Review – Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game
Moving Blood Bowl away from the minis on the pitch to a deck of cards is a brave move…
Title: Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game
Year Published: 2011
Designer: Jason Little
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Game Time: 90+ Mins
Set-up Time: >5 Mins
Theme: Blood Bowl
Mechanic: Deck Building, Hand Management
How to win: Get the most fans
Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game is a bone-breaking, breathtaking standalone card game of violence and outright cheating for two to four players. Chaos, Dwarf, Wood Elf, Human, Orc, and Skaven teams compete against each other over the course of a brutal season. Customize your team by drafting Star Players, hiring staff, upgrading facilities, and cheating like mad. Lead your gang of misfits and miscreants to glory over your rivals all to become Spike! Magazine’s Manager of the Year!
Once a manager has chosen one of the six teams, he has five weeks to groom them into the best in the league, culminating with the Blood Bowl tournament. He does this by competing at highlights, collecting payouts, upgrading his personnel, and drafting Star Players.
Managers begin the season with a starting team deck full of basic scrub players. These players are none too bright and have limited talents, but a clever manager can play to their strengths by carefully positioning them to excel on the pitch.
Is your team ready to compete against other teams in head-to-head highlights? Highlights are the randomly determined matchups over which players compete. The more highlights a team wins, the more it improves and the more fans it accumulates.
The season culminates with the Blood Bowl tournament. After the Blood Bowl, the season ends. Players then tally up their total fans and the manager with the most fans wins the game.
I also want to put the Sudden Death Expansion into this review…
Sudden Death, a bone-breaking, pulse-pounding expansion for Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game, brings a host of options to the pitch, including three new teams, new Contract payouts, new enchanted balls, and more.
The Dark Sorcery Syndicate union features dabblers in forbidden magics who just don’t know when to stay down. The undead Champions of Death tear up the pitch – sometimes literally as they raise new zombies and skeletons from the corpses of former Blood Bowl players. The vampires of the Black Fangs are always thirsty for victory (and blood). And the Dark Elves of the Naggaroth Nightmares are happy to give both teams plenty of fresh corpses with which to play.
Each player chooses a team and takes the respective deck of players and a Scoreboard. The rest of set-up involves shuffling decks and turning the foul tokens face down.
The only fiddly bit is setting up the Competition deck.
This involves putting the Blood Bowl aside, taking 2 Tournament cards at random without looking, adding two Headline cards, again without looking, shuffling those 4 cards together face down and putting the Blood Bowl at the bottom.
The game is played over 3 Phases
At the start of the Maintenance phase players will refresh used cards and draw up to 6 cards. This is of course skipped on the first turn so players draw 6 cards from their team deck.
Then the top card of the Competition deck which we prepared earlier is revealed. Then highlight cards are revealed from the top of the highlight deck equal tot he number of players.
So now players have a hand of 6 players and there are 3-5 highlights/tournaments to commit them to. These are known as Match-ups.
A ball is placed on each Match-up card, this is known as ‘Midfield’.
Get ready to kick off!
This is the beef of the game.
Players, in turn order, commit one player from their hand to a Match-up.
Two teams can be committed to a highlight at most, one each side. All 4 teams can commit players to a tournament.
When a player is played you resolve any ‘When played…” abilities on a card. Then you use Skills on the player card from left to right, in that order.
The Skills are…
- Cheating – (Mandatory) Take a cheating token from the pool and put it on the player. These are either Fans (or points), Star Power (explained later) or Ejections, meaning the player will be removed form the Match-up during the Scoreboard Phase.
- Passing – (Optional) If the ball is in Midfield, this allows the player to pick it up. If an opposing player has the ball, this allows you to put the ball back into Midfield. You can also move the ball to this player if another member of your team has the ball.
- Sprinting – (Optional) Draw a card, discard a card.
- Tackling – (Optional) Tackle an opposing player. Choose the target and roll the dice. If the tackling players star power is HIGHER you roll two dice and choose the outcome. If it is the same you roll one dice. If it is lower you roll two dice and the opponent chooses the outcome.
Tackling is important and requires a bit more detail. When a player is standing and they are on the losing end of a tackle, they are downed and turned sideways. Now, usually they are worth less Star Power when down so this is important when it comes to scoring the Match-up.
A successful tackle against a downed player results in them being injured which puts them in the discard pile.
So this phase continues until players run out of cards, which is 6 rounds. You may pass which ends the Phase for you. At the end of this phase, if you passed and still have player cards left in your hand, you may discard any you do not want for the next Phase.
Now the Match-ups are resolved starting with the Highlight furthest from the Tournament card.
Firstly Cheat tokens are turned face up. Ejected players are removed, fans are added to the players scoreboard and foul tokens with stars on are left on the player for now.
Then any cards that say “During the scoreboard phase…” are played now.
Then the Star Power for each side is added up, including any star power for carrying the ball. Highest wins!
Players collect the payout on their side of the Match-up and the Winner collects the payout in the centre of the card. On a tie, no one collects the central payout. If the Match-up Phase ends with only one team having players at a Match-up, that player gain all 3 Prize Payouts.
The the pitch is cleared of all cards/tokens.
The start player token is passed to the left.
After the final tournament, the Blood Bowl has been competed for, the game ends.
Any “End Game…” effects are used and the player with the most fans wins.
The first comparison always seems to go to the Tabletop game. For me, the main problem with the tabletop version is it takes a very long time for a 2 player game. I’ve played the tabletop version since the first print and have loved it ever since, even the video game versions.
So a card game version that plays 4 players is a bonus.
I like how this game works. The dice rolling is like the tabletop game. The tactical choices are heavy enough that they need thought but light enough that it’s fun.
The teams also feel well balanced but different. Speaking of the teams, here they are divided into their conference.
- Reikland Reavers – Humans
- Grudgebearers – Dwarves
- Athelorn Avengers – Wood Elves
- Skavenblight Skramblers – Skaven
- Gouged Eye – Orcs
- Chaos All-Stars – Chaos
- Naggoroth Nightmares – Dark Elves
- Champions of Death – Undead
- Black Fangs – Vampires
The DSS teams are from the Sudden Death expansion. They have abilities when they are knocked down which works really well, including the ability to get back up! The expansion brings in a few other things too.
Contracts are rewards that can be earned in Match-ups and are worth 2-5 fans each at the end of the game.
Enchanted Balls offer more than the usual 2 Star Power that the regular balls have. They are randomised for each Match-up and offer different values of Star Powers, fans or abilities that activate when a player becomes the ball carrier.
I haven’t really mentioned Team and Staff upgrades yet. Team upgrades are taken from your teams personal deck and are extra abilities that are related to your team. Staff upgrades are similar but drawn from a central deck and are more generic.
I do have to say, Staff upgrades are VERY powerful. They give a lot of end game fans and can make the difference between winning and losing.
It’s a shame as recruiting Star Players is fun but as they are weak compared to the upgrade cards. Plus, as the recruitment is a tad deck-buildery and the game is quite short you may only get one use out of a Star Player.
I did a post on my Fave 5 Blood Bowl Team Manager Star Players if you’re interested 🙂
I love the theme, and the game itself. But Staff Upgrades seem to be much more powerful than all those awesome Star Players and it lets the game down a bit.
I give this 8/10