Battleball – The NFL, But With Robots And Mortal Kombat Style Fatalities

I was at the local swap meet where there’s a nice old lady selling nothing but Sci-Fi toys and board games, and I found a brand new copy of a cool-looking game called Battleball. It had all the Ameritrashy coolness I would expect from a Milton Bradley game; there were futuristic footballers, beheaded robots, and a steel ball. I don’t know about you, but that kind of thing is pretty much an autobuy for me. I bought it, not expecting much, and took it back to the lair for later examination.

As it turns out, a buddy who is both a gamer and a huge NFL fan who is always on a fantasy football site rolled by, saw it on my table, and asked about it. That was all I needed to crack it open and give it a test run. It wasn’t long before I realized what an amazing find it was as we played it three consecutive times and loved every single play. I’m not entirely sure that anything that cost ten dollars could be so satisfying without the requirement of a lighter and an air freshener!

Inside the well illustrated box is a veritable sea of plastic and cardboard, all of outstanding quality. There are 22 very detailed, prepainted miniature footballers with color-coded bases that are equal to or better than the quality of Heroscape figures, 13 dice of varying colors and denominations including the coolest D6 die I have ever seen, a metal football on a stand that resembles an old pineapple grenade, two cardboard “locker room” boards, a bunch of “carnage” chits, and a big ass football field board that is about four feet across, maybe two wide, and that is made of three interlocking sections. All in all, it was an epic win purchase, just based on the components.

The concept of the game is that there are two teams of eleven figures each trying to score a touchdown by having their player not only take possession of the ball, but run it into the end zone. It’s much like American football in many respects, but there are some major differences, such as instead of tackling enemy players and then resetting the field, there are no “downs”. It’s more like soccer or rugby in that it’s all game, all the time. Once a player scores a touchdown the entire field resets and the first “half” is complete. The first player to score two touchdowns wins, and that’s that. It’s quite a simple game to learn, simpler yet to play, but there in an immense wealth of strategic options to employ during your stay at Chez Battleball. There are even some extra rules you can employ that are chosen from a list at the beginning of the game, if you so choose, which further deepen the strategy.

The game is set up by assembling the board, placing the football in the center, and placing your team anywhere you wish behind the 20 yard line. You then put your locker room board near you and keep the little “carnage” tokens nearby in case someone gets blasted. Once you’re all set up, roll a D20 and the high roll wins the coin toss. That’s it, and it’s that simple; It takes maybe 5 minutes to get from closed box to epic sports warfare to begin.

The figures themselves are the main focus of the game, with each team being able to perform a very limited set of actions on their turn. First, a player selects a figure to move, rolls a die, and may move up to that amount of spaces. Some players are faster than others, but the tradeoff is that they are more fragile, so you really need to consider your options when placing them. The bases of the figures correspond to the color of their respective dice used for determining their movement and tackling abilities, so the running backs that roll a red D20 have a shot at running up to 20 spaces where the tackles with the yellow bases use yellow D6 dice and can only move up to six spaces.

After you’ve moved, if two figures are adjacent to one another, the player must attempt a tackle. Both players roll their respective color-coded dice and the person with the lowest roll wins the battle. Now, if this was American Football, there’d be one man who gets knocked on his ass and the other would keep going. In Battleball, the figure that rolls highest is not only tackled, he’s removed for the half, leaving that team one player short. In a tie, both figures are removed from the game for the half. If either player rolls a one on his die, that figure is not only removed for the half, he’s been killed and is removed from the game entirely.

If no enemy figures were adjacent, the player may attempt a handoff with each figure having their color-coded dice, and unless the rolls tie it’s a completed handoff. If on the off chance it was a tie a fumble occurs and the ball is placed up to 2 spaces from the ball carrier by the defending team. This is a great way to move the ball up the field as a slow, powerful tackler can hand off to a fast running back when the time is right.

There are rules for passing too, and that’s where the super cool football-shaped die comes into play. Any figure may pass to any other figure, regardless of position. To pass, simply declare who the receiver is, count the spaces from the passer to the receiver and then roll the receiver’s die as well as the football die and have the sum equal more than the spaces you counted to be a complete pass. If not, it’s an incomplete pass, but unlike the NFL, the ball becomes loose on the ground and the defending player gets to place the ball anywhere up to amount of spaces away from the intended receiver that was indicated on the football die roll. If one of the defender’s figures was in that area the defender can even give him the ball, in which case the incomplete pass becomes an interception!

Play continues until a player scores two touchdowns, and that’s the end of the game. It’s a brutal game of sport and warfare and the game itself is half sporting event and half light skirmish wargame. It’s fast-paced, fun, and one hell of a value for the ten smackerels I dropped to get it!

Why Battleball Is Heisman Trophy Level Fun:
-The game plays in 45 minutes or less, and each turn is about thirty seconds
-There is no way Analysis Paralysis can happen, really
-The production value o f Battleball is exceptional
-It’s tons more fun than a ton of $50.00 games I’ve bought

Things That Were A Battle To Get Past:
-Battleball is a little on the simple side, so don’t expect Battleball is going to be Power Grid
-The “extra rules” that are optional make the game a little wonkier than it otherwise is.
-If you don’t like Dicefest Showdowns in Luckland, pass on this; lucky rolls are a big part of Battleball

All in all, this is a quick little football game that every person should own, even if you’re not a sports fan. For me, this is an autobuy-type game, and this is a game that will never, ever be purged from my library. The best analogy I can use is that this could be classified as “Grind Light.”

4.25/5 Stars

This game was produced around 2003 and is out of print, but there’s a bunch available for very low prices at the Marketplace:
Universal Head has a really great Quick Reference Guide, although Battleball is simple enough that it may not be necessary:

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4 thoughts on “Battleball – The NFL, But With Robots And Mortal Kombat Style Fatalities”

  1. I’m curious if you’ve played Blood Bowl. Despite owning Grind, Battleball, and Dungeon Bowl – I always choose Blood Bowl. I like Grind, but I prefer the variety in Blood Bowl more. I have not played Elf Bowl. That said, your review is spot on. Battleball is quick “beer and pretzel fodder” and has excellent minis. Its fun to think of them as Heroscape predecessors. Compare the guard to the Dumutef (sp) and you’ll see what I mean. Hell, the boys at WOTC should recycle the Battleball minis. They’d make excellent Vydar units…

    Geek out,
    Andrew (Drewcula)

  2. Never played Elf Bowl, but Grind and Blood Bowl, yes. I liked Blood Bowl although it is more complex than Battleball, and for a light footbally-type game, this is the king shit, for sure, in my book.

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