Blood Bowl is a good game for design philosophy because it already has a lot of knobs, wheels and sliders to move to produce different results. It has enough, in fact, that I don't think a new addition needs to make more of them. This time around we're going to look at some of those different tools, analyze how they can be used and maybe do some categorizing for common ways they've been used in the past.
We're going to split these into game tools and metagame tools. Basically, anything that takes place on or around the pitch is a game tool. Anything that is used in team construction or the pre-game is a metagame tool.
So Players are game tools, but TV and Gold are Metagame tools. Good? Good.
The obvious starting place is with the players themselves. They do stuff on your turn until they fail doing something, at which point they trigger a Turnover and control is passed to your opponent. I'm not going to explain what a player is to a bunch of Blood Bowl coaches. What I am going to do is talk about player types and how they are used in team design & play feel.
Basically, almost all players can be fit into 1 of about 8 categories which defines their roll on the pitch. Some players fill more than 1 roll, but most don't. These player archetypes have also traditionally been used to determine which skills a player has access to on level up, though that's something we'll only touch on here.
The player types are as follows:
Lineman: The most basic player on the team. Less expensive then (almost) any other player, with no limit on how many can be rostered. Linemen are typically the most mechanically simple player on the team, with few skills and a more average stat line then positionals.
Blitzer: The bigger, better linemen. Blitzers usually have some combination of more movement, more armour and more skills than their lineman equivalent. Strength access is also common.
Blocker: Typically slower but more heavily armoured than a Lineman. Sometimes stronger, with agility as an afterthought. Usually has strength access, but few starting skills.
Thrower: Picks up and throws the ball. Typically not much faster or tougher than a lineman, but has cost-efficient ball handling skills and natural pass access.
Catcher: Sometimes more agile than linemen and almost always faster. Catchers trade armour and strength for good defensive skills and a good stat line for scoring. They usually have natural agility access
Runner: Somewhere in between Throwers and Catchers. Runners are usually faster than linemen, with passing access and some ball handling skills. But they usually aren't as fast as catchers or as good at passing as throwers. They typically have passing access.
Stunty: These players trade strength, armour and normal skills for natural agility access and extreme mobility. They are usually cheap but easily removed.
Big Guys: Players with strength 5 or greater, natural strength access instead of normals and typically with a negatrait. These players typically have several skills designed to emphasize their thematic relationship to the team and are less reliable than other players, as the trade-off for their high strength.
Blood Bowl is a game of limited actions. You can blitz, foul, hand off and throw once each per turn. Only movement and special skills can be used more than once per turn, and in the later case that usually means the skill is considered part of the movement action in the first place. Again, I don't think I need to explain what each of these actions means to a bunch of seasoned Blood Bowl coaches. But having a good understanding of them is important for understanding how they can be used in combination with the rest of the building blocks we have here.
Skills are mechanics attached to players that give those players extra abilities. each skill fundamentally makes a small change to the rules of the game. Both Down results in your player being knocked to the ground, unless they have block. Dodge does the same with Defender Fumbles. And even Accurate changes the math for whether a throw succeeds or fails. Skills, like players, can also be split into groups. These splits are explicit in Blood Bowl and I'll mostly gloss over them, but there is one group in particular I want to mention here
Extraordinary Skills: Any skill which a player can have but not learn on level up falls into this category, and it's actually quite a broad one! There are in fact about 3 completely separate types of skills that exist here. First, there are negatraits. The Really Stupids and Secret Weapons of the game. These are used to give otherwise strong players weaknesses and to add flavour to them.
Second, there are skills that are too complicated or contradictory to give coaches regular access to. This includes Secret Weapon rules like Chainsaws and a couple other fringe cases like Stab. They also are used to add flavour and some unpredictable excitement to a team and they were really never intended to be anything but.
Third of all, there are skills that are Extraordinary because they add something to the game but we don't want coaches to be able to choose them. This includes skills like Right Stuff, where they were created and limited as a rules patch to prevent undesirably play. Skills that are, in other words, bad for the game when coaches have free access to them, but which are still useful for adding flavour and fun to specific edge cases. We'll talk more about these ones in later articles.
These are...actually probably the weakest block out of everything here. The design space for kick off events is that they add an element of unpredictability to the kickoff phase and in principle that's good! Inpractice though, they don't do a great job of it and often come off as arbitrary. I'm leary to dump them, but they definitely need some attention once we have a fresh set of teams to play with.
On the bright side, they do interact well with some of the Metagame Tools, so we'll mention them again then.
This, on the other hand, has a lot more potential. Weather is a mechanic that occasionally forces players and teams to change how they play. It's important that it doesn't come up too often, and it could use some more nuace as to some of the effects it creates, but in principle I think it's absolutely a contributing factor to Blood Bowl's longevity as a game. Weather is something that helps make sure that playing the same team game after game still gets splashes of freshness thrown in.
Bank & TV
Together these are one of the main tools used to balance different teams in Blood Bowl. They are not strictly the same, but they are close enough related to cover both at the same time. It's not a perfect tool, but it's a good step in the right direction.
It also, interestingly, has some unstated...well, not exactly rules, but at least strong suggestions as to how players are priced.
We'll not go over everything, but here is a good short and sweet version of the guidelines
- Different Strength/Agility stat lines have different base costs
- Movement and Armour cost 10K each
- Negatraits refund (usually) 20K
- Other Extraordinary Skills can be 0K, 10K or 20K
- All other skills can be either 10K or 20K, depending on the skill
- Costs over 100K are cut in half
Another contribution to team balance and also a good way to enforce relationships between factions. Allied races tend to get access to the star players of their allies. But there's also other things we can do with them! We'll come back to this occasionally as we create more teams, but these things are a pretty powerful way to reinforce themes without unbalancing the game.
In Blood Bowl 2, Stadium Enhancements either give access to a particular type of inducement or else cancel out a kickoff event. Frankly, they need work, but I do think they add to the game! Cancelling kickoff events is maybe a little plain but it's a reasonable feature for more competitively minded players. I there's also some design space here for using in a similar way as weather; to help make sure that each game feels a little bit different from the last. But I'm not certain what that looks like just yet. It's another thing we'll probably come back to later.
So now what?
Wow, this was a long one. I'd like to promise that the next one will be shorter, but I think I'll have to settle for saying I'll try to make sure it is. As for what next time is, we'll be taking a deeper look into skills, and specifically revisions to them as compared to the current edition.