Thursday, 28 May 2015

Blood Bowl - Team Manager

Tuesday night's game night featured a couple of games. First, I took a turn Overlording in Descent. This confirmed a couple of suspicions about the first few games: 1) Don't mess about killing monsters, head straight for the objective, and 2) goblins can just fuck off. My main remaining question is 'how much are the players supposed to know?' Honestly, it makes a huge difference how much information they have on how hard different monsters are to kill and what powers they have. I have a sort of knee jerk reaction that there ought to be a screen, because of the RPGish elements, but from a board game perspective it makes more sense for there to be openness.

Looking at this spread of cards and tokens, I did wonder if some of the bits
were missing.
To round off the night, we played a season of Blood Bowl: Team Manager. Based on the popular GW fantasy American football board game (itself set in a fast and loose analogue of the Warhammer Fantasy Old World, in which a vastly increased interracial harmony has apparently been achieved by channeling all of the hatred and intolerance into a massively violent sport in which barely functional sociopaths of all races line up to compete in a formalised skirmish which may or may not involve a ball, depending on the match) and produced by Fantasy Flight, it has an unexpectedly restrained array of cards and counters, but on the other hand, there are expansions.

The basic set has six teams, and each player starts with a set deck of 12 starting players, a mix of high and low value cards, with each team having different strengths and weaknesses (Dwarfs are tough, Skaven and Chaos cheat a lot.) Play begins with each manager drawing six players, and the first manager (beginning with the youngest, then rotating around the table each 'week') drawing a Spike! magazine card and a number of highlight cards equal to the number of managers. The first of these is either a special rule which is in play for the week, or a tournament; the highlights are the matchups in which teams compete.

Play rotates around the table, with each manager in turn placing a player from their hand against a matchup or tournament (two teams can compete for each matchup, any number in the tournament.) As each player is placed, their skills may be used to pick up the ball, tackle opposing players, or replace cards in your hand (another strength of the Skaven, as I learned.) Some players also cheat, and this is a non-optional skill, requiring a cheat token to be placed on the card.

The dwarfs are dominating this matchup. It looks like the Black Orc is going
to attempt a tackle, but it can't knock down the Runner and that Blocker is
worth a surprising amount knocked down. Beardy bastards (not that James's
Grudgebearers beat my Skaven on Tuesday or anything.)
Once all players are committed, matchups are resolved. Cheat tokens are flipped, and may add fans (victory points,) add extra star power, or get the player sent off, removing them from the matchup. The first manager then counts up the star power on each side (players, plus cheat tokens, plus 2 for holding the ball) and the highest total wins (although there are usually rewards of some sort for all.) Rewards may be fans, a draw from the star player decks, or from the staff and team upgrade decks. Later weeks are similar to the first, but with the added variety of whatever upgrades have been added to each team.

Like many FF games, it's a bit of a struggle to get the hang of it on the first time through, but week on week it becomes more intuitive, and it's actually a lot of fun. I did astonishingly badly most of the way through, but clawed back an impressive stack of points in the closing rounds and got to feed a Beastman to my Rat Ogre, so that was fun.