Many of you have probably seen the new "Guild identity cards" that Steamforged currently have on beta test. Essentially you can (must) choose one of three benefits for your team before the game. The strength of these benefits is balanced by altering the rate at which your team heals damage when using "Take a breather" or "Come on mate". Better benefits mean that you heal less and vice versa.
As part of the playtest I headed to Manchester, spiritual home of Guild Ball for a casual tournament run but Steamforged's own Jamie Perkins to see how these Guild "identities" played out.
I'm not going to run through each game in too much detail and you'll understand why when I tell you that across three rounds I played against Brewers three times In a row. And that's despite every guild save Engineers being represented. Shame I didn't get to play against the Blacksmiths.
It was a bit on a crash course in how to play against Brewers, with similar lineups each time:
Game 1.) Tapper, Scum, Hooper, Friday, Spigod1, Mash
Game 2.) Tapper, Scum, Hooper, Friday, Spigod1, Pintpot
Game 3.) Tapper, Scum, Hooper, Friday, Spigod2, Pintpot (Steve Margetson, SF employee)
Me: Obulus, Dirge, Graves1, Casket, Ghast, Mist (unused Cosset, Scalpel, Graves2, Brainpan & memory)
Game 1.) Take Tapper to the face. Obulus, Ghast, Casket and Graves die although it takes a few rounds and their noble sacrifice allows Mist to slot away two goals. I nearly lose to a Mash snapshot but the big man is engaged and flubs the shot. Final Score: 12-8
Game 2.) A slightly less experienced Brewers player who wasn't prepared for Puppetmaster nor for Unpredictable movement keeping Obulus safe from Pintpot (despite my advice). Final Score: 12-4
Game 3.) The only one of our beautiful Brewer bro's to attend the church of Spigod2. Things didn't start well when Mist mist a first turn goal and stared embarrassed at a smirking Tapper before being put out his misery.
That was bad, but without 'Time's Called' I was able to dictate the engagement slightly more favourably and managed to put Friday in the Casket, somewhat mitigating the missed goal. I slotted another away whilst sacrificing Casket and Ghast before getting the ball back to Obulus. I then spent a worrying amount of time paranoidly trying to work out how to stop Spigot getting the ball of Obulus until my opponent kindly reminded me that he only has a 1" melee and I'm safe. I have forgotten how to Obulus. Spigod is not all powerful it seems. Final Score: 12-6
That left only myself and Mr Perkins on 3-0. Given the casual format, the time, and the fact he was running the event he granted me the "win".
The Brewers have a good selection of these new Guild Identities. My first opponent chose "Bring it On", the ability to remove a KD condition for free each turn, and heal 5 instead of 4 when healing. The other two chose "Another Round" for a free Heroic play per turn at the cost of a heal rate of 3..
Personally I chose "Misery" each time and this probably reflects my feelings about the options for Morticians.
A free INF per takeout is all well and good but it doesn't exactly break the bank (especially with my Morticians style) and certainly isn't worth the sacrifice of a heal rate of 3. The ability to both remove conditions AND heal in a turn is interesting. It's most likely at its strongest against Alchemists, my eternal foil. However, is it worth healing and removing conditions if you're only healing 3 instead of 4? Not to mention the momentum cost. Seems like a coin flip at best to me.
Finally, "Misery" affords me a free permanent INF each time my opponent scores. Maximum of 2 per game I guess but at least it comes with a heal rate of 4. I think that's the deal breaker for me, given how I play (2-3 central tanks with Mist and Obulus actually playing football). You'll have to offer me something substantial for me to go for anything less than heal rate 4. Perkins himself told me that heal rate 5 will never happen in Morticians so I guess that's the best I can hope for. So I chose "Misery" even knowing that the Brewers wouldn't push for too many goals. In fact across my three games they scored 0+0+0=0. And I don't regret a thing.
I had a good chat with the Steamforged Team, giving them some feedback about how the cards feel. I must say that after speaking to the dev team I'm less down on the cards as a whole. Not all Guild Identities are created equal. Sure the Morticians ones are uninspiring but that's an indicator that the Guild itself is rather balanced. Brewers need a leg up and so get quite good ones. Apparently Union haven't been performing well so they get honestly quite ridiculous ones.
Are Guild Identities a suitable solution to game balance? Or are they simply a sticking plaster on a problem that may be impossible to solve? I suppose only time will tell.
- This report brought to you by Jammie Dodgers. Ask Chris Baker why I guess.