Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game Review

Blood Bowl: Team Manager is the kind of standalone card game I like to play, a hybrid of head-to-head sports gaming and a fantasy world complete with orcs, goblins, dwarves, and vampires. The game was released by Fantasy Flight Games in 2011. It’s the card game version of a franchise that’s been around since the 80s and includes board games, computer gaming versions, and other titles.

This particular card game combines a high level of strategy, required to put together a team of creatures that can outplay your opponent’s teams, and the willingness to play dirty. Cheating is a built-in element of the game, which sets teams of fantasy creatures against each other over the course of a single season of brutal football combat.

Your goal is to customize your specific team, your hand, through the process of drafting, hiring trainers, upgrading your training facility, and (yes) working some illegal backdoor deals with refs and other managers to cheat your way to the top. At the end of a season of play, the manager who earns the most fans by putting together the best team and scoring the most is the winner.

Is it a sports card game or a fantasy battle game? The truth is, this title is both, and should appeal to fans of both types of contests as well as fans of card-based standalone gaming as well.

How to Play

Players start by choosing one of six teams, each of which is made up primarily of a single race.

The Reikland Reavers – The most versatile team is the Reikland Reavers, a human squad that can be trained to play just about any position in the game. Beginners often start out playing as the Reavers since they have decent skills in all the important categories like passing, running, and offense. But players with some experience in the game know that the human’s abilities to out-think the other team is even more valuable

The Grudgebearers – This team, made up of Dwarves, is small but tough, and they wear the best armor in the game. This hack-and-slash team is best at wearing down the opposing defense through brute force.

The Athelorn Avengers – The Wood Elf race’s team is the Avengers, the best passing team in the league. With a high-powered offense and tons of dexterity, the Wood Elf Avengers concentrate on the air game but are a bit weak on defense.

The Skavenblight Scramblers – The Skaven race makes up the Scramblers, a team that hangs big numbers with their running game. Skavens are adept at finding gaps in the defensive line, and the mention of the name gives defensive coordinators headaches.

The Gouged Eye – A band of Orcs banded together as The Gouged Eye are the New York Yankees of Blood Bowl, a consistent threat to win it all. Orcs are physical players that don’t excel at offense naturally but can be easily upgraded to adapt their tough defense to offensive game situations.

The Chaos All-Stars – A roster full of members of the Chaos race makes the All-Stars among the most hated teams in all of Blood Bowl. These are violent and dirty players who want to win at any contest. A common move for the Chaos squad is to simply stab and kill the ball carrier when the ref isn’t looking. If you like to deceive your way to victory, play as this team.

More on Blood Bowl: Team Manager Gaming

Each game has room for two to four managers, each of which has five virtual in-game weeks to turn their team into the best they can be, followed by a season of football contests which end with the Blood Bowl itself. How do players improve their teams and hands? Competing to earn highlights, collecting illegal payouts from refs and sports gamblers, buying better players, and participating in an annual draft.

The player starts with a basic team without much skill. The idea behind the game is to improve your team by making the right plays at the right time and building a tougher roster. Hence the emphasis on the managerial aspect of the game.

Throughout the game, your team has to randomly compete head-to-head against another squad for highlight matchups – win more highlights and your team will improve, increasing your number of fans. After all, the winner of the game is determined by who has the most fans, not necessarily who wins the most. These randomly-determined highlight wins will occasionally improve your fan base even more than big wins on the gridiron.

After the final two teams face off in the Blood Bowl tournament, players add up their fans and manager points, and the player with the biggest following is the winner.

I Like Blood Bowl: Team Manager

Fantasy Flight’s take on this classic franchise puts every player in the management hot seat, and in-game decisions have a direct effect on the outcome of the game and the way the teams perform and how fans respond.

I love titles that combine or cross genres, and the mix of sports card play and fantasy elements here is unique. Not only does this title appeal to my friends who like fantasy sports, it’s also based on the popular Warhammer series, so fantasy gamers will also get a lot of joy out of the game.

Even more important, this title has nearly infinite replay value. Each season is different, and the actions of each manager and the outcomes of things like head-to-head competitions and illegal deals with refs mean that the lead changes hands often.

Blood Bowl: Team Manager has already led to the release of one expansion pack, called Sudden Death, and Fantasy Flight claims on their website that they’re looking to continue the series based on fan feedback. We couldn’t be happier that this weird but very engaging sports-fantasy game appears to be catching on.


MLB Showdown Card Game Review

If you’re anything like us at CardGameReviews, you were a baseball card collector as a kid, maybe even before you played collectible card games. I collected all sorts of sports cards before I got into card gaming, and still have much of my collection, carefully cataloged, for some day in the future when they may regain the value they had in the 80s and 90s.

When I was younger, I often used my baseball cards to play my own form of fantasy baseball, using dice and player stats, as well as a home-made baseball diamond, to play out games of baseball against teams I made up, composed of whatever player cards I had. The rules were complex, and mostly known only to myself, but it was the closest I ever came to actual Major League Baseball.

The trouble with fantasybaseball is that it doesn’t really feel like the game of baseball at all. Really, it should be called fantasy baseball management, as trading players and building rosters is the name of the game, not swinging bats, scoring runs, and making defensive plays.

Wizards of the Coast’s MLB Showdown card game is very similar to the baseball game I made up as a kid, except with clearly-defined rules and its own set of player and strategy cards. Though the game is now out of print, it ran from 2000-2005, with new player and strategy cards appearing each year to match new MLB lineups, players, managers, and other features.

How the Game is Played

If you are a fan of baseball or collectible card games, it’s likely you’ll be a fan of MLB Showdown, if you can find a set now that the game has been out of print for some seven years. MLB Showdown simulates actual baseball play using cards and a 20-sided die. It is therefore a hybrid of tabletop role-playing and traditional card gaming.

If you aren’t a fan of randomness in your card games, you may be put off by the style of play that MLB Showdown requires. Yes, you play the game like most card games, buying a basic deck for each baseball season as well as different sets of booster packs and special “draft packs.” But the outcome of each at-bat depends more on the luck of a die-roll than any actual player strategy.

Game play in MLB Showdown should be familiar to anyone used to card games–two types of cards are used, player cards and strategy cards. The player cards are all current and former Major League players, and the game’s strategy cards are like in-game actions that affect the way the die is rolled, change the results of a previous action, allow a player to draw extra cards, etc.

Batting & Pitching

Like actual baseball play, the game plays out as a series of at-bats. The player cards you hold affect the outcome of each at-bat. Each pitcher and batter has a chart that is based on their actual abilities–the pitching player rolls the 20-sided die to determine if the batter rolls based on his own chart or against the pitcher’s chart. Each player chart has its own list of possible results for every at-bat. It’s a simple way to represent the way a real baseball game plays out, and for fans of America’s Pastime, it comes off as pretty realistic. Players with good batting skills in the real game are harder to pitch against in MLB Showdown, and pitchers at the top of their game in the real-world are difficult to hit against.

It’s unfortunate that Wizards of the Coast stopped printing MLB Showdown, along with their other sports titles NFL Showdown and NBA Showdown, in 2005 and 2006. The popularity of baseball has waned since labor disputes in the 1990s and evidence of steroid abuse in the 90s and 2000s, so it’s possible that MLB Showdown never caught on because the audience for baseball is trending older, while the audience for card games trends younger. Either way, we baseball fans can only hope that someone will pick up where WotC left off and start releasing new draft and player packs for this extremely fun fantasy baseball card game.

Jab Realtime Boxing Card Game Review

The Jab Realtime Boxing card game is unlike any other card game I’ve ever played, and I mean that in a positive way. You know how in most card games you take turns, and in fact, in most card games, it’s a serious breach of etiquette or even cheating to act out of turn? Jab doesn’t have turns. You and your opponent play your cards as fast or as slow as you want to, and fast isn’t necessarily better.

People who don’t like stress or pressure won’t enjoy the Jab Realtime Boxing card game. There are actually multiple games going on all at the same time. For example, you’re looking for opportunities to land combos. But at the same time, you’re trying to keep up with opportunities to land haymakers and possibly score a knockout. AND at the same time, you’re also trying to land more punches. And at the end of each round, your opponent gets to eliminate one of the piles of punches you’ve landed, and you have to choose between the other two. So you have to remember where you landed the most punches without the opponent blocking them.

All of this is accomplished with the use of boxing figures, similar to the cars in the Car Wars card game, except your boxer is comprised of multiple cards, representing your head and body, and representing either side of them.

The game is actually simple enough that you can play it with a child, and if you’re not careful, a child could even beat you fairly easily. Intuitive types who don’t rattle tend to be better at this game than high strung types who get stressed out easily.

If you like innovative games, then you’ll love Jab Realtime Boxing. If you’re a fan of video games like Fight Night Round 3, then you’ll probably also love Jab Realtime Boxing. You should probably be able to tell based on this review if it sounds like something you’d enjoy. I recommend trying it.

I also thought the game has a lot of replay value, because you can vary your strategy and focus on various aspects of the game. In fact, if you play long enough, you’ll eventually develop your own style, just like you would if you were a real boxer. Maybe you’ll be a big counterpuncher, or maybe you’ll be a speed guy. You might be a really defensive player or a really aggressive player. These approaches can all work, IF you play well.

I should also point out that this game sells for only $19.95, which makes it one of the most affordable card games of this type on the market. Given Jab’s excellent replay value, that represents a great value for your card game dollar.

The Jab card game is as good a card game as I’ve ever played, and I’ve played a lot of card games. It ranks right up there next to Dominion in my pantheon of greatest card games of all time. Give it a try, seriously.