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I’m ready for the exploding computer graphics: BattleBall Playtest Report

August 8th, 2003: Mike Sugarbaker says...
I’m ready for the exploding computer graphics: BattleBall Playtest Report

I’ve got my hands on it and it is indeed the new Epic Duels. (Except that that other thing is more literally the new Epic Duels, because it’s just like the old Epic Duels. Yeah.) If Blood Bowl is too ponderous for you but seems to hold some appeal, you need BattleBall – what it lacks in humorous theme it more than makes up in speed and simplicity.

BattleBall certainly shares some of Epic Duels’ downsides as well – the strategic decisions are there, but they’re swimming in a slippery soup of luck, luck and more luck. This feels a little more appropriate in a football simulation, though; what football fan has ever gotten through a game without feeling like a player really didn’t earn that last play, or that their home team was robbed somehow?

Luck is a big part of game balance as well – each character makes moves and attacks by rolling the same color die as the character’s base. Big tackles roll sixers – they’re slow and lumbering when they move. But for tackles (which occur automatically when two characters are adjacent), the lower roll wins – so a speedy d20-rolling receiver is likely to get creamed when tangling with a heavy tackle or even a d10-rolling halfback. As for moving, your receiver can still roll a 1 on that d20 – it doesn’t happen often, but when it does, that’s football.

Rather than the big turns of Blood Bowl, wherein you get as many moves as you have players before you turn over play, not the ball, to the opponent, BattleBall is one character, one action. Blood Bowl‘s turn structure is pleasingly footballish, but BattleBall doesn’t sacrifice much flavor, and I think the strategic possibilities are just as rich. One strategic drawback is that a receiver can often cover more than half the field with a decent roll, leading to abrupt endings. Always cover your end zone, kids.

I’m really excited about this game – it feels football-like, it’s exciting, it’s fast, you never have too many decisions to make at one time, but your decisions still mean something. And the components: hot stuff. If anyone else has played, post your thoughts!

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