Blood Bowl 3 brings the fantasy into football – Preview

Warhammer is taking its fantasy battles to the football field.

Orc player in Blood Bowl 3

Image Via Cyanide Studios

If your only exposure to Blood Bowl 3 were its commercials and CG cutscenes, it would be easy to think that it’s a fast-paced sports game with a lot of combat. In truth, Blood Bowl 3 is a turn-based strategy RPG set in an alternate version of the Warhammer Fantasy world, where factions like Dark Elves, Orcs, and Skaven settle their differences with a game that merges football with extreme violence. It’s up to you as the coach to form the best Blood Bowl team and win matches through intelligent strategies, skilled players, and being lucky with the dice.

Related: Blood Bowl 3 is aiming for championship quality violence – Hands-on beta impressions

Blood Bowl 3 can be a daunting game at first, as it throws a lot of numbers and options at you, with a UI that fills the screen’s border with buttons and indicators. Luckily, there is a robust tutorial available, which is essential for new players and gradually introduces each rule one by one while giving you a chance to test out every action on the field.

As helpful as the tutorial is, it’s still worth playing a few friendly games against the A.I. after finishing to see how everything meshes together in an actual match. There is also a campaign mode designed to help new players learn how the different teams work, but this wasn’t available in our preview build of the game. Likewise, the online component and the new premium shop were also inaccessible in our preview.

Dwarves battling humans in Blood Bowl 3
Image via Cyanide Studios

Matches in Blood Bowl are broken down into turns; once every player’s turn, they may move and perform actions with each team member, such as running across the field or tackling an opponent. After every squad member has taken an action, control will switch to the opposing team. This seldom happens, however, as failing a dice roll when performing an action will not only lead to a bad outcome for the current action, such as tripping, but it will also lead to a Turnover, where control immediately switches to the opponent. 

The specter of failure hangs heavy over every play in Blood Bowl 3, so planning your team’s turn order is vital. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to perform any actions that won’t prompt a dice roll before engaging the enemy. This leads to many players setting up teammates for blocks and passes before committing to a risky move. Or, the player can perform a risky move immediately, and if it succeeds, the other team members will be better prepared to respond. This risk/reward strategy appears throughout Blood Bowl 3, as one bad dice roll will put the enemy team in an advantageous position.

In-game footage of Blood Bowl 3
Image via Cyanide Studios

The goal of each match in Blood Bowl 3 is for one of your players to carry the ball into the opposing team’s End Zone to score a point. So far, so football, but Blood Bowl 3 is a much deadlier game. This is where offensive plays matter, as any one of your teammates can either move their character or perform a Block attack, which can knock an opponent prone. The defending team isn’t defenseless on their turn, as they are always threatening every space within one square of their position. This threatened area acts similarly to attacks of opportunity in D&D, as moving through their threat range can lead to a counterattack, which has the potential to cause a Turnover. This means you must balance out keeping a defensive line that can block enemy runners while having your guys ready to break through the opposing team’s wall. 

If you have any faith in things such as fate or fortune, which has been built into you from years of tabletop gaming, then be prepared to become a dice atheist, as you will grow to hate the rolls in Blood Bowl 3, which are tied to nearly every action, and most carry the threat of a Turnover. Luckily, there are ways to tip the odds in your favor and use multiple dice in the same roll, where you can pick the more favorable result, such as through character skills or having other squad members nearby who aren’t in the threatened area of another player. There are also a limited number of rerolls, with additional ones available for purchase before each match. 

Image via NACON

After the initial learning period, Blood Bowl 3 comes into its own, with all the different strategies stemming from its diverse roster of players. This is where the fantasy setting is so essential, as creatures like ents, dwarves, and elves possess traits that make them feel unique, along with special abilities such as the troll’s Projectile Vomit, to disable an enemy player easily. The fun of Blood Bowl 3 is bashing these fantasy action figures together and seeing how their skills match up. 

If all of that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Blood Bowl 3 can initially be extremely daunting, with its heavy focus on numbers and the options available during each turn. To Blood Bowl 3’s credit, the game’s tutorial does a great job slowly bringing the player up to speed, and once you’ve cleared a few practice games, then the initial teething period of learning the rules is over, and Blood Bowl 3 becomes an engaging strategy game, even though it’s behind a veneer of sports and violence.