Guild Ball

This is my first proper foray into the Blogosphere and I thought I’d dedicate it to an amazing game called Guild Ball. Guild Ball is a game of mob football set in a low fantasy setting, loosely based on the medieval period with elements of Victorian gothic horror thrown in.

Each of the participating teams represents a Guild in the world that has its own political agenda and each team having a distinctive playstyle (more on this later).

The rules and paper version of the models are available here: http://guildball.com/#downloads, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t try the game!

I have been wargaming for the better part of 20 years having started with Games Workshop and then expanding into other areas. Skirmish wargaming (especially Mordheim) has always held a huge draw for me, in no small part due to the low model count of figures that need to be painted. I will be the first to admit that I come to this hobby as a gamer rather than as a modeller. I enjoy the preparation and execution of a plan far more than I do painting or modelling. I will quite happily sit down and digest rule books for fun.  I’ve read and played many rules but my three absolute favourites are Kings of War, Bolt Action and Guild Ball.

The Guild Ball rules have an elegant simplicity to them that belies the tactical depths the game offers. They are well written and offer a quick but effective (and fun) experience.  There are two main ways that the game can be won; either scoring goals or taking out your opponents players. These extremes are typified by the two showcase Guilds the Fishermen and the Butchers. Each of the Guilds has a different set of strengths and weaknesses that I will discuss below.

The game uses an alternating activation system where each player activates one model, followed by their opponent in initiative order (which is determined each turn).  Players have two main resources that they can use in a turn; Influence (generated by players at the beginning of the turn) and Momentum (generated by actions within the turn). This dual resource system leads to an even greater diversity in playstyles.

I’ve shamelessly borrowed this from a post on the Guild Ball Supporters Facebook group and the Guild Ball store, but I think it’s really helpful in understanding the Guilds. The development team behind Guild Ball have broken each team down into 30 points allocated to different strengths (the higher the better) and gives a good demonstration of each team’s playstyle.

Alchemists

Melee Damage – 5

Ranged Damage – 3

Ball Control – 6

Speed – 6

Toughness – 3

Special – 7

Alchemists’ play style is one of force projection. They utilise a lot of AOE to control space and deny their opponents manoeuvrability. Their combo play comes from layering AOEs and generating huge areas of danger across the pitch.

They are quick on their feet and capable with the ball, but not as resilient in combat as other teams. They excel in the early to mid-game due to their ability to cover a good amount of space.

Alchemists will reward players who can anticipate their opponent’s plans and block them through good placement and positioning of models and effects. On offense, Alchemists can use their AOEs almost as additional models in order to restrict the counter play options of their opponent. No one wants to charge the Alchemist with the ball if you have to go through an acid cloud!

Fantasy archetype: Kind of wizardy

Brewers

Melee Damage – 7

Ranged Damage – 2

Ball Control – 5

Speed – 3

Toughness – 8

Special – 5

Brewers are tanky. Plain and simple, they are incredible at soaking damage up.

But their play style is more than just being hit. They excel in late game as they generally have superior numbers left at this point, but their mid-game is also strong due to their knockdowns and board control.

Not the most synergistic in terms of combo play, they do enjoy some degree of team buffing. Brewers generate the most momentum when pushing opponents in to and out of position with buffeting blows and plays.

Relatively slow up and down the field, the Brewers rely on long reach weapons and easy access to pushes and knockdowns, thereby giving them huge board presence and control.

Fantasy archetypes: Dwarves

Butchers

Melee Damage – 8

Ranged Damage – 3

Ball Control – 4

Speed – 6

Toughness – 5

Special – 4

Butchers’ play style has been designed to be quite straightforward. They are masters of the mid to late game. They excel at damage output and generate a lot of momentum through combat and damage effects. They provide each other with a good assortment of buffs and debuffs in order to allow combo play. Butchers mainly focus on raw damage.

That’s not to say that they don’t have some surprises up their sleeves – characters like Shank and Boiler can pop up and surprise you with their goal threats if you’re not careful …

Fantasy archetype: Orcs

Engineers

Melee Damage – 3

Ranged Damage – 5

Ball Control – 7

Speed – 5

Toughness – 6

Special – 4

The Engineers play style is one of accuracy and controlling space. They utilise all manner of gadgets, devices and traps to influence the flow and direction of the game. From a distance, the Engineers players move as one giant machine, perfectly in sync with each other…

Resilient in combat, accurate with the ball, the Engineers have a solid play style. Whilst not as mobile as some teams, they are able to move the ball great distances and accurately too. They excel in the mid-game, once all the pieces are in place they can control the pitch while pinging the ball around their opponent.

Fantasy archetype: Hard to say – ranged damage dealers.

Fishermen

Melee damage – 3

Ranged damage – 1

Ball control – 8

Speed – 8

Toughness – 5

Special – 5

The Fisherman play style is all about movement and raw goal-scoring potential. They are dominant in the early game and can easily draw one or two goals ahead very quickly. However, mid to late game they need to be wary, especially if they lose a player or two.

They excel at movement and kicking the ball – they are practically all about offense. Their combo play revolves around (re)positioning and exploitation of space.

Whilst not entirely equipped with raw damage soaking defence, they instead have far subtler defensive options that focus much more on space control.

Comparing the Fishermen to a fantasy archetype they would definitely have to be Elves.

Masons

Melee Damage – 6

Ranged Damage – 1

Ball Control – 6

Speed – 5

Toughness – 6

Special – 6

Masons’ play style is all about balance and subtle flexibility. They have strong but not outstanding offensive and defensive options available to them. With a good mix of buffs and debuffs forming the foundation of their combo play, they need each other to excel.

They are equipped to play well during all phases of the game without a definitive focus on any key area, which is why they are the most flexible of teams to play. They have the tools and the play style to adapt to every situation, as long as you can piece them together properly.

Mason rewards players who can see and build play to effect combos, and then take advantage of any situation.

Fantasy archetype: Humans

Morticians

Melee Damage – 6

Ranged Damage – 2

Ball Control – 4

Speed – 4

Toughness – 6

Special – 8

Morticians’ play style is about planning and execution. They control play with a huge amount of influence at their disposal, along with the ability to steal more from their opponent. Their play feels very much like setting traps, triggering the snare and then punishing their opponent. Mid-game is where they really shine – once well laid plans have turned to mush, Morticians can begin to dictate the play.

Morticians provide an interesting take on ‘force projection’ by making their opponents consider how and where they’re going to position models.

Morticians will reward players who like to dominate and control the game by playing mind tricks on their opponents.

Fantasy archetype: Aesthetically they have strong Undead influences but to me they play more like Slaaneshi Daemons (for anyone with Warhammer experience).

The Union

Melee Damage – 4-7

Ranged Damage – 1-3

Ball Control – 3-7

Speed – 3-6

Toughness – 3-6

Special – 3-6

The Union play style is one of role specialism and individual play. They have an array of strong options across attack. Their defensive game isn’t as strong due to their focus on assassin or surgical removal style play. You need a game plan; set them up to deliver it and you will win. Think of these like a team of precision scalpels – just don’t try chopping down trees with them!

Their strength and flexibility comes from matching the right players to do the job you need before proceeding. Each model is simply strong at what it does, and doesn’t require assistance to do it. This is a team with little to no buffing. Want a big tanky guy taken down, send in Decimate … Want their backfield defensive midfielder to stop playing out buffs everywhere, Snakeskin will deliver … Just want someone messed up, Gutter’s the girl.

Fantasy archetype: Dogs of War, Mercenaries…there to fill weaknesses in your own line up.  The standalone team is highly flexible and is a ‘jack of all trades’ team (like the Masons) but is comprised more of specialists where the Masons are more generalists.

The Secret Game

The more I play this game and the more I read the rules, the more I am convinced that there is a ‘secret game’ hiding beneath the actual rules. One where different player combinations open up possibilities that isn’t explicitly included in the rules.  I can see bits of the puzzle forming in a nebulous way but just can’t grasp it.  Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?

The Morticians are currently the team that I am concentrating on at the momentum and I hope to provide some tips and tactics in future posts as well as ‘showcasing’ my quite frankly poor painting skills.

I feel that there are a lot of hidden combos available to the Morticians and Silence provides a lot of flexibility to the team.  For some reason though (for reasons I just can’t fathom) I just feel that Graves is the key.

Image is © 2014 Steamforged Games Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

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