Do you remember 2009’s Blood Bowl? It was the incredibly accurate conversion of the Games Workshop 1980’s board game of the same name, an insanely twisted dark fantasy angle on American Football. Indeed, the PC game has probably enjoyed long-lived success as opposed to the largely unavailable board game (Which is in dire need of a reboot). To understand Dungeonbowl, you’re going to need a lot of background on the original game – which the stand alone expansion strangely assumes you already have.
To get you up to speed on Blood Bowl, throw anything you know about the Warhammer universe out of the window. Every single fantasy race – dwarves, Elves high and wooden, Orks, Skaven, Warriors and Daemons of Chaos, the list goes on – has decided to take the fight from the battlefield to the football field. It’s just as bloody, just as tactical, and just as reliant on sheer dumb luck of the dice as Warhammer Fantasy Battle, but with a delightfully evil tongue-in-cheek approach that smothers the oddball take on American football in British flavoured humour. One of the things that makes Blood Bowl so great is the fact that it takes place in a persistent league, so if your star player gets on the wrong end of a particularly drunken dwarf one game and dies, he’s dead for good. From game to game your team will gain experience and evolve, and you’ll get ever closer to major league success and Warhammer worldwide fame. The team customisation options are so indepth you can almost smell the paint, and thankfully most of these features carry over to Dungeonbowl.
What this new entry essentially does is streamline the entire experience. It makes a couple of very odd decisions along the way, stripping both the singleplayer and tutorial modes from the game – in other words, it makes the assumption that you’ve already played Blood Bowl extensively enough to know all of the rules and makes an attempt at explaining everything new along the way, and considering the only way to play is online with friends or strangers, this is pretty much throwing you face first into the deep end of gaming.
So what is new? Well, the more observant among you will have noticed the game has moved location from the football field to your typical fantasy dungeon, packed with all the perils you’d expect. Teleporter tiles that transport a player to another random tile, or if the game takes a contrary dislike to you it could just get rid of that player entirely. Although the teleporter tiles add a new element of luck to the strategy, it can also completely screw you over by dropping you in some lava or chucking an enemy player in front of you just as you’re about to score. It’s too volatile an element to use effectively. This might be to some people’s liking, but paired with the sudden death nature of the game, it can become very frustrating, very quickly.
This isn’t the only random hazard thrown into Dungeonbowl. Your aim is to get the ball, hidden in one of six chests scattered around the map. If you open a chest and it has the ball in it, you can make a run to score. If you open a chest and there isn’t a ball in it, it blows up in the player’s face and your turn ends. If there were some other modifiers in the chest rather than just a one in six chance of grabbing the ball, the chance to make an extra move, or gain a plus or minus dice when you next tackle an opponent, it would be much more balanced and less reliant on chance alone.
Earlier, I explained Blood Bowl as an oddball angle on American Football. Oddball doesn’t have the magnitude as a word to cover the truly madcap nature of Dungeonbowl. Any move you make has the ability to blow up in your face, creating something truly bipolar and unpredictable. If you accept this and embrace the madness, you’ll have a much easier and a more enjoyable experience than if you try to play the game in the same manner as Blood Bowl.
So the hefty injection of luck might be a flaw or a welcome addition depending on your point of view, but the game’s most obvious flaw is that it attempts to cram Blood Bowl’s rules into a much smaller arena. Every match takes place in a dungeon which is indistinguishable from the last but for the layout. The graphics are exactly the same and the interface has gone unchanged. The uniquely hilarious commentary is sadly absent too, and if you’ve played Blood Bowl for more of a couple of hours you’ll understand how oddly quiet and empty that makes the game’s atmosphere. In their place is generic fantasy background music that neither adds or subtracts from anything. With some more adaptation Dungeonbowl might have been an excellent quickfire version of Blood Bowl, being almost irresistible at the 9.99 pricetag, but the rules are just too big for the cramped, generic dungeons the game takes place in. It makes vital things like claiming the ball from another player difficult and downright arbitrary, which can ruin a game completely and just throw your strategies and tactics out of the window. It’s just hard to concentrate on specific tactics when they could be completely thrown out of the game by a single dice roll.
It should by no means be treated as an expansion. If you’ve got Blood Bowl then it won’t add anything new to the game worth having, but if you love taking your team into online arenas in quickfire, sudden death struggles for victory and don’t want to spend hours doing it, it might be worth your time after all. If you already have a decent understanding of the Blood Bowl rules then by all means give it a shot, just don’t expect a lot of content for your cash.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.