Welcome back Sports Fans to more exciting Blood Bowl content! This time we’re looking at the Blood Bowl variant, Street Bowl. Don’t like the group of orcs across from you in the bar? Challenge them to a game of Street Bowl outside your fine establishment and laugh as the street batters the orcs, your friends, and your teeth! As Uncle Dom always says “The thing about street fights… the street always wins.”
What is Street Bowl?
Street Bowl just happens to be my favorite way to play Blood Bowl. Hmm? What’s that? Who am I? My name is Joe, but my usual gaming handle is ProfGoldfinch. I’m part of a trio of folks who organize Blood Bowl tournaments in the Northern Virginia (NOVA) area and attend (most) VA events. I’ve been actively playing Blood Bowl since about 2010 (using the Competitive Rules Packet or CRP). Largely, I’m a fan of the BB2020 ruleset and try to promote the game throughout the community. I am currently the 5th highest ranking Street Bowl player in the world.*
*(this is a particularly silly brag because the number of data points is VERY low)
Street Bowl is a variant of Blood Bowl which shares many similarities with another variant, Sevens. The Sevens rules (found in Death Zone) are helpful, but not required. The NAF, a volunteer governing body for Blood Bowl tournaments, hosts a free rules document for Street Bowl here (Note: this has not been formally updated for BB2020 yet). You may find this document (created by Brandon Alderman of Roanoke VA) more in line with the current ruleset. Both Sevens and Street are faster versions of Blood Bowl, with games lasting about an hour. Each half is 6-turns (instead of the typical 8) and you can only field 7 players max. Unlike Sevens, Street takes place on a street (presumably outside your favorite drinking establishment).
The pitch is incredibly narrow. There are only 3 squares in the center pitch, and 2 in each wide-zone. This means the field is only 7 squares wide, but has the same length as a standard Blood Bowl pitch. The endzones are open to the crowd, but the sidelines are treated as walls. The walls prevent crowd-surfs and out-of-bounds balls, but still cause plenty of chaos! Positioning is extremely important in this variant, but more forgiving.
Playing on the cobblestones of the street comes with added danger. Anytime a player Falls Over (regardless of the cause), the Armor Roll receives a +1. This stacks with bonuses you might receive from Mighty Blow (but not with Claws). Expect players to leave the pitch at a much higher rate than usual.
Well, Sports Fans, you’ve made it this far. You must be interested! As you plan for your foray on the street, here are some things to keep in mind.
The biggest hurdle is getting your hands on a Street Bowl pitch. Street Bowl is (currently!) not a sanctioned variant by GW, so your friendly local gaming store is unlikely to have one available. There are 3rd party Blood Bowl suppliers which stock affordable Street Pitches (Impact Miniatures). Some Street Bowl tournaments will provide pitches as part of admission. An upcoming event in NOVA (hosted by yours truly) will be using this approach. Regardless, the pitch is the only external investment required. Your players, dug-outs, tokens, dice, etc. will be totally applicable!
Building a team for Street Bowl is nearly identical to building a team for Sevens. Here’s a brief overview:
- 600,000 GC budget
- Minimum 7 players, maximum 11
- Rerolls cost double! Don’t count on having rerolls Sports Fan!
- Only 4 “specialist” positions may be selected. Essentially, any 4 non-lineman positions following normal team building restrictions
- Limited inducements & staff
The low budget, increased reroll costs, and reduced options are intended to reflect the amatuer nature of the players. These aren’t hardened professional Blood Bowl players aiming for Glittering Prizes. These are the folks down at the pub with little regard for their personal safety. You will frequently play without rerolls. This is part of the fun! There will be several Turnovers in every game of Street. Leader is usually banned in Street Bowl, so that won’t help you either! A few teams can squeeze in a reroll, but we’ll save that for later.
Rules as written, you can’t hire any staff in Street Bowl. No Asst. Coaches, Cheerleaders, or Apothecaries. Instead each team is granted a single potion at the start of the game (additional potions can be purchased for 50,00 GC). Potions can be used on any player without Regeneration (sorry Sylvanian Spotlight!) that isn’t Dead in-between drives. Status doesn’t matter! You are welcome to risk it on a healthy player, though it’s best to save them for key KOs or injured players to try and get them back in the game. Don’t be fooled though, most of the results are terrible (instant death) to downright hysterical (+2 ST, but must roll a 2+ every turn to not explode). They will, on occasion, get players back in the game though. I strongly recommend having some additional skill bands to make the negative effects granted by most of the potions.
Key Rule Differences
Street Bowl follows the main rules of Blood Bowl with a few thematic exceptions. I’m not going to cover every difference here, but I want to flag a few here.
- +1 to Armor Rolls whenever a player Falls Down
- Balls that hit the ground always bounce twice
- Pushing a player into the wall gives you a Stab attempt with a +1 to the Armor Roll
- Knocking Down a player into the wall gives you a +2 on the Armor Roll
- Roll 2D6 during the kick-off and pick the lowest when deviating the ball
- Fouling (see below)
Players are going to leave the pitch at a high rate, regardless of their AV. Having reserve players will definitely help here. The additional ball bounce means you cannot guarantee a tackle zone on the ball after a failed pick-up or catch. The extra bounce happens every time the ball is dropped. So if a few players fail to catch a bouncing ball, that sucker can make its way all the way across the pitch. This mechanic can be comical, but definitely gets old after 15+bounces. Nuffle help you if it hits a wall. Remember, the walls prevent crowd surfs. Smacking your opposition into the wall is still a VERY effective strategy.
Fouling is the biggest deviation from traditional Blood Bowl. There are no referees in Street Bowl, no one cares if doubles are rolled here. The only folks who get angry about fouls are the fans! Every time a player fouls, the opposing coach rolls a d6. On a 4+ the fans hurl a rock at the cheater. Make an Armor Roll with a +1. If the armor breaks, a Turnover is caused and injury is rolled as normal. If your armor holds, you get off free! This means fouling with your high AV players is ideal. Get those Treeman fouls! The fans are a little more invested in Secret Weapons. After every drive, Secret Weapons roll a d6. On a 4+ the player is available for the next drive. Otherwise, they’re out for the game with no chance to bring them back.
Broadly speaking, Blood Bowl has 3 types of teams: Bash, Dash, and Hybrid (some folks include Stunty as their own category too). Bash teams want to turn the opposition into a fine mist to avoid fancy plays. Dash teams are better at moving the ball and scoring, but must pick and choose their hits. Hybrids are somewhere in the middle. They can adjust based on their opponent. There is debate online about which teams fall in which category. I’m not going to touch that with a 10 ft. pole, but every version of Blood Bowl favors different play styles. Sevens tends to favor Dash teams, Street is the home of the Bash team.
The tightness of the pitch limits offensive assists, so breaking through the defensive line is TOUGH. A few players with 4+ strength on the pitch makes it even worse. Black Orc Blockers, Chaos Warrior Blockers, Saurus Blockers, or Treemen can really ruin the offense’s day. Dash teams will be relying on AG2+ and multiple 3+ dodges to get into the backfield.
So what teams should you consider? Below are a few different characteristics I look for in Street. These are by no means exhaustive, but hey, 5th in the WORLD.**
**(seriously, stop referencing this. There are like… 100 games of Street recorded)
- ST4 or higher players (Black Orcs, Orcs, Chaos, Lizardmen, Nurgle, Renegades, Tomb Kings, Undead, Stunties)
- Players with risk reducing skills (Block, Sure Hands, Dodge, Wrestle, Pass, Catch, Brawler)
- Cheap rerolls (Humans, Dwarves, all Elves, Skaven, Norse, Amazons)
- Players with Stunty
The high strength teams make offense and defense easier. Unfortunately, most of these players do not come with skills. Depending on the specific build criteria, you may be able to make 1 or 2 Blockers “safe”, but without Block or Wrestle you’re turning over 1 out of every 9 blocks. Treemen are the real standout here. Even if they Take Root, they don’t lose their tackle zones and it’s going to be pretty difficult to knock them down.
Free rerolls are king in Street and Sevens. Most teams will be playing without a reroll, so making actions safer or providing free rerolls for common actions will limit your turnovers. I absolutely love Sure Hands in Sevens and Street. I would also favor any team with access to more than 2 players with Block. Humans, Old World Alliance, Norse, Amazons, Dwarves, and Imperial Nobility have great safety skills (if limited strength). And remember, Loner (X+) doesn’t matter if you don’t have rerolls! I think the Black Orc Blockers are great players in this format. Brawler isn’t amazing, but it will save your bacon a few times per game and Grab will ruin your opponent’s position.
Sometimes, if you build your list just right, you can fit a single RR. I’ve done this with Humans, Orcs, and Skaven. Your mileage may vary. Real Street is played with a Prayer to Nuffle and no rerolls!
Looking for Stunty players might seem odd in a format inherently designed to see players hurt, but stunties come with some great benefits. Almost all of them have Dodge, and Stunty allows them to dodge through tackle zones without penalty. This means your Goblin can go right through the defensive line (with some average dice rolling). That said, they have low armor. If they fall down, they’re probably taking a turn off. Snotlings will die the minute they Fall Down, but they can get anywhere they want on a 2+. Your mileage will vary, but this might be the most competitive format for Stunty teams. Also Halflings get access to the Halfling Chef. Stunty + Treemen + Halfling Chef = FUN. One reroll is Street is amazing. Three will melt your brain.
Street Bowl Tournaments
Street Bowl is usually tacked on to a traditional Blood Bowl tournament as a bonus activity (e.g. the ACCC Bootleg was a free Sunday event if you attended ACCC). Roanoke, VA held the 5-round Mill Mt. Grinder in December ‘21 and NOVA is planning to host the 5-round Thanksgiving Throwdown (I’ll link the rules when all the details are finalized) in November ‘22. As previously stated, I love Street Bowl and organize tournaments, so NOVA will have occasional events for Street.
Generally, the rules for a Street Bowl tournament don’t differ that much. Team building with a 600,000 GC budget is pretty standard as are the limited staff and inducements. Other things you can expect are:
- 1 – 4 skills allocated by a Tier System. You might even get a Secondary skill!
- Leader is usually banned
- Ability to “roster” additional potions
- Modifications to the charts for potions, weather, and/or kick-off events
- Resurrection style, so no deaths or injuries persist between games
Since Street is so much quicker than Blood Bowl, a 5-round tournament only takes about 6 hrs and gives you the opportunity to play a lot of different coaches. I strongly recommend you give it a try (definitely not a shameless plug).
Running a Street Bowl League
Well, you must have really enjoyed my commentary to get this far! If you find my enthusiasm for Street Bowl contagious, you might consider running a short Street Bowl League. This is a great idea for the summer when folks are traveling and don’t want to commit to a full season’s worth of games. You can easily get multiple games of Street in one game night.
The easiest approach would follow the same rules that a Sevens League would follow (again Death Zone), including a free skill-up after each game and players being drafted based on the number of skills acquired. I would also allow the hiring staff and the suite of Sevens inducements.
Some skills and inducements are, as written, useless in Street Bowl. Sneaky Git is a hugely useful skill in Blood Bowl, but Fouling in street doesn’t care about rolling doubles. Without referees, Bribes really have no functional utility. There are likely easy solutions to these problems, but they are not officially covered in any established rules. I encourage League Commissioners to ask your coaches if house-rules need to be applied.
The interaction between potions and the apothecary could be a little goofy. Before we go into detail though, let’s talk about how casualties are handled in Sevens. There are no casualty dice rolled in Sevens (so put your poorly balanced d16s away!). Instead, the severity of the casualty is dependent on the injury roll.
- 9 = Badly Hurt (Stunty only)
- 10 = Badly Hurt
- 11 = Miss Next Game
- 12 = Dead!
Aside from the hilarity (and social anxiety) of callously using Might Blow to increase the severity of injury, this is a pretty simple system.
The Sevens’ apothecary works by rolling a d6. 4+ the injury is healed and the player goes into reserves, otherwise the injury stands (basically Regen). Rostering an apothecary will give you 1 chance to heal a player per game.
With potions (which are a pretty iconic part of Street), every team starts every game with one free potion (I would allow additional potions as a 50,000 GC inducement). They can be used on anyone who isn’t dead. 6 out of 8 options bring a player back on pitch (usually with side-effects), but 2/8 options will probably kill your player. Small stakes for a tournament game, but immediate death in a league is ROUGH! Potions can’t save players who are already Dead, though.
So what do you do? Here are some options.
Option A – Allow potions and Apothecaries
The easiest option is to just allow both mechanics. Everyone gets a potion at the start of each game. If someone dies, from a block or a potion, the apothecary can try to save the day. Easy, but injured players will have an easy time returning to the pitch.
Option B – Only Apothecaries, No Potions
Fine. Potions are goofy and deadly. Removing them adds some stability to the growth of your team, but players are going to return to the field less frequently. Having some additional numbers will be necessary to keep fielding 7 players. You will need to adjust the Kick-Off Table to remove the Potion Peddler event.
Option C – Only Potions, No Apothecaries
Potions are unique to Street Bowl and we’re playing Street Bowl dangit! No rostering apothecaries, no wandering apothecaries. Live and die (literally) by the potion. That said, I don’t think anyone would mind changing the potion chart from DEAD into MNG. That way the risk is mitigated and coaches might be willing to try potions on healthy players. Just make sure players that “MNG instead of DIE” are prohibited from taking other potions.
Personally, I’d opt for the MNG Option C, but I’m coming around on Option A.
If you’re interested in seeing the rules for a successful short-term Street Bowl league, Brandon Alderman can deliver again! I played a few games in this league remotely and really enjoyed myself. This set of rules also includes a mechanic for drafting amatuer players in their next Blood Bowl season. I didn’t get to experience that aspect, but it seemed like the locals enjoyed it.
There you have it, Sports Fans! A brief overview of the best Blood Bowl variant brought to you by a recognized Street Bowl Champion.***
***(Stop bragging about a game 50 people play. Also, your biases are totally showing!).
Hopefully your interest is piqued enough to give this a try as a one-off, tournament, or short league. Those of you in the NOVA area, look out for the Thanksgiving Throwdown. Hopefully we’ll meet on the street. Maybe you can be the coach to send my bragging rights (and most of my teeth) down the gutter!
Quickly, a special thanks to Brandon for allowing me to reference so many of his rule documents for this article! You’re a gentleman and a scholar (at least 30% of the time). As always, if you have questions or suggestions drop us a line at Contact@Goonhammer.com.