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Two opposing teams dish it out on the pitch

Blood Bowl is an ultra violent team sport, based on the Warhammer Fantasy world. Each region builds up their own team comprised of Orcs, Elves, Dwarfs and many other fantasy creatures before jumping into the bloodiest arenas! The basics are extremely simple: two teams, one ball. The team that carries the ball into the opponent's end zone scores a touchdown, the team with the most touchdowns at the end of the game is the winner. However, it's how you decide to do this that makes things interesting, the ends justify the means! It's not just the players you have at your disposal either. You can bribe the referee to look the other way as you cripple or trample annoying opponents and hire illegal wizards to give you a hand directly from the crowd... Blood Bowl severely tests the finest tacticians' strategies.

History[]

The origins of Blood Bowl hail to a long ago time, nearly two centuries earlier in the 2350's, on an ancient battlefield somewhere in the known world. The battle ended in a grim bloodbath, and both sides slumped beneath the circling vultures on the reeking, gore-soaked battlefield, fickle Madame Victory remaining firmly out of reach of everybody. Mutual exhaustion led to a truce being called, whereupon the leaders of both sides attempted to parley. As the leaders argued, the ordinary troops fell where they stood, thankful for any respite from the slaughter. During the lull in the fighting Mungk, the leader of a small Orcish band, the Orc scrabbled in the sodden earth in the hope of finding a juicy morsel or two on which to snack. As he dug into the dirt he inadvertently discovered a hidden switch, when pushed, caused the side of an ancient building, in which the Dwarves had made their last stand, to open. The Orc leader gazed within the glittering hall now revealed inside the dome. Strange armour adorned the walls, peculiar mosaics lined the floor, and at its centre, on a great bejewelled pedestal, sat an enormous book.

After the parleying leaders of the two great armies had been informed of the Orc’s peculiar discovery, they adjourned their so-far-fruitless meeting in favour of this new mystery. Since none of the generals could actually read, however, they were unable to establish much beyond the fact that the building was obviously an ancient temple. Messengers were dispatched with utmost speed in an effort to find some literate being who could reveal the secrets the dome held. Eventually, a half-blind Dwarf was led up and introduced as an expert in all languages, both current and arcane. The book thrust before his warty nose, the Dwarf sat cross-legged on the floor and began poring through its forgotten secrets. After three days passed, the wizened Dwarf reported his findings to the gathered multitude. He reported that the book was dedicated to the lost god Nuffle. It was a religious text written by a group of warriors who came from a far away land called Amorica. Within the book's dessicated pages, it described a contest that the various sects took part in. This contest was held in great arenas where the rival warbands would attempt to exterminate each other. The object was not, however, violence simply for violence's sake. It was in truth of great ritual significance.

A pig's bladder was inflated and carried or thrown from one end of the arena to the other, in an effort to score. This was achieved by carrying the bladder over an opponent's end line, giving a sect a number of things called points. The battle lasted a set time. At the end, the sect who had amassed the most points was declared the victor. It was also written that you didn't even have to maim all your opponents, although the warband's leader seemed to encourage the practice as much as they could. Furthermore, the book also stated that Nuffle's sacred number was eleven, and that only eleven warriors from each side could be on the field of battle at one time. This did not mean that there were only eleven members of a sect, or team, as they were also known. Warriors could go off and come on at will, as long as the sacred number was not exceeded. One could also hit an opponent at any time, as long as one did not use a weapon. Nuffle said that one's body was one's weapon, and – although he allowed amour – all weapons were forbidden from the arena. It was also written that the arena for this conflict was a rectangular field, set within a huge bowl.

All eyes turned to regard the shape of the battlefield in which they had gathered, where large squadrons of over-stuffed vultures were making feeble attempts to get airborne again. The Dwarf concluded that the god Nuffle had seen their dilemma and was trying to resolve it. He suggested that a team was to be put forward from each side, and that their differences be resolved in this fashion. A murmur of assent rippled through the crowd, soon rising to a roar of agreement. And so it was that the first game of Nuffle Amorical Football, as it soon became known, took place. A pig's bladder was inflated, much to the pig's consternation, and armour was taken from the temple, and placed on chosen warriors from either side. The teams lined up, a shaman (acting as referee), dressed in fresh zebra skin for the occasion, blew a whistle and the game was away. There was no proper pitch, no lines and very few rules, and to this day no-one is quite sure who actually won. There was a suitably large amount of carnage, however, and everyone agreed that they had really enjoyed themselves. The battle was forgotten, and the various sides dispersed to carry the exciting news to their homelands, where every tribe quickly rushed to field a team.

It was while those who remained swept up the mess that they discovered a strange green surface just under the bloody mud of the battlefield, a surface engraved with peculiar symbols and lines. The field was scrubbed clean. The workers were hushed, aware of the significance of their find. At last, the sacred Gridiron spoken of in the Book was revealed. The Dwarf seer, who had adopted the name of Sacred Commissioner Roze-El, after a priest of high standing mentioned in the Book, offered a prayer to Nuffle and began to organise the first sect meeting. His mind burned with plans for the future, plans that would culminate in the toughest sects meeting in a physical offering to the great god – the Blood Bowl!

Recent Developments[]

During his time as Sacred Commissioner, Roze-El made many great strides in recreating Nuffle's original rites. In the darker recesses of the temple, piles of remarkably well-preserved pamphlets and scrolls were found, giving further details of the ancient game's rituals. A team of seers and scribes was set to work translating and retranslating these, until a vast body of knowledge was assembled about the game. These quickly helped clarify the rules of the game. Soon, games were being played with set time limits and on properly-marked pitches. By the time of Roze-El's death, at the grand old age of 196, there were sixteen teams competing in a season which culminated in the glorious excesses of the Blood Bowl final.

There were initially some problems, as teams from the Auld World and the New World areas developed their own unique rules of play, and a match between the Dwarf Giants and the Reikland Reavers in 2399 almost started a full-scale war when neither side could decide whose rules to use. Eventually, though, NAF resolved the situation, and a set of rules for everyone to use was published in 2409. The twin conferences were ratified in 2432, with the winner from the New World Football Conference (NFC) meeting that from the Auld World Football Conference (AFC) in the final for the Blood Bowl trophy. The arrival of Bloodweiser Beer as sponsors of the Blood Bowl cup in 2461 was the final transformation which made the competition into what it is today.

Roze-El was succeeded by his acolyte and apprentice Djimm Thorp, and then by the infamous Jorge Hellhound. Hellhound is known for many things, but his most important innovation came when he realised that he could sell far more tickets for games than he could ever hope to pack spectators into any stadium in the New World. And so he contacted the various Colleges of Magic, asking them to find a way to transmit an image of the game all over the continent. The result was the invention of a device, named after the Campaign for Real Arcanery –- the Camra. A bound spirit in a box was allowed to look out in one direction only, at the Blood Bowl pitch, and his mental image could then be transmitted by teams of magicians using the spell Cabalvision. Anyone could buy a licence to have these thoughts transmitted into their own minds. The idea was a huge success. When Hellhound sold the franchise to Channel 7 for the princely sum on 714 gold crowns, it was just the beginning. Rival Guilds set up counter-bids. The Necromancer's Broadcasting Circle (NBC) coverage began with Blood Bowl X, but they are normally thought to be dead boring. The Crystal Ball Service (CBS) have been more successful. The Association of Broadcasting Conjurers (ABC) won the franchise when it was renewed for the thirtieth time in 2486 (incidentally, the sum had risen to a staggering 12 million!)

The Collapse of the NAF[]

By the late 80's the original sacred site discovered by Mungk was the ultimate shrine for all followers of Blood Bowl. The NAF moved its headquarters to a prestigious new complex next to the site, and two years later built the Blood Bowl Museum and Hall of Fame nearby. This remarkable building had a permanent exhibition detailing the history of the game and the careers of many of its most brilliant past players. The NAF league was carefully organised and run. There were twenty Blood Bowl teams, divided into divisions of five teams each and all competing for the Blood Bowl championship. The two conferences were supported by a huge array of lesser teams from all nations and races, with their own national and local leagues, inter-guild championships and so on. From his office at the NAF headquarters, the NAF commissioner Nikk Three-horn governed every aspect of the game, from the tops of the highest mountains to deep below the surface of the earth.

And then disaster struck! The '88-'89 season was incredibly successful, and huge amounts of cash poured into the NAF headquarters. Unfortunately the temptation proved just too much for Nikk Three-horn. While the 2489 Blood Bowl final between the Darkside Cowboys and the Reikland Reavers was taking place, Nikk, the entire NAF treasury and most of the Darkside Cowboys cheerleader squad vanished and were never seen again! What became of Nikk no-one knows, although rumours persist of a secret fortress hidden deep in the Worlds Edge Mountains, and of the outrageous and perverted goings on there. The NAF, meanwhile, was thrown into turmoil. For the remainder of 2489 it was run by a rapid succession of corrupt or plain incompetent officials, who only succeeded in making matters worse. The start of the '89-'90 season was a fiasco, and before the year was out the entire NAF organisation was declared bankrupt and went into receivership.

Chaos and Confusion[]

Following the collapse of the NAF, Blood Bowl teams were thrown back on their own resources. Unfortunately most teams were run by coaches not noted for their financial ability, and so not surprisingly many rapidly went bankrupt and had to be disbanded. Almost half the teams in the old NFC and AFC conferences went under, including such famous names as: the Asgard Ravens (who were forced to take up raiding and pillaging to supplement their income and were wiped out at the Battle of Stamford Bridge), Albion Wanderers (who gave up Blood Bowl and set up their own version of football that involves kicking the ball instead of carrying it), the Westside Werewolves (who got lost in the forests of Athelorn and found themselves barking up the wrong tree), and the Southstorm Squids (who were washed away when their ship capsized on a fundraising trip to Estalia). Almost all of the other teams were forced to sell their stadiums and take to the open road, travelling from town to town and playing matches against any opponent, any place, any time, and for any money they could get! At the end of what had been the regular season nearly all the surviving teams were still strapped for cash, so rather than rest up over the summer they simply kept on playing through the year. Meanwhile the Cabalvision networks were desperate to increase the falling rating figures for the game. For the first time in the history of the game there had been no Blood Bowl championship, and without the excitement of semi-finals and large championships, Cabalvision viewing figures were well down on what they had been before. In order to try to overcome this trend, the NBC joined forces with Orcidas and hosted the first 'Chaos Cup Open Tournament'.

The Open Tournaments[]

As its name implies, the Chaos Cup Open was open to all teams. The first three weeks of the tournament were an anarchic and confusing affair called the play-offs. During the play-offs it was up to the teams taking part in the tournament to arrange matches for themselves, there was no regular schedule as such. A team could play any number of matches in this period, against any opponent (although they couldn't play the same opponent more than once). Teams scored points for winning matches, and at the end of the play-off period the four teams with the most points went through to the semi-finals.

The winners of the semi-final matches went through to the Grand Final for the Chaos Cup trophy and (more importantly) a big money cash prize. The event proved a huge success. The playoffs, which had been organised because neither Orcidas or NBC could be sure which teams would turn up and so couldn't organise a regular schedule even if they had wanted to, proved surprisingly popular. The wild and woolly play-off period generated a huge number of games and an enormous amount of excitement. NBC's viewing figures went through the roof, and the audience for the final between the Marauders (who had shortened their name from the Middenheim Marauders after they were forced to sell their stadium) and the Dwarf Giants, rivalled that of the '89 Blood Bowl Championship.

Having enviously watched the success of the Chaos Open, the ABC joined forces with Bloodweiser to host the '91 Blood Bowl championships using the new ‘open’ format. The Blood Bowl Open proved every bit as popular as the Chaos Cup Open, and soon networks and sponsors were falling over themselves to set up their own open tournaments. Four tournaments quickly established themselves as the most important and eagerly anticipated Blood Bowl events of the year, and were soon being referred to as 'the Major Tournaments' or simply 'the Majors'.

Blood Bowl Today[]

Blood Bowl by the year 2493 was very different to the highly structured and organised game that was run by the NAF until 2488. Now Blood Bowl teams travel freely round the Old World, moving from venue to venue to play games. In a way, Blood Bowl teams are now much more like a travelling company of actors, or a mercenary regiment (or a combination of the two!), than the Blood bowl teams of the NAF period. Teams are accompanied by a large gathering of retainers, showmen, hangers-on, assorted ne’er-do-wells, loyal fans and dedicated supporters. The arrival of two teams to play a match brings with it a carnival atmosphere, and is eagerly looked forward to by the local population.

The stadiums where the games are played are usually owned by the town or the city where the stadium is built, more often than not bought on the cheap from an impoverished team following the collapse of '88. It is very rare for a Blood Bowl team to own their own stadium these days, although not completely unheard of (the Lowdown Rats still own their own stadium, though this owes more to the refusal of anyone to buy the mouldering deathtrap than any desire of the Rats to hang on to the place). Blood Bowl teams are usually paid by the owner of the stadium to play there, the amount of money they receive depending on the number of fans who turn up to watch the match, whether or not the match will be shown by a Cabalvision network, and whether the team wins or loses.

And then, of course, there are the tournaments. The major tournaments are held in large cities and attract dozens of teams, and hundreds of thousands of followers and fans. Most of the big teams will play at all four major tournaments and carefully plan their travel route so that they arrive at the tournament venue well in advance to become acclimatised. The major tournaments are watched by countless numbers of Humans, Orcs, Elves, Ogres, Dwarfs, Trolls, Goblins, Halflings and many more esoteric viewers besides. Just how many watch and play the game is difficult to determine, because it is so widespread. Rumours persist that the game has permeated the lower levels of the astral and daemonic planes and hopes are still high that in a few years we shall witness exchange teams of daemons and elementals joining all the regulars in the Blood Bowl! As the long departed Commissioner Three-horn famously said on many occasions: "This is Blood Bowl, buddy, anything could happen!".

In fact, anything DID happen because in 2502 due to the continual need to monitor and organize the majors and play-offs, the NAF was reformed with president Jonathan 'Krippler' Louis III to overlook and calculate the rankings for the tournaments (though some sceptics claim the NAF simply pull a number out from...somewhere...). With a procedure in place for popular election of future NAF presidents, and no actual handling of the multi-millions that was the sponsorship money, tournament prizes and CabalVision revenue, the chance of corruption was greatly reduced. These days the NAF also offer banking services for the travelling teams (since lugging gold crowns through the Badlands can be more hazardous to the team's health than the game). Many teams take advantage of this service of the NAF to lessen the risk to the team and trouble with the hauling the weight of that much gold.

The Game Itself[]

Despite the appalling chaos that seems to reign whenever the whistle blows, there are a great many rules in the game of Blood Bowl. You may not be surprised to hear that many of them are forgotten most or all of the time. The Heroes of Law are renowned for being so goody-goody that they play to all the rules; as a consequence, of course, they are almost always beaten by their opponents, and are terribly boring to watch too! However, here are some of the basic principles of the sport; if you wish to know more we recommend you look at Mutilate & Slaughter's exhaustive handbook on the subject Genocide the Blood Bowl Way.

The Playing Pitch[]

A typical Blood Bowl Pitch

In honour of the very first Blood Bowl site, every pitch must measure 100 by 60 Human paces, with a further five paces of End Zone at each end. The pitch is then usually divided by lines across it every five paces. Blood Bowl games are traditionally played on grass as it is written in the Holy Book of Nuffle that grass is the sacred material of Blood Bowl. Some subterranean teams like the Dark Elves and Dwarfs have tried using synthetic substance called Astrogranite instead since it does not need sunlight or maintenance. Traditional above ground teams have refused to use Astrogranite though especially since disgraced NAF head Nikk Three-horn owned the original factory that made it.

The Game in Action[]

As the ancient tome found by Mungk revealed, the object of Nuffle's game is to carry the ball into the opposing team’s End Zone, while they try to stop you. The team that manages to do this the most times during the match wins. It sounds simple enough. If that were true, though, games would be a lot less fun than they plainly are. So why is the average game of Blood Bowl such a mind-mangling spectacle of fun and fear? A typical game is preceded by a coin toss to decide which side starts with the ball. Its here that the cheating generally starts: bribed referees, double-headed and weighted coins, skilful palming and simply punching out the referee and the opposing captain have all been frequently used. A more ingenious tactic, perhaps, was that employed by the Hobgoblin team in a quarterfinal several years ago: they ignored a coin toss which went against them and started play with a ball of their own. This move would be on record as possibly the only even vaguely intelligent thing the Hobgobs ever did, were they not 2-0 down after only eight minutes!

As soon as one side has the ball, it's the job of the players on the other side to take it off them. In fact it's probably this which is the real problem with the game as far as a referee is concerned, because players just can’t seem to control their enthusiasm when faced with an opponent who’s holding the ball. Actually, they can't control it when faced with another player. Period!

Referees[]

A Blood Bowl Referee enforces a call

Those hard-faced, zebra-striped officials with the funny trousers and the piercing whistles are the NAF's representatives on the field of play. As such, they have a very important job to perform. It's a pity, then, that the good name of Blood Bowl referees has gone down so much in the public's estimation. Many pretend they are rat gutters or sewer sweepers rather than admit their real profession. Fifty years ago, the average game of Blood Bowl would be officiated over by a team of seven referees and line judges. These days, you're considered extremely lucky if two turn up. The trouble is that referees seem to die rather easily. Since they don't wear padding or armour, and since they are often frail and wizened ex-players, they really don't stand a chance against players like Vurner Vinkler. Vinkler, nicknamed the 'Refkiller', made a habit of celebrating each touchdown by flattening a referee, until he was lynched after a particularly successful game by eighty members of the Referees and Allied Rulekeepers Guild (RARG).

A Blood Bowl Human Team

The Players[]

A Blood Bowl team consists of a large squad of players. However, according to the rules, only eleven players may be on the pitch at one time, in deference to Nuffle's sacred number. Unsurprisingly, this rule has not always been adhered to as closely as it might. During the first half of the Blood Bowl final of 2476, the Severed Heads (now playing as the Orcland Raiders) managed to sneak a grand total of 27 players onto the pitch. This despicable cheating was only spotted when there weren't enough oranges to go round at half-time! When asked why they hadn't noticed it earlier, their opponents, the Creeveland Crescents, claimed they didn’t notice because all Orcs looked the same to them, especially those who were battering them to the ground. There was also something of a dispute during a famous match between the Greenfield Grasshuggers and the Underworld Creepers, when it was discovered that the Grasshuggers' new star Blitzer was in fact two Halflings in an Ogre's kit, one standing on the shoulders of the other! Still, the matter was settled when the Creepers' Troll ate both offenders, and play could continue. Of the eleven noble warriors legally allowed on the pitch at any one time, some will be standard Linemen but others will be players that specialize in throwing, catching, running, blocking, or blitzing.

Equipment[]

It can cost upwards of 150,000 gold crowns to outfit a professional team for a season – and to look at the way players treat their kit you'd think the money grew on trees. However, all that padding and armour comes in very useful for keeping a player alive long enough to maybe make a few yards or to toss the ball to another player. The cost of equipment is now so high that some teams, especially those from the poorer goblinoid races, insist a player supply his own equipment from whatever he can find. Some players have become remarkably inventive at improvising Blood Bowl gear from other objects. The very first ball, history tells us, was made from the inflated bladder of an unfortunate pig called Dennis. Sorry to say, the ball used that day has not survived to the present, but the Blood Bowl Museum does contain a lot of balls from the early days of the game. In those days a ball could be just about any shape, and made from just about any material that could stand up to the punishment of a Blood Bowl match, but still be light enough to be thrown. These days, all balls are made by the Blood Bowl Ball Company of Rock Rapids near Middenheim. Game standard professional balls cost around 30 gold crowns but teams have been experimenting with spiked balls which allow the team to circumvent the rules banning weapons from the field of play.

Cheerleaders[]

Every team gets demoralised at some time or another, but there's nothing like a happy chant from a posse of beautiful women to turn a 2-0 deficit at half-time to the Lowdown Ratz into a triumph of modern pest-control! Every team has it own cheerleading squad, from the stark Elven beauty of the Darkside Cowgirls to the roly-poly homeliness of the Greenfield Gigglers. Even the Nurgle's Rotters have a gang of cheerleading lovelies who are probably very pretty if you happen to be a rotten body of putrescent disease like the rest of the Rotters players. Most teams have very strict rules about cheerleaders, especially where relations with players are concerned. Some teams forbid any form of contact between the stars and the cheerleaders, with infringement punishable by instant dismissal.

Behind the Players[]

Behind every good (and bad!) Blood Bowl team there's a large team of very highly skilled professionals who handle everything except the actual playing of the game. The Reikland Reavers, for example, include the following 'backroom boys':

  • Management: At the very top there's owner and president J.J. Griswell Jr. together with his staff of eleven directors, yes-men and secretaries. These follow JJ everywhere, noting down any important decisions, ideas or pearls of wisdom which may fall from his lips as he strides through the stadium sacking people. Behind this lot are a further ten financial, legal and administrative staff who handle the day-to-day running of the club.
  • Coaching: Helmut Zimmer has the responsibility of getting the team to peak fitness, assisted by ten further specialists and assistant coaches. The specialists each teach and train the players in one particular aspect of the game, be it throwing, catching, maiming, throttling or whatever.
  • Health: The Reavers employ a medical team of four apothecaries and physicians, and also have a full-time counsellor and lawyer whose job it is to look after the players' well-being between matches, or in the Reavers' case, to bail them out so they can play the next day!
  • Public Relations: This department employs eighteen people, whose various jobs include producing the programmes and club magazines, and selling tickets. They also organise the half-time entertainment and train the team of 26 cheerleaders, the Reavettes (and their two bodyguards).

Add to this number all the locker room boys, equipment cleaners, washerwomen, crowd security men, bar staff, merchandise sellers, rat-on-a-stick vendors and general hangers-on and dogsbodies, and you've got much more than just a team of sixteen battle-trained psychos.

Sources[]

  • Blood Bowl (4th Edition) (2000)
  • Blood Bowl (3rd Edition) (1994)
  • Blood Bowl (2nd Edition) (1988)
  • Blood Bowl (1st Edition) (1986)
  • Blood Bowl: Companion (1990)
  • Blood Bowl: Death Zone (3rd Edition) (1994)
  • Blood Bowl: Death Zone (1st Edition) (1987)
  • Blood Bowl: Living Rulebook 6 (4th Edition) (2010)
  • Blood Bowl: Living Rulebook 5.1 (4th Edition) (2008)
  • Blood Bowl: Living Rulebook 5 (4th Edition) (2006)
  • Blood Bowl: Living Rulebook 4 (4th Edition) (2005)
  • Blood Bowl: Living Rulebook 3 (4th Edition) (2004)
  • Blood Bowl: Living Rulebook 2 (4th Edition), (2003)
  • Blood Bowl: Living Rulebook (4th Edition), (2002)
  • White Dwarf 101 (UK), "Blood Bowl" by Marc Gascoigne, pp. 34-36
  • Your mom
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