The Games of Christmas: December 12th

By Kieron Gillen on December 12th, 2009 at 11:59 pm.

I have invented a time-machine for this post. Thank you.
It’s not exactly seasonal our twelfth game of Christmas. More the sort of thing which Herod got up to after Jesus had entered this world. But on a football field. With orcs. Whatever could it be? Follow the digit of the one true leaders of the Autobots to find out…

It’s Blood Bowl!

Also, ran out of bed at midnight going. FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! I FORGOT! I do this for you. Be gentle with the spelling.

Kieron: It’s been an odd year, this. Inching out of the playing-games-for-money sort of field, I found myself playing increasingly solely for kicks.

(And, Darkfall, but that’s another story)

Anyway, this lead to me some really odd places. I was a lot more interesting in the roots of the form – because I’ve increasingly come to see videogames as part of that lineage, stretching back to the old bone-dice in humanity’s prehistory. I looked at pen-and-paper RPGs, both modern demi-mainstream attempts and underground PDF ones. I played more boardgames. I wasn’t alone in this, oddly. Hell, I didn’t even go furthest – seeing Rab pretty much close to stop playing videogames to investigate the world of little tokens was fascinating and – I suspect – somewhat influential.

And some of the games I played leaned this way. I’m not sure whether I can squeeze Solium Infernum into the games of Christmas – I suspect it depends on whether Quinns and I are still talking after some of the brutal shit we’re doing to each other in that particular baby. But anyway – Solium Infernum and this. Blood Bowl.

I wrote – what? – 17,000 or so words on Blood Bowl. No, really. Here they are again, in case you missed them – the entire season of the Skaven Blighters which says more about Blood Bowl, human competition and my inability to remember to select the tackle-skill than anyone should ever know…

Pre-season: Introduction
Match 1: Da Jokerz Wyld.
Match 2: The Darker Red Tide.
Match 3: Kermit’s Wonder Brigade.
Match 4: Unlucky Number 13.
Match 5: The Green Mist.
Match 6: It’s A Skull.
Match 7: The Raging Naturists.

17,000 words! And Blood Bowl isn’t even very good!

That’s the odd thing about it. I’ve put well over fifty hours into actual playing Blood Bowl, and as an actual videogame it’s deeply frustrating. In between the scheming and the battles, I charted a whole mass of errors in those diaries. It’s the sort of thing I’d bury alive almost any other game for. If there was any other choice, I would have.

Problem being, there isn’t. This is, basically, Blood Bowl.

I kept on playing brilliant game. It wasn’t Cyanide’s brilliant game, admittedly. It was just a pretty faithful version of the 20-years honed set of rules Games Workshop and Blood Bowl’s community have created. And Blood Bowl was the only modern version of it (And, yes, I think there’s a fun buzz with playing with little animated men above FUMBBL. And, doubly yes, I think the situation going on with FUMBBL at the mo is deeply regrettable. And, triple yes, I find it amazing that Cyanide didn’t look at their brilliant League-back end and go “Let’s just implement that”).

So I didn’t care that it wouldn’t let me skip cut-scenes if it caught me trying to type to someone else at the start of them. It didn’t matter that the Internet lobby system appeared to have been designed with no reference to any previously seen UI. It didn’t matter that they put the fucking end-turn button floating ominously over the pitch like the sword of bastard Damocles.

It was Blood Bowl. It was a brilliantly designed cross between poker and poking your fist inside someone’s head. There was no other game available which worked even slightly like it. If I wanted it, it was the only option. And that’s why I put up with all the nonsense. Because in the world of popular, well-ploughed genres, there’s dozens of options which you can skip to if someone doesn’t hit whatever we’ve decided is the minimum-required feature-set-implementation. Except something like Blood Bowl reminds me that the minimum-feature-set is actually something a lot more beautiful and transcendental than the ability to change sound levels while actually playing a game.

I suspect that’s been my general direction this year. I’ve been moving towards games which offer me something which only they could. So, for all its many sins, Blood Bowl is the figurehead of my good ship. It’s the way I’ve been going. And, despite everything, it’s been one hell of a time.

, .

37 Comments »

  1. Colthor says:

    It’s always five o’clock somewhere, right? ¬_¬

  2. Vinraith says:

    Hey, look at that, a game of Christmas that I both own, have played, and like. I have this sense it shouldn’t have taken anywhere near this long, but it’s nice to see, anyway. Blood Bowl is definitely one of my favorite games of the year. It’s particularly brilliant, for those interested in single player, with stw402′s brilliant mods:

    http://www.bloodbowldigital.com/forum/index.php?f=5&t=720&rb_v=viewtopic

    • Matzerath says:

      @Vinraith
      I think I’m gonna take the plunge. I just find it a little disconcerting that the main attraction of this game for me are the fan-mods. It’s Stalker Syndrome: a disease that prevents developers from ever truly understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their own game, said task eventually falling to outside parties with a better grasp of the situation.

    • bookwormat says:

      @Matzerath
      One could argue that the true strength of a games like Stalker, Arma, Warcraft III, Blood Bowl, etc. is their ability to be be extended by the community. There is a lot of skill and resources required to make an application work as a software platform, and there is a lot of knowledge about social engineering required to integrate the community into your game’s design..

    • bill says:

      you know, now I’m totally torn. If this game had had decent singleplayer when it was released i’d totally have paid full price.

      So i’ve been eagerly waiting on a decent fan patch. But now that it has one, i’m not sure i can bring myself to buy it at full price… because it seems like an old game now. Been reading about it so long.

      So now i want to wait for a steam sale…

    • invisiblejesus says:

      I’d look for a retail sale rather than a Steam sale. The Steam version still has SecuROM, and the Steam overlay doesn’t work with it. Other than auto patching, there’s no benefit to the Steam version at all. And since the retail version’s been on sale at a couple different online retailers since release, I think it’s safe to say unless it shows up at some sick discount on the Steam holiday sale you’ll probably find it cheaper elsewhere.

    • bookwormat says:

      @bill

      I don’t see how a game can become less valuable with time, unless there is a new version which only contains changes that are indisputable improvements.

      Usually games become better over time, not worse.

      That said, you should probably never buy a game at full price. But then, “full price” is a strange word and I have no idea what that means in a free market.

  3. Bhazor says:

    This is the one game of the year I want but haven’t played. Mostly due to silly pricing for the download version which is a pisser because I don’t want a disk bound version. This is because I really don’t want to rummage for a disk just to play a quick match which is the same reason why I have a small collection of football/hockey games I may never look at again.

    @ KG
    I saw you got the obscenely decadent new Space Hulk edition http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2009/12/12/the-games-of-christmas-december-12th/. I must admit it’s always good to see people get embarrassingly happy over what really boils down to a game you could play with a pen, a paper, a couple of dice and a miscellaneous number of tiddly winks.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      @Bhazor: Doesn’t the game use online SecuROM activation? In which case, the retail version would be the most desirable, considering that all the other versions have the same additional SecuROM protection anyway.

    • Bhazor says:

      Edit:
      I meant the game could be played with just those components and be just as good not the game is overly simple. Honestly, the production value on it is marvelous and was clearly painstakingly made by massive fans of the game who didn’t want to just use generic guys and instead made every single unit unique.

      @ pkt-zer0

      Really don’t care about the D word. What I care about is being able to start up a game in my lunch break without having to bring my frickin’ disk in with me. If theres no CD check then I’ll order the blighter alright.

    • Vinraith says:

      There’s no disc check on the boxed copies of the game.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      @Bhazor: That’s what I meant, the game using solely online copy protection, no disk check. But once again, I’m not sure. Might be wise to have a look around Cyanide’s forums.

    • Vinraith says:

      To reiterate: I have a boxed copy, there’ no disc check.

    • Bhazor says:

      So you’re saying there is no disc checK?

    • Starky says:

      So… The disk remains unchecked?

    • DMJ says:

      I can confirm that even if there is a disc, it remains unchecked.

  4. Wizlah says:

    Confused as to why there are no comments here. I have not played blood bowl (although I can lay my hands on a very battered first edition of the game, including the skaven tokens which came with White dwarf one month) and if I’m truthful, I probably have fonder memories of speedball 2( yeah, I know they aren’t remotely the same but they’re both about fucking brutal sports with no quarter, and anyway I’m somewhat pished).

    But kieron makes a very good point here. Increasingly the games I want to play are unique in terms of atmosphere and place. If I have the cash to spare, I want to get my arse kivckef I’m multi player solium infernum. Everything I have read about it suggests a game which accurately simulates the hell of john Constantine or Milton. When I finally played Zeno clash, the setting was so evocative I didn’t want to bash any other faces except weird mousey ones. It felt like a proper fantasy world. In a year where everyone raves about dragonage, I still faff about purchasing because it sounds like too many other generic fantasy settings.

    I may never play blood bowl, but if it offers up a good experience and setting that you can get nowhere else, it deserves a look and all the props you can heap on it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Saul says:

      @Wizlah: I think Kieron was talking less about setting and more about fundamental game mechanics. BB (the board game) is just a solid piece of game design, and as such is incredibly addictive and almost infinitely replayable.

  5. sigma83 says:

    Mainly, I’m sad it’s not space hulk

  6. Premium User Badge

    Saul says:

    I LOVE the boardgame version of Blood Bowl, but I just couldn’t handle the awful interface of this version. It had drained all the fun out for me, before the beta was even over.

    Speaking of GW boxed games, I’ve been loving the hell out of Chaos in the Old World, which I think I first heard about on a BB comments thread on this very site. So at least I got something from BB, albeit indirectly. It’s actually a bit like Solium Infernum, from what I understand, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly if you’ve got three friends and want to get off the computer for a bit for some good old face-to-face gaming.

  7. Clovis says:

    The fact that there are no other RPS member comments on this one makes me think you slipped it in the calender when no one was looking.

  8. Nick says:

    And you didn’t even mention that 7-1 win!

    Merry Christmas =)

  9. Ale Frassetti says:

    I have the boxed version too. No cd check, just the online activation and… 3 active installations max at the same time.

  10. Premium User Badge

    mrpier says:

    I suspect Bloodbowl will be one of those games I’ll never uninstall (like Audiosurf), but just keep around on my harddrive for a quick game or two.

  11. Tom Camfield says:

    Oddly I still miss Kieron, even when he’s posting loads. I think I feel safer when I know Gillen is the one making the most noise about the direction gaming should flow in.

  12. invisiblejesus says:

    Word to the wise, the Steam version has SecuROM on it as well. Making me feel very stupid for not having just picked up the retail version months ago.

  13. MadMatty says:

    Still can´t believe you whalloped Darkfall- even before getting to the shite parts of it, like guild bloodwalling…?!?
    Anyways I´m beta testing Mortal Online- a new 3d UO style MMO- hoping it will turn out a bit better than Darkfall.
    Cant be more specific than that, im still bound by a non-disclosere agreement.

  14. Lilliput King says:

    ‘ “And, triple yes, I find it amazing that Cyanide didn’t look at their brilliant League-back end and go “Let’s just implement that” ‘

    I know oh my goodness.

  15. nabeel says:

    Blood Bowl doesn’t really seem to be my kind of game, but I have really enjoyed the AARs of it here.

  16. Radiant says:

    Games of Christmas: December 12th in which Kieron rediscovers he can actually play games he likes without judging them.

    Walker still waiting.

  17. ChaK_ says:

    I loved that game, despite what most reviews said

  18. Starky says:

    So… The disk remains unchecked?

  19. malkav11 says:

    I want to like Blood Bowl. It’s a pity I can’t figure out how to play it properly.

  20. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Yes, yes Kieron. I’m probably still pretty awful at Blood Bowl, never got the online thing working.. but when I play I have a great time.. with my human team, anyway. When I try Wood Elves.. sheesh. That expensive yet they still fall over all the time, whether dodging, going-for-it or blocking. I don’t even need the opponent to do well to lose teammembers.

  21. Sunjammer says:

    I just finished my first league with a Skaven team, (2 wins, 1 undecided, 5 losses), and my feelings are decidedly mixed, but tilted towards positive because the game has real heart.

    Every time i won, it felt like the opposition was just fucked for rolls. (almost) Every time i lost, it felt like my rolls were just abysmal. Such as when a player with the pick up ball skill and a 2+ success fails to pick up the ball 2 turns in a row.

    The game tactics seem to fall into a set of “rules”, and by following the rules you improve your chances. But still, you can do the most perfect by-the-book play and still be completely pulverized because you just keep getting 1′s.

    Of course this has a flipside, and sometimes the most insane plays grant you epic, epic successes.

    I’m not sure i can deal with this divinely decided dichotomy. I would, for lack of better words, like to win sometime because i felt like i outplayed the other guy, not because he just failed to roll high enough, and vice versa.

    To be blunt, sometimes it boils down to a game of Yahtzee..

    But it’s still fun to play. It’s fun to lose horribly, because the sequences of events that can lead to your loss can be just tragically hilarious, and a good opponent realizes that the chaos and chance is what really defines the game. Frequent references to various divine entities are common during games, and the overall feeling in the community (that i have seen) is that Things Just Happen What The Hell.

    So, a love/hate thing then. No other game I’ve played this year has been this successful at actually bringing down or lifting up my entire day. I’ve literally had weekends spoiled by severe losses; Blood Bowl is a direct link to God: Does he hate me today, or does he love me? It’s an abusive relationship, and I’m still not 100% sure I’m that cool with it.

  22. Matzerath says:

    OK, dammit, I got it. It’s everything I was hoping for. You’re all just lucky I have such low expectations!

  23. Ian says:

    Love Blood Bowl. Have played FUMBBL more because I can play it on my laptop (also: Undead) but Blood Bowl is a fine hoot indeed.