Learning Curve: Blood Bowl vs Guild Ball

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve got a bit of an obsession with Blood Bowl and others might have seen the odd mention of Guild Ball by Darren.  A fortnight or so a go we got together and had a game of the latter and now I think I’m in a better place to compare the two games…

So firstly why compare them at all?  Well they are two of the biggest sports games available and that seems like a good enough reason to me.  They are very different, in fact a friend declared my comparison as like ‘apples and snooker’ but I’m doing it anyway.

Blood Bowl is a game that I’ve enjoyed on and off for many years and part of my enjoyment of it is the background and the nostalgia but it’s not a game that is easy to love.  The turn over rules, the frustrating learning curve and the fact that there is little to discover about the game for yourself that hasn’t been found already combine to discourage some.  But with the 2016 re-release there is a whole swathe of new players and by-and-large the community has been on hand to foster a teaching environment (though a minority seem intent to maintain the “beating is teaching” mindset) and it’s great to see.

Guild Ball in comparison is the flashy new kid on the block really.  It too is a game that rewards players that work hard at learning the game but I feel that it has many things that it does better.  It doesn’t have turn-overs which makes the whole thing less frustrating and with greater flexibility and synergy it really shows how far game design has come.  The slight caveat that I would add is that there is a lot of information to take in on turn one of game one so definitely start small and keep it simple.  The other great thing is that it’s on the rise too.

So which one is better?  Blood Bowl plays more like the sport it replicates in my opinion, the game is about making space and exploiting that to your advantage.  Sure some games devolve into a fight and some teams (looking at you Chaos) specialise in player removal but injuries sort of happen as a by product of a violent game.  Guild Ball doesn’t feel like a game of football to me.  Many of the figures are armed to go to war and you actually score points for player removal which to me just doesn’t sit quite right for a sport?

Guild Ball is without doubt in my mind the better game.  It’s slicker, quicker, less state based and the learning curve is shallower whilst still rewarding players that persist and work hard.  But Blood Bowl feels like a game of fantasy (American) football and that coupled with the fact that it holds a special place in my heart mean that it will forever be amongst my favourites!  I’m going to look very carefully at investing in Guild Ball though, it seems like something that could make a nice distraction for me and Salute seems like the very place to grab a copy of Kick-Off!  My advice if you’ve never played either is to try both twice.  The first time will likely be a slightly confusing experience but the second should be more rewarding.  I suspect that your feeling on which to buy may be less conflicted than my own…

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