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.