This evening I went to Warboar, a boardgame cafe in Bromley, and played my second game of Blood Bowl this century (and possibly only my third in my life).
I flew over to the UK with a team I’d just finished painting over Chinese New Year, the League of Prominent Vegans. They consist of four big lads, the thuggish bully boys of the team, and eight Beastmen, led by ‘Lucky’, the black-skinned goatman on the right of the picture.
I’m used to playing on fumbbl.com now, and most matches take around 90 minutes (or they go faster if something cataclysmic happens, because if I only have 3 players left on the pitch then it doesn’t take long to decide what to do with them). Having a computer handle all the book-keeping activity (like remembering to roll dice to check if your player is hurt when it’s bashed to the ground, and looking up what the result of the dice mean) makes the game much quicker to play, and avoids errors like forgetting how many turns into the game you are.
Hence playing on a real table is slower, especially as to begin with, I’d forget which dice to use (there is an 8-sided die to use to determine where the ball bounces to, and different six-sided dice for finding the result of a block or for the armour and injury rolls that follow. One of my Beastmen (not Lucky) had lost an arm in transit, but otherwise my team was ready to play. We set up, I lost the coin toss and then my opponent, a nice chap called Chris, opted to kick the ball to me.
For most of the first half, little happened. I’d bash his skeletons and zombies to the ground, and then they’d get back up again, and then they’d hit me, and I’d fall over, and then get back up again. Although I had the ball, I couldn’t get it over the half way line and, close to the end of the half, he began to injure my players. I retaliated and took out one of his star blitzers and a mummy, and in return one of my big four bully boys was seriously injured. With only one Beastman in the reserve box, I was down to 9 players going into the second half.
With every kick-off, a special event is rolled. For the second half, as the ball sailed towards the opposition, it was accompanied by a hail of rocks from the fans in the stadium. When the rocks had finished raining down, I had three players left upright and the rest stunned, and within a couple of turns Chris had run the ball through and scored.
That did mean I had the chance to equalise – a crueller coach might have tried to delay scoring, to reduce the time I had left to score myself. But I think Chris knew that was risky too – with only a couple of players in my half of the pitch, he was open to me charging in and knocking his ball carrier over. So we set up for the third kick off of the game, and my team were caught flat-footed as the undead army of Chris (still reduced to only 8 monstrosities by now) surged forward. Thankfully, bad dice for him prevented my team taking much more damage, and we began to rush the ball forward.
The Undead team in Blood Bowl is slow moving but robust. My Vegans are also quite tough, so it became a battering match, me rushing players back and forth to reinforce one another and get the ball. I picked up the ball, ran forwards, got caught out and knocked down. The ball got loose, I pushed the opposing players out of the way, scooped up the ball and ran it forward. Chris sent a skeleton hobbling toward me, who managed to knock my ball carrier down, at the expense of falling down himself. With a few very lucky dice rolls, I got my carrier up again, plucked the ball from the ground and ran to the edge of the end zone. With the last turn looming, Chris failed a roll to make his skeleton get up and come get me, and that meant I could salvage a draw from the jaws of victory.
All told, that took about 2 and half hours. We probably could have gone slightly faster if I’d been more on the ball about how to roll the dice, or if we didn’t spend any time talking, but you don’t play this game because you don’t want any social interaction. I was occasionally jealous of the four guys next to us playing Warhammer 40,000 with lots and lots of dice and lots and lots of models, but that was in the middle of our match while I was being creamed. By the end, overjoyed to have not slid to a defeat, I was again convinced that Blood Bowl is the best.
And Chris gave me some official Bromley Blood Bowl dice, so I have a bigger collection of limited edition dice than before. I’ll have to find some Australian ones to reciprocate with when I go to my tournament in March. Although now I’m worried – will I have the stamina to play six games in two days?