Flash of Steel header image 2

Done With Blood Bowl Solo

July 9th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 13 Comments · Board Games, Review

If strategy games are about understanding and then defeating a system, then Blood Bowl has been thoroughly understood and defeated, at least at the single player level. Time to find my league opponent and beat his brains in.

Bill Abner has done a better job analyzing the AI than I ever could, but I figured I would have more time with the single player experience than he did because he’s an old veteran of the board game – he knows how all the races work already. Wood Elves are the West Coast offense, Dwarves are the classic Pittsburgh Steelers, Chaos are mutant Indianapolis Colts, the Goblins are cheating New England Patriots…each race has a personality. This is not a game about countering your weaknesses – it’s about emphasizing your strengths.

Bill points out the big obvious hole in the AI – it turtles too often. If it can, it will shelter its ball carrier with eight guards – a sound defensive plan, but a poor way to advance the ball unless you are willing to take some chances. The Skaven (a nasty rat race) have some great runners so they can turn this turtling into a break out offense. The slow moving built-like-a-tank Dwarves cannot. I have lost to Dwarf teams, but only because of bad kickoff outcomes and a couple of unlucky injuries/deaths. When the Goblins try a strategy like this, it just means that I have all the things I can squish in one central location.

Now how is this different from playing against a bad or new Blood Bowl player? New players tend to take more risks, for one thing, which could mean that they will make a lot of mistakes. But, importantly, they will also adapt to changes in their team and in response to increasing knowledge. As it stands now, a 1400 point Dwarf team is just a little bit tougher than a 940 point Dwarf team – the tactics don’t change even if they line-up does.

The AI, as it stands, has no awareness of how the turn count affects strategy, no awareness of how it should use its star players, and is too conservative about scoring even when it only needs one touchdown to tie. If you have movement points, use them for God’s sake.


13 Comments so far ↓

  • cheeba

    The singleplayer game really is in an appalling state. My best example so far would be playing as Wood Elves vs AI Dwarves. I kick deep into their half, let them turtle up and then run a good chunk of my team up just outside their tackle zones. They then proceed to shimmy listlessly from side-to-side across their own half until half-time hits, making a total of about ten yards. Shocking.

    Most teams I’ve played so far seem to regularly cause stupid turnovers by trying to “go for it” to cover the ball carrier, then falling flat on their asses. And passing? Forget it. I can count the number of times the AI’s actually attempted anything even approaching a daring pass on the elbows of one leg.

    And one final gripe before I really go off on one – whose bright idea was it to have the singleplayer campaign start every time by playing endless matches against the same three races? By the time the more colourful teams turn up, you never want to see another bloody dwarf in your life.

    Still, you can be glad you’re not one of us euro players who had to spend the equivalent of $70USD on this clearly unfinished effort.

  • Lowkey

    why, oh why is anyone playing this against a computer? Get yourselves online and play blood bowl as it was meant to be played, against someone real, or even better, someone you know. There are few more satisfying feelings than killing a mates (enemies?) favorite veteran player who has been nurtured and leveled up “perfectly”, or pulling off an amazing 1 turn touchdown against a real person, thanking whatever god you follow and cackling like an insane goblin as every dice goes your way (for once). Its blood bowl, it was never meant to be played alone. Coach name: Lowkey, I expect to see you on the pitch!

  • Primemover

    When they are referred to as the “cheating New England Patriots” , that is throwing down the gauntlet! Pats won those titles fair and square!

    I agree with Lowkey and Cheeba, the AI so far is pretty predictable and this game definitely seems geared more to online human opponents for the “truest” of challenges. I still think it is lot of fun even against the AI though.

    2009 Pats: The Almighty Brady returns, Jedi Master Belichick leads revamped team, Lombardi Trophy #4 ready for its home in NE!

  • Eduardo Gabrieloff

    Even with the totally inept AI, I still enjoy beating the crap out of the computer teams.
    And my leagues don’t seem to ever actually have matches I can play in. I had 1 match so far, and I forfeited because my game crashed the second the pitch loaded.
    I guess I need to join more leagues.

  • Troy


    I’m in a couple of leagues, but they require a lot of planning to get the matches going. So it means at most a game or two a week. Plus solo should provide more a challenge than it has so far simply because that is part of the game.

    The AI is so bad, in fact, that people will start learning bad lessons for online play.

  • bill abner

    “The AI is so bad, in fact, that people will start learning bad lessons for online play.”


  • Scott R. Krol

    That’s the thing though, if I wanted to play against a human I’d pull out the miniatures game. I tabletop for the social experience and do the video thing for its convenience. Why port a board game into the computer realm if all you’re doing is giving people the ability to play online?

  • bill abner

    No debate from me Scott. The AI in the game is inexcusable. After sitting on an 18-1 record, I’m done. It’s boring.

    Thankfully online works for the most part even if the league tools kinda suck; it’s a great, great game mechanically, but the design is rotten and amateurish.

  • Lowkey

    With regards to leagues and game regularity, if you want games regularly at your convenience, stay in the public league and keep spamming the chat for challenges, if you want to be in a league with special rules and eventual cup holders, make sure you know the people in the league (even if it is only digitally) so you can organise play times to get the thing moving. Unfortunately any other league will be subject to the same organisational and international timing issues which all online games are plagued with, ie having a group of people with different schedules, in different countries, speaking different languages trying to arrange a play time which suits all. When you throw in games which take upwards of an hour each, 24 teams and a league table, its chaos.

    With regards to Scott’s comment, thats all well and good, but for me personally, I now live a long way away from anyone I used to play with, I don’t know anyone who plays where I am now and am in no position to find them, I don’t have the space to set up the board (even though it is the most space conservative of all gw games), and I have neither the time nor the patience to paint and adapt my own models to make a team which isn’t just a bunch of soulless lead being pushed around a table.

    I think the video game which all my previous friends now have and are able to play from their various locales together, in leagues or less seriously, a chat system that works well enough and skype for more personal contact, all packaged in a product which costs less than the original ttg did (especially when including personalised teams etc) pretty much takes a fantastic board game, which I enjoyed immensely, and makes it better and far more accessible in my adult life. While I understand your points, this is the natural and desirable evolution of a great game and I hope that cyanide get on with making it a more streamlined experience as the interface is, as Bill said, amateur, and the connection issues are both avoidable and inexcusable. Even with these problems however I am happily having 4-8 games a night against both friends and people I’ve never met, and am enjoying it with far more consistency than I ever did the ttg. I have played 3 single player games and most likely will never go back. There is no way a computer can simulate the unique and random plays a real person will make, and to expect it to, especially in as strange and eccentric a game as blood bowl is unrealistic imho. It is probably a good training exercise for new comers to the game in the basic rules, but thats it. This game is all about the unexpected, and that comes from the creative genius (or insanity, or recklessness, or inexperience) of a real human. To sum up, the only reason to port this to a computer is to allow more people to play it online.

    As for the AI being so bad it teaches bad lessons, I have never played a game where the single player gave you any hope of performing well online against a real opponent from starcraft and dow2 to half life. They are 2 diametrically opposed states, one is purely to make the player have “fun”(the success of this is not guaranteed) the other is competitive in the most cut throat and blood thirsty of ways. I can’t remember the last rts I completed single player simply due to the fact that I am bored before the end. On the other hand I have never been so humbled as when logging into the online system of computerised RTS, and this happens with every new one I play. For me, this is the joy of the game, to start from scratch, be beaten to a pulp and publicly shamed, and then improve. The tangible feeling of achievement with every victory is why I play games.

    Apologies for the length, lol. I evidently had something I wanted to say :)

  • Jarmo

    Lowkey, I agree completely that it is a lot easier for most professional people to find people on demand to play games like this with on the Internet. Also, it is so convenient to have the computer take care of all the housekeeping.

    Blood Bowl has lots of rules. I’ll gladly pay to not have to remember to roll all the right dice at each separate juncture of the game and all the exceptions with the different skills. How tabletop players manage to do all that and actually plan their moves in four minutes I’ll never understand.

  • warhammer empire

    Blood Bowl is a fantasy football video game loosely based on American football, and adapted from the board game of the same name,played between two teams of 16 players, each team fielding up to 11 players at a time.

  • Jerry Balderas

    You can do pickup games most of the time, and the league play is phenomenal.