Dreadball vs Blood Bowl pt. 2
If you didn’t catch Part 1 of the Dreadball (“DB”) vs Blood Bowl (“BB16”) post yet, you can catch it: here!
Last time around I covered most of the physical aspects of both games. Boards, dice, minis, etc. This time around we get a little ‘meatier’ as we move closer to the rules.
As I type this post up, I’ve quickly realized what was intended to be a two-parter is easily a three-parter. So there is even more to come.
Gear up and don’t forget your jockstraps, because here we go!
How a rulebook is written and organized can often make or break a game. The use of good visuals can help in explaining concepts and also entice people to buy the game. How do the rulebooks of these two games matchup?
Well, that’s a difficult one. My first real exposure to learning the Blood Bowl rules myself, was through a pdf entitled “CRP” or Competition Rules Pack. This was a streamlined document, with all the fluff (story) items removed and most all illustrations stripped out. It’s an ideal document for refereeing the rules at tournaments, where you want to be able to look up things fast. It is not much to look at, but it gets the job done. The wording in that document was tightly constructed and I never found any instances of ambiguity when reading the rules. I became quite familiar with the organization of my printed copy and could quickly flip to the sections I used the most. One handy cheat sheet, and I was all set to run our league (none of whom had played the game before). In the Dreadball rulebook, I found that rules were not always well organized and ran into several cases where the rules were perplexing to me.
The latest release of Blood Bowl is based off of that CRP document, but some edits have been made. The recent Blood Bowl Almanac takes the rules from the Death Zone books plus some other sources such as White Dwarf and compiles them. It does not include the rules from the base set, so although the Almanac is the closest thing to a rules reference for the Blood Bowl game, it is sadly incomplete. In addition some of the edits made after CRP have been unclear or perhaps poorly constructed. If I was to compare Dreadball rules to CRP though, I can tell you right now that CRP would win hands down. The CRP rules are some of the best written rules I have ever seen, any game. Tight, focused and clear. Quite an amazing job.
I’ve talked a bit about the history and recent state of the Blood Bowl rules, so let’s get into the visuals of both books. Most of the BB16 rulebooks were softcovers. Same with Dreadball. However, Dreadball has some amazing pictures of their painted minis (if only I could make mine look like that!!).
The only criticism I think I would have, is that these images often took up a half or full page, so it sometimes felt like filler. It might be a bit exaggerated on my part, because I did go from the no frills CRP book to reading DB, and there is quite a shift in the focus of the two books. One is designed as a strict rules reference, the other as a commercial product.
The BB16 rulebooks on the other hand, mainly utilize graphics from the computer game and tend to look something like this:
The text is on a murky background that sometimes makes things more difficult to read than the stark white pages of DB. Some of the more recent Blood Bowl – Dead Zone books include new illustrations, but the art still seems to be lagging behind a bit.
Discounting the CRP, both systems are a let down in organization and clarity. Most of the rules are spread across 2+ books and trying to find specific rules can be an immense pain. With DB, they introduced new powers with different teams, and yep, were included in the rulebook for that season. Have fun flipping!
The recent Blood Bowl Almanac is a very nice sewn hardback book and wins in production quality alone. It is a really good attempt at consolidating the rules, but is far from perfect. Things should be reorganized to facilitate gameplay (moving the Star Players to the back of the book would be a prime example) and rules from the boxed set really need to be integrated. Art assets should be increased overall.
It’s a tough one, but this round goes to BB.
[+1 for BB]
Quick and fast. Dreadball. Mantic Games released their digital files in a fairly quick manner. They made available ePub, pdf, etc. all at the same time. Even one big document with multiple seasons included. And you can DOWNLOAD all those different files to your local device. Mantic (like a lot of companies), basically give the rules away. Good gravy Games Workshop (GW), get with the times!
[+1 for DB]
Similar to rulebooks, both systems have cards to enhance gameplay. In Blood Bowl, cards are part of an inducement system to help ‘balance’ teams of higher and lower values. They can also be used to add some variety in the game by giving each Coach a certain number of cards at the beginning. BB16 cards tend to be a bit random. I just started using them recently, but we’ve had things where a player suddenly gained a skill, was given the option to Blitz twice in a turn (NICE!), and had one of my players catapulted into the sky (not so nice). I’ve heard complaints that earlier versions of these cards were even more random and sometimes unfairly shifted the balance of the game. I haven’t experienced that yet with the new cards, thankfully, and actually found them to be a bit of fun.
Dreadball cards have some events, but are also used to move the referee model and as a ‘random player selector’ ala a strip of numbers running down one side. They are also used during “Fan checks”. A mechanic that I found pretty nice. When a player makes some sort of astounding play, you get to make a Fan Check and then add a card to your pile. Once the Coach accumulates enough ‘Fan Cheers’ (red dots at the bottom of cards), they can turn that in for an extra Coaching die. The Coaching die can be used to make successes a bit easier.
Even though there are some interesting mechanics and things going on with the Dreadball cards, I prefer the simplicity and flavor of the Blood Bowl cards. The Blood Bowl cards start with flavor text, when exactly you would play the card, and what you need to do. Very simple, and often funny.
[+1 for BB]
This is another tough comparison, but might be useful to anyone learning about these games.
With Blood Bowl, I was first introduced to the game by friends. We played a couple games, and I think I’ve told the story on this blog how I didn’t really like it. Later on I would find the CRP rules and the Cyanide/Focus computer game. Playing against the computer was a good way to learn the basics of moving, blocking, etc. But I can’t say that I learned the game solely through the rulebook, and I’m not sure how easy it is for new people to digest the game. I remember as a new player, just figuring out how to determine the chance of blocking and what the blocking die symbols meant, took me a long while. I think you either need a mentor, play the computer game which guides you through a lot of Blood Bowl mechanics, and/or watch a lot of YouTube tutorials.
With Dreadball, I read the rulebook, but found some of the rules to be ambiguous. I then went searching for online tutorials. I watched several of those, then we sat down for our first game and still had some questions. I think with a mentor (or computer game), things would have been a lot easier. It’s not super hard, but I don’t like running into rules questions that don’t have a clear answer mid-game.
The new BB16 box has a loose sheet that goes over the basics of moving, blocking, etc. I think that’s a nice approach, but I still don’t know that two people who have never played Blood Bowl (or other GW games) would be able to ‘just play’ from looking over things in the box.
[+0 for Both]
Since I talked about Getting Started above, let’s launch right into how fast these games play.
I often feel like DB was purposefully designed to be a faster way to play Blood Bowl. Much of the game is like Blood Bowl rules, but streamlined. You only roll one type of die (d6), most all die check mechanics are the same, you have fewer players and even setup has been ‘optimized’.
Blood Bowl is definitely an older system, and runs more like a powerful locomotive. You have more players on a team (and thus more options), and a variety of different dice to deal with (d6s, blocking dice, d8, and even a d16!). Although you roll a d6 for most things, and there are ability checks, there are often different skills/abilities that have their own rules/die success chances. Veterans will likely have all those memorized, but the same could be said for DB Veterans.
Setup was the real eye opener for me though. After a touchdown in BB or at Half time, you take all those minis off the field, roll for KO’s, and one Coach sets up their 11 players, then the other Coach, you roll for where the ball is going to go and make a kickoff table roll. Once you get the game down, it doesn’t take too long, but it does add to playtime for the game. The first time I scored in DB, I was completely in awe….as you just CONTINUE play with the players staying on the field exactly where they were before. I had read the rules, so I even knew it was coming, but it still seemed so odd that we didn’t need to take the time to setup, etc. It also is a game changer in that your defense/offense might suddenly be in the wrong place if you were not carefully positioning your players during the play!
All of the above contributes to a speedier game for DB.
[+1 for DB]
So that wraps up the second article on Dreadball vs Blood Bowl. I started to touch on the rules, but most of that will be focused on in part 3. I’ve already begun typing up part 3, so it shouldn’t be too far out. Stay tuned for some more ball smashing action soon!
Click here for: Dreadball vs Blood Bowl part 3