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