Death On The Pitch is an anthology of stories about Blood Bowl, Games Workshop’s fantasy American football game, a child of the shortlived 1980s British fascination with American football, along with the most bonkers parts of Games Workshop’s 1980s fantasy milieu. So no grimdark Space Marines here, but lots of puns like Bloodweiser beer.
Now, there have been four Blood Bowl novels published, written by Matt Forbeck and the little consensus I’ve found around them is that none are particularly good, and as the series goes on, the quality gets worse and worse. A few years have passed, and now there’s this anthology.
The quality is mixed, because they included heavy hitters like Guy Haley (although no Aaron Dembski-Bowen, but I suppose his contrarism would drive him to write a story about how Blood Bowl is just stupid and rubbish) but it also includes a story by Matt Forbeck that is absolutely the worst thing in the collection.
The rest is vaguely ridiculous. There’s no deep characterisation or progression here, because it’s a set of stories about elves and orcs playing American football, but that wasn’t really what you’d be worrying about anyway. There’s some great puns, there’s a great story about a religious flagellant playing Blood Bowl but being too honourable to win, there’s a deeply buried Breaking Bad reference where a goblin, affected by a body swapping spell, is “the one who knocked”, and a team that insisted they never lose (all losses are statistical anomalies or excused in some other way).
The quality is still a bit up or down (honestly, I prefer Haley to be writing about Space Marines and plague-infected demons, not warpstone-laced hot pies) but it’s generally much more enjoyable than the original Blood Bowl novels. Which means if you like intentionally stupid books about a stupid sport played by ridiculous creatures, it’s good for you.