Around this time of year, many of you will be transfixed by the FUMBBL Cup. You’ll immerse yourself in the round one giant slayings, the draw of various famous teams, the plotting of your own possible route to glory. However, the FC is not the only gig in town this month. Those of you that read a lot about Blood Bowl will hear whispers of this thing called Eurobowl. You’ll see the odd mention of it on FUMBBL if you look hard enough (practice leagues, references in the forum), you’ll perhaps stumble across a context-less picture on social media. I think that Eurobowl is the single best BB tournament there is, regardless of format (tabletop or online), and it’s one of the main reasons that after ten years I still play this game. So if it’s that good, what the bloody hell is it, why don’t you know more about it, and how can you get involved next year? Good questions, sir. Allow me to write far too many words trying to flesh it out a bit for you. You know how I love a ramble, just hit 1 and move along. ;)
I wasn’t around in the olden times of 2003, but from what I can make out, Eurobowl’s beginnings were modest. 'The scene’ wasn’t anything like what you'll find today if you dip your toe into TT BB. The NAF was still a relatively fledgling organisation and there were far fewer, less well attended tournaments. Back then, the idea of a thousand coach World Cup would have been viewed as the madness of a fool (I think it might still have been in 2013, to be honest). Anyway, in those olden times, some Belgian and Dutch coaches decided they would set up an international match of sorts where they could thrash out local bragging rights and, more importantly, all get together in the same place to get drunk and move models around. Some Germans, French and Italians picked up on the chatter and decided it would be a pretty good idea if they attended as well. Eurobowl was born.
I’m not even actually sure if it was called ‘Eurobowl’ at the time, or how many coaches comprised a team, or how big a deal it was to those that attended. However, it seems that the tournament was a success, and other European countries thought that the Dutch and Belgians had stumbled across a good idea. From those humble beginnings, the Eurobowl has now grown into something pretty massive, both in size and importance. At the last tournament in 2014 (the Eurobowl has every fourth year off to accommodate the World Cup, 2015 was one such year), 18 national sides of 8 coaches met in Belgium to eat, drink, make merry and crown the best team on the continent. A side event of three man teams pushed total attendance up over 200 coaches. The format has changed a little over the years, but essentially, 8 players representing a nation will face 8 from another; probably wearing national shirts and cheering on their colleagues as they go. The matches are ‘Swiss within Swiss’, so the best teams gravitate to the top of the draw to play off for the big prize as time goes on, and the best records within those teams meet during the fixtures. After six rounds, we add up the scores (1 / 0.5 / 0 with a point for a team winning the round, a half for drawing) and declare a winner. Rulespacks are simple as befits big tournaments; coaches fight it out over a set of known well known conditions rather than working out / guessing in advance how the meta shifts with new, creative goalposts.
Of course, there is loads more to it than that rather dry and functional description. Having so many friends from across the continent in one room (one bar!) is immense, and fond memories are made with a beer in your hand chatting about the great game. Being selected to represent your national Blood Bowl scene is quite the honour and something coaches have at least one eye on year round as they jostle to make the team. In England, we elect a captain who selects his team of eight, historically primarily based upon coaching skill. Places are highly coveted and new caps warmly congratulated. We have three first timers this year, and I’m really excited to see how they get on. The standard of the Eurobowl is excellent. I can think of perhaps two or three tournaments (online or on TT, where I’ve played in over ten countries) that have a higher mean coaching standard around the top tables (and they were TT team events; they really tend to bring out the big guns). The list of coaches playing for France, Italy, England, Germany, Denmark and more is like a who’s who of top quality BB. There is absolutely nowhere to hide, you will be tested in each of your six games (you can find this year’s combatants at Eurobowl.eu, if you're interested in a full rundown). The team aspect brings a whole new element to the competition; playing ‘for England’ is a great pleasure. You’re all in it together, and even if you’re having a bad tournament, every point you can eek out for the collective is vital. Even if you're having a bad weekend, everyone has one some time, you've got to bite down on your metaphorical gum shield and find some points for your team from somewhere.
Each of the eight coaches has to select a different race, and this year I have been given the job of one of the fringe races in the ruleset, Humans. This will be a tough but important job; no-one expects Humans to lead the team, but I cannot get humped if we are to be successful. I have to hold on against better teams when the draw is unkind to me and maximise my points when it’s nicer. It’s the sort of challenge that really gets me going; can I get a draw with Italian Wood Elves or Undead and take one of their big races out of the fixture? Perhaps 2/3/1 or 3/2/1 is as good as a Wood Elf 5/0/1 to the team?
I play several TT events over a year, and often, results don’t matter a jot. Like a pick-up game in R or B, you and / or your opponent might be trying to tick off the 24, complete the grid, they might fancy team x for some non-ruleset reason, they might be after a Stunty Cup, whatever. If I’m playing Nurgle with 20 blokes in a pub, of course I’m trying my very best, but in reality it doesn’t matter that much if I win or lose the tournament in the end, there will be another one, and winning Pub Bowl 2016 is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things. Eurobowl is different. Across the continent, there have been practice weekends. Arguments over skill choices, OTS attack / defence debate. Preparation, effort and care. There is no picking a team on your way out of the house in the morning; this is proper stuff that people take pride in. As such, it’s the six games I’ll be most bothered about all year. When you face off against a Jokaero, Spartako, Kfoged, BiBi or a host of similar big name heavyweights with your national shirt on, needing a result for your mates, it absolutely matters. But not as much as the beer you share with them afterwards. I think that summarises Eurobowl pretty well; we play hard, but also party hard. Everyone gives it their best, but it’s all forgotten about by the time the first beer is halfway done.
Eurobowl 2016 will take place over the weekend of 22 / 23 October, so a week on Saturday / Sunday. In a Swedish castle, no less. The English are looking for an unprecedented three-peat and fifth overall win. Italy can draw level with England on 4 EBs with a win, and look strong with their core having taken home the 2015 World Cup. France can always field at least 4 competitive teams (but luckily are only allowed to send one). Denmark are the best team never to have won, the Swiss feature Strider and Jokaero, among others. Germany have oodles of talent you’ll recognise, the hosts, Sweden are ever improving. Spain seemed to have multiple teams at the right end of the NAFWC, so their national side must be a threat. Many more nations feature high quality and can spring surprises, and some are competing to host the EB in 2018 (the honour currently goes to the highest placed nation yet to host). I literally cannot wait – it is the big one on the Blood Bowl calendar. You’ll be able to follow Team England's progress at @TeamEnglandBB on Twitter, the drunken team generally go a bit mental on there over the weekend, but you should be able to just about pick up results. Hosts have increasingly taken to Facebook to update coaches across the continent who haven’t made it, and there are oodles of photos on there from 2014.Here is me lifting the trophy as England captain
, which was not a bad feeling.
If you love Blood Bowl, you should probably start looking into a holiday to Portugal for the Eurobowl in October or November of 2017 right now. You might not have time to make your national team depending on their qualification requirements, but with the EurOpen side event, all are welcome, including non-Europeans! With one taste of Eurobowl, you’ll be hooked. It’s going to be huge, go go Team England!