Monday, September 7, 2015

Fantasy Blood Bowl Draft

For the first time in 6+ years, I will be participating in an on-line "fantasy football" league. Yesterday was our draft and it went pretty well for me...with a single, bone-headed exception. 

[in the 6th and 7th round, when I had back-to-back picks I accidentally allowed the thing to go to auto-draft, picking up both Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin before I could stop it. As both these guys are out for the season with ACL tears, they're worthless picks...and what's worse is they filled receiver slots, precluding me from drafting other WRs later on...ugh!]

Anyway, drafting one's fantasy team can only mean the preseason is over and the regular season about to begin. Which for me means I start daydreaming about Blood Bowl. Daydreaming is just about all I can do because I've got zero of my BB gear here in Paraguay. *sigh*

"Just about all." But not absolutely all.

Looking at my fantasy draft again reminds me of my standard BB gripe: Blood Bowl is a far cry from real, gridiron football. Not just due to the rules, but the way every team is (more-or-less) required to be a homogenous species. Yes, it's easy to stereotype teams and fan bases as fantasy "races" (elves, orks, dwarves, etc.) based on their team tendencies, but it doesn't account for the real NFL, where trades and free agency means players seldom play out their entire career on a single team. It doesn't account for coaches, whose personalities might be far-and-away different from that of their "team species" (I can see Chuck Knox as an orc and Mike Holmgren as an ogre, but how do you categorize New Agey, Bobby McFerrin-like Pete Carroll? He's hardly Green Skin material...).

For a fantasy football game like Blood Bowl, I'd like to see a better mix of critter types. I'd like to be able to do a fantasy draft of BB teams (assuming you have a league going)...or even better, do a "Pro Bowl" at the end of the year using all the best players off all the league teams. Wouldn't that be cool? Okay, maybe not "cool," but I'd sure like to see it. But, of course, achieving "game balance" in such a format would be incredibly tough.

[as if Blood Bowl could ever be considered a well-balanced game. I'll take your halflings against my Chaos team any day of the week. Sure, you can bring a'll need someone to bury all the bodies after the game]

A couple weeks ago, I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of the Dragon magazine #65 (1982) featuring the TSR micro-game Monsters of the Midway, a fantasy football game along same lines as Blood Bowl (featuring fantasy creatures battling on the gridiron), but pre-dating BB by about four years. Played on a hex-grid field, Monsters shares a lot of similarities with Blood Bowl, but is much closer to the real rules of American football, including downs, scoring, and a kicking game that includes both punting and field goals. Some of the systems look a little clunky, and I'm not sure a) how well the game would actually play, nor b) how well it models it's fantasy people, but it looks like it's worth a play-test. And since it's counter-based (rather than miniatures-based), it's something I can print-out and play here, perhaps with the boy. He and I spent much of the weekend playing war-games (more on that in a later post).

More fantasy, less bloodshed. Really.
However, one of the more interesting ways in which Monsters of the Midway differs from Blood Bowl is in the presence of "The Draft." It's not a true "draft;" opposing coaches are choosing individual players based on point value and specific parameters - each team must have ten players and points cannot exceed 210 in total - but there's nothing that says you can't choose four storm giants, an elf, a gnoll, and four goblins (for example). In a way, it's like the "Race as Class" of fantasy football games: players have no positions, so instead coaches are drafting ettins for blocking, elves for receiving, and centaurs for running...species determines "position." Unfortunately, this might mean that all teams have a similar look (i.e. "motley crew") to them, making each less distinct from each other, even via play-style-wise...the latter of which is something Blood Bowl does very well.

Allies are not true "free agency."
Yes, yes, I realize that my complaint here amounts to "wanting my cake and eating it, too;" how can JB want a variety of different player types AND the distinction of team/play types that comes with a homogenous outfit? I don't know...probably something similar to the allies rule found in the "4th Edition" (Blood Bowl Magazine). There were still some issues...but then, there were a lot of issues with BB 4E (which is probably what led to the "Living" rulebook that was in a constant state of adjustment right up until all the on-line Blood Bowl stuff...and Specialist Games in total...went down the crapper).

ANYway...building my own "fantasy ball game" (FBG), something I've considered on more than one occasion, is probably the only way I'll ever get true satisfaction. Even normal "fantasy football" (of the ESPN variety) is hardly satisfying, probably because football itself is such a team sport, that drafting individual players and counting their "points" towards a "win" just feels against the whole spirit of the game.

[plus I'm a total homer so half my fantasy players are Seahawks; as a consequence, I end up living and dying by the local team, defeating the main strategy of diversification and playing match-ups]

Interesting that my fantasy football team has 15 players, nearly the same as a standard Blood Bowl roster (which is 16 players, for those who don't know). If I was looking them by their BB species, here's what my team would look like:

Round 1: Marshawn Lynch (orc blitzer)
Round 2: Russell Wilson (goblin)
Round 3: Julio Jones (skaven gutter runner)
Round 4: Sam Bradford (high elf phoenix warrior)
Round 5: Deangelo Williams (beastman)
Round 6: *dropped*
Round 7: *dropped*
Round 8: Doug Baldwin (goblin)
Round 9: Tyler Lockett (goblin)
Round 10: Malcom Floyd (wood elf catcher)
Round 11: Dwayne Allen (high elf lineman)
Round 12: Patriots Defense (dark elves)
Round 13: Darren Sproles (skaven storm vermin)
Round 14: Alfred Blue (wight)
Round 15: Dustin Hopkins (Nurgle rotter)

That's a lot of Chaos on a single team (10 out of 15); if I were running Blood Bowl as an RPG, I'd probably rule that all the "good" elves on the team would have to convert to the "dark side" to play for such a squad. We'll see what I'm able to pick up off waivers to replace my ACL casualties; I really don't think they're going to buck the trend.
; )

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