Once a tabletop board game by Games Workshop, Blood Bowl 3 is a turn-based fantasy sports video game featuring more gore, violence, and dirty moves than you can count. Its characters are drawn from the Warhammer universe. So, you have the likes of orcs, goblins, trolls, dwarves, elves, and more pacing up against one another, in teams of two. It’s a mash-up of American football and rugby, with each team donning their helmets and shoulder pads and rushing across the field to score the most touchdowns.
The tag “fantasy” further comes through as teams display Warhammer’s over-the-top violence for entertainment’s sake. You’re even more than encouraged to make dirty moves, occasionally crowding around a fallen player, and outright killing them without the referee sounding the alarm. Everything and anything is possible in Blood Bowl 3, so what exactly would be the thing that would steer you away from it, if any? Well, find out in this Blood Bowl 3 review that breaks down all you need to know before checking the game out for yourself.
In Layman Terms
I won’t lie that Blood Bowl 3 can take some getting used to. Not entirely because of its craftsmanship but because of the strategies and approaches to the rule set that fans of the franchise have had more time to master. If you're a newcomer, you'll need a couple of games to get your bearings, with the process becoming more difficult if you make any mistakes when building a team.
Disclaimers aside, Blood Bowl 3 gives players access to a selection of NFL-like teams curated from the Warhammer universe. Each team differs in ease of use, stats, and even readability on-screen. It’s also worth mentioning that the rulesets are all “never-been-seen-before sorts from Season 2, so anyone would have a fresh experience, regardless.
To win a game, you’d need to make as many touchdowns as possible than the opposing team. Other than touchdowns, players need to track movements, perks, stats, and bonuses, to stay ahead. Fortunately, Blood Bowl 3 maintains the authenticity of the franchise, so fans should feel right at home.
The Nitty Gritty
It can seem confusing at first, but basically, you’ll need to make moves determined by the roll of a dice. There’s a run, block/tackle, pass, or blitz move, with certain players being more skilled in specific moves than others. This plays a huge role in strategizing your play, whether it’s curating advantageous formations or managing your team the way football sims do, from hiring players and modifying their traits to managing the team’s budget.
After a brief tutorial at the start and playing through three matches to learn the basics, the rest of the nitty-gritty is up to you to discover. And, at times, it does take a toll on you, strategizing down to the last detail only to make a wrong move and hand control over to the opposition. But, really, Blood Bowl 3 is about two things at its core: scoring more touchdowns than your opponent and destroying, like physically injuring, as many opponents in the process.
The Road to Blood Bowl 3
If you’ve played Blood Bowl 2, you’re likely wondering why there’s a need for a sequel, especially after Blood Bowl 3 in beta displays a lack of purpose, is unpolished, clunky, and carries too many bugs than could possibly have been ironed out by launch.
For context, Blood Bowl 3 is the fourth installment of the digitized tabletop sports game. Yes, the numbering misleads, thanks to the MS-DOS 1995 version that preceded the 2009 entry that would popularize the franchise. Anyway, up until Blood Bowl 2, the franchise felt definitive of its mission: to digitize the dice math and note-keeping so you can enjoy the Blood Bowl 80s classic hassle-free.
As soon as Blood Bowl 3 in beta hit the market, numerous negative comments flooded out. There seemed to be no innovation whatsoever, despite what most claimed. So, why does Blood Bowl 3 exist when Blood Bowl 2 performs quite well on its own? What’s changed? Does Blood Bowl 3 manage to iron out the issues from the beta?
Here’s what the developing team says. Blood Bowl 2 had reached its ultimatum. Its in-house engine had given all it could. So, any new Blood Bowl rulesets would take too much effort to incorporate. Not to mention the increasing graphic demand for ingenuity matching today’s standard. So, they shifted to the Unreal Engine and started to build what would become Blood Bowl 3 from scratch.
Apparently, there are new rules and new miniatures to explore in the new game. What’s worth pointing out is the increased room for error through what’s called “rerolls.” Before, if you made a wrong move, it’d result in a turnover to the opposing team. But, this time, you get more leeway to make several rerolls in a single turn, for strictly eight turns. So, be careful not to run out of rerolls.
You’ll also note a new passing skill that allows you to jump over a stunned opponent. Generally, there are some new tactical options to consider, but not nearly enough to draw as much excitement as an entirely new game warrants.
You also get a new user interface (UI), which has two sides to the story. On the one hand, players complained of headaches from the more vibrant colors and the UI taking up too much space on-screen. So, the developers resorted to a more bland visual and a UI off-screen. Whichever way you prefer, whether more colorful or less, I hope Blood Bowl 3 leans more toward your preference.
Readability is still an issue, with the numerous stances in which you have to squint your eyes to read player roles or abilities. It’s just uncanny, given that the matches are usually races against the clock. In case your favorite team isn’t among the 12 teams on offer, you’ll have to wait for the upcoming seasons, which bring a major update and add a new team every three months. Be sure to clear 50 levels of the Blood Pass to get the new faction for free.
Props to the slow-motion replays of gore and vicious takedowns. Whether it’s killing, incapacitating, or ripping the limbs off of whoever. It feels gratifying and like your efforts have paid off, however crude. You can also customize your team, cheerleaders, and crowds. Though note to self, you customize the team as a whole, pretty much turning up looking alike, and the stadium nearly fades into the background.
Every move you make is reliant on a dice roll, and, for the most part, it’s fun to play. Playing against the AI works, though Blood Bowl 3 feels more suited toward multiplayer tournaments. Scoring touchdowns, especially after your carefully curated moves come through, is indescribable. So, gamers who like to step back and think through situations should have a blast when the strategies pay off.
At the end of the day, Blood Bowl 3 relies on how well the pros outweigh the cons. On the pros angle, it’s a high fantasy game unlike any other. It boasts irreverent humor, encourages dirty moves, and has its own unique flair for gory violence. On the other hand, Blood Bowl 3 comes with a ton of bugs, enough to ruin the experience. It sometimes hangs, even when it’s the AI’s turn, and dice rolls almost seem unfair at times. Given characters aren’t gamer controlled, they shouldn’t trip by themselves. Other not-so-minor issues, like the inability to save mid-match and bland visuals that may be less appealing to some, may lower the ratings further. For long-time fans, you may feel the nudge to check it out. But newcomers probably ought to think twice before making the purchase.
Blood Bowl 3 Review (Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, & PC)
A Warhammer Universe High-Fantasy Football Romp
Blood Bowl 3 is an unapologetically gory, violent, and complex game that immerses players in a niche turn-based football experience as elves, goblins, dwarfs, and other creatures with silly beards. Perhaps sticking to Blood Bowl 2’s definitive, compact experience would be the best advice, thanks to the myriad issues Blood Bowl 3 has. From more than just acceptable bugs and glitches to a brutal learning curve for newcomers and the reliance on a roll of the dice for the game’s outcome, Blood Bowl 3 makes a tough case to recommend grabbing a copy of.
However, it does showcase a niche games who like a good challenge might find safe haven in. It’s brutal, it’s gritty, and it’s flexible enough to make room for high-fantasy sports action. This one is worth checking out if it’s on sale or you have a Game Pass subscription, etc., but it’s certainly not an essential game to put up on your to-do list, at least until the bugs, glitches, and other concerns get ironed out in the next update in three months or so. Blood Bowl 3 is out now on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and PC platforms.