Games Workshops’ Blood Bowl has always appealed to a niche audience, but it’s a community of passionate players that support the game both on and off the tabletop. Following the release of Blood Bowl Second Season – the latest edition to grace the tabletop world – Blood Bowl 3 looks to bring the latest ruleset to life on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Nacon’s Clement Nicolin and Hama Doucoure to discuss the upcoming release of Blood Bowl 3, before having some hands-on time with a limited content preview build. There was a lot to digest both on and off the pitch, but what does Blood Bowl 3 have in store for the next generation of coaches?
Blood Bowl 3 Hands-On Preview
Before we dive any further into the conversation, I feel I should stress at the quality level of the build we played. Blood Bowl 3’s release date has been pushed back to February 2022, so this game is nearly a year away from being in a state where Cyanide Studios and Nacon feel content putting it into the hands of paying players. The user interface clearly needs a lot more work. The actions and animations on the pitch are rough and some identical to Blood Bowl 2, sound effects are missing, it is lacking commentary, certain skills don’t work, and the AI is comical. It’s actually worse than Blood Bowl 2, which I wasn’t sure was possible. A lot of the bells and whistles of the final version are missing, but with nearly nine months still left until release, it’s unfair to be too critical of such issues.
The press preview build is very much the same as the upcoming beta build. It’s very limited in content, with only three teams available for play: Elven Union, Black Orcs, and Imperial Nobility. In fact, the latter two are the two teams sold with the most recent version of the tabletop game. There are currently no leagues, tournaments, or other modes of play; there’s simply local 1v1, 1v1 against the AI, and random matchmaking against anyone online.
Before diving into the brutality on the pitch, I spent some time exploring the new functions when creating and managing teams. There’s been some huge improvements, even with the limited content on offer. The user interface feels more sporty, more exciting, and more grand; even the font screams sport. Creating teams has everything on a single page, so you no longer have to work out how many players to buy before deciding how much can be spent on staff and re-rolls. It’s clear, precise, and makes the team creation process very smooth. You can also change the names of players at any point – ANY POINT. Hoorah.
There wasn’t much choice in terms of customization, as we were told this content would come at a later date. However, you can still explore the different options that will be available later down the line. Each team can select their own emblem, choose from different racial cheerleaders, select coaches from its most popular Star Players (which feels odd but it works), pick a different stadium, and create a motto. Marking your own stamp on your creations is a key component to the success of the tabletop games, so bringing as much of that as possible into Blood Bowl 3 can only mean good things.
Player customization is also looking to be hugely improved compared to Blood Bowl 2, a simple enough task as Blood Bowl 3’s predecessor did not feature any individual player customization options at all. Each player can have different bits of equipment changed and swapped. This includes heads or helmets, both shoulder pads, both arms, and body armor. It’s an area the video games have always struggled to compete with.
The potential customization options and ability to be creative on the tabletop version is one of the franchise’s most exciting assets. While a video game will never be able to match that level of creativity, Blood Bowl 3 is definitely stepping in the right direction. I can finally make my awesome 2+ Human Thrower unique to all other Human Throwers I encounter, even if he continues to roll Cloud Burster for his first random skill – for the fifth time.
While veteran Blood Bowl players will take a few seconds to create teams, a lot of effort has been made to make it less intimidating for newer coaches. When recruiting or customizing players, everything is clearly displayed and explained. Their current stats, the skills in their arsenal, and the different abilities available depending on whether or not they invest SPP into Primary, Secondary, or Characteristic choices. Commonly known information for the more experienced players, but a much more streamlined experience for those diving in for the first time.
Nearly every single aspect of Blood Bowl 3, outside of what happens on the pitch, is leaps and bounds ahead of Blood Bowl 2. It’s not perfect, as there are definitely areas that need some tweaking. However, it’s in a fantastic place in this current build. Anyway, enough of the fluff, what about what’s happening on the pitch?
Firstly, before a match even begins, there is a match settings option that currently includes only a single option (but that’s enough) that allows players to customize the timer. There are several options available, none of which are explained, but there’s huge improvements here that the community have been screaming about for a long time. Unlimited turn timers are an option, and there is now an option to support a bonus time clock. Default settings on “competitive” feature two minute turn timers but each player also has seven minutes of bonus time. Each time a players turn counter reaches 0:00, it begins to eat into the reserve time instead. This is a simple but incredibly important change that the competitive scene has been requesting for years.
The structure of games has also changed slightly. After matching has complete both coaches witness an introduction that showcases the home teams stadium and crowd, before panning to the managerial staff and both teams, facing off in the center of the pitch. It is a gorgeous introduction to the game, offering a much bigger spectacle. With more fans, more stands, and a more grandiose presentation, it really hypes up the initial moments of each match.
As your opponents examine the remains of your last opponents in the teeth of your big guys, both coaches dive into Inducements. Blood Bowl 2’s inducements system was sluggish and cumbersome, side scrolling through player after player, searching for a particular staff member or star player. Blood Bowl 3’s system is categorized into Inducements, Star Players, and Mercenaries.
Once you get into the meat and bones of the on-pitch play, the build we had really began to struggle. Certain actions, such as Passing or Throwing Team-Mate, didn’t work reliably and caused connection issues, resulting in a failed game even when playing offline. While the core aspects remain much in the same as Blood Bowl 2, the ordering and design differ enough for it to be off-putting.
Some dice aren’t visibly rolled at all, some are rolled after the fact, and the AI turns become a blur very quickly. I’d hardly noticed what player the AI had selected before an animation plays knocking my player to the ground. Other times one begins to move, then another knock down as I tried to figure out what the blitz target was. The UI is very busy with several radial menus, button menus, and options menus. It’s a little much, but it’s difficult to discern how much of that is Blood Bowl 3 and how much of it is my familiarity with Blood Bowl 2. These are all surface level problems that one would expect in a game so far from release. If the original release date was still planned, I would be concerned.
Blood Bowl 3 has the foundation to be the best entry in the franchise yet; it just needs a little more time on the training grounds. I should also point out that I threw a 1 in 9 on my first opening block in three of my six games, so Nuffle still sucks (don’t tell him I said so).