Last week the Cyanide Blood Bowl client went on sale over Steam. I tried to get some of the old Comfy Prime Blood Bowlers to buy in, but didn't generate much interest. Duncan is still playing a lot of Blood Bowl, but he's playing with a different internet client. He doesn't want to switch, and would rather I go play over there. It reminds me a lot of the League of Legends vs DotA 2 conversations I have from time to time with people. Both are fine games, both get better when you can play with your friends instead of random dudes, and both require such a time investiture in learning/experience that switching games is non-trivial. My life would be better if Drew played LoL. His life would be better if I played DotA 2. But neither of us really want to make that switch. Or maybe it's like choosing an MMORPG. Way back in the day I preferred Final Fantasy XI, but all my friends played World of Warcraft. It was better to play the 'worse' game with my friends than the 'better' game with strangers.
But while those pairs of games had potentially significant differences which really prevent playing both at once, this is just two different clients for the same game, right? It should be feasible to play both? At the very least it felt like I should give FumBBL a try to see what it was like in order to compare the two. I did the same with DotA 2, after all!
I created an account, made a vampire team, and played three games this week. Certainly not enough games to really get intimately familiar with the system, but enough to get a feel for things. Here's what it feels like the differences are between the two:
Graphics - Cyanide has a pretty board with animated models for the players. FumBBL uses tiny gifs.
Speed - Coupled with those animations comes the time it takes to watch the players move around. FumBBL can speedwalk the moves. Robb and Lino were able to play about 5 turns in Cyanide in the time it took me to play 9 on FumBBL.
Sound - Cyanide has top notch sound effects. It has colour commentators with amusing, though limited, phrases. Going to get Big Moot sandwiches in the stands, ("Now way, but little elf beauties... Yeah!") things like that. FumBBL has very short, cheap sounds when people walk, get hit, and get hurt.
Rules - They both ostensibly use the latest edition of the official rules. Cyanide added in some extra inducements and didn't implement cards or many of the star players. FumBBL hasn't implemented most of the cards but didn't add anything else in to make up the gap. They both seem to be lacking a bit, but it is annoying in the Cyanide game to need to make sure people don't use the wizard multiple times.
Rules Mods - FumBBL has a bunch of different options you can turn on when making a game. Things to nerf the overpowered combo, or to buff fouling for example. It may only have one guy coding it, but it's a lot leaner so those little things can actually happen.
Bugs - I haven't run afoul of any FumBBL bugs yet, and when they exist I suspect they get fixed a lot faster than in Cyanide. Cyanide has a ton of bugs, some of them pretty brutal. Sometimes it makes one of your guys invisible when you're setting up before a kickoff, so you only get to position 10 dudes instead of 11. Then the invisible guy magically appears somewhere when you kick. I remember one game against Robb where one of his better guys got helpfully placed on the line of scrimmage for me to hit! Other times it will let you field 12 or more guys. It wouldn't let me sub out my Deathroller one game. Apparently there's a brutal bug with leap and blood lust where the movement overlay goes away if you fail the blood lust roll. (One reason I was happy to try vampires on FumBBL instead of on Cyanide!)
Movement Planning - Cyanide has a really nice feature where you can declare a blitz, tell it the path you want to take, and then see what type of hit you'll be making. Or you can tell it what move you'll take and then see what the pass odds are. It doesn't seem like FumBBL does that for you, which means you have to be better at planning your move before starting it on there than on Cyanide. On the other hand Cyanide'd system is bugged, and there's one case where it doesn't account for an assist when it should and lies in terms of your blitzing odds. (If you dodge away from a guy you were marking, but end up walking back in beside him to blitz another guy it thinks you're still marking that guy.)
Community - The FumBBL site has forums that seem reasonably populated. Maybe this is just an issue where there's no quick link in Cyanide to their forums so I don't get visibility to it. But it really seems like there's more discussion and events and stuff on FumBBL than on Cyanide. Now, a lot of those threads seem to be complaining about fouling, stalling, cherrypicking, min/maxxing, or claw+mighty blow+piling on...
Team Mobility - FumBBL forces you to choose what style team you're making and has no way to change it afterwards. So my vampire team was set up to play in their pick-up game matchmaking system. That's all it can do. I can't transfer them over to an on-going league later on. I can't play personally planned out games against someone else. If they want a match, it's going to be with a randomly generated opponent. Oh, and it's going to only start a game every 15 minutes. If I want to play a game at 8:01, tough luck. I have to wait until 8:15 to see if maybe I get an opponent. Cyanide lets you quit and join leagues at will (though many leagues only accept brand new teams) and the matchmaking happens on the fly. Of course I still need to have a willing opponent also trying to find a game at the same time.
Spectating - Both games allow you to spectate games in progress, but with different twists. Cyanide forces you to start watching the game at the beginning but has a fast forward button. FumBBL has you tag in live and watch as things happen. I much prefer getting to the live action right away, but once there the added graphics make spectating in the Cyanide game feel better. In FumBBL you do get to chat with the players and other spectators, though. It's also easier to find a game to watch. And you can replay games after the fact from the website while you need a copy of the replay to watch a Cyanide game later.
User Base - It's hard to tell but my gut feeling from trying to spectate games in both clients is that there are more games going on in Cyanide than in FumBBL. Now, the games also seem to take half the time, so there may actually be comparable numbers of games completed.
Major Events - FumBBL apparently puts on big tournaments with crazy prizes every now and then that seem pretty interesting. You're never going to get a Cyanide team to resurrect a dead dude, or give claw to a saurus!
*EDIT* Statistics - Cyanide provides a log after the game and someone wrote a nice parser that pulls out how you fared on the different types of rolls (d6, 2d6, blocking). I haven't found any such thing in FumBBL and it's really sad.
Both clients seem to do a pretty reasonable job of playing Blood Bowl, and both have upsides and downsides. I feel like the reduced playing time and the extra silly league modifications make FumBBL a little better for me, but I guess time will tell if that pans out. On the plus side I don't think the two games are mutually exclusive at all the way LoL and DotA2 are, so I see no reason why I shouldn't keep playing in Sceadeau's Cyanide league while also playing FumBBL. I don't know that I have a strong desire to level up a new Cyanide team anymore, but I'm pretty happy playing my adorable little dorfs. At least once I fire that stupid Deathroller...