I didn’t paint much in 2023.
I took stock in the new year and realized that after three years of painting minis for 40k, Kill Team, and BattleTech, I’d played just ten games using those minis (three 40k, six KT, one BT). Now, a big part of figuring out that I secretly enjoyed painting minis back in 2020 was coming to appreciate painting as a hobby in its own right — but I’ve always needed the magic, the alchemy, that comes from knowing I’m painting stuff I will then get to play with.
And that’s been borne out across all three of those games: Every time I played, seeing my little war mans in action was a delight. When I needed something for an upcoming game day, I painted like a demon to get it done. That bit, the prospect of play, is important to me. So I both want to paint for its own sake and I want to paint so I can play with all this stuff I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours painting.
But getting games to the table has been a challenge, with the pandemic certainly not helping matters. It can be a lot of work, and the painting itself is work (fun work, but still work), so when it has to compete with other hobbies that involve little to no upfront work and which are much easier to enjoy from a logistical standpoint, miniature painting has become a bit of a tough sell for me. When I mused about whether the juice was worth the squeeze over on Mastodon, I jokingly said that the solution to my painting funk was clearly taking up a new miniatures game.
Since that was the stupidest option, naturally it’s the one I went with.
In all seriousness, though, like many other GW games Blood Bowl is one I thought looked amazing when I was a kid. I pored over pictures of the minis in White Dwarf, and despite not being a sports fan — or, at the time, a miniature painter — there was something magical about it. So the idea I might start playing it isn’t a new one, it’s just the timing that’s funny.
And hey, I might not start playing it — because as of this writing, I’m just painting up a team. I don’t own the rules, or the starter set, or anything else for the game. Why not? Because a) I’ve gone all-in too soon on stuff before, including GW stuff, and b) the comments on that Mastodon post include some excellent suggestions around painting for fun, not painting for a game, and doing whatever brought me joy. I sat with that for a couple of days and landed here: pick a team that looks awesome, paint it, and see what I feel like doing next.
Picking a Blood Bowl team is a funny business. I figured even though painting something different, with no strings attached, is the goal here, I should still pick something that made sense in case I decide to get into the game.
Normally I just pick what I think looks cool, or what excites me, and don’t worry about the meta (ugh) or other gameplay considerations. I do take into account whether I think I can do the minis justice at my current level of experience, but that’s usually a pretty easy intersection to find.
But Blood Bowl, unlike every other minis game I’ve encountered, deliberately does not balance its teams. Instead, the game breaks them into tiers. Tier 1 are strong teams which are easy for beginners to understand. Tier 2 are solid competitors that need a more experienced BB coach to make them shine. And Tier 3 is where the weirdos live — deliberately bad teams that can be an exercise in frustration unless you have a ton of experience playing BB.
Before I knew any of that, I’d been planning to pick either snotlings or halflings because the minis look amazing. I love units/armies/etc. with widely varied model types, and those teams are a visual treat. But I figured maybe I’d better do a few minutes of research, just in case — and whaddaya know, those are both Tier 3 teams!
A few minutes of research turned into several enjoyable hours. A broad consensus emerged: start with orcs, shambling undead, humans, or dark elves. Right on the periphery of Good For Beginners sit necromantic horror, skaven, and wood elves. To that mix I added my unique restriction: More often than not, I curate the whole experience for the games I play, providing the play area, minis, rules, etc. and also learning and teaching the rules, so I need two teams that are a good match for each other, beginner-friendly, and interesting to paint.
BB humans and orcs are pretty boring-looking, and dark elves are okay but sort of bland. But shambling undead and skaven? Hell yeah. I love zombies, skaven are one of my favorite things in the Warhammer universe, and those teams tick every other box as well. If I have fun painting the undead, skaven are next.