Guild Ball Field Test


Some of you may have been following a hashtag that appeared on Twitter recently as #GuildBallFieldTest.

The initiative is a way of engaging with the community to push Guild Ball forward.

One of the first things that the Field test is aiming to look at is:

How to ‘Widen the appeal to new players whilst retaining the Guild Ball identity and appeal for existing players’

Guild Ball co-creator Mat Hart has recently posted this on the Guild Ball Supporters group on FaceBook:

“Why a Field test?” I hear many people ask…

“Guild Ball is perfect!” I hear people saying…

“Fix all the other stuff and it’ll be sunlit uplands for everyone!”…

But for every statement of “the rules were never the problem” I can point to the same, if not more, number of “it’s a full-time job to be good at” or “there’s too much to learn for a beginner” or “I don’t enjoy getting beaten every single time I play”.

As I said in the Adepticant keynote the other week, the Guild Ball ruleset IS in great shape right now…it’s a really stable platform with a lot of ‘knowns’. This makes it ideal for a solid look at what the next stage in its life-cycle should be. For a game to continue to be successful, it needs more new players coming in than old players moving on. As the curve gets steeper, the worse this gets. So we must address this if we are to go forward successfully.

We all agree it’d be great to have a new starter set, but what rules do we put in them so it doesn’t go out of date? And more importantly, so new players can discover this wonderful game and the depths it has to offer and not be confused or ill-equipped.

It’d also be awesome to have loads of new models coming out but with each model added to the game, we exponentially increase the development and testing cost, deficiencies in either of these endeavors are cruelly, and quickly, exposed by the game’s great balance and expert users right now.

For us to look forward, we need to carve out design AND development space, we need to smooth the balance curve to give us room to take the game forward, and we need new players picking the game up and having a great time!

So let’s mess up some unicorns, shall we?

But that being said, and before we go any further…

I want to stress that Guild Ball IS, and will REMAIN, a competitive game!

It was designed to be a game that rewards player skill and experience. The more you put in, the more you should get out was a clear stated design premise from the beginning. This doesn’t change as part of this process.

But model balance and a clean ruleset (that needs no changes) isn’t the final finish line, there is a subtle overall ecosystem that also needs attention. Let me explain…

Let’s talk about player-skill and why this makes Guild Ball so appealing to a lot of people. It is well known that I spend a lot of hours a week playing a MOBA…just one in particular, even though there are other MOBAs out there. I found the reward for putting in hard yards, learning the champions, their abilities and threat ranges, how they combo with other champions, how the item upgrades work, what is a good item set for a champion but also taking into consideration the enemy team composition and the state of the game in progress, what time to go for objectives, when to turtle and when to push etc. etc.

Every year, the MOBA I play ends the current season and we go into a bit of a free-for-all where the developers (let’s call them Rito) try out some wacky ideas and new elements that they think can keep the gameplay feeling fresh for the next season. And I hate it! Every single time it happens.

It means that my hard-won knowledge of the game is eroded and I feel like I have to start again. I don’t want to learn new item builds, I like my old ones. I don’t like the jungle timers changing ‘cos my old routes won’t work anymore and they always got me my level 2 gank more often than not. And what the hell is this new thing in the river now?

But the truth is I don’t actually start from zero each time, it happens. My practiced (earned) mechanics and game-knowledge allow me to update my knowledge base and I can start seeing my decision making catching up to the new meta. After a little bit of time, it feels fresh and exciting AND the challenge of learning new stuff is simply fun to do!

My love for MOBAs has bled into my design philosophy. I was playing a lot of MOBAs when I first dreamed the idea of Guild Ball and some of you old guard knew this when you saw some of the champions I liked to play creeping into the design space of the Guild Ball players…Stave for example?

So we can look at how Rito thinks about their game and use similar lines of thinking for our game of Guild Ball. Let’s talk about player skill for a bit, and to do so I need to define some terms…

If we assume that player skill is made up from these key elements…there’s probably more but these feel like the key areas to think about:

· Knowledge – knowing what models can do, their set-plays, individual or teammate combos, DPR output…all parsed against INF allocation and current game-state

· Decision Making – picking the right option at the right time and executing it properly

· Predicting – Alternatively could be called Empathy, this is reading your opponent, their team, play-style, game-state and second-guessing what they are trying to do…and then trying to counter it.

Win probability can be calculated from a combination of comparing player-skill and the results of the dice in the game. As you all know, Guild Ball has a low-variance RNG curve with higher than average (for a wargame) predictability. The dice mechanic flattens the curve so much, especially when going for the lower Playbook results and you only need one or two results to get what you want (which is probably why whiffing feels so much worse).

And so the higher your player-skill, the less you want dice results to be the deciding factor…this is why you will see comments such as “GB is perfect as it is, it doesn’t need any changes!” which I suspect translates to “I have worked hard to get my Knowledge, Decision Making and Predicting skills to a high level, please don’t undermine this by making the random factor more important!”. One of our development team plays to a very high level and once told me that he’d prefer it if Guild Ball didn’t use any dice at all…I won’t name names so don’t even ask me!

But then we can look at Godtear, a game in which we poured a lot of the lessons learned over the years. The dice are much closer to a traditional minis game curve but It still has hard tactical and strategic decisions that if you are better at making then over time you will win more games.

So to draw this line of thought to a conclusion…as player-skill increases, so does the gap between a new and experienced player. The bigger the gap, the longer (and harder) the journey is for the new player to get to a decent playing level. And whether we like it or not, that turns a lot of people off of a game because no-one likes to get smashed every single time they play with next to no hope of winning!

I’ll explain…

Let’s talk about win probability in detail. If you play regularly, you will probably be able to sort your regular opponents into categories that you either…

· …can’t beat

· …beat 1/10

· …beat around 5/10

· …beat 9/10

· …always beat

Right now, I’m not convinced there is enough impact from the variable elements in Guild Ball to allow the 1/10 or 9/10 win-rates to be statistically probable. This is why some players will argue over millimeters!

Against a given opponent, you will either win every time, lose every time or if you have an equal skill then it’ll be 50:50 between you both. In the 50:50 bracket, the determining factor in a single game of Guild Ball is usually a single dice roll or a single decision, which leads to a punishingly low level of tolerance inherent in the game. Therefore, if the deciding factor is not making a mistake, this leads to a low-risk style of play being more successful and being adopted across the competitive community. This then becomes the de-facto way to play the game because that’s what all the key influencers are talking about. So to my eyes at least, players currently seem to play to “not lose”, rather than “playing to win”.

So going back to the three key elements of player-skill for a minute. Ideally, I think the game would require an even and equal balance of all these items. Let’s steal a term from fighting games and call this the ‘neutral’ position of the game.

It must be noted that Neutral is a fluid position, it changes constantly as models get added and core rules get polished. Look at it in terms of relative value when calculating player-skill, when the Knowledge aspect continually grows and therefore the gap between new and experienced players also gets ever wider, this then forces the Decision Making to get smaller (in comparison to Knowledge) which in turn leads to less reliable Predicting so this aspect reduces too. In this form, the game meta then starts to hinge around key set-plays and patterns, which further increases the Knowledge requirement and we can easily see a vicious circle occurring.

Right now, think about it…how many pivotal moments in games are dominated by a fully-loaded captain or power-model? As opposed to good positioning of a team and solid all-round play? And then when you come up against this, if you know the set-play then you might be able to counter it, but if you don’t then you simply lose the game because a single mistake is all that’s needed.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is fine for skill gaps to exist, this is why the game is so addictive as I mentioned briefly before. Every game gives you a tiny bit of experience that helps you get better and so your player-skill grows with practice, playing and studying the game. I think it is entirely reasonable for the more skilled player to win more often, but not to a 100% win rate level. The game inherently needs a more volatile game-state to allow a weaker player to compensate somehow for their (relative) weakness and steal a game or two. I’m not saying drive this down to 50:50 regardless of skill gap, that would be too random, but the 1/10 and 9/10 scenarios need to be brought into play, ideally, they would be closer to 7-8/10 and 2-3/10 correspondingly.

Reference to Magic the Gathering, arguably the world’s most successful competitive game in our hobby’s history…ever! Pro versus amateur, win rates are closer to 60:40 in favor of the pro. Pros will know they will win more games than not, but they go into each game with the excitement and tension of not knowing for certain…and we see the MtG circuit growing and growing after all this time. It is interesting to think about…

I think I, therefore, want to make the difference in skill between players a little more ‘ephemeral’ and a bit harder to define clearly. But to do this, we need a little more variance in the game.

But this is where it can all go wrong if we’re not careful. Undefined variance is not helpful, we need to look at the player skill attributes and deliberately source or create our variance from specific aspects of the game ecosystem, in order to bring the game closer to neutral.

Having looked at the game for some time, I think we can initially attack this from several different angles in pursuit of the neutral balance:

· Shrink the knowledge gap by lowering the volume of data points that need to be learned.

· Emphasise the execution of play by making board control and positioning more important.

· De-emphasise set-plays and patterns (which like Fools Mate in chess, will not work if you know about them but will work if you don’t).

· Emphasise the need for better Predicting skills to win.

Further, to provide a cushion and to encourage more open play, we need to find ways to increase the tolerance of mistakes and try to reduce games being decided on a single decision or dice roll if we can.

So despite the popular view right now is that we don’t need a Field Test, I believe there’s actually a lot of tinkering we must do for the health of the game state right now!

The knowledge aspect has got way too big and it is crushing all other aspects of the game. Much like Rito’s Close Season, the Guild Ball Field Test is a process for us to come together as a community and talk about the game, bounce some ideas around and see what seems fun and what doesn’t. In the background, I’ll be parsing the feedback/data and working out how each idea affects the game state itself and slowly forming a new season’s ruleset to take the game forward.

I’ll be mostly working on Guild Ball over the weekend (gotta find those dev hours from somewhere!) so I will be around and about. Then next week I’m expecting to publish the actual proper guidelines for the Field Test via the official SFG channels, this will set out how its all going to work and what we need (hope) from all of the community.

Phew! That was long! But hopefully gives you all some insight into the thinking behind what we’re looking at during this Field Test. I don’t really do FB anymore so any questions or useful comments, then find me on Twitter (@c4rp3r) instead of here, but please be nice, to me and to each other, we all want the same thing and there’s enough nastiness in the world already…

Exciting times to come!

What’s in a name? Free Cities Draft part 1

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but with the imminent release of the first wave of the Free Cities Draft  models, it seems a perfect time to do another – What’s in a name?


As a recap, the Free Cities Draft was a community-involved Guild Ball event last year, where players played matches and voted for which Guild they wanted a rookie player to go.  Further details can be found here.

The Free Cities Draft players were named before they joined their drafted Guild’s, so unlike most players, their names don’t fit into the Guild’s usual naming structure. I believe there was a discussion about changing the players names, but this didn’t progress.

Knuckles – Fisherman’s Guild

The knuckles are the joints of the fingers, particularly prominent when formed into a fist.  The name also brings about thought’s of bare-knuckle boxing and as Knuckles was a heavy in a gang before taking to Guild Ball so fits the name well.


Layne – Butcher’s Guild

Layne is a enigmatic striker of prodigious talent but has more than his fair share of personal demons, including drug use which makes him erratic.

Layne is an in-game tribute to the late Alice in Chains lead singer, Layne Staley.



Edge – Hunter’s Guild

Edge was revealed to be Skatha’s sister and although her appearance is ‘edgy’, edge does fit well as a Hunter’s name as it invokes thoughts of the edge of the map/wilderness.



Gaffer – Mortician’s Guild

The use of the word gaffer, is first documented in the late 16th century and appears to be a contraction of godfather.  In British English, it is colloquially used to mean a foreman or boss, as well as commonly used to refer to sports coaches.

Gaffer was the rookies coach in the Free Cities Draft and remains a coach now.

The campaign to recruit Gaffer to the Mortician’s was driven by Ritch of Beard Minis and his catchphrase even made it onto the card as the Legendary Play.



I managed to obtain an early release copy of Gaffer and the casting was excellent. The new resin mix seems more rigid than previously and has very little clean up.



The model itself is great with Gaffer wreathed in spirit flames, staring at Ghast’s mask whilst a ghostly mouth (presumably Ghast) is whispering in his ear.


Amber – Farmer’s Guild

Amber was originally in the Brewer’s Guild before being kicked out, so her name likely links to that.

Amber, as well as being a description of her hair colour, is a term that is becoming more common to describe pale ales that are brewed with a proportion of amber malt.

The phrase amber nectar has been used to describe beer since the 19th century and is the tag line for the Australian children’s soft drink Foster’s.




Until next time sports fans!

Send in the Vanguard!

Hello folks,

It’s been a while, but as always real life gets in the way sometimes.

It’s been a busy year so far and as always my inner hobby butterfly got the better of me and I’ve been playing all sorts – Guild Ball, Age of Sigmar, 40k, Lion Rampant, Mordheim, Moonstone (everyone should play this!) to name a few…

Hopefully, I’ll be able to have some more regular updates soon.


On that note, as some of you may be aware, Mantic Games recently announced a new initiative where six clubs across the world would be given everything they needed to start playing the King of War: Vanguard game (the skirmish sister of the massed battle game). Amazingly my local club, Milton Hundred Wargames Club was chosen as one of six in the world (and one of two in the UK) to participate.


The club has been provided with enough for six players to start and they will track how they are getting on over the next few months.

Although I’m not part of this trial, I’ve played Vanguard a few times and I think they are in for a treat! It’s a really interesting rule set and I do have a weakness for  skirmish games.

The participants are: Olly, Steve, Rob, Dave, Christopher and Mark.

The Milton Hundred Wargames Club is based in Sittingbourne in Kent and we meet on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month from 18:30 – 22:00. The club has about 30 members and plays a vast range of historical and fantasy/sci fi games in almost all scales. The club also runs the Broadside show every June, which recently got another great write up in the August Edition of Miniature Wargames magazine (Thanks John!)

If you are interested in finding out more feel free to look us up on Facebook or pop down to see what’s going on.

Until next time (hopefully soon)!

Guild Ball – New Captains: Mourn The Nightmare

So quite unexpectedly Steamforged Games have announced four new Captains for Guild Ball. One in particular caught my eye and that is Mourn of the Mortician’s Guild.


Following the events of the beginning of Season 4 where **SPOILERS** Scalpel kills Obulus, we were given a story based upon a Christmas Carol, called A Free Cities Carol where Scalpel is visited by the ghost of Obulus. At the end of the story the ‘future spirit’ appears:

“a figure lurched into view, but a child at first glance. Lank hair ran like long streaks of oil from her scalp, its dark hue a stark contrast to the deathly pallor of her skin. In a hideous parody of the Solthecian carollers, the girl held a large candle in the palm of an upturned hand, seemingly uncaring of the molten wax which dripped down to sear her flesh.

Horrified, the Spirit Weaver turned to speak once more to the Ferryman’s shade, only to find him absent. Her gaze swept to the open pages of his tome, a single silver coin placed on its aged parchment the only indication of his presence. She returned to the doorway just as the mournful child lurched through, the grave light illuminating the metal discs set into the vacant sockets of her eyes. Scalpel didn’t need to look closely to know they would be one and same as the Ferryman’s tokens.

The Murderer bowed her head.

Dead he may be, but the Ferryman’s legacy lived on.”

Unknown at the time, this is now Mourn, The Nightmare, The Mournful Child.

This has then been followed with a brief story from Scalpel’s perspective:

GB-S4-Captains-Mourn.jpgSome of the initial suggestions have been that ‘the Ferryman’s legacy’ may refer to her being either his child or his apprentice. However, I feel the truth may be far darker than that.

Looking at the artwork she doesn’t appear to be entirely human with oversized clawed hands, not to mention that her eyes have been replaced with coins (or Obolos). Could it be that the link isn’t from Obulus to her but rather that the tokens are a sign of her favour to him?

What if she has been the driving force behind Obulus’ power and influence and that she needed a sacrifice of a master by a protégé to enable her to cross the veil into the world?

What if everything up to this point has been part of her plan, rather than Obulus’?


As for how she’ll play on the table, control is a fairly obvious guess. I can see the candle playing into some sort of area control and the a play called ‘Snuff Out’ is hopefully not ignored.

She seems to be carrying a number of weapons and there are also obvious links to rats.

It’s going to be a big ask for her to replace either Scalpel or Obulus in a roster though.

Until next time sports fans!


Hobby goals 2019

I guess it’s that time of the year again to set out some hobby goals for the year ahead.

2018 was a bit of a weird one and I didn’t have anywhere near enough time to dedicate to the hobby as I would have liked. Couple that with the fact that I am very much a hobby butterfly flitting from one idea to the next, I really got nothing substantial done.

With that in mind, in 2019 I am going to concentrate my time across a three projects and see if I can stick to them.

They are:

Guild Ball – Ratcatcher’s


For me, Guild Ball is still one of the best and most fun games I have ever played and I’m obviously going to continue playing in 2019. I’m not much of a tournament player so this will likely continue to be casually or in small local events.

I am also going to concentrate on Ratcatcher’s for a foreseeable future. I have been playing Morticians since Season 1 and although I really like them, I just not as enthused to play them as I once was (probably in no small part to their recent rise in popularity).

I’ve loved the idea behind the Ratcatcher’s since I first heard about them and especially liked the ‘rat trap’ play style of season 3 as well as their aesthetic. Although they have changed somewhat in season 4 I am going to stick with them. However, at the moment I find them difficult to play, find them inefficient and unforgiving of any mistakes. Couple this with me being a mediocre player at best it’s going to be a challenging 2019 Guild Ball wise.


God Tear


Steamforged are due to release God Tear this year and as a Kickstarter backer I am excited to see what’s to come for this. I think it’s a good mix of wargaming and boardgaming to keep a lot of my friends interested who generally only engage with one or the other.

The game looks to be shaping up to be quite good, although there have been a few controversies along the way (not least the ridiculous change to Grimshalla).

Grimshalla and her Retches - now added to your pledge for FREE!

I have high hopes for this game and hope SFG don’t disappoint.


The other ‘project’ I am going to pursue is:

Warhammer 40,000/ Age of Sigmar – Daemons of Slaanesh

I started wargaming about 20-odd years ago and it was Games Workshop that brought me into the hobby. I had steadily drifted away from Games Workshop games but 2018 really peaked by interest again and I’m really enthused to pick up both 40k and AoS.

I’ve played a few games of both towards the end of last year an thoroughly enjoyed them. Slaanesh has always held an interest and with some of the recent releases and rumoured future releases, I’m back baby!

I really want to get at least a small army painted and on the table in 2019 and have a couple of friends locally who are doing the same so hopefully we will keep each other on track.

I am hoping to use the blog this year to continue to post some Guild Ball content (lore and games) as well as record my progress with Slaanesh.

Until next time.

The Free Cities Draft – Guild Ball

The Free Cities Draft | Guild Ball

So the 2018 Guild Ball narrative campaign is upon us and it looks like we have some exciting things in store. Like the Union in Chains and Butcher’s Civil War campaigns, coaches will go head to head in a race to affect how the Guild Ball story progresses.

This year there are 10 new players available (one for each of the Major Guilds – barring The Union), and Steamforged Games will be releasing regular scout reports on each of them to help coaches decide who to focus on.

For this event two different statistics are tracked:

  1. How many games are reported for each Guild. This determines the order in which the Guilds will make their selections at the end of the event. The Guild with the highest amount of reported games overall make their draft before any of their rivals, followed by the second highest, then third, and so on
  2. The level of popularity of each new player for each Guild. At the end of the event player popularity will decide who each Guild recruits, when their turn at the draft comes.

As you can see it’s important for coaches representing the same Guild to have a co-ordinated approach to who will be the top pick, otherwise you risk diluting the votes.

I’m firmly nailing my colours to the Mortician’s mast!



Image may contain: meme and text

The campaign begins on the 24th September and will run until 10th November, with the draft taking place at Steamcon UK.

The first scout report is below:


In all honesty, she doesn’t seem a bad pick for the Morticians! What do you think we need? A striker is the obvious answer but a more robust damage dealer wouldn’t go amiss either.

Until next time sports fans!

#GuildBallS4 #FreeCitiesDraft



What’s in a name? – Falconer’s Guild

Welcome back sports fans! This time we look at some of the possible inspirations for the latest Guild released for Guild Ball, the Falconer’s Guild.


Falconer’s Guild




Devana is the supposed Slavic equivalent of the Roman goddess Diana and so is a goddess of forests, wild things and hunting.



Frelsi is the Icelandic word for freedom or liberty because…




Ikaros is an alternative spelling of Icarus, the character form Greek mythology who used a pair of wings his father build to fly, but flew too close to the Sun causing the wings to fall apart and he fell to his death.



Mataagi is probably named after the the Matagi (Japanese: 又鬼) who are traditional winter hunters of the Tōhoku region of northern Japan


Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare, who was closely associated with owls.



Rundaas is probably named after the Hittite god of the hunt and of good fortune whose emblem was a double eagle with a hare in each talon.

Until next time sports fans!

Fangtooth Reborn


Hello Sports Fans,

Today we have a quick look at the final model to join The Order, Veteran Fangtooth.

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He’s a very different prospect than his original incarnation. With higher MOV, KICK, ARM and INF, his playbook and Character Plays and Traits are different too.

It’s as if he is permanently Unleashed!

Whatever The Order has done to him has cleared him of his stench too.

Gluttonous Mass has been renamed to Resilience, I’m assuming to allow the trait to be used for players who aren’t on the large size.

Until next time Sports Fans!


Learning to Fish


So, I’ve been playing Morticians for just over 3 years now (how time flies) and the more Season 3 goes on the less I feel I can get the most out of them.

I had been toying with the idea of jumping ship over to the Ratcatcher’s, as their play-style seems very interesting to me. However, I’ve never really been that comfortable with the football side of the game and my Morticians have usually been leaning towards the 1-4 (or 1-3 with Casket Time) play-style, so I feel it’s time for a dramatic change.


I’ve decided jump in with both feet and I’m hoping to be playing the Fisherman’s Guild for a while (at least until season 4) and will probably be leaning on Shark a lot to try and concentrate on the ballgame.

I’m hoping to write a series of blogs on things I’ve picked up along the way.

If you have any hints, tips or suggested resources please post them below.

Spigot – Third of his Name


Hello Sports Fans,

Today we have a quick look at the next model to join The Order, Seasoned Spigot.

GB-S3-Union-Spigot3-page-001 (1)GB-S3-Union-Spigot3-page-002 (1)

He’s a real mixture of both the original and Veteran versions, retaining Close Control and Ball’s Gone, whilst regaining Floored which he lost in his Veteran version.

He’s lost a couple of points of health but has gained a point of Armour.

Reading the Game also ties in nicely with Seasoned Brisket’s game as another way of moving the ball from a previously activated model.

Until next time Sports Fans!