Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Review: Blood Bowl on the Nintendo DS

Let me be perfectly clear, I love Blood Bowl. I've played this game of fantasy football for over 10 years on the tabletop, and have tried both Fumbbl and the first PC game from 1995.

When French producer Cyanide announced that they were going to make a new version of this amazing game, I was ecstatic. My eagerness to play this game reached new heights when they announced that it was going to be released on the Nintendo DS.

The game is set for a September release, but I managed to get a copy from in July. When I got the game in the mail, I excitedly opened the package and popped the cartridge into my DS. The first thing that hit me was how dark and gritty the game was. From the screenshots, it looks like the graphics are crisp and clear. Unfortunately, these screenshot were taken from a DS Emulator, and are not the least bit similar to what awaits the player.

Cyanide went for a 3D-isometric representation of the Blood Bowl pitch. The players are pre-rendered 3D-animations, similar to the horrible DS game "Treasure Planet". The problem here is the resolution on the DS. The animations seem too scaled down from the original rendering. Stray pixels here and there really puts me off and feels irritating. Couldn't they be bothered to touch up the animations more?

The screen is dark. The dark browns, greens and greys makes it almost impossible to see what's going on. I've had to play Blood Bowl on the DS at home, with the curtains closed. The problem lies in the contrast levels. The DS screen isn't very big or bright, and it doesn't do contrasts well. The game developers need to overstate graphical contrasts on the DS to make things visible in normal lighting conditions. Cyanide didn't.

UPDATE: Since writing this review, I've been told that the DS Lite and DSi screens are much brighter than my 1st generation DS. I guess the game performs better on the newer systems, but I haven't yet had the opportunity to check it out myself.

I can't help to feel that hiring some classic pixel-animators would have been a better decision than hiring 3D animators. 3D just doesn't work too well on the DS, and Blood Bowl suffers in this regard.

I've played Blood Bowl for many years, so I started a league on "Veteran" difficulty. The only other difficulty is "Rookie", so that was right out. After winning my first match 3-0, I wasn't very impressed with the AI. After ten matches, the AI had scored a total of 2 touchdowns, whereas I was winning with 4 or more on a regular basis. Star Player Points were coming in by the bucket load, and my Team Rating quickly passed 200.

I was wondering why the AI didn't do better. In fact, it seemed to be getting worse every game! Then it hit me: The AI wasn't selecting good skills! Every time a player got a skill increase, the AI would give it Strip Ball. The next skill was Pass Block. This was true for almost every team I played against!

Never once did I see that the AI had selected Block or Tackle or Dodge for its key players. Sure, Strip Ball can be good, but on all players on the team? No.

Sometimes, the AI gets stumped on what to do next. Several times, I've had to wait over two minutes before it starts moving. Other times, especially with few players on the pitch, it doesn't do anything! Suffice to say, it's not much of a challenge.

And then it crashed!
Several times, after scoring a touchdown, the game has frozen when I try to set up my team on the pitch. This can be acceptable for a little while on a PC release, but it's not as if I'm getting a patch for the DS any time soon, is it? No, of course it isn't.

Fumbbl-bowl would have been a much better graphical representation on the DS
How it could've been
I still don't understand why French producer Cyanide couldn't have made the graphics more basic and fitting for the DS. The graphics demonstrated on Fumbbl is, in my opinion, perfect for the DS. It is cartoon-like, the colours have a high contrast and it is easy to see what's going on.

What do you think of Blood Bowl on the DS? Have you had a different experience regarding the graphics or gameplay? Please let me know in the comment section!

In conclusion I rate Blood Bowl on the Nintendo DS, a

(yeah, you know what
that means, people!)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Video Battle Report: Ulthwe vs Tau

I've gotten some request for speaking English in my Battle Reports, and this is my first attempt in doing so. Please note that English is not my primary language, so be nice :)

Please let me know what you think about this Battle Report format, especially compared to my other Video Battle Reports.

For this Battle Report, I fielded my Ulthwe once more against my buddy Norau's Tau army. We played a mission from an upcoming tournament.

Alpha mission: Objectives
If both players claim an equal number of objectives, they both get 8 Battle Points
If one player claims 1 more objective, he gets 10 Battle Points, whereas his opponent gets 6
If one player claims 2 more objectives, he gets 12 Battle Points, whereas his opponent gets 4
If one player claims 3 more objective, he gets 14 Battle Points, whereas his opponent gets 2
If one player claims 4+ more objectives, he gets 16 Battle Points, whereas his opponent gets 0

Beta Mission: Quadrants
A player that has 1-3 units (scoring or otherwise) in either quadrant that were not used as Deployment Zones, that player earns 1 Battle Point
If a player has 4 or more units in these quadrants, this player gets 4 Battle Points

Gamma Mission: Enemy Leader
The player that kills or routs the enemy HQ unit with the highest points value gets 2 Battle Points.

Check out for more on the Invasion tournament.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Scorpion style Defiler conversion

The first time I saw the Brass Scorpion conversion, I was amazed. The Defiler kit in itself is pretty cool, but the scorpion form was just so much cooler the the original!

A few months back I surfed the net, searching for cool Defiler conversions for my army, and came over a conversion using a Dark Eldar Raider and one-and-a-half Defiler as a Scorpion style Defiler.

I thought: "I've got to have one of those!" Unfortunately, the conversion requires two kits to make one, so I went out and bought three. This gives me enough parts for two conversions, and as I've said before; two Defilers are four times better than one.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Some Ulthwe tips for a reader

A while back, I met a fellow Ulthwe enthusiast at Oslo Miniature Games Club. He was in the process of fleshing out his army, and has some questions in that regard. For your reading pleasure, I've decided to post response here.

Viktor said:

I've started painting my Eldar guys, but I haven't a clue what to give the infantry and vehicles.

Which weapons should i give my Dire Avenger Exarch? What about the weapon platforms for the Guardian squads?

I want a Seer Council with a couple of Warlocks, and one Warlock in each Guardian squad. How should I kit them out?

I've written my list below. Should I make any changes to it? DO you have any tips on which weapons I should take?

Seer Council 388 pts
Farseer: Witchblade, Shuriken Pistol, Ghosthelm, Runes of Witnessing, Fortune
Farseer: Witchblade, Shuriken Pistol, Runes of Witnessing, Guide
Farseer: Witchblade, Shuriken Pistol, Ghosthelm, Runes of Witnessing, Guide, Mind War
Warlock: Close Combat Weapon, Shuriken Pistol, Augment, Runes of Witnessing
Warlock: Close Combat Weapon, Shuriken Pistol, Augment, Runes of Witnessing
Warlock: Close Combat Weapon, Shuriken Pistol, Embolden
Warlock: Close Combat Weapon, Shuriken Pistol, Enhance
Warlock: Close Combat Weapon, Shuriken Pistol
Warlock: Close Combat Weapon, Shuriken Pistol

8 Warp Spiders 176 pts

Guardian Defender Squad: 168 pts
10 Guardians
2 Crewmen and Eldar Missile Launcher
Warlock: Close Combat Weapon, Shuriken Pistol, Conceal

Guardian Defender Squad: 168 pts
10 Guardians
2 Crewmen and Eldar Missile Launcher
Warlock: Close Combat Weapon, Shuriken Pistol, Conceal

Guardian Defender Squad: 163 pts
10 Guardians
2 Crewmen and Star Cannon
Warlock: Close Combat Weapon, Shuriken Pistol, Conceal

5 Rangers 95 pts

Fast Attack:
1 Vyper with Bright Lance 65 pts
1 Vyper with Bright Lance 65 pts

Heavy Support:
Falcon: 210 pts
Pulse Laser, Star Cannon, Shuriken Cannon, Holo-field, Spirit Stones

Wraithlord: 120 pts
Bright Lance

3 War Walkers: 300 pts
2 Star Cannons each

Points total: 1998 pts

A comment from the guy I stole the list from:
What's really great with it is that everything except the Rangers can move and shoot, so when the enemy gets closer i can just go backwards and still fire att my full potential. Or if i have to claim an objective i can walk there in the last few turns and take it while still firing everything.

I appreciate any help from a fellow Ulthwe player!!

My response:
Thanks for writing in, Viktor! I don't see myself as an expert on competitive Ulthwe, but I have played quite a few games in a friendly setting.

First of all, your list is currently illegal. The list was written using the old Craftworld Eldar codex, which is outdated now. You should get the newest codex if you haven't already, and make your list out of that book.

HQ: You can have at most two Farseers. If you're going to field them on foot, I recommend taking Eldrad Ulthran. In fact, I rarely take two farseers. They are a support unit, and Eldrad is more than capable of supporting a fairly large Eldar army.

If you have some conversion skills, I'd recommend making a jetbike council. One Farseer with Fortune, Doom and Spirit Stones, six or seven Warlocks, 1 Enhance, 1 Embolden and the rest with Destructors. This unit can deal with pretty much anything in the game, is highly mobile and very resilient

A Seer Council on foot is pretty good, but they really need a transport, preferably a Falcon grav tank. My Seer Council is often like this:
  • Farseer w/Spirit Stones, Runes of Warding, Fortune, Doom, Singing Spear
  • 4 Warlocks w/Destructor and Witchblade
  • Warlock w/Embolden and Singing Spear
These guys can take out almost anything, and will rarely end up pinned if the Falcon crashes or if they suffer casualties.

Elites: Warp Spiders are great, but make sure they actually fulfill a role in the army. I haven't actually used them, but have played against them quite a few times. They are very effective, as long as the enemy heavy wepons have something else to shoot at. Keeping them away from assaults and small arms fire is often pretty easy, though.

Troops: Being Ulthwe, we need Guardians! Ten guys with a heavy weapon is great, but their greates weakness is morale. Lose three, and they have to take a Morale Check. As the Guardians will likely be in cover, they really don't need Conceal. They need Embolden! Cheaper and better.

Sneaky tip: If you take 12 Guardians and a Warlock, you have 13 models in the unit. A morale check from 25 % casualties is taken at 4 models lost. This is unlikely in a single round of shooting if they have sufficient cover, seeing as the Guardians often are a low-priotiry target.

I feel that the Bright Lance is the best weapon for them. With ten models, good cover and Embolden, they are a real pain for your opponent to get rid of, and a constant threat to his vehicles.

The Rangers really should be upgraded to Pathfinders. Getting that 2+ cover save is golden!

You ask about Dire Avengers, but they aren't in your list. I use them sometimes, and find that the Exarch is best kitted out with dual Shuriken Catapults and the Bladestorm power. They can be a pretty good tarpit against some enemies with Shimmershield, but far from all of the nasty gribblies out there.

Fast Attack: I really like Vypers, but they are very easy kill points. I often use two with Bright Lances myself. If you keep them in reserve, they can keep out of the worst trouble and get side shots on enemy armour.

Heavy Support: If you want a Wraithlord, take two. Also, a single Falcon will be shot out of the sky really fast. I often use a Wave Serpent tag-teaming with my Falcon, conserving my Heavy Support slots, and ensuring that at least one side of the Falcon will be safe from melta weapons. Weapon-wise, I recommend that you take only a single Shuriken Cannon on the Falcon, and use the Pulse Laser most of the time.

Three War Walkers with Star Cannons were great in 4th edition, but in this edition, each gun has one shot less, is more expensive, and because of easy cover saves . I take Scatter Lasers instead. Two shots more and much cheaper. Volume of shots are generally more important than armour piercing capabilities, especially against light transports and troops in cover.

General tips: You should consider more vehicles and Storm Guardians.

Flamers/Melta are more awesome than ever, Storm Guardians can have both. For a multi-purpose unit, take two Fusion guns and a Warlock with Destructor. Following up the shooting with a charge can be desvastation against the right foe. If you decide to let the Seer Council and Defenders do anti-tank, you can give the Storm Guardians two flamers. This will effectively eat up over 10 orks or a combat squad of Space Marines in a single round of shooting. Add in the fire from their transport and some supporting element, eliminating a full 30-ork mob in a turn is not especially difficult.

Vehicles are always good, and the Eldar ones are better than most. The Defender Guardians doesn't need transportation in my opinion, but Storm Guardians and the Seer Council do. With transports equipped with Star Engines, you can do some ridiculous objective grabs late game. Even in Kill Point missions, the Eldar vehicles are great because they can take a lot more punishment than the other races' transport vehicles.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Have you tried Blood Bowl?

Blood Bowl
Originally uploaded by Xadhoom.
Blood Bowl, the game of fantasy football is easily the best game ever designed. It has everything; miniatures, clear and precise rules, a great concept and backstory, and a tried and tested campaign format.

What is Blood Bowl?
Imagine that the inhabitants of the Warhammer world put down their weapons from time to time, and met on a field to play football instead of war. Welcome to Blood Bowl!

The league I'm currently in is called Torshov Touchdown, and consists of 14 teams. These teams are divided into two divisions of 7 teams each. With matches and rematches, this gives each team 12 matches per season.

What do I need to play?
First of all, you're going to need a gaming board. You can make this yourself, but the easiest route is to buy the Blood Bowl starter set. This is a great kit! Not only do you get a high-quality gaming board, you also get two full teams; Orcs and Humans.

The rules are currently in their fifth edition, and can be downloaded for free from the Games Workshop website.

How is it played?
After you have selected a team, you decide which team is going to be the kicker. The kicking team sets up first, then the receiving team, and the ball is kicked to the receiving team's half of the pitch.

Both teams are trying to get the ball into the other team's End Zone, which is 13 squares from the middle of the board, the Line of Scrimmage. To do this you must beat up the opposition, run around them or outwit them. Orcs and Chaos are strong and like to knock around some elves. The Elves themselves are more fond of passing the ball around and running really fast.

Each player has 4 stats, Movement, Strength, Agility and Armour. Movement decides how many squares you can run each turn. A stronger player has a better chance of beating up an opponent. An agile player is better at handling the ball, dodging opponents and leaping over them. Armour is important to reduce damage.

During the match, you make a note each time a player hurts an opponent, each time the pass the ball, score a touchdown or intercept the ball. The player earns Star Player Points for these actions, and will gain skills to use in future matches when reaching certain thresholds. For me, this is what makes Blood Bowl so great. Even if you lose the match, you get some SPP that makes you team a little better for the next game.

Which team is the best one?
Every time I teach a new player the game, they ask me this question. The truth is, that this really depends on two things. The player's playstyle and the length of the league.

If the tournament is short, teams that start with a lot of useful skills are superior. Chaos doesn't start with any skills, and will have a really tough time against Amazons, which are very skilled. However, if the league goes on indefinitely, these differences fade, and most teams are pretty equal in performance.

Not to say that they don't perform differently! Oh, no! Orcs, Dwarfs and Chaos are still going to beat the crap out of your Wood Elves!

In longer leagues, the player's playstyle becomes much more important to which team is the best one (for you). Some players thrive with teams that scores at most two touchdowns per match, but hurts the opposing team greatly in the process. Other players cannot fathom how anyone would play anything less agile than an elf.

In conclusion, play what you think is cool! (Halflings and Goblins still suck, though)

What are you waiting for? Order Blood Bowl, get your friends to buy a team, and start a league. It's awesome, people! :D

Monday, August 03, 2009

Blood Bowl video report

As a little experiment, my buddy Norau and I tried to video tape the first drive of our first league match this season.

I fielded my Dark Elf team, the "Brides of Khaine", while Norau played his Ork team, the "Pazvik Juggernotz". The rule set we use is a slightly modified "Living Rulebook 4". If you can read Norwegian, you can download it here (yeah, we translated it).

The tactic I want to show you here, I call "The old switcheroo". Receiving the ball, I place most of my players on the right flank. Note the Dark Elf Blitzer i place in the middle, near the Line of Scrimmage. This Blitzer has a Movement Allowance of 7 squares and has got the skill Sure Feet. This means that she can move 9 squares relatively safely. After the Orks have all moved over to the right, trying to stop the other elves, she goes for it!

The Orks are simply too slow to stop her, as she receives the ball and sprints to the End Zone for the Touchdown!

If the Ork player leaves some players on the other flank to defend against this tactic (he will need at least two), you will have less orks to plough through should you decide to fight your way through their lines. Remember to keep some skilled linemen on the Line of Scrimmage to keep the Black Orks from moving too far.

We will play the rematch in a month or so, and will try to get it on video in its entirety! Stay tuned.