Blood Bowl Spike! Almanac 2021 Review
Do you remember getting football annuals for Christmas as a kid? Well, if you lived in the alternate Warhammer World of Blood Bowl then you might just find the Spike! Almanac 2021 under your tree! Compiling together the last 3 Spike! magazines plus some additional new content, the Spike! Almanac is a hefty tome of Blood Bowl content and is up for pre order today!
Massive thanks to Games Workshop who have sent us a copy of the Almanac to review!
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We have also put together a full video review and look through the book, so check it out below or over on YouTube
So what’s inside the Almanac and is it worth your time? Let’s take a look!
Spike! Presents… 2021 Almanac!
If you are new to Blood Bowl, then the Spike! Almanac is a (mostly) annual book from Games Workshop that gathers together that year’s Spike! Magazine releases. Spike! is how Games Workshop release a “Codex” for Blood Bowl, but rather than the format of books for other systems, Spike! is quite fun in it’s approach acting as sort of an in-universe fanzine for the team featured. So while we do get rules and tactics for the team in question, you also get fictional history, interviews, comic strips and general Blood Bowl wackiness!
Spike! Almanac 2021 gathers together the last 3 Spike! releases, the Necromantic Horror, Imperial Nobility & Black Orc, and the latest Khorne issue and combines it with some new content exclusive to the book. This is presented in an attractive hardback format rather than the paperback style of individual issues.
I feel it’s worth pointing out here that if you already have those 3 Spike! Magazines then you already have the majority of the page count of this book, with the new things added to the back accounting for 40 pages of content out of the 160 page count – But for hardcore Blood Bowl fans this additional stuff combined with the nice hardback format can make this something they want to add to their collection.
So what do we get?
Well, as mentioned earlier the majority of the book is a reprint of the last 3 Spike! Magazines covering the Necromantic Horror, Imperial Nobility, Black Orcs and Khorne. If you have not read a Spike! magazine before then these all follow a similar format with an in-universe history of each of these teams and players along with interviews, match highlights and game histories much in the style of a real sports magazine. This stretches as far as the rosters and star players, each presented in the style of an in universe magazine rather than simply a suppliment! This is great fun and really captures the humour of the game – Blood Bowl never took itself too seriously and its hilarious to see these fictional histories, joke names and learn about the comedy antics that happen during major games!
Each of the Spike! magazines contained within here also get some additional game content tied to that specific team. So for example, there will be specific leagues tailored to each team with some thematic inducements and flavour, Weather and Kick-off tables to use when playing in the locations that they dwell and even the full rules for the team pitches that are available separately. One of the things that we like to do when playing Blood Bowl is to have a “home stadium” for each team and to use these optional extra rules when playing games at that stadium in order to really capture the magic and flavour of those teams. If you enjoy a specific Blood Bowl team then I highly recommend picking up the Spike! for your team, and if its one of the ones in this book then it is certainly worth the additional cost to get this compendium and additional content! We also get a comic strip in each issue, again dripping with Blood Bowl humour and with echos of real world sports comics! I don’t know about you, but I would love to see these expanded into shorts for Warhammer+ as I really think they would work brilliantly!
Finally, each Spike! magazine also has a detailed section covering tactics – this is a great way of learning how to play your team, as it talks through each positional and their strengths and weaknesses, what a decent starting line-up looks like, what players to add as a league continues, what stats and skills are worth investing in and even suggested offensive and defensive set up positions! This really gives you a feel for how the team plays and how to get the best out of them, especially if you are new to the game or the team!
So that’s what we get in the first part of the book, but what about the new content?
We get a lot of focus on Star Players, with two new ways of including star players in your games of Blood Bowl!
The first of these are All-Star Games! These are special exhibition matches where every single player on the pitch is a Star Player! This looks like brilliant fun and certainly a very different way of playing the game! We actually get two options on how to run these, Random or Draft – Random does what it says on the tin with each player taking turns to draw Star Player names out of a hat to determine their team of 16! As you can imagine this is not in any way going to be balanced with some massive swings between the teams possible based on luck, but it will be glorious and most importantly hilarious fun based on who you get on your team! Alternatively, there are rules for reining things in a little bit with a draft format. Here, each player takes turns picking Star Players out of a central pool in order to make your team! I really like the concept of these games, and gives a great excuse to do something special by pooling together your Star Players and putting on an extravaganza!
The second alternate mode we get for Star Players comes from the optional Long Term Contracts – this is a way of being able to use a Star Player over the entire course of a League without having to spend the gold to hire them! Essentially at the start of the League each player is drawn at random and gets to sign a Star Player of their choice to their team – this costs no Gold and they are part of the team for the entire season! Any Star Player that has already been signed by a team can’t be selected by another team. At the end of each season all contracts with Star Players expire and everyone gets to pick fresh Star Players (Or try and hire the same one again if they want, and be rewarded with them losing the Loner trait as they are more used to how to the team plays!) the kicker here is that players are picked based on how poorly each team performed! So the team at the bottom of the league picks first and the winner picks last! This is a nice way of adding a bit of a balancing factor and giving those weaker teams first dibs on who they want!
Expanding the pool of players available, the Almanac also includes 4 new Star Players who have been released since the last book – Barik Farblast, Kreek Rustgouger, Fungus the Loon and Bomber Dribblesnot!
Surprisingly, we also see some additional content for Dungeon Bowl in the book with rules for multiplayer games of up to 4 players! As you can imagine this is also suitably chaotic, with the book having examples of the suitable layouts of the dungeon to support this and all the rules clarifications to handle the extra interactions that come about from having multiple teams for the purposes of assists! Games are suitably random with a dice roll off determining turn order, and this changes from turn to turn! Again, I think this will be great fun to unwind, roll some dice and let the carnage play out!
Finally, we get advanced rules for Referees! In this you will use a Ref model, and they will run along towards the ball after each team has moved! They will get into better positions to spot fouls, or perhaps miss someone committing a foul out of sight! And yeah, with the Ref on the pitch there’s always the chance that a player decides to throw a block on the ref themselves, aiming to perhaps kill the Ref! If they fail they will of course get sent off, but if they succeed in injuring or killing them then for the rest of the game players can no longer be sent off, and this includes secret weapons! This seems really fun and I plan on using them for your next season!
So is the book worth it? I suppose this really depends on how many Spike! magazines you have from the 3 contained in the book. If you already have all 3 then you are really only getting 40 pages of new content. But, that new content is really fun and mixes up the way you play Blood Bowl! If you don’t have any of the recent Spike! mags or perhaps one or 2, then I really think this is worth adding to your Blood Bowl collection. The magazines are great fun to read and are collected together here in a nice hardback format, while the new content looks really enjoyable and a nice way to mix up a league with some Star Player flavoured antics!
Blood Bowl Spike! Almanac 2021 is up for pre order today and is released Saturday 5th February
Games Workshop provided Sprues & Brews a free copy for review purposes