BB2020: Part 1

So there’s a new Blood Bowl coming.  Much heralded and much trailed, and then leaked on 2nd August, either by someone from China selling knock-off rulebooks or a cunning GW ruse to build the hype.  Doesn’t really matter.  1200+ comments on the BB Community group later, and lots has been said.  Here are my thoughts, based on a bit of reading, summaries from a few people including GngrNoob, AndyDavo and ketilkn on Reddit.  Thanks to them.  I’m writing from a position of no inside knowledge, with my NAF President days behind me, so these are just my own thoughts and obviously all is my opinion.

At the time of writing the Warhammer Community team either reacted to the leak or put a long devised masterplan into action, depending on your world view, and have shown off the box set and the Imperial Nobility in detail.  This team were in the slightly rubbish official GW app, and those that played them in leagues said they were a bit broken, mostly due to being the only team to start with Guard players.  A new tier 1 roster is not the headline however, the headline is the separation of agility into agility and passing, along with the whole passing mechanic being changed, and it is this that is causing the angst (such as there is) of whether it’s a whole new game or not.

The New Rules

Most of the changes are tweaks that could have been incorporated into an LRB-style evolution.  Some are pointless, like changing the injury table to a d16.  The kick off table has a reduced effect, with Blitz and Perfect Defence being toned down, which will increase the likelihood of the better coach winning due to reduced randomness.  I’m needlessly infuriated by the Cheering Fans/Brilliant Coaching symmetry having been removed, but most of the rest is quite… well, OK, but probably no need.  I don’t think it will make it particularly a better game, maybe at the margins, so on balance I would rather not have had these significant changes.

There has been some discussion about whether the rules have been playtested.  The WarCom release talked about some of the best players in the world having been involved, and there’s every reason to believe this.  If you look at those who have written playbooks in the Spike magazines, then the calibre of (most of) these players is high, and so the chances are these players have been involved in the playtesting.  It’s also likely that some of the most famous streamers have been involved in the development of Cyanide’s BB3, and the rulesets are likely to have been developed in tandem.

Dying Races

The effect on the various races will be an interesting one to see, and we don’t know the answers yet.  Will Khorne, Bretonnians and Kislev make it into the rules and the new version of the game.  If Kislev do, then Slann will live on, if not then I think the time of the space frogs may be at an end.  It seems unlikely, but not impossible, that the NAF will design a new roster for them including the new statlines.  Will other races be doomed as well, especially those that have not had a new plastic box set and particularly those that have not had the “made to order” treatment either?

The NAF response

It’s virtually certain that the NAF will move to the new rules, the only question is how quickly, and what will happen to CRP?  It has already been mooted that CRP could be listed as a variant in the NAF database, which I think might be a reasonable idea, particularly for those parts of the world who are more resistant to GW’s changes.   If this were to happen the current database could all be moved to the CRP variant, and the BB2020 game records could begin.  As a statistician this would make the dataset more pure and more interesting, and therefore better, and we have the capabilities around now with Glicko and active developers to produce some interesting analysis around the data.

I only really know about the UK tournament scene, and my impression is that the transition here will be fairly seamless, with a few tournaments holding the line and sticking with CRP for a while.  2021 is going to be a turbulent time for Blood Bowl, and it’s fairly likely that some people are going to stop being tournament regulars, unfortunately, but the game will go on.  The tricky ones are going to be the big tournaments, with Poland Eurobowl in October 2021 needing to decide on a ruleset (or in fact, they have decided on a ruleset).  My money would be on this tournament being the last major one (and the last Major) with CRP ruleset, before the new GW rules are fully incorporated.  I’ve been wrong before though.

The Fumbbl response

At the time of writing Fumbbl has already started to respond to the new rules, writing AV breaks as 8+ rather than greater than 7, for example, so every indication is that the client will adjust and adapt.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good:

  • change can be invigorating.  There will be new tactics to learn, and something to talk about in the BB world for a good few years to come.  I actually love learning new games, and am excited to learn the new rules.
  • GW is sticking around, with new figures to come for a few years to come, it would appear.  This leads to a persistent trickle of new players, which is good for the game.
  • It looks like there will be a standalone rulebook, which if it contains all the rules needed for the game would be a major step forward.

The Bad:

  • some people will stop playing, and these people will be a loss to the community.  Or they will stick around and complain a lot, which isn’t great either.

The Ugly:

  • there are a whole raft of new rules coming in, and unfortunately GW’s reputation precedes them here in terms of not being able to produce a watertight set of rules.  There will be typos, there will be mistakes, there will be unforeseen consequences of interactions of rules.  This is going to be a bit of a pain, and GW’s approach to FAQs is pretty terrible, unfortunately.

That will do for just now.  This was Part 1.  Thoughts welcome!

13 thoughts on “BB2020: Part 1”

  1. I think the change will be good. The move to separate the Agility and Passing skills will be a boost for many of the middling teams and an adjustment for the Agility teams. Adding a bit more balance and tactics to game play … The current game, besides the pitch and some of the teams, looks nothing like the original way back when. When is the last time you had to test your combat skill to take somebody down? This really isn’t a seismic change in the game at all. The new changes seem like a slight step back toward older versions of blood bowl. I know change can be hard for some people, but damn the way I have been hearing people from the NAF speak is like they are being personally attacked by GW and anything that doesn’t match up with their ideas of blood bowl is heresy .. The NAF kept this game alive for many people but it is not the end all be all of blood bowl. Blood Bowl, the game I have loved to play since 1987 has seen many forms and will see many more before I croak … I’m just glad I still get to play this absurd game … 🙂

    1. I think the phrase “people from the NAF” is unfortunate. Almost all NAF officials that I’ve been involved with have been intelligent, open-minded people, and not of the opinion that the game is theirs.

      1. That may be true, but the largely vocal posters extolling the fact that the NAF is the only reason the game still exists do not seem very open-minded. They seem quite the opposite. I see the NAF way or the highway attitude a lot and it’s very off-putting. Heck, I try not to post much of anything and try not to sort thru the Blood Bowl Community FB page for much more than pictures of other people’s teams. Any in-depth post I find about anything GW related usually turns into a GW bash fest which really isn’t productive. I get it the NAF was very helpful during the dark times, but they are not the end all be all of Blood Bowl. As a coordinator of Tournaments and organizers of fans and stats, the NAF is great. But the NAF as the all-knowing controller of the game, they are not. Seeing how adamant most pro-NAF posters I have seen are with their views online really makes me regret even bothering with the Blood Bowl Community page. Don’t get me wrong I see people prodding them with the GW owns the game stick all the time. Causing just as much grief. I go online and play games to escape the petty bickering of reality only to go to fan pages of a game I love to play and find more petty bickering. Its all very frustrating and makes me wonder why I bothered going there in the first place.

    2. I think you’re posting a common misconception: I don’t think anyone “from the NAF” are speaking out against this. At all. I’m seeing some veteran coaches, who love the NAF, say that they hope the NAF will ignore the new. But I think that is a futile hope.

      But saying that the NAF is resisting the change is a misconception, that will just further fuel a unwarranted anti-NAF sentiment.

  2. Good read. I know you have a good history with the game, and have seen several changes to various things.

    Splitting the AGI & Passing might hit Skaven and Elf teams where it hurts them.

    How does this affect your beloved Halfling teams? Does it sound like they are more likely to survive now?

  3. A very frank and well reasoned summary. It’s hard to disagree with much of that at all.
    We can only hope that it *and* the community’s response are better than feared!

  4. If CRP can continue – even as a variant then I will continue to play and support the naf, if may limit the scope of my tournament play but that will be my choice. If the naf insist on 2020 rules at all tournaments after 2021 I’m out – I think that would lead to a genuine schism. I hope that when the decision is made on this it will be put to the community as a whole – this is too big a change to be bought in by the handful of volunteers who fair enough donate their time for us but ultimately are working for us.

  5. Nice piece. I like the nod to the old Warhammer world with the Empire-looking humans. I dont mind the dialling down of Blitz and Perfect Defence as i’ve seen and heard time and again how coaches hate being on the receiving end of it. For Blitz you will still have 4x Gutter Runners zipping through your backfield or wardancers terrorising you with leap. The other thing I note is that the game is being reinspired by American Football with the emergence of a Quarterback and some moves fake runs etc. I agree with splitting off CRP and 2020. I trust NAF will have the experience and wisdom to handle tournament changes appropriately. I do fear the GW money train and constant reasons for change for monetisation reasons. If the GW author is using more input from top players then great. Just hope he or she understands that the game fundamentally keeps us coming back for more because it can be so infuriating at times. It’s like golf… you have 99 tee offs that are all sorts of standard but you keep coming back for that 1 in a 100 perfect ping.

  6. Great read Mike. Always love your perspective. I am very excited to see where it goes. From a game play perspective it’s great.

    My only concern is that we as a community have certain resources in place like Fummbl, obblm that are great tools in the blood bowl community that will need overhauls to accommodate the new edition.

  7. Thanks for your insight Mike – as usual.
    I think a number of the new rules are actually positive – although there is not enough information on some of it to know (passing separated from agility being the key one I don’t have enough information on).
    For example, I like the additional tactical design layer of some players not having access AT ALL to some areas other than mutations – such as not being able to take passing skills at all. I also like the idea broadly that throwers are significantly better at passing than others – although how it plays out remains to be seen.
    Some of the new skills look good.
    So it’s a ‘wait and see’ approach – but I don’t think it’s an ‘abandon ship’ or “9th Age for Blood Bowl” from me – and I was a part of all 6 Living Rulebook revisions.

  8. This gives me a feeling of déjà vu hearkening back to when The Old World was destroyed and The Age of Sigmar began. Some people literally burned their armies in protest, some held onto the past and started The 9th Age (which from what little I know is still a thing) whilst the majority moved with the times and seem to be having a blast.

    The impending changes don’t at first glance seem to be anywhere near as world re-setting as what happened with WHFB, although it is inevitable that some of the old guard will leave with CRP (which from my point of view is a shame) and it wouldn’t surprise me if CRP tourneys continue. There’s obviously nothing objectively wrong with that because if you don’t want to play the new version, you don’t have to.

    My main hope is that the NAF continues to moves with the times and embraces the changes. BB is GW’s baby, and as much as the NAF baby-sat it through the years of abandonment, we have to accept that baby is growing up.

  9. I think you encapsulated the majority’s voice here. Overwhelmingly, the community has a “wait and see” attitude and I think that’s imperative for the game to survive. You are right that we will lose coaches or, worse, they stick around and bitch incessantly. My TT league has said we continue as normal for the time being because who knows what teams are going to be available, if there will be any problems, or if it’s going to be a case where GW is constantly tinkering. My advice to those who are still playing… Use those weird teams now that may not make the cut. Kislev/Khorne/Brets… I have heard Vampires talked about. If there is a team you have always wanted to play then now is the time to try them.

  10. Good post. I’m not so sure the hobby will shed many coaches due to the rules changes; unless the new rules are horribly broken somehow, people will be able to adapt (and if they are, then leagues and the NAF may deal with it if GW doesn’t). But if the cost of keeping the existing coaches is endless stagnation, then the BB community will eventually decay anyway. Better to have a dynamic and well-supported product, something to entice new players into the fold and keep the community alive and fresh.

    As others have said: Wait and see!

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