Imagine remixing American Football to appeal to geeks. First of all, it’d have to be something you could do while sitting down. Second, make it medieval with armored players and spiked gauntlets. Finally, set it in a fantasy land with Elves and Orcs and Dwarves! Well, imagine no further, because it’s a reality: Blood Bowl.
(I should note that actually I am a huge NFL fan. Go Vikes!)
Basically, Blood Bowl is football played in a fantasy roleplaying setting like Dungeons & Dragons — or more accurately, like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, one of the most beloved D&D alternatives out there, known for the grittiness of its campaign setting. To play the game you need two teams, dice, a game board, and a copy of the rules. Your players block, tackle and throw the ball to score touch downs similar to football. However, the fantasy element comes to the forefront as you have sneaky goblins with clever gadgets, hobbits being thrown like footballs, regenerating skeletal blitzers, and all manner of dirty tricks and shenanigans.
Note: For some reason I was under the impression that Blood Bowl was out of print, and wrote the original post accordingly. Thanks to reader Kradlum for correctly pointing out that Games Workshop still supports Blood Bowl.
Blood Bowl was created by game designer Jervis Johnson for Games Workshop in 1987. Soon, new editions appeared, along with a bevy of miniatures including all skill positions and even peripheral characters like cheerleaders and coaches. Because the game is a niche product, the materials available from GW’s online store tend to run on the expensive side… $45-50 for a partial team and $75 for the basic set. However, GW permits users to freely download the rulebook, which has been altered and amended by the game’s fan base. Additionally, some groups have taken to the Web to avoid having to buy game boards and figures. Others continue to play in person with friends, mocking up their own boards on sheets of cardboard, and using random figures or even LEGO minifigs as playing pieces.
Currently I’m playing in a league of nine people, using our own flavor of the rules that differs from both the original rules and the Living Rulebook. My team, the Erengrad Claws, has fallen to 0-2 but we have high hopes for the future.
[This post originally ran in November of 2007]