Wednesday, December 22, 2010

3rd Edition Blood Bowl Rules

Okay, since I’ve gone this far I might as well throw up another Blood Bowl post. Look folks, I am sorry, but we’re in the last two weeks of the NFL now and only four teams have clinched play-off spots (and no one has clinched 1st place in their division). These are TIGHT races, and that makes the game especially exciting.

And yes I realize that many of my non-North American readers (I don’t think I have any Mexican followers) would hold up soccer as the greater sport, but personally I have a really, really hard time following their whole schedule of games and qualifiers and cups and tournaments and whatnot.

In the NFL, things are extremely cut and dry. The league is divided into two conferences, each with four divisions, each with four teams (nice symmetry, huh?). Each team plays 16 games…no more, no less. The team with the best record from each division goes to the play-offs. The next two best teams from each conference goes to the play-offs as “wild cards.” Total number of teams in the play-offs: 12 (six from each conference).

The top two teams in each conference get a bye week…everyone else plays a single elimination “wild card play-off game.” The following week, the winners of wild card weekend play the two top seeds from each conference (again, single elimination) in the “divisional play-off round.” The winners of the divisional round (two from each conference) then face each other for the conference championships…again, win or go home.

Finally, the two conference champions play each other in the annual Super Bowl, a semi-official holiday here in the United States. Much chips, dip, and beer is consumed, everyone skips the Pro-Bowl game, and we all go into hibernation until preseason starts in the summer, possibly poking our heads up for Draft Day.

Totally cut-and-dry right? No “best of” series play. No “more than 50% of teams in the play-offs” (that’s YOU, Mr. NBA). No 100+ game seasons. And no crazy “point gathering” system like in international soccer play.

32 teams. 16 games. 12play-off teams. Single elimination. Four play-off weekends. Champion crowned.

It’s got to be the most mathematically sound professional sport in the world. Personally, I love it…and sure makes it a lot easier to follow. Yes, between seasons is a long, dry stretch…but, hey, I have books to write blogs to post and role-playing games to play, right? Not to mention family and friends, etc. A seventh month break from sports is much appreciated around here…besides, Spring and Summer in Seattle is the time to be out-and-about!

Okay, back to Blood Bowl: Shlominus suggested I check out the latest incarnation of the Blood Bowl rules (a free .pdf download available on-line under the heading Blood Bowl Competition Rules). Apparently, they’ve done away with the Living Rulebook and have one set standard (Thank God!) rather than three or four sets of rules in various stages of “experimentation.” Today, I checked ‘em out.


I’ll still take the 3rd edition. Any day of the week.

Here’s my nitpicks of the rules:

[WOW…by the way, just heard Dave Krieg, “the best QB in Seahawks history” is going to be on sports talk radio later today! Speak of the devil!!! Glad I already got that blog post up in his honor…I should write about Dan Doornink next…]

*AHEM* My nitpicks of the current BB rules (in order):

Casualties: you had to take death off the table, didn’t you? Instead of two rolls (armor and injury) you now have to make three (armor, injury, and “extent of casualty”). Why O Why are people so distressed by death? Let me tell you: I am a total coward when it comes to mortal harm (well, maybe not a TOTAL coward…) but when it comes to a game? The more the merrier! It’s a game.

Let me be perfectly clear: injuries on the football field (concussions, sprains, broken bones) is BAD. Devastating injuries and piles of corpses on the Blood Bowl pitch? Tons o fun.

[I’m going to trademark that term: “Tons O Fun”]

Apothecaries: Wha-wha-what? Needlessly complicated (due to the extra casualty rules), use the original casualty rules and the apothecary is easy.

Fouls: Well, well, well…the nerfing IGMEOY rules are gone. They still nerf fouling somewhat in that players cannot assist if they are an opponent’s tackle zone. While this “makes sense” (it’s consistent with players not assisting with blocks) it slows down the action as once again players have to position and count tackle zones…instead of just surrounding a prone player and kicking him to death (which I always thought was fun). Counting heads is a lot quicker than counting tackle zones, and since only ONE player is allowed to foul every turn, I prefer the faster, “dirtier” way of fouling…you still end up with a 1 in 6 chance of being sent off by the ref.

Fan Factor and FAME rules: I actually like this…it speeds up the game and makes a modicum of sense, plus would appear to make cheerleaders and assistant coaches more relevant.

Casualty table: I prefer the 3rd edition rules, including the standard serious injury chart. SI isn’t all that common, and if you stay with the 3E rules, you won’t even need to worry about it till after the match.

Star Player Points: Nerfed! You can only get six advances? So no way to get your own Griff Oberwald? I believe I’ve mentioned how irritating it is when designers have their special “NPCs” that outclass the normal player characters. Again, I’ll stay with the 3rd edition rules.

[hmm…actually, I see they nerfed Griff, too! We’ll get to that…]

On the other hand, I like the “Value Modifier Table;” if I do figure out a way to institute a salary cap, this is a good start for determining player value. Guess I’ll have to steal it as a house rule.

Oh, yeah…and no SPPs awarded for fouling. Hmm…

Inducements: too complicated. I’ll use my Death Zone cards.

Journeymen: I actually like this rule a lot…it prevents teams from folding due to death and dismemberment. I just hate the term…I’d prefer to call them “walk-ons” or “camp followers” or something.

Spiraling Expenses: They got rid of “appearance fees” and added “spiraling expenses.” Once again, if you "allow Nature to take its course" (i.e. kill off players), you don’t have to worry about teams becoming uber-strong. Even dwarf’s go down when you stick ‘em with enough boots. A fix to correct a fix…ugh.

The Glittering Prizes: Just my preference, but I liked the actual tournament prizes with 3rd edition Death Zone. These prizes seem weenie.

Optional Rules – Awarding MVPs: I prefer the original rules (again, I think it models abstract “other action” and intangibles better); plus this could quickly lead to abuse (giving my Ogre player every MVP award until he’s an unstoppable juggernaut). But it’s an interesting idea…I’d only use it if the coach provide a good reason for his or choice (i.e. based on actual in-game actions).

Special Play Cards: Um, yeah…I’ll stick with my Death Zone cards.

Skills: My O My…the fiddly-ness remains, as well as the hard core nerfing. NO “razor sharp claws” at all. Mighty blow only adds to armor or injury not both (how does a player control that exactly?); same with Dirty Player (what’s the incentive then to take DP instead of MB?). Claws don’t give you any bonuses against wood elves or catchers or goblins or hobbits, etc. Regeneration only works 50% of the time…ho-hum. Secret weapons ALWAYS get sent off? Wow…so much for “risk/reward.” And they took “spikes” off the list of mutations…garbage. Piling on is nerfed.

Fend, Grab, Juggernaut, etc…all these skills add more granular nuances for hard core players who’ve “seen everything” and want more choices in how to deal with minute strategies. I find this completely unnecessary…this is like 4th edition D&D feats or something. People are still going to take block and dodge and mighty blow (maybe) before anything else…why add in more and more fiddly skills that just clutter the team rosters. How many different combos are possible with the various types of movement in Chess? Why do you need to add more? Oh, yeah…”wrestling” and “sneaky git” are both ridiculous and retarded. Screw it…I’ll stick with the original rules.

The kick return skill isn’t bad, though. Nurgle’s rot should turn someone on a casualty roll, not a death…if an opponent is killed, then he’s escaped “a fate worse than death!” Why make this into the Chaos form of necromancy? Rotters don’t regenerate like zombies do, after all!

Inducements (again): As I said, not a fan. I’d like to mention that the change in the wizard rules is…well, lame. And why did they get rid of the “zap – you’re a frog” spell? I guess they wanted to do away with templates (as they did with fireball and lightning rules, as they did with actual special play cards). Annoying.

On the other hand, I always thought the dwarf alchemist and “rune mage” were dumb-dumb ideas. On the other hand, having a team Master Chef on my Halfling chef helped get my hobbit team deep in the tournaments…now I can only get him as an inducement? Lame.

Team Rosters: these are hit and miss. I don’t care for some teams (Necromantic, Khemri) and would never use them. I don’t get why the Nurgle guys regenerate…I’d think they’d be in a constant state of decay (i.e. falling apart fast)…this deserves its own post. Ogre teams are filled with snotlings? That’s stupid. Norse teams have werewolves and yeti? That’s stupid, too!

I see why razor sharp claws and spikes were removed…Chaos teams now mutate as a standard skill instead of a doubles roll. Again this is short-sighted: of course, coaches are going to turn themselves into “ultimate killing machines” if a standard advance is all they need! Mutations should NOT be common, even for Chaos teams…champions should be able to learn normal Blood Bowler skills more often than they are “rewarded” by their dark gods. Hell, skaven eat warp stone and THEY still need to roll doubles.

Ugh. No. No. No! I don’t even need to go over the Star Players to see I don’t like what I see (my wife’s favorite star, Griff Oberwald, has had his speed nerfed and his leaping ability removed in favor of “fend?” And his price nearly doubled? She will NOT be pleased). This is too much silliness. I’ve spent almost four pages going through this thing, and can readily say, “No thank you.”

I could say something a little coarser, but people who’ve read this far already get it.

[by the way: very nice interview with Dave Krieg today; damn, the guy had nothing to say but nice things about Seattle. What a class act. The years between him and Hasselbeck were dry-dry-dry…no offense to Warren Moon, but yeah. God, I hope we don’t go through that kind of stretch anytime in the near future!]

Just to sum up, here are the only NEW Blood Bowl rules I’d incorporate into my 3rd edition game:

  • New Fame and Fan Factor rules: okay
  • Value Modifier Table (only for “salary cap purposes,” not Team rating)
  • Journeymen (calling ‘em “walk-ons,” though)
  • New General Skill: Kick Off Return
  • Dropping Dwarf Alchemists from the game: that’s a good thing

Um…and maybe the “award your own MVP” optional rule. WITH conditions.

Everything else in the new rule book can go to hell. Some teams will be adapted (ogres, Nurgle). Some of the roster additions (deathrollers, trolls) might be added. But each will have to be examined individually.

All right…that really IS enough for now!


  1. Isn't award your own MVP just "The game ball goes to..."?

  2. @ Grat Sax:

    Yeah, but the original rules are that it goes to a "random" member of the squad...possibly someone who got killed during the match:

    "Good ol' Clem was blocking like a champ for Roger all game (*sniff*)...too bad that ork killed him. This one's for you, Clem!"

    The idea is that it's possible the MVP award goes to an "inspirational" player. Mechanically, an MVP award gives the player 5 SPPs (the biggest award in the game...a TD is only worth 3). If coaches are allowed to award their own "game balls," they can simply bestow them on whichever player is going to give them the biggest mechanical boost. That's the temptation anyway.

  3. at least you found a few bits you liked. :)

    now get that nfl league going and start playing!

  4. I think it may be a matter of perspective. That tournament structure barely makes any sense to me, while I have no problems understanding our league/cup/Europe structure, even as someone who doesn't follow football (soccer) that closely. I don't know if it's in the blood or what.

    If I ran a Blood Bowl league, I'd do it as an English-style league/cup thing, rather than the US-style structure they recommend. Yes, I know the game is supposed to emulate a US sport, but it doesn't make much sense to me, and stuff like "winning percentages" -- which aren't percentages! -- just baffle me!

    As for Blood Bowl, as I mentioned before, I was quite happy playing v3 for years and have little experience of the later editions, but I suspect they've made it more difficult to score a kill to protect long-term league players who've built up teams full of SPP and special-skilled Linemen. It doesn't strike me as much fun, as BB isn't supposed to be safe; I have fond memories of a bloodbath between my dark elves and my mate Stephen's skaven team in which the two agile teams out-manoeuvred each other to score at either end -- it was like basketball -- but with the slightly tougher elves winning out by crunching the rats at every opportunity, so Steve only had five of them on the pitch by the end. You wouldn't get that in the new rules. :(

  5. As a die-hard Chiefs fan I'm digging on your love of Dave Krieg. Seriously underrated QB, sure he had a fumbling issue, but does anyone else remember the game Vs. the Chiefs where Derrick Thomas sacked him like 6 times and then had him for the 7th only to have Dave throw a BOMB for the win? Fantastic game, fantastic end. I miss the old AFC West...