A brief summary of my journey with my most played and explored game.
I think my first game of Blood Bowl was back in ’90 or ’91. Somehow my brother ended up with a copy of the second edition and I managed to land a skaven team. We fumbled through several games. Rolled on a few charts, then rolled on some others, finally we rolled on some more. At the time I didn’t mind. I had already been a seasoned Dark Future Op so rolling on charts for results (these weren’t technically CRTs) seemed like GW business as usual. We played around with it a bit, but it didn’t quite stick in our house and we went back to RPGs, Heroquest and the like.
(Throwers #5 and #16 are still my favorite BB minis of all time. Hands down.)
Not long after that, 3rd edition came out. We had seen several preview images in White Dwarf and I liked the look of the minis on this new game with their aesthetic more closely matching that of their Warhammer cousins We played a few games with the standard humans and orcs, and were blown away by the mechanics. Gone were most of the charts as these new dice took over the bulk of the results. We grabbed a few buddies and started up a small league which killed off most of any other type of gaming. Sure, we still played the occasional game of Advanced HeroQuest, Man O War, Silent Death or Necromunda, but they all seemed to be diversions between Blood Bowl leagues.
(The King of All Gaming)
This tapered off a bit around ’97 as I was finishing off college and focusing more on going out to music venues and hanging out with various crews.
Upon graduation, I moved to Austin, TX only keeping two of those minis heavy GW games. AHQ and BB. Not knowing a soul in Austin, I did something I never thought I’d do. I went to a D&D meet-up advertised at a local game store. The game was a disaster, but about midway through the game a DM from some other group happened to pop by to visit with our DM. Somehow he and I hit it off talking about pro-wrestling…I ended up dumping that group and joined this other dude’s.
A few months after joining this D&D group, I floated the idea of Blood Bowl to a few of the players who, being football fans, were receptive. Well, that effectively ended the D&D campaign...
(Iconic icons. Even know a fella with these as a tattoo.)
I run a pretty tight Blood Bowl league. The elevator pitch to interested coaches is that we’re more akin to an RPG group than a standard Blood Bowl league. I don’t do open format, but have a season schedule posted. All coaches are expected to attend on game nights, but we’re flexible when these nights are. Coaches are also expected to contribute to the weekly league newsletter. I’ve found that these sort of regulations provide more buy-in than the standard open format does where coaches drift away when their team does poorly. The self-generating peer pressure in my leagues prevent that…you can hose all the other players by pulling out. Well, I do throw a bone or two to the lower placed teams as they can play in a Dungeon Bowl or the like that same week the top teams play for the final. So, there’s still something fun to do even as a basement team.
(League logo circa 2002)
So, my league is called The XBBL, the Xtreme Blood Bowl League. Sounds lame and uncreative, but it’s based on the failed XFL (Xtreme Football League) that Vince McMahon ran for a season in the early 00’s. In another nod to pro-wrestling, the fluff on our league is that teams travel around The Old World putting on matches…think of it like wrestlers travelling around in the days of the territories (a setting, I’d still love to see gamed). So, we have different weather charts depending on where we’re playing. Playing the games at the same time, when a weather change is rolled in one match, it affects all of the matches immediately. We also allow for bounties to be put on other players, have weekly featured players, and allow loans. These small rule additions provide a ‘togetherness’ between the various tables on a game night. It’s an easy way to give us all the sense of interacting ‘in-game’ even though we’re playing separate 2-player games.
Oh, since we have more structure than most leagues, I try to keep the count small. 4 is always my minimum, but I’d never have more than 8 coaches in. Beyond that, it’ too hard to schedule that many folks and get the season done in any respectable time
(My most successful team in the early 00's. I miss these fellas...)
So, back to my timeline here…We must have run though about 8-9 seasons during this period. We’d do all novice seasons, all elf teams, all human teams, veterans, all sorts of combinations. We had a couple of players attend the first Official Blood Bowl Tournament in England. I wasn’t able to attend this, but was doing fairly well in local tournaments when they came up winning the top spot in tourneys in San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, and Austin.
During those years I was fairly active on what was then TalkBloodBowl (now TalkFantasyFootball ) talking with Tom Anders who was running the Rules Committee with BB’s creator Jarvis Johnson. The NAF started up, which is the worldwide organization that hosts player rankings and such.
About 4-5 years of BB pretty much nonstop, a big blow up in the TBB forums, and I found my BB itch no longer just an itch, but it was turning into a sore. A sore I was tearing. I was getting tired of it all. I suppose the timing was right as several of my favorite coaches had moved away, I started revisiting boardgames, and switched careers.
So, I fell out of the game. Folded up the league, sold all of my stuff and thought I’d be moving on to other things. In my time away was the whole C&D by GW vs the internet, the screwing of Tom Anders, and the killing off of the Specialist Games line. I felt vindicated having distancing myself from the game.
(BB:TM – fun but not the same)
Years rolled on and focusing on boardgames as my nerd hobby began to start feeling empty and hollow. The camaraderie was still great as I continued to game with friends, but my hobby felt more like a weekly fix rather than any sort of substantial gaming. I started longing for something campaign based again. A few of the old XBBL coaches moved back into the area and I started meeting up with fellow F:ATTie and BB fanatic, Metalface.
The stars were realigning. The company may suck, the game may be dead, but it was time to reclaim glory on the pitch.
I caught up on the current scene…which is thriving. Maybe even moreso than a decade and a half ago.
The game has a worldwide presence despite GWs attempt to kill it. Companies, mostly out of Europe, are cranking out beautiful new minis for all of the existing teams. There’s a fairly solid rulebook out for competitive settings. The NAF seems to have taken over any further development of these rules which so far seems to be a positive. I like the new skills and feel they ‘re dynamic and add more depth to the game. A few of the second edition teams are legit again such as the Slann and Underworld Creepers, but some of the lamer 3rd/4th edition ones managed to stick around like that damn pro-elf team (a rant for another time) and I understand there may be a push for a few more…I’ve heard an ape team mentioned, but I dunno…
During my years away, one of my old XBBL coaches started up the ABBL, The Austin Blood Bowl League, and they have a large, open format league that meets-up weekly. They also have a coach who continues to put on an annual tournament, the R.O.T. Cup. He’s hooked up with BB banner wavers out of Norman, Ok (who put on 3-4 annual tournaments themselves as well as the BB podcast, Both Down) and with a few other cities (Dallas, Kansas City, hopefully Houston soon) have created the SCARS series - a series where players get points for tournaments that go toward your series score so there will be an overall winner of all.
I went to my first tournament last year and didn’t fare so well. I blame my time away from the game and its new skills as well as playing a new-to-me team, the Chaos Dwarves. Still, I managed to avoid going home empty handed as I was awarded the dirtiest player at the tournament. It wasn’t my fault I had a few sons of Hashut with a penchant for fouling… Overall, I had a great time and it was good to reconnect with the game.
(Current 'Attitude' Era XBBL Crest. Courtesy of F:ATtie Sgt. Dave)
I’ve since attended a two-day tournament up in Norman, where I did much better, and have fired up the old XBBL engine again. Still with similar fluff, but we’ve now added a rule where the commissioner, Vince McMayhem, may get involved in matches further tying our league to the world of professional wrestling. Oh, to that point, I’ve found the personalities, rankings, newsletters, and campaign structure of Blood Bowl leagues to fill the void of any pro-wrestling gaming in my life. A solid Blood Bowl league contains all the same drama and plenty of elbows.
So, here I am in 2015…25 years on from my first games with that second edition set my brother brought home. I’ve sold off most of my boardgames, I’m running a BB league, and am considering lending some tournament support in the future. I doubt I get as active in the BB online forums as I was and I’ve never cared for my NAF rankings (having a membership only to help my opponent’s rankings), but being back into Blood Bowl feels like a homecoming. To be honest, it’s also great to be a part of an underground gaming community, while gaming as a whole has gone mainstream. Blood Bowl is more than just a game for me now. It pretty much defines the past three decades of my gaming life. As I roll into my 40's, I can clearly state that I’m Blood Bowl….4 Life!
(My Iron Maiden and Misfits inspired Dark Elf team...who need some publicity photos. Logo courtesy of F:ATtie Metalface)
Competition Rules: http://cdn.akamai.steamstatic.com/steam/apps/58520/manuals/Blood_Bowl_Competition_Rules.pdf?t=1407400777
S.C.A.R.S and Both Down Podcast: http://bothdown.com/scars/
R.O.T Cup: http://www.rotcuptx.com
XBBL Site: https://xbbleague.wordpress.com (more than just bad fiction...be sure to visit the store!)
Some of my former minis (yes, I wish I still had these figs):