diver. I’ve yet to see these in action on the field so it is too early to tell what their effect on the team’s performance will be. I feel the doom diver will be a high priority target as the swoop skill will help eliminate thrown teammates from scattering in the wrong direction. Still, I don’t see this making goblin teams a top tier team, but I am looking forward to seeing models made of these players. I am surprised that Chaos Renegades made the official list so quickly. I suppose never having an official team prevented them from hitting the mainstream, but perhaps GW is planning on changing that? I’ve never played the team or had the chance to play against them despite seeing them represented multiple times. Perhaps they aren’t used to surfing the bottom tables where I normally hang out? They now have the option for an Orc Lineman in the mix giving the team a decent player with a 9 armor value.
The Skills update corrects a few typos that shipped out with Season 1 and adds in the new Swoop skill for the goblin team. This updated list and the team rosters are available from www.bloodbowl.com so a purchase of this book is not necessary for that information.
Rounding out the book is another look at Hall of Fame teams. The time around the offering is a little more in-depth with the Warpfire Wanderers, Greenboyz, the Grudge Bearers, Celestial Comets, The Chaos All-Stars, and the Underworld Creepers. Each team offered gives the team roster and whatever special rules apply to these teams of legends. Personally I doubt I’ll ever play a game with one of these teams of legend, but I am always a big fluff hound so any glimpse into the history of the game I enjoy reading. I wasn’t too impressed with the Celestial Comets, as their special rules allow them to teleport from one trapdoor to the other without the ball. An interesting gimmick I suppose but I feel something a little more creative could have been dreamed up. Still, I won’t begrudge the staff for adding more content to fill out the book.
In summary, I am overall very pleased with the latest Death Zone. I don’t think that owning the book is a requirement for most players, but I feel that it offers enough to make it usable and for it to be worth reading from time to time. I am most pleased with the Stadium rules and I will be pushing hard in my future league play to see those rules added into our custom rules. In my personal read through I did not catch any typos which are a great improvement over the Season 1. So should you buy it? I would say if you are a fan of the back story of the game and are looking to spice up your league play then I would certainly say yes. If you are more of the tournament type and the CRP is your bible, then you may not get the most bang for the buck.
That sums it up for me. If you made it through my rambling then I thank you. For my future work I’ll be working on some less known 3rd party teams I’ve picked up over the years. Take care and happy gaming!