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Pigskin and Lizardmen Scales- Blood Bowl Review

DesertEagle’s Take: For nearly two decades, developers have adopted a variety of Games Workshop tabletop diversions onto our monitors, televisions, and portable screens. For war game aficionados, the success of each of these conversions was related to how accurately the electronic version simulated their beloved pastime; many devoted tabletop enthusiasts abhorred seeing their beloved Warhammer transformed into a real time strategy game.

By that measure, the PSP interpretation of Jervis Johnson’s celebrated Blood Bowl may be a feeble accomplishment. The SouthPeak-published title fastidiously simulates every rule, action, and dice roll of the Living Rule Book, offering an accurate interpretation of the football parody for players on the go. Unfortunately, the game’s distressing mechanics and general lack of polish means most gamers will never appreciate the detailing number crunching. Simply put- Blood Bowl reliance of dice rolls to determine events makes for an unsatisfying videogame.

Whether players are commencing a single one-off scrimmage or an expended campaign, they begin by selecting one of the title’s eight races. Each faction favors a particular play style, from the tank-like dwarves to the fleet-footed lizardmen; some teams even feature unique player positions. Once the match’s competitors are determined, the ball is kicked off, and the gratuitous gridiron action commences.  At this point, offensive and defensive teams begin alternating turns, each shifting individual players around a grid-based playfield.

While moving through uncontested territory is straightforward, as soon as the game’s combatants perform any function- from picking up the ball, passing, or even setting up blocks, Blood Bowl consults the roll of a six-sided die. If gamers don’t obtain a specific figure (occasionally the game allows rerolls), their turn immediately ends, allowing the other team to react. While this forces players to think strategically, appraising the probability of each move, turnovers often feel frustrating.

Far more infuriating are the game’s laundry list of deficiencies, from a woefully unfinished tutorial to a host of sonic, graphical and gameplay quirks. Matches begin with truncated character art and the leisurely load of individual competitors, and continue with enough glitches to vex the most patient game. Not being able to move my Skaven who was on the precipice of scoring sent me into an expletive-spewing rage; hot-headed gamers haven’t set foot on Blood Bowl’s shambolic field.

Redemption might be found in the game’s ad-hoc multiplayer, which offers a reprieve from Blood Bowl’s sadistic AI. In this mode, two friends study the game’s intricacies together, as they both fall victim to the game’s annoying anomalies. Requiring the purchase of two copies of Blood Bowl to glean enjoyment from a title is a dicey proposition- one that even the most adamant war gamer should second-guess.

SeanNOLA’s Take: Over the past quarter-century, I have played a lot of video games – some good, some lousy, but it is a very rare occasion that I am truly disappointed with a game.  I never played Superman 64 or Cheetahmen II with any degree of expectation, and as a result, I harbor no malice toward either title. Blood Bowl, on the other hand, caught me completely off guard. After months of waiting for the PSP version of the acclaimed board game to hop across the Atlantic Ocean, I was shocked and appalled at the sloppy and underdeveloped handheld port.

The PSP port of the PC Football game set in the Warhammer universe has been stripped of the real-time action mode, which may turn off newcomers and Mutant League fans. Those looking to recreate the board game experience won’t miss the Madden-meets-Mordor games, as the turn-based game recreates each and every rule and dice-roll described in the Blood Bowl rulebook. I found that it helped to have a prior knowledge of the Blood Bowl rules, as the tutorial provided only teaches you about 10% of the knowledge required to play a game. Luckily, I had a copy handy and, and could teach myself the rules the old-fashioned way, but I don’t imagine that everyone reading this has a nerd-library available to them. Each turn consists of moving each individual player until you have everyone has moved or until someone is knocked down by an opposing model. Every encounter is based on dice rolls, so it is possible that your line-backer could trip while trying to block, causing a down before your runner has a chance to move.  Needless to say, that’s frustrating, but randomization adds drama to the game.

Whether you choose to play a single scrimmage or an entire campaign, you’re in for a grueling exercise in tedium and frustration. The port is riddled with bugs and glitches, and although not all of them are game ending, they are all irritating.  Sound will cut out, player models disappear, control of the opponent’s ball-carrier will randomly be placed in your hands, lock-ups, freezes – you name an anomaly, and I can almost guarantee that I’ve experienced it in this game. Add the archaic player models and textures, the grainy, unimaginative sound effects and a steep difficulty and you have the formula for what could very well open a void to the Warp, right in your PSP.

Ad hoc multiplayer is available to those lucky enough to have 2 PSPs and unlucky enough to find themselves with 2 copies of the game. Playing against a human opponent is ideal, if only to avoid the harsh difficulty provided by the computer, but the glitches stay just as frustrating. If you go this route, make sure that you give your buddy nice big hug and a box of chocolates, because suggesting this game will undoubtedly strain even the strongest of friendships. Halfway through the second turn, you’ll wish you had just set up the board instead.

As dice rolling simulators go, I suppose it would have been technically possible for Cyanide Studios to do a worse job, but manufacturing a peripheral that sprays mace in the player’s eyes would probably have been prohibitively expensive. If you can’t imagine yourself playing an actual board game where you have to touch physical pieces, I would suggest picking up the PC or 360 ports, rather than attempting to look directly at the PSP version.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.


  1. Epic review guys! I always wanted to play the real version, but none of my mates have time.

  2. Isnt there a DS version too? How did that turn out?

  3. When does this one come out? I have to play any game that gets a “F”.

  4. I’ve been reading your site for over a year, and this is the first F I remember.

  5. Hmm, I thought this would be like Mutant League when I first heard about it.

  6. Maybe drinking cyanide would be a better option that playing their game.

  7. Is this supposed to be more like football or rugby?

  8. Guys, thanks for calling this one out!

  9. NOLA's LeftNut

    What are the dice on the field for?

  10. As always the two-man reviews are awesome. Did either of you like it slightly better than the other?

  11. It’s sort of a hybrid of both – set up is closer to American Football, but the “play” doesn’t stop if someone drops the ball or gets tackled.

  12. Do both of you play the tabletop version?

  13. The Last Starfighter

    void to the Warp.

    404- reference too obscure error, Dennis Miller.

    Do enlighten us.

  14. So are their downs? I’m confused already.

  15. Never heard of it, and from the sound of it, don’t want to either.

  16. Great review, guys! NOLA and Desert were full of piss and vinegar.

  17. Yea, I do remember some Ds and D-s.

  18. My two favorite writers strike again!!!!

  19. Should have been called fumble.

  20. Is this the same as the Euro release? That one got awful reviews?

  21. That’s a great idea for the title.

    Great review TGers!

  22. It is. In fact, they didn’t even translate the british slang, which leads to some confusing moments (for example, in the UK, what we call a “field” is a “pitch” but in the US “pitch” means a lateral pass).

  23. Damn this game must be HORRIBLE!

  24. I bought the 360 version. It was a total pile of crap, had all the same problem you guys mentioned. Avoid it!

  25. Really fugley looking graphics. YThere making my eyes bleed.

  26. Numb from the Rum

    This is a shame, but I liked playing BB in college, and would have loved an online version that I could take on the go.

    Maybe someone could make a Iphone version. That might be ideal.

  27. I always assumes Dwarfs spoke with a cockney accent. Blame Tolkien.