Blood Bowl and I

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There Will Be Games

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. 

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(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.

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(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...

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(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.

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(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


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(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.

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(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…

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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.

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(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!

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(My Iron Maiden and Misfits inspired Dark Elf team...who need some publicity photos. Logo courtesy of F:ATtie Metalface)

Reference Links:

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):

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There Will Be Games
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edulis's Avatar
edulis replied the topic: #204815 23 Jun 2015 08:45
Great. Now I want to dust off the halflings and see if I can get a league started...
birdman37's Avatar
birdman37 replied the topic: #204818 23 Jun 2015 09:10
A great read, thanks for posting!
charlest's Avatar
charlest replied the topic: #204819 23 Jun 2015 09:33
I remember seeing Blood Bowl being played back in its heyday and thinking it looked pretty awesome but never got into it. Warhammer Quest was my obsession at the time and wouldn't let me go.

This makes me want to give it a shot though.
VonTush's Avatar
VonTush replied the topic: #204820 23 Jun 2015 09:51
Blood Bowl is the game that I both love and hate in extremes.
The design is tight and the community is like none other where 25 years of worldwide development has taken place making the game tight and just short of perfect.

That said, the turnover rules make me despise the game because my brain does not function in the way that it needs to in order to be successful at the game. I get too caught up in the excitement of the game and jump right into the action which of course involves risk instead of taking the time to setup and reorganize the rest of my team to prep for future turns.

So I sold my Dwarves and Norse teams to my buddy who is an avid BB player/collector (over a dozen or so teams at least), traded off my copy of the game...BUT, I did still keep my Chaos Dwarves around because stovepipe hats are awesome and I wanted to keep one team waiting in the wings should a league spring up in the area.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #204821 23 Jun 2015 09:51
3rd edition was my entry into the series as well. What a great package...
metalface13's Avatar
metalface13 replied the topic: #204825 23 Jun 2015 12:00
Awesome post Jeff! I'm sad to be leaving Austin and the XBBL, but we'll keep it alive with the XBBL Online!

I'd like to see others post similar stuff about how they got into various games/aspects of the hobby. I always love talking with gamers about their hobby roots. Maybe I'll do my personal BB history when I get the chance.
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #204827 23 Jun 2015 12:17
Great article! I've only played the game proper once, but I'd love to give it another go. I don't have enough regular gaming to ever be able to pull off a league, but I'll bet that's a lot of fun.
Space Ghost's Avatar
Space Ghost replied the topic: #204842 23 Jun 2015 16:49
If one were interested in purchasing teams/minis, are there dedicated stores (seems like it was alluded to in the article)? What are the best ones?
Brewmiester's Avatar
Brewmiester replied the topic: #204849 23 Jun 2015 19:47
NAF has a good list

www.thenaf.net/resources/suppliers/

I'm fond of Impact.

Rolljordan has an Indiegogo norse team ending in three days

www.indiegogo.com/projects/rolljordan-ic...tasy-football#/story
birdman37's Avatar
birdman37 replied the topic: #204854 23 Jun 2015 23:01
Actually, what the hell, I'm feeling generous, and it's great to see the the love of Blood Bowl being spread on non-specialist forums.

Mr. White, I'm currently in the process of getting a set of custom dice engraved to help out with my armour and injury rolls in Blood Bowl, as I've been rolling like crap for the last two seasons in my local league here in Oz, and have decided that it's the dice that are at fault. They're actually just D6s, with the six pip side replaced with a cracked helmet (armour) and cracked skull (injury).


If you're happy to PM me your mailing address, I'll do my utmost to arrange a complementary set of these dice to be sent to you. Just think, you'll enjoy the privilege of being the only Blood Bowl player in the US able to actually celebrate rolling double skulls! ;)

Now having said that, I won't guarantee that I can get them to you, because that's up to the manufacturer. However, hopefully the lovely folks at Chessex can handle a slight split in the order, because it would be crazy and expensive to have them sent all the way to Oz, and then back to the US!
Dr. Mabuse's Avatar
Dr. Mabuse replied the topic: #204856 24 Jun 2015 00:41

metalface13 wrote: Awesome post Jeff! I'm sad to be leaving Austin and the XBBL, but we'll keep it alive with the XBBL Online!

I'd like to see others post similar stuff about how they got into various games/aspects of the hobby. I always love talking with gamers about their hobby roots. Maybe I'll do my personal BB history when I get the chance.

Umm....that logo is fucking fantastic Metal.

The Talent is strong in this one.
Mr. White's Avatar
Mr. White replied the topic: #204858 24 Jun 2015 01:32
Wow, Birdman, that _is_ generous. I'd be happy to roll a set of those dice during my league games. Address inbound...cheers!

Space Ghost, as far as companies making miniatures, Brewmeister's NAF link is pretty good. It also has the link to the swedish league page that has done us all the great service of listing potential new minis by race.

Some notes on these companies:

Impact does a lot of tourney support in the US and is run by the esteemed Tom Anders. I have a soft spot for this company, whose head honcho has done so much for the worldwide BB community. They offer a line of teams for $35 in their 'trollcast' line that can be used to get new coaches into the game fairly cheaply.

Willy miniatures look amazing, but I think are actually 30 or 32mm, so are a bit larger than standard GW 28mm minis. This may or may not be an issue for you. I'm a huge fan of their treemen and look to order both Oldstomp and Treeman 3. Larger than usual treemen is no biggie, IMO. www.willy-miniatures.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Halflings

Vortice make very fine models, and I think the line is about right in size. We've got a coach in the league with several minis from this line and I can say the quality is fantastic. Starting with this page and forward, there's info on the new Ogre team that Vortice currently has for pre-order. The cardboard box to put over an ogre who failed 'bonehead' is an inspired touch. I know a few folks who have put in for a pre-order. The Vortice website has much to be desired but they seem to be on the straight and narrow. Just need to email them what you want.
www.talkfantasyfootball.org/viewtopic.ph...23&t=38693&start=330

Also, I don't see a link to RollJordan's actual website on that NAF resource page, so here it is if I missed it: lnx.rolljordan.com

Back during the initial release of 3rd edition, i was a big fan of the minis. Then I went through a phase where I preferred the look of GW 2nd edition. I've sort of swung back to the 3rd edition minis and focusing on GW models keeps me sane. A lot of the newer figs are fantastic, so I have to contain myself from buying in on the new lines. Focusing on GW allows me to sort of 'treasure hunt' online if you will _and_ keep my spending focused. However, there are some models, that I felt GW never did right (treemen) and others that are simply too expensive for me to buy oop at this time. GW amazons, lizard men, and vampire teams fall in this category for me. I'll probably pick up the Impact trollcast amazons: www.impactminiatures.com/index.php?optio...s_profile&id=TC_AMZN
Mr. White's Avatar
Mr. White replied the topic: #204859 24 Jun 2015 02:19

metalface13 wrote: Awesome post Jeff! I'm sad to be leaving Austin and the XBBL, but we'll keep it alive with the XBBL Online!

I'd like to see others post similar stuff about how they got into various games/aspects of the hobby. I always love talking with gamers about their hobby roots. Maybe I'll do my personal BB history when I get the chance.


Casey, your enthusiasm is going to be missed at our tables. I'm serious when I said we need to find a way to get you back with the xbbl pack for a tourney or two.

Good luck in Pittsburgh!
sydo's Avatar
sydo replied the topic: #204861 24 Jun 2015 03:30
What a great post! I love those 2nd Ed Skaven and the unusual colour choice for the Nurgle team.

BB is my favouritre game of old time now. After many unfinished leagues, we now have a great commissioneer who runs the league well so we are now in a 2nd year of our tabletop Chaos League (12 coaches). Managed to finish second in the first year with my human team, now I am enjoying the struggle in the end of the rankings with my vampires. Trying to collect the GW figures as I like them the most. BB is my obsession now and I am proud of it :)
sydo's Avatar
sydo replied the topic: #204862 24 Jun 2015 03:31
Damn, I meant "of all time".
drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #204866 24 Jun 2015 09:14
What a great read! I have a lot of awesome memories with both the 2nd and 3rd edition. Did you ever get a copy of the 1st edition?

I look forward to hearing your opinion about DreadBall.
drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #204867 24 Jun 2015 09:33
JW,
Could you give us a run down of the "screwing of Tom Anders?" I'm familiar with GW's C&D and the Specialist line death sentence - but not so much on Anders
-AW
Almalik's Avatar
Almalik replied the topic: #204880 24 Jun 2015 11:48
I remember ordering from GW mail order years ago when they had crazy clearance sale on "random" blood bowl blisters. I ordered I think 50 packs and got 50 blisters of Skaven mutants!

Also: Someone find me a job in Austin!
metalface13's Avatar
metalface13 replied the topic: #204883 24 Jun 2015 12:47

Dr. Mabuse wrote: Umm....that logo is fucking fantastic Metal.

The Talent is strong in this one.


Haha, thanks! I kind of cheated, the dragon head is from shutterstock, I downloaded it on our work account and modified it. I've painted maybe two minis in my entire life, it's not my strong suit, so making logos, advertisements and what not are how I participate in making the game look better.

Here are my BB spoof ads











Jeff's season 1 chaos dwarf logo


Any my winning team's logo


And a logo I was commissioned to do by somebody on TFF
metalface13's Avatar
metalface13 replied the topic: #204886 24 Jun 2015 12:57
As for buying new BB teams, www.comixininos.com is pretty good as your one-stop shop, but they don't have everything.

Blood Bowl Blog has a good list of makers/retailers at the bottom of this page as well as a link to some Swedish forum where people have alternative models for each team.

www.bloodbowlblog.com/buy-figures/
Da Bid Dabid's Avatar
Da Bid Dabid replied the topic: #204887 24 Jun 2015 14:15
I currently do not have the time to discuss at length everything I want to share about my long running BB league, I will revisit this thread when I can. But I do want to at least share one of my favorite pre-season posters I make every year to get the coaches excited about the upcoming season.

sydo's Avatar
sydo replied the topic: #204906 25 Jun 2015 02:55
I have two a couple of problems with Dreadball:
1) The rules are scattered through several books so finding the right rule is a pain
2) The game takes itself too seriously whereas BB is a parody of the real world
3) Blood Bowl needs both good tactics and overall strategy. DB is just tactics.
4) The game sucks :) Sure, dice can (and will) screw you in BB, but BB is still a chess match compared to DB. A card that steals you a ball and throws it again in the middle? WTF?

I really tried to like DB but couldn't bring myself to finish a season. And other coaches are disappointed too now at the end of the season. Sure, it's shorter than BB but that is no concern to me as I like long games as long as they are good.
drewcula's Avatar
drewcula replied the topic: #204908 25 Jun 2015 08:03

sydo wrote: I have two a couple of problems with Dreadball:
1) The rules are scattered through several books so finding the right rule is a pain
2) The game takes itself too seriously whereas BB is a parody of the real world
3) Blood Bowl needs both good tactics and overall strategy. DB is just tactics.
4) The game sucks :) Sure, dice can (and will) screw you in BB, but BB is still a chess match compared to DB. A card that steals you a ball and throws it again in the middle? WTF?

I really tried to like DB but couldn't bring myself to finish a season. And other coaches are disappointed too now at the end of the season. Sure, it's shorter than BB but that is no concern to me as I like long games as long as they are good.


I don't wanna curve too far away from Jeff's awesome post, but as FATie's unabashed fan of DreadBall - I'll offer a few counterpoints.

Firstly, I should state that I love Blood Bowl. I always will. But at this point in my life - DreadBall is a better fit.
1) DB rules are poorly laid out, period. I've read worse from GW and FFG (that's not an excuse). However, additional/optional DB rules are laid out via season alongside new teams. Everything someone needs to get started can do so with the first book. If a coach wants to play with a team beyond season one, they'll need the accompanying season rulebook. Blood Bowl is no holy grail of rule lay out either. Whereas BB has had 29 years of development, DB has had 3.
2) The DB rules are a bit dry. There's flavor text, and it tries to be humorous (increasingly) - but it's not as overt as BB. I think part of this is due to the poor lay out.
3) I just can't agree with this statement at all. In our league's experience, the "meta game" is just as important as the individual match. Ex: Do I resurrect a dead player, buy a coaching die, hire an MVP at the expense of not leveling a team player? How do those decisions effect my team ranking and my next opponent's underdog bonus?
4) I'd suggest DB is more like speed chess. Is the DB 'The Ball Shatters' card all that different from a BB ball going off the pitch? There's only one of those cards in the deck of 52. Referring to tactics, it's a fun ruse to bluff your opponent into believing you have the card in your hand.

The shortened game length is imperative for my league. I'd love for everyone to experiment with a BB season. But with several news fathers in the group; cost of entry and length of game is big deal.
Mr. White's Avatar
Mr. White replied the topic: #204972 26 Jun 2015 01:02
Dreadball - I do plan on writing up an article on it, but it'll be at least 6 months out. I'm in the process of collecting/painting what I need and reading through the league rules. I've got another BB season to run after this current one is done, but yeah, I'll get to Dreadball. It'll be more of a 'Starting a League' article though as I'm coming to this new. I have no history with it, missed all the kickstarters, etc. It already has me wanting to make a small cosmetic change to my XBBL league, but I'll have to see if coaches are receptive.

Tom Anders - The brief version is that during the GW corporate hammer dropping (the C&D era) they realized Tom was doing all this free work. Well, if he's doing all this BB work free...why is JJ around? JJ didn't want to lose his position due to redundancy, so all communications with Tom were dropped. I've also heard that Tom's name was scrubbed from any BB related document per GW legal, but can't confirm that. I still see his name on the Living RuleBook 6, but maybe I have an older edition? I dunno, I use that 'competitive' ruleset, so maybe LRB 6 is outdated and GW doesn't care? There was talk about it over in the TalkFantasyFootball forums if you dig back to around 2009 or 2010.

Da Bid Dabid, Metalface, I'd love to read y'alls experience with the game.

It's funny to think that BB's heyday was back in the late 80's or 90's, I guess we'd only feel that way because that's when product was being produced by the parent company, but really it's heyday may be closer to present time. I feel like I know far more active BB coaches now than I have at any previous time over the past 25 years, there were those somewhat recent comics, BB:TM, and that cyanide videogame. BB's brand as a whole may be stronger now than it's ever been.

One of the guys in my league has talked about running a tournament under the XBBL banner, but I dunno. Most cities have one league and their league name involves the city. I kind of like how we're this rogue league in Austin with only allegiance to ourselves. I feel we're sorta like the NWO in a way. :) Plus, I'd really rather support the current Austin tournament organizer rather than potentially fraction his coach base. I've read that in Europe attendance at BB tourneys is dipping, but that's most likely because the number of tourneys have gone up. The league and tournament scenes are both strong in our area. So, in regards to tournaments, my argument has been to support what exists over create another. Who knows if it's the right call or not.
Jazzbeaux's Avatar
Jazzbeaux replied the topic: #204982 26 Jun 2015 05:45
We managed a mini season here ending in a four way game on one of the Comixinos boards. I can recommend their service, although being in the EU they might not be so good for those based outside of it.

Sam