Successful Moves and Blood Bowl

So, I am back from having successfully moved. It went well. My fishies survived. The dog is acclimating. The girlfriend digs it. Even had friends over. Life is good.

Now then. A while back I started this entire deal with a brief write-up on Swordgirls Online and why randomness sucks. I now wish to revise the statement “randomness sucks” by talking about Blood Bowl.

Blood Bowl, in brief, is a tabletop miniatures “football” game originally released by Games Workshop. In this game, you play as one of two teams (roughly grouped by all the major Warhammer Fantasy races) trying to move a ball up and down the pitch to score touchdowns… or injure the entire opposing team so that the other team doesn’t have anyone left to oppose you and you win by default. The entire game is played on a grid, with each player moving as many of their pieces as able before the turn swaps to the other player.

For anyone who has played Blood Bowl, you probably already have some idea of where I’m going to be going with this. For those who haven’t, let me explain.

There are a lot of dice used in Blood Bowl. Every single action besides the most basic movement (running, blocking, throwing, catching, picking up the ball, dodging, etc) requires a die roll. A failure on a die roll creates a turnover and the turn switches over to the other player. In addition, regardless of the skills that your player possesses, a 1 on the d6 will always result in failure.

So, as you can imagine, there is the potential for a lot of built in frustration when something unexpected goes wrong, especially early in a turn (robbing you of the remainder of your actions for that turn). I’ve given up the odd point when, after a kick-off and a Blitz, the player I send to pick up the ball flubs the pick-up and drops it.

So, just like Swordgirls Online, there is a lot of randomness to the game and this, potentially, makes for quite a frustrating experience. Where Blood Bowl differs from Swordgirls Online, however, is the potential to mitigate the aforementioned randomness

Players in Blood Bowl can get a number of skills that allow them to reroll certain checks, you can buy team rerolls, you can plan to a certain degree because of safe actions and you’ll be able to order you actions based on degree of risk to maximize the actions (and the power of the actions) you can take in a turn.

Of course, this doesn’t preclude bad luck. An individual die can only be rerolled once, which means that, even in the best case, there is a 1/36 chance you will be very, very angry. But that is how any game with luck of any sort is going to work. There will always be the chance that it fails. The important thing is that the game provide opportunities to mitigate exceptionally bad luck and generate odds that fall more in-line with the expected.

So yeah. If you’re going to have luck, it needs to have a degree of scaling and it needs to allow for the mitigation of bizarre streaks to some degree.

On Wednesday, we return to Mass Effect and, on Friday, we’ll discuss deckbulding games (ala Dominion, Acension and Tanto Cuore).

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