Playing the Blood Bowl

"Blood Bowl." (HO)

Steve Tilley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:39 PM ET

In my roundup of new year's gaming resolutions last week, I vowed to dig into "the stack-" that pile of waiting-to-be-played games that many of us have sitting on our shelves or taunting us from our hard drives. (Curse you, irresistible Steam Holiday Sale! How am I supposed to say no to the entire Thief series for $6.74?)

Sadly, some unforeseen developments have halted my progress on the stack. Sidelined it, if you will. Sacked it. Smashed its face into the turf and piled on top of it.

I have, much to my own surprise and delight, rediscovered Blood Bowl.

For the uninitiated (and I suspect that's most everyone reading this), Blood Bowl is a boardgame from Games Workshop, the U.K. company that produces the Warhammer series and many other tabletop miniature games.

Nerdy as I am, I've never been into these tabletop wargames. But many, many years ago my brother brought home Blood Bowl, a strategy boardgame that mixes turn-based combat with football. As played by elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins, trolls and so on. It's Tolkien meets Madden.

It was a big hit in our house, but it's been years - maybe decades - since I've played it. That is, until my brother unexpectedly got me the game for Christmas, an amazing blast of pure, delicious nostalgia. Our profanity-filled matches over the holidays reignited my love for the game, so when I got home I immediately sought out a copy of SouthPeak Interactive's obscure and now-discontinued Xbox 360 version of Blood Bowl. (An expanded version of the game is readily available for the PC as well.)

This is a faithful digital recreation of the boardgame rules, and I can't stop playing it. It's a weird mix of tactical combat (don't let your delicate Wood Elf receiver get blocked by that Black Orc, or he'll probably get knocked out or even killed) and football (if I blitz this lineman and push him off to the side, it'll open up a hole for my runners to pour through.)

My team, the Edmonton Elves - fast but fragile masters of the passing game - remains undefeated in the single-player tournament campaign so far, and yes, it's probably due in part to the game's atrocious A.I. Still, the blend of chess-like strategy with hyperviolent fantasy football has got its hooks in me. I've been doing a lot of yelling at the TV lately.

Passionate gamers all have their own Blood Bowl, a game we feel a special kinship to even though a lot of people would probably find it odd or unfun. And it's why, with my stack of overlooked and unplayed games still sitting forlornly on the shelf, I can't quit this nerdy, niche-y oddity from a couple years ago. At least, not until my elves have gone all the way to the championship. Assuming they live that long.

 


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