Blood Bowl – Second Season Reactions

Weird Stones & Tackle Zones was founded by Blood Bowl enthusiasts. Even though we’ve drifted back and forth through other titles, big BB news still gets us talking. And well…a brand new edition so short after the BB2016 relaunch is pretty big news. So what do our collection of old coaches think about the recently announced new version of the game? Step into our locker room…

(Coaching since 1991 with 2nd edition) –

It seems a distant memory now, but awhile back a brief statement hit the internet announcing the release of the Blood Bowl 3 computer.  While that was no surprise, as I never tire of purchasing that game over and over to get all the playable teams, it also made mention that the release would coincide with a new tabletop version.  Now that was certainly a bit of news!  Blood Bowl has certainly seen its fair share of releases over the years, but expecting a new box set just four years after the latest set was a bit of a head scratcher.

I own my fair share of Blood Bowl teams, but I have been longing to see ALL the teams get released.  Teams such as the Norse and Amazon haven’t seen a whiff of anything new since the 90s.  Would Games Workshop release a new boxset without having all the teams released?  In my mind I foresaw a new set that would throw two unreleased new teams as a nice cash grab for getting new players into the game while also getting old-timers to buy-in to get the unreleased teams.  Wouldn’t a box set of Amazons versus Norse be the ultimate matchup of musclebound testosterone against female fury? Apparently I don’t understand game design.

So low and behold out of left field we get hit with the mother-of-all leaks.  So what are my initial thoughts?  First, the cover on the box set is a real disappointment.  I know cover art doesn’t affect gameplay, but seriously, what is up with this art?  It has the vibe of an unfinished sketch.  The colors are desaturated which stands in real contrast to the 2016 box cover with its rich blues/reds/greens.  The art and style of Blood Bowl is one of its enduring features, so seeing a rather meh cover is a bit of a letdown.  There was a radical shift in art from the classic 2nd edition art to the rampant player stitches of 3rd, but there are still a lot of art pieces that came out of 3rd that are great.  The leaked pages of the rulebook don’t seem to impress.  While it is nice to see Nick Three-Horn, it’s not that great of a piece.

Second, two new team rosters?  Ugh…  By my count there are still a good amount of teams that have been in the game for decades that don’t have available teams.  Norse, Amazon, High Elves, Vampire,  Khemri, Chaos Dwarf, and Necromatic are all without proper teams at this moment.  I am glad that these are not tweaks to existing teams, but I can’t help feel that two new teams added to the game when there are seven teams without models is not a good move.  Adding on the upcoming snotling team that’s three new teams before I can ever get a High Elf team!  I understand new products stirs up old players into spending money, but we are looking at almost a third of the available established teams for the game without actual GW products to buy.  The more GW delays on getting core teams released just means a greater chance of players turning to 3rd party vendors to meet their needs.

Do I like the look of the noble humans?  They aren’t bad.  They remind me a lot of my Marienbugher warband for Mordheim.  On the plus side they show expressive faces which is something missing from the 2016 human team who hide behind their facemasks.  The con though is they look too much like my marienbugher warband.  By that I mean it would only take a couple of sword hands to turn these sports players into soldiers.  Why some people like the fantasy warrior on the field look and it certainly harkens back to a lot of the 3rd edition models, but to me that look is not something I’m into anymore.

Finally, the rules.  Obviously it’s too early to say exactly what I think of the rules until I have them in hand and see them in play.  From what is known I currently I’m not a fan of the throw skill being limited to player types.  If a skeleton can throw the football why can’t a zombie? I’d like to see how the various pass skills work and it seems that the interception order has changed.  Frankly the order never bothered me but some people it seemed really disliked it.  The change to the Blitz result to only D3+3 players sounds good.  Of all the kickoff tables that have ever caused the most amount of anguish it has to be Blitz!

If 2020 wasn’t weird enough, Griff Oberwald betrays the Reikland Reavers

In summary will I pick it up?  Probably.  Like the last box set I probably will not hold onto the human team if I do pick it up.  I have two human teams already and one is almost completely painted.  I will hold onto the Griff model.  The bird will have to go, but the model is actually pretty good and looks like a nice update to the classic (fugly) chicken-head model.

 

(Coaching since 1997 with 3rd edition) –

Last year the Blood Bowl community was left confused when Cyanide, the developer for the Blood Bowl PC game series, announced Blood Bowl 3 and mentioned a new tabletop edition coming out in 2020. As a French company, many wondered was this a miswording or a mistranslation into English? Or was Games Workshop really going to produce a new box set? Quickly thereafter Cyanide changed the wording in its press release. Games Workshop of course remained tight lipped about the whole affair.

Looks like an ogre and troll in this box!

Last weekend however, leaked images started appearing around the internet of a new rulebook. You’ve probably seen the images yourself by now and have read summaries from those who have poured over the images. On Monday, Warhammer Community made it official with an announcement of the new edition. The article and video didn’t show anything that hadn’t been leaked yet, but we did get better pictures of the new Imperial team as well as a look at the box cover.

How do I feel about all this? Mixed feelings mostly. While we had the rumor of a new box set last year, I had guessed this just meant a new box with two new teams, new board and a cleaned up version of the rule book. I was not expecting it to be a whole new edition. From the sound of things, it seems like this new direction is something the Specialist Games team and game designer James Hewitt had wanted to do in BB16, but instead opted to release basically an update on the Living Rulebook. Probably a smart move at the time. Blood Bowl had long been the best supported of the old specialist games and no one was sure how this relaunch from a new department within Games Workshop would be received. Four years later and the game is thriving and by some comments made by Hewitt in an interview, the Specialist Games unit is doing good business for GW.

New rosters with the PA stat in action

But what about the actual rules changes? Splitting up the Agility stat into Agility and Passing is a bold move. Apparently there’s some history for this in the 2nd edition, but the game has only ever had four player stats since I started playing with 3rd edition in the late ’90s. It seems like the game designers might be pushing for the passing game to be a bit more viable. I’m all for this. For all it’s goofiness and zany theme, Blood Bowl boils down to a game of risk management. And players just incur fewer dice rolls, mitigating luck, by running the ball rather than passing. Passing is often seen as a last chance effort to score, or maybe something players do when they already have a comfortable lead and don’t mind risking the ball that way. Hopefully this doesn’t mean all teams become focused on passing, because one of the best parts about Blood Bowl is the variety in teams and strategies and I hope that continues. The downside to this new Passing stat is that leaked images of some of the team rosters show that on the Undead team, for example, zombies and mummies don’t even have a pass stat. They can’t even pass the ball then? While it’s unlikely to ever happen in a game, it still denies the chance of a zombie or mummy who somehow acquired the ball during the game making a last ditch effort throwing a long bomb to a player downfield to score a TD. Again, small chance that it happens, but a shame that another magical thing about BB is anything can happen if the dice roll goes your way.

What all will this Passing stat be used for though? Agility will surely be used to make dodge rolls, but what about catching the ball, intercepting or even just picking the ball up? We can only wait for further previews from GW or until we have the new rulebook in our hands.

There’s some more changes to skills like claw and mighty blow, those were bound to happen in a new edition. There’s changes to the kick off and weather tables, and that’s all pretty minor too. That’s to be expected.

Now what about these new teams. We see that there’s a new human team, an Imperial team. Looks like it consists of a thrower, a bodyguard (think blocker type probably), blitzer and linemen. There’s also a new Griff Oberwald model! He’s signed for this Imperial team apparently. This also means this is the first time we’ve seen a plastic star player model! I’m on the fence about the look of this new team. They are a bit feathery and some of the players are smoking pipes. I mean I know baseball players are well known for chewing tobacco during games, but a pipe seems like a choking hazard out there on the pitch. In some ways they kind of remind me of the 3rd edition metal human team. That team had some knightly looking helmets and armor and some ruffled knees on their pants. This new Imperial team just dials that look up to 11.

What about the orcs? The cover illustration looks different from the BB16 orc team. They look more savage and wild. Back when BB16 launched, GW also released an official app that would help commissioners manage leagues, players manage their rosters and be a player aid and stuff. You could buy rosters for the app and there were two experimental rosters, Imperial humans and Savage orcs. Well, we have a new Imperial team, is this orc team a Savage team? It’s hard to tell in the blurry leaked photos, the profiles of the models seem similar to the BB16 orcs, but we do see it appears to include the already released troll model and some goblins. The box art makes the goblins look different that the previously released team, but maybe they are the already released gobbos? Time will tell.

Now let’s get to that new art. There’s no way of sugar coating it. It’s pretty bad. The 1st and 2nd editions have their appeal in that crude sort of style, but then the series shifted to more box-art worthy in 3rd edition and then BB16 graced us with the talents of Karl Kopinksi, a seasoned artist with a history with Games Workshop, Magic the Gathering and other big brands. This new art feels like mediocre comic book art … maybe the less said about it the better.

I’m sure the leaks about the new edition are a bit of a football to the groin of the Specialist Games team who have been working hard on its release. I’m sure they would have rathered prepped BB fans instead of having this leak out to the community. Still, it does feel a bit weird to me. BB16 wasn’t even really done. There are still teams that haven’t been released, including some popular ones. High Elves who were featured all the way back when Death Zone 1 was released. Earlier this year the Snotlings team was announced, again bewildering some fans, asking why a new team was created when fan favorites like chaos dwarves, amazons and norse were still left without official teams. And now we have Imperials alongside a brand new edition too? Will there be a Blood Bowl Almanac 2020? Would people even buy it with a new edition on the way? All those old rulebooks and almanacs are going to be invalid now. I’ll have to reserve final judgement until the new edition is out. Maybe the changes will be great and we’ll all be having fun with the new edition. If not, well there’s also BB16 or the LRB we can roll back to.

There’s still other things I haven’t touched on. The rulebook is a hardback, which hopefully means it will contain the rules for league play and rosters for all the teams that have been released thus far. The board is like a mashup of the 3rd edition board and the BB16 board, with the double skull thing in the center of the pitch but with the BB16 logo placed on top. Maybe a bit busy, but I do really like seeing the double skull thing design return. The dugouts are smaller too, which is no big deal, and may actually make it easier to fit Blood Bowl onto a table after the board size expanded with BB16.

In summary will I pick it up? Probably. A new box set is usually the most bang for your buck. It’ll cost more than just buying the rulebook separately. Assuming the new rulebook will be for sale separately. The BB16 book was only available in the box set. Yes, the Head Coach’s Handbook did come out eventually. The new box set will have a new board, new dice, two teams (at least one new) some big guys, etc. That means it will cost a bit more than BB16 did. Unless a friend buys two copies and gives me the board, templates and rulebook from his spare copy like happened with BB16, then yes I will be buying it.

 

(Coaching since 1994 with 3rd edition) –

I had a copy of Second Edition, painted a combined Skaven/Goblin team using 2nd edition and Warhammer Fantasy Models…but never played. It wasn’t until the classic 3rd edition dropped in 1994 that I was finally able to take the field with the Skaven portion of my collection.

So, why bring up Second Edition? I see a little throw-back to that edition. It looks like passing has been split back out to the PASS stat and the art is more comic/line-art then the crisply painted artwork the 1994 and 2016 editions of the game sported.

Despite  some old school leanings, the rumored rules look to be a bit more modern in design. Having some positions with a PA value but not others not reminds me of Dreadball’s limited functionalities per player roles. It also appears that for some stats a coach needs to simply roll over a value instead of calculated modifiers, much like Games Workshop’s recent BlitzBowl. I can’t help but notice that both of those titles (DB and BzB) were penned by James Hewitt. Mr Hewitt was also part of the BB 2016 relaunch and so all the changes we’re reading about now must have come partially from his notes and ideas had he been able to revise the 2016 release to his liking.

So, as a fan of both DB and BzB (more the later), I’m ok with most of these changes. I’m expecting the game to play a bit faster and for scoring to happen a bit more frequently. These are good signs if GW is trying to make the game more appealing to the modern gamer…and why wouldn’t they? more rookies are always wanted.

BB2016 Human Squad – when punch-daggers were the rage

What I don’t get though, if appealing to modern gamers is part of the idea, why does the core box include a human team designed like the Barons? The BB2016 release saw a human squad very much in vein with the designs of the popular Space Marines and Stormcast Eternals. These models are simple to assemble and new painter friendly. They have large armour coverage and hidden faces. Hard to paint details, like eyes, aren’t an issue. This Bogenhafen team is the complete opposite. The old Empire army was, IMO, one of the most difficult to paint….beards, feathers, eyes, floppy hats, pantaloons, pipes, whatnots everywhere. And this is the same design that human portion of the 2020 box is based on. It also seems to lean the vibe back to 3rd edition’s “not quite Warhammer Fantasy Army” model design. I much prefer 2nd edition’s “cyber fantasy” style and it feels like most of the BB2016 release was geared that way.

The timing of the release is unfortunate. Games Workshop was releasing a team almost every quarter. Another 15-18 months and they could have had all of the teams updated to the new Spike!/Almanac format. As it is, the BB2016 version of the game is the most ‘incomplete’ release BB has seen yet. I wonder what prompted this move now? I would assume they might have liked to have run these new rules onto the field in 2016, but I understand they were cautious they would upset all the worldwide coaches who kept the game alive while it was out of print. I can understand that, but this is really unfortunately for the BB2016 ruleset, collector, and gamer.

In summary, will I pick it up? Probably not. I will get the rulebook, no doubt, but I much prefer the BB2016 release aesthetic. I bought into that game as the minis and pitch changed scales from my 3rd edition, 28mm models. This new release looks to be the same size and will certainly make use of the BB2016 models, so I think I’m good on the components. Though I will probably look to buy another BB2016 box soon.

 

Mike C (Coaching since 1996 with 3rd edition) –

If anyone has been on the internet in the last week and looked at anything related to the Blood Bowl community, you have probably seen people losing their collective minds… yet again. The reason for this? The newly leaked, then immediately officially announced, Blood Bowl: Second Season Edition. It has been a VERY long time since I have posted on this site due to some personal reasons that I will not bore readers with, but I will go ahead and throw my hat in this particular ring. Starting at the beginning… The box and art. I guess I am the only person who does not have any problem with the art. I read a lot of the Blood Bowl comic books (and a fair amount of comics in general, over the years) so I kind of like this art style as to me, it looks like a nice nod to books like Killer Contract. The released image does look a LITTLE washed out, but that may be due to lighting issues in the photography studio. I will reserve final judgement until I see the box in person.

On to the box contents… From the leaked image it is difficult to make out much detail, but I will comment on what I can see, and what I can reasonably guess at. Overall, the BB2020 boxed set contents look very similar to the BB2016 contents. It appears that we get two teams, a pitch, two dugouts, two sets of dice, rules, “Cheat Sheet” quick reference cards, and passing/scatter templates.

Teams – As has already been stated, we have confirmation of the new Imperial Human team, and there is speculation that the Orc team is the Savage Orc team. My like the box art, I must be the only one who really likes the new Imperial Human team. I was a little iffy about them with the first leaked images, but once Games Workshop released the official images, I immediately fell in love with the team. These are the first minis I have genuinely wanted to buy in several years. There also appears to be some additional counter/marker pieces included which is never a bad thing, in my opinion. It is impossible to make out much about the Orc team other than the obvious inclusion of both Goblin and Troll minis, which is really nice. One tiny bit of speculation… We know that GW will ALWAYS release Griff Oberwald along with Varag Ghoulchewer. If you look at the image of the box contents, you can see what appears to be Griff in the dead center of the double skull logo. What is that mini across from him that look a bit bigger and spikier than the other Orc minis? Could that be a new Varag in the box as well? I am all for that!

Pitch – Like Casey, I am quite happy to see the return of the double skull logo on the board. To me, it just is not Blood Bowl without that image. Otherwise, the board seems to fit right in with other BB2016 boards.

Will this book include all the teams? The league rules? Does BB finally have the One Book to Rule Them All?

Rules – Honestly, I am not sure why, but I really like that the rule book is hardback. I think this might be the first hardback rule book we have had since 2nd edition.

Templates – I guess this might be the only thing I am slightly disappointed in. For some reason that I cannot really explain, I feel like they could have spent another 30 minutes to tweak up some slightly visually updated counters for the new box. That IS kind of nitpicking, though.

One of the more interesting things about being a part of this community for so long is the immediate panic and negative reactions to anything new, regarding rumors and gameplay. I have watched it happen many times over the years. More often than not, those reactions are completely unjustified. Sometimes the reactions are 150% warranted (I’m looking at YOU, 4th Edition Gold rules!) Thanks to the Blood Bowl Community Facebook page, I was able to locate a Reddit article that summed up all the known changes to BB2020 from the leaked images of pages of the rule book. While a couple of the changes definitely raised my eyebrows on the first read, I think most of the changes will be positive. I will reserve judgement on the rule changes until I have a rule book in my hands. As long as the gameplay remains Blood Bowl at its core and does not chase the Dreadball/Mantic gameplay style (which I do not particularly care for), I will give all of the new rules a fair shake. If they do not work, there are TONS of older rule sets to fall back on and house rule to our hearts’ content.

 

Mike buys them all

In summary, will I pick it up? Absolutely. Even though I no longer buy any mins or tabletop games in general, I have purchased every version of the Blood Bowl boxed edition. I am not going to stop now. My collection is MUCH smaller these days, but I am still a collector. I do have SOME concerns about James Hewitt’s influence on BB2020 as I am not particularly a fan of his game designs (though he does seem like a genuinely nice person), but I am still excited to see this new set coming.

 

Kraff Flash (Coaching since 1995 with 3rd edition) –

For the record, I bought the original version of Blood Bowl (Red box, cardboard figures) in 88 or 89.  Regrouped in ’95 with 3rd edition.  (That said, I mostly play on PC nowadays because of the length of most Blood Bowl games on the table.)

Up front, the models look good, which has always been the real focus for GW with the rules being secondary; this appears to be no different.  Being an avid player of tabletop games in general, my gut reaction is: this sets the game back 30 years, and it wasn’t exactly in a good place in 1990.  The market has drastically changed away from that style of play since then and adding complexity and game length seems counter productive.

As for what we have seen of the changes to the stats and skills, again: complexity is not your friend here. Specifically, I’m lukewarm on the re-addition of a specific Pass ability, while a total Nerf on AG teams (Wood Elf, I’m looking at you) it does allow them to change how different teams function on a core level.  I have to assume they have tried some play testing, but it is not possible to get the metrics they need to ensure this will be stable across all rosters over a league setting, so expect the normal GW errata coming.  While the stat line may look a little cleaner with the N+ target rolls, the basic math is still going to be there, only now the skills and modifiers are more complex. I really am curious as to what the goal was with this set and the changes, because I don’t think it will grow the game much and may hurt retention.  The beauty of table top is, I don’t have to use the new rules if I don’t like them; gaming groups have always tailored the rules they used for what best fits the group.  I am expecting a lot of turmoil as the rosters need to find a new identity; old players will adjust or drop off.  In the end, it is about spending time with friends and playing games, I don’t see this as being a game breaker for anyone that doesn’t what the excuse already.

So, in closing: I have gotten most of the boxed sets, and I figure to get this too as long as the price is right.  $150 or less, and I’ve already bought it in my head.  I have slowed down a bit but I am still about painting minis; what’s a few more teams to my near 40 already?  GW still makes great looking models!  I’ll give the rules a go, and we’ll see what they put out on the PC next.

So there’s our thoughts. How do you feel about this release?

9 thoughts on “Blood Bowl – Second Season Reactions

  1. Apperntly the new orc team is black orcs, think oger team but with goblins and black orcs.
    My younger brother sent me the roster page from the new rule book
    I’m interested in what the new rules do that are posted next to tier listing

  2. Excellent post and good to see Mike C returning to the fray! At this point, we have more leaked and official info, so I’ll be interested to hear your ongoing thoughts.

    Would I have liked to see all the original teams completed first, you bet. But I feel like pumping up some enthusiasm with a second season is probably a good move as well. I remember prior to 2016, buying GW minis off of Ebay and playing with print outs…if someone had told me that there was going to be a new release and a second season, I’d have lost my mind for sure.

    I’m also one of the few who seems to like the art change. The previous art felt too closely tied to the video game and just didn’t make sense to me. Could the art still have been cartoonish and better? Sure. Ideally we would have something like the cover of 3rd edition.

    Rules changes, looking forward to the Passing attribute, but also share the concerns of not being able to make those random great plays that are core to adding fun to the game. Give everyone a chance to pass, even if they need to roll a 6+. Otherwise, they should get the dreaded No Hands skill!

    Mr. White said “I’m expecting the game to play a bit faster and for scoring to happen a bit more frequently.”. I totally agree that they should try to make the game play faster. It’s a different age now, and boardgames face a lot of competition from mobile/video games. However, while I agree with the sentiment, scoring more frequently actually slows down Blood Bowl overall. It hadn’t even dawned on me until I read your statement, that an increase in passing plays means an increase in setting the board back up and more kick-off results. I really hope that isn’t the case. Dreadball and Blitz Bowl got around that, by continuing play without a reset after each TD, but I doubt they would change that for BB.

    • You have to wonder it that’s why James Hewitt put those two “trapdoors” in the BB16 pitches…to use a mechanic similar to DB and BzB. I don’t think there were ever any rules for them in BB16, but they do still look to be on the BB2S pitch.

      • Hmm, that’s going to be a game changer for a lot of folks if they do. Probably make a lot of people mad.

        I thought the trapdoors got used in one of the events cards and/or a pitch rule. Either of those would be way too uncommon for most people to encounter though, and it would make more sense if they were intended as ‘reset’ mechanisms.

        Guess, we’ll see! 😀

      • I think there is a special play card that utilizes the trap doors. Can’t recall for sure since we never have used them in a league or one off play.

    • Faust, thanks for sharing your thoughts! It’s been a crazy couple of days with the amount of releases of official and unofficial sneak peeks. Expect more posts soon as we sort through all this info.

    • Glad to pop back in for a minute! I have been almost completely MIA from the table-top scene for several years. Sold almost my entire collection and haven’t bought anything new since my last unboxing post. This new box has me feeling all nostalgic though. Definitely going to pick it up, and I MIGHT pick up 1 or 2 team boxes at some point, but I’ll have to find someone who works cheap to paint them. I no longer own any paints or brushes! 🙂

      • Was just thinking “I hope Mike C does an unboxing video for the new boxed set!”. Your reviews helped me a lot in deciding on those early purchases.

        As for cheap painters, you might want to check Fiverr. I’ve considered it, after watching this guy’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DArEAR7URgs

        I still enjoy painting myself, but it’s my small bit of mental relaxation after an insane day of work. Assembly, not so much.

      • Ha! I’ll be honest, the thought did cross my mind. Not sure that I will because those unboxings were always a LOT of work, but I might.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s