As a long time owner, and fan of the fluff-filled second edition Blood Bowl Star Player and Companion books, I was very interested to read Games Workshop’s current take on a team specific, background packed periodical.
Historically, Chaos has never been a team I was all that interested in. In fact, in interfacing with the game for almost 30 years, I have never fielded a Chaos team on the pitch. I’ve painted one for a commission and coached a Nurgle team to a last place finish one season, but Chaos proper? Nah. I lean more towards Lizardmen when it comes to teams with only two player types.
Well, that may have now changed…in large part due to this journal.
I’m not sure the Chaos Warrior/Beastman version of the team ever had background or fluff. Rising during the very Warhammer Fantasy Battle inspired 3rd edition, the Chaos team (called Chaos All-Stars) looked a lot like fantasy models of the time, but with axes and swords snipped out of their hands. In fact, I’ve played games of Warhammer Quest where models of that version of the chaos team filled in for fantasy adversaries…and they didn’t seem out of place. Going back to 2nd edition though, there was a Chaos All-Star team, but they were the Chaos ‘Renegade’ variety. The Chaos Warrior/Beastman team are now distinguished as a ‘Chaos Chosen’ team and thankfully they have new positional names to better match a sporting club rather than army titles. Gone are Chaos Warriors and Beastmen, in are Chosen Blockers and Beastmen Runners…and Spike! 01 is their grand introduction.
Pivoting to the magazine, we have a light (for GW) tome of about 34 pages dedicated to the Chaos Chosen. Retailing for $12.50 USD it’s more expensive than an issue of White Dwarf for sure, but with Blood Bowl’s rules having been pretty solid for almost 3 decades, I expect this book to have legs.
Greeted first by a table of contents and introduction to the journal, we see that the BB humor we love is generously sprinkled throughout. Of note here, reference to one of Lord Borak’s many, many published works: So your Naval has Become a Tiny Mouth and is Keeping You Up at Night? – that’s funny every time I read it. I’m a little intrigued by Johan T. Mad being listed as a ‘guest’ Spike! Editor. I’m not sure who this is, or if the editors will rotate between issues, so if any reader can fill me in that’d be great.
I’m going to use the contents order to briefly step through the magazine, hopefully not revealing to much, cautious of too much coverage, I’d prefer the illustrators and authors of Spike! should be compensated for their great work. Buy an issue!
Early pages give us background on Chaos Chosen teams, some famous Chaos Chosen teams from history (all new to canon I believe), team composition, list of ten available star players and a full Doom Lords profile. These early pages are fantastic. There is art for all ten star players and a Doom Lords roster provides all the stats and skills so players can field this legacy team. I really dig how GW has created playable rosters for their background teams, so it was great to see them continue that with the Chaos Chosen. Two items did stick out to me that I feel are worth pointing out. First, our favorite minotaur Star Player, Grashnak Blackhoof, is listed as being able to play on Chaos teams. No distinction given if this means Chaos Renegades or Chaos Chosen. All the other Star Players will say either or both. I assume this is because the Grashnak card only says Chaos…having been created prior to the design of the Chaos Chosen team. Second, there is a lot of reference to Old World locations in the background and throughout the journal. Norsca, Altdorf, Nuln, etc. I know BB has always lived in a parallel universe to GW’s Old World setting, so we would use maps from their fantasy army game for league background. However, with that setting no longer existing, and assuming no more published material for it coming, I would like to see a future journal or BB publication include a map of the world that the game lives in. It will be very helpful going forward…and with the destruction of the fantasy army world…the BB universe is now the one and only Old World!
Moving on…each Star Player is now given a half page to two pages to shine. This is really cool as for the longest time many of these newer Star Players were just stat-lines and hiring costs. It’s great to see them as ‘living’ creations as it were. I particularly enjoy the following image of Lord Borak. Of course, having his own feature in White Dwarf for a number of years, The Despoiler is a bit of a Blood Bowl celebrity. He’s kind of the ‘Slambo’ of the BB universe and I dig this illustration of him giving the thumbs-up while wearing a necklace honoring the entire Chaos Pantheon.
(Speaking of Lord Borak…gossip in this rag is that he had a secret tryst with Zara the Slayer. It seems she exists in this universe after all.)
The Star Player sections continue to have the classic ‘Did You Know…’ tidbits sprinkled throughout, but one of my favorite mini features was the commentary back and forth between Altorf Griffons’ star Ted Hammerstein and former Black Gulf Howlers Blitzer Grug Bonesplitter. It’s the type of banter that serves as great inspiration for league commissioners that put together league newsletters (and they all should!).
Next up is a great feature on Coaching Chaos Chosen by renowned real world BB player, Geggster. This is a great introduction to the team, their strengths and weaknesses and most importantly how to develop players as they skill up. Lots of good suggestions and builds, and a great resource for coaches playing in leagues. I understand this feature is going to have a rotating cast of real-world players providing strategy and tactics. Great stuff here.
Going into more rules we finally have the rules for Wizards in BB16. Now, this area contains the one real gripe I have with the magazine. There’s a Chaos Wizard for Chaos teams to hire, and that’s great, but also standard Wizards for any team, not so great. It seems neutral Wizards should have been in an issue of Death Zone, or maybe even White Dwarf. This Journal ideally would have been focused on Chaos Chosen and Chaos Chosen only. And to that point, the May issue of White Dwarf has rules for Chaos Chosen balls…but those rules aren’t in Spike! 01. Switch the Chaos Chosen ball rules for the neutral Wizards and all would be right. I can only assume some sort of publication timeline between the two caused this mishap.
There are many other sidebar articles, features, and interviews all through the magazine and all worth a read or two. I’ve had a great time with this magazine, despite no interest in a Chaos Chosen team. This Journal as a whole is put together like a sort of mini-codex/battletome. A (generally) one point reference for all things Chaos Chosen. I would have liked maybe a few more models painted in different example color schemes, maybe showing the colors of historical/famous Chaos Chosen squads, but with the interiors of both covers filled with example models, it’s a great start.
In closing, I would highly recommend Spike! to any Blood Bowl player that enjoys the game beyond the Xs and 0s. It contains the sort of background and role-playing aspect that drew me to the game in the early 90s. I look forward to the next issue (Dark Elves…a team I have great interest in) and plan on picking all of them up for the book shelf.
(Side note on the models themselves…I _really_ like the new look. I’m glad to see they look like players on a sports team and not warriors with weapon snips. At first, I thought the pose of the blockers was a little lame, but after seeing conversion work I see that it was a great move on the sculptor’s part…their arms look very easy to replace. I’m strongly considering my first Chaos Chosen team. They would be Tzeentch based…but I wonder…with Nurgle (and maybe Khorne) will Tzeentch and Slaanesh see teams down the road? And more importantly…when do we get a thumbs-up Borak model?)