Posted by: gschloesser | July 14, 2011

Battle Ball

Designed by:  Stephen Baker
Released by:  Hasbro / Milton Bradley
2 Players, 20 – 30 minutes
Reviewed by:  Greg J. Schloesser  

I had read with interest about several of the new games Hasbro / Milton Bradley was releasing, including Battle Ball.  Although I knew Battle Ball would be a light, bash-‘em-up dice fest, it still sounded like fun.  When I saw the abundance of highly detailed miniatures that were included in the game, that was the clincher. 

My initial impressions were immediately confirmed:  this one is a light dice-fest that falls squarely in the beer & pretzels category.  Lots of dice rolling, with shouts of glee or despair when the dice go for or against you.  There are some choices to be made, but there’s just no getting around the fact that the dice will determine the outcome.  But, you know what?  It is still lots of fun and good for some laughs.  From everything I can tell, that is all that the game is meant to be, so it serves its purpose well. 

Each player represents the coach of a futuristic football team.  Over the years, the league has gone high-tech and turned violent.  Players are clad in armor and the rules have been changed so that carnage is the law of the game.  Scoring touchdowns will still win the day (2 are needed for victory), but another important objective is to tackle and injure as many of the opponent’s players as possible.  In game terms, this means that whenever one of your players moves adjacent to an opponent’s player, you MUST attempt to tackle that player.  A successful tackle results in that player being injured and removed from the game.  To add to the atmosphere, the location of the assault is marked with a ‘carnage’ marker and becomes impassable.  Ouch.


The eleven players on each team are divided into various categories, including linemen, receivers, safeties, etc.  The bases of the figures are color coded to match the category and also dictate the color of the die which that category rolls when moving or attempting to tackle or receive a pass.  For instance, the lumbering heavy tackle rolls a 6-sided die, while the speedy receivers roll a 20-sided die.  

When moving, a higher number is more favorable, as this allows the player to move a number of spaces up to the number rolled.  Thus, the swift receivers can fly down the field.  When tackling, however, a low roll is better.  When a player attempts to tackle an opponent’s player, each player rolls their corresponding die and the player with the lowest roll is successful.  Thus, those linemen may be slow, but they are devastatingly effective when tackling an opponent’s player.  Woe to the light-weight receiver who is tackled by a beefy lineman! 

The game itself is very easy to play.  Each player sets their team of 11 players behind their own 20 yard line and the ball is placed in the middle of the field.  Players alternate choosing one of their players, rolling its corresponding die and moving that player.  The object is to grab the ball and get into your opponent’s end zone.  The game flows much more like rugby than it does American football, as the ball can be passed freely and there are no set formations.  

If a player carrying the ball is successfully tackled, the ball is fumbled and other players may scoop it up by moving onto its location.  Players may also execute “hand-offs” to other players on their team, but there is a slight risk of a fumble if doubles are rolled during the exchange attempt. 

Passing allows a player to move a player, then attempt to throw the ball.  This attempt involves the rolling of the ‘passing die’ (a five-sided die that is shaped like a football!) and the die that matches the base of the target.  These two numbers are added and if they equal or exceed the distance between the passer and the receiver, the pass is complete.  Otherwise, the ball falls to the ground and may be scooped-up by anyone.  The moral here is to keep your passer and his target relatively close together.  Long passes are risky. 

As mentioned, when a player is tackled, he is injured and sent to the locker room.  The site of the tackle is marked with a carnage marker and this space cannot be moved onto for the remainder of that period.  There is SO much tackling occurring that the playing field eventually becomes tough to navigate, forcing players to weave their way around these impassable locations.  

When a team does manage to score a touchdown, the game is “halted” (similar to half-time in a regular football game) and the board is re-set.  All carnage markers are removed and injured players are returned to play.  The teams re-set behind their respective 20-yard lines and play resumes.  The first team to score 2 touchdowns is victorious. 

Other rules allow for the permanent removal of a player (a ‘serious’ injury) from the game whenever a ‘1’ is rolled during a tackle attempt.  Further, the advanced game introduces special rules for each team, as well as the passing option explained above. 

For what it is designed to be, the game accomplishes its objective well.  Light, fast, lots of dice rolling … and fun.  I’m not sure if it will maintain its allure after repeated plays, but for now, I’m enjoying this brand of “smash-mouth” football.  If only my hometown New Orleans Saints played with such intensity!



  1. Simple football game with very nice bits. (6/10)

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