These Round-ups seem to be getting later and later. Next week is my game groups bank holiday all-dayer so expect 5 bullet points around mid June!
Blood Bowl Team Manager
Players 4 (Plays 2-4)
Duration: 90 minutes
The original Blood Bowl was a mixture of American Football and Warhammer where fantasy races armoured up and took to the gridiron to bash each other around and occasionally score the odd touchdown. Blood Bowl Team Manager has the same theme but instead of playing an actual match, managers commit their players to highlight cards to win bonuses, sign star players and bring in the most fans (Team Manager’s victory points). Just like in the actual game the term manager refers to people around the table and player corresponds to the player cards in the game.
At the beginning of the game each manager chooses one of 6 races (human, orc, elf, dwarf, skaven and chaos) and then takes their starter deck of 12 player cards. At the start of each of the games 5 rounds, cards are dealt into the centre of the table from the highlight deck equal to the number of players as well as one special Spike! Magazine card (these are either an extra valuable highlight or some sort of special condition that affects that round, the last card is always the fan-rich Blood Bowl). Managers then draw 6 cards from their deck, reshuffling their discard pile into it if it is empty. On their turn, managers commit a player to a highlight, adding that players star power value to it. Once every manager has played their entire hand the round ends, managers add up their star power points at each highlight, winners get the appropriate payout and then all committed players are discarded. At the end of the fifth round the manager with the most fans is the winner. These underpinning game mechanics are very basic but built on top of it is a fun mix of player skills and abilities, and the extra powers that come from payouts.
Skills are applied when committing a player to a highlight. Tackling gives a player the chance to down another on the opposite side of the matchup by rolling tackling dice and applying the result. Downed players have less star power value and when a downed player is successfully tackled they are injured and removed from the highlight immediately. When a player applies the passing skill they move a ball token from the highlight to that player (or from an opposing player back onto the highlight). If you are holding the ball at the end of the round it contributes 2 star power points to your total. Sprinting lets you draw and then discard a card (enabling you to cycle out weaker players from your hand) and cheating (the only mandatory skill) places a random cheat token on that player which is revealed at the end of the round. Cheating tokens can contribute additional star power to a highlight or immediately give a coach some fans but they can also get that player sent off, removing them from the highlight. In addition there are also a variety of passive player abilities that affect the game as it progresses.
Payouts come in 4 types. Fans are just straightforward points but team and staff upgrades give you global abilities such as being about to re-roll tackle dice or gain fans for injuring players. Getting a clever combination of these to work with your team can really boost your chances of winning matchups and getting even more fans and powers. The most interesting bonus (for me anyway) is the chance to draft star players into your deck. These powerful signings can really swing the result of a matchup and may have a particularly dastardly set of skills and abilities.
Blood Bowl Team Manager has a lot more complexity than it’s simple first impressions. What I perceived initially as a straightforward ‘take that’ card game has a lot more elements to it and managers need to balance hand management with basic deck-building. They can also try to build a team that works like an engine, efficiently generating points from actions as well as winning highlights. Failing all that you can just pick the biggest team, draft the beefiest star players and just beat your opponent into submission. That works too. It’s probably more fun as well.
As a fan of the original Blood Bowl I had been wanting to try this for a while and I was not disappointed. More strategic thinkers might be frustrated when their orc blitzer comes crashing down but for me the back and forth nature of the game keeps it exciting all the way through.
Eight Minute Empire: Legends
Players: 3 (plays 2-4)
Duration: 20 minutes
Are you the sort of guy who likes moving little cubes around? Me too! Eight Minute Empire: Legends is a simple area control game where you are trying to gain as much territory on a group of islands split into multiple regions. At the beginning players are given coins (the amount depends on the number of players) to spend on their turn to buy one of six cards that are placed in a row at the start of the game. The card furthest from the deck is free but increase in price as they go along. Once a card is bought the cards all move down and a new one is drawn and placed next to the deck in the most expensive slot.
Once bought the player takes the action listed on the card. Cards let players place new cubes at their starting location, move their cubes around, remove opponents cubes or build castles (which provide another region in which to place new cubes). In addition to their initial action, cards may have a further effect such as enhancing subsequent actions or awarding extra points at game end.
After a set number of rounds (determined by the number of players) the game ends and scoring begins. Each player gets one point for each region they control (more cubes than each other player there) and one point for each island they control (control more regions in that island than each other player) plus any card bonuses they have accrued. Most points wins.
This short game does everything it needs to. Slick mechanics move it quickly along giving you a little dose of empire building without it getting boring. The title is slightly misleading as getting an entire game done within 8 minutes would be a tall order but it certainly lets you know roughly what you will be getting. For area control fans filler is a must.