Monday, October 9, 2017

Guild Identities. Who am I?

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".

Guild Identities

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.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

British Championships: Wubba Lubba dub dub

Apologies for the delay, I'm sure you've all been on tenterhooks waiting to hear how I won the British National tournament a couple of weeks ago. Or did I? Read on friend.

A possibly disappointing 64 players still made this the largest tourney I think I've been to. Whilst there were some friendly faces in the crowd I was hoping to meet new and interesting people opponents. And kill beat them.

A good spread of teams!

I took my usual lineup of Obulus, Dirge, Ghast and Mist. Last two slots were a choice of Graves1, Graves2, Casket and Brainpan& Memory. You're probably familiar with my reasoning. Casket if I know I'll be dragged into a fight and want to players who take a lot of work to get taken down, otherwise Brainpan & Memory in that slot. I've also started to favour Casket if i know I'm facing teams who can keep the ball away from me (fighty Alchemists with Naja for example, or Vitriol/Snakeskin with clone) so I can aim for two goals one takeout rather than the three. I can't say I'm getting bored of these options but maybe in future I should force myself to try Scalpel and Cosset more.

Game 1: Dave Culver (Brewers)

One of the 'Culver brothers', I think Dave has been playing Brewers for a good long time. I'm pretty sure I saw his goal at the first tournament I ever went to.

He took a pretty standard Brewers lineup but with Friday in the space that might otherwise have been taken by Avarisse & Greede/Pintpot if he was going "full beater". This actually ended up as a stroke of genius. I took Casket instead of B&M because Brewers.

He received and passed down the line, managing to stay out of puppetmaster range until Friday managed to slot in an opening goal. I should have kicked off with Obulus. I reply with a Mist goal, though almost certainly dooming him to a beat down.

That indeed happens and Mist and Graves1 go down to the drunken deluge whilst my opponent masterfully keeps the ball away from Obulus' grasp, though he can't quite score himself.

It's taken almost his whole team to take down my boys, and now they're stranded on the far side of the pitch. Friday is isolated and ends up in the coffin before an unchallenged Obulus bounces off Stoker for a winning goal.

Final Score: 12-8

Lesson learned: Don't assume all Brewers players are aiming for 6-0 or 4-1. Friday is slippery and being 0-4 down to a hitty team on turn one is bad.

I'm also loving Casket more and more. Not in every game, but his legendary play has gotten me out of a few sticky situations that probably would have otherwise ended with me losing 10-12.

Game 2: James Coleman (Fishermen)

I've seen recently that it's trendy amongst some Fish players to get a whole lot of work out of Salt, including a turn one goal. With Jac, he has a potential 26"ish threat on goal (the majority of that being dodges) without any teamwork actions. However putting 3INF on the little fellow on turn one is rather a giveaway. If I'm playing someone who is going to try and get a lot of work out of Salt that I'll take Graves2. Outside of charges, TAC2 does not like ARM2 and gravedigger can make it worth my while to go otter clubbing (like seal clubbing more even more inhumane).

Nevertheless he tries a Salt turn one goal but due to terrain and other players he leaves Salt within puppetmaster range. The ball is now mine and my opponent goes 0-4 down on turn one after receiving. Ouch. 

It's never easy for Shark, Salt, Angel, Greyscales, Jac and Sakana to recover from that. Probably one of the reasons I doubt I'll ever play Fish.

Final Score: 12-8

Lesson Learned: Salt is still a tricksy mister and I need to be more careful about player placement to make it harder for him to tag that goal.

Game 3: Chris Tamplin (Hunters)

I've seen Chris around but never had a chance to play his rather nice looking Hunters until now. It turns out he was a priest of Theron BEFORE the errata, so now he's just the happiest Hunters player who ever was.

I receive and manoeuvre for the Turn1 Mist goal. I don't know why this guy isn't more prevalent. People still love A&G so I'm happy for them to take them instead I guess. After spending far too long measuring where to put Mist to avoid Hearne's retaliation (including forestjumping), I settle on a spot that completely forgets about the forestjumping. I know, I can't explain it either. Brainfart. 

"Well it'd be rude of me not to kill him now" says the ever gentlemanly Chris. Mist goes down to Hearne. Silly Dave.

It descends into a bit of a scrap, with me taking out Theron and even getting Hearne in the Casket while he duffs up Graves and Ghast. 10-6 to me, still a pretty sweet spot right?

But I'm not used to playing Hunters. Especially not Theron. Especially not after the errata. I "umm" and I "ahh" and I clock out.

He shuffles.

I can't get to the ball or kill anyone.

He shuffles.

I can't get to the ball or kill anyone.

He shuffles.

I can't get to the ball or kill anyone.

In my panic I've forgotten to heal a beaten and snared Mist, who goes down to a rabid Fahad.

Final Score: 12-10

Lesson Learned: Gah! No one to blame but myself, I faffed about when I could've made clear and straightforward decisions and saved myself time. Clock management people, learn it.

It was about this time that I start receiving the "you'd better be on the top table so we can see you on the stream" messages from you guys. Well **** you ;)

Game 4: James Reeves (Masons)

Going to time, clocking out and losing means that you have very little time to lick your wounds before the next game. I won't lie, I was mentally exhausted even later into the evening.

I've played James before, he's the Masons player who took the 'non traditional' team consisting of Hammer, Granite, Wrecker, vHarmony, Tower and Minx at the last tournament. 

He changed his mind this time and took the usual Honour, Brick, Flint, Mallet and, oddly, Wrecker. He tells me he doesn't have room in his 10 for both mascots and both captains and doesn't always play Brick so finds Marbles less useful than Wrecker. Another nonstandard viewpoint but I respect him for it!

I can't quite recollect the ebb and flow of this game (see above re mental exhaustion) but I score and in response he triggers a 6 point activation with an Honour and Harmony linked activation. Powerful stuff, hard to avoid. I must have hidden the ball and scored at the end of the next turn after using Rigor Mortis to guarantee the first activation of the following turn to score again. It's all rather a blur.

Final Score 12-6

Lesson Learned: You know I think I want to play Masons. Honour's output is just a spectacle to watch, and a linked 6 point activation must feel so good


Q&A session: The Steamforged guys kindly sat down for a bit of a preview of next year's models and a Q&A. My main concern/question was that although me knew at some point they would stop expanding the guilds, the move to six man boxes rather than blisters appears to be a rather tacit admission that we've now reached that point (unless they're going to announce six new Morticians players at once). Time to find new guilds boys, nothing to see here.

Game 5: Barrie Voice (Alchemists)

The next morning, and time to see how much the errata has crippled old Midas! Thankfully he took Katalyst instead of vKatalyst. You all know my feelings on that vhunk of vbroken.

As it turns out, the errata changes have not overly affected Midas. He is still his old pushdodging self. I make no excuses for this game, I played dreadfully. I gave Midas one too many openings and he exploited them beautifully. Of course 5INF is enough for Midas to push/dodge his way to Obulus, tackle the ball and score. I have no defence for thinking that it wouldn't be. 

I tired hard, and knowing that I'd be outscored I put Vitriol in the coffin again to make up some ground but ultimately the Alchemists always had the game in hand.

Final Score 12-8

Lesson Learned: I got complacent about Midas. No excuses for that. Give him an inch and he'll take a mile. He's still just as powerful in all honesty.

Game 6: Oliver Visick (Fishermen)

Oliver was another new face, so I was doing quite well on that front. I'd also done well on not repeating an opponent Guild until now, the second Fisherman player of the weekend. He also took Shark and a football heavy team including the now well recognised Jac/Salt combo. I almost wish that people would take Corsair against me as I feel woefully unprepared!

This game did not go poor Oliver's way. I received and scored at the end of turn one. For some reason he had no one in an ideal spot for the kickoff so didn't immediately score in response. Taking his opportunity, Mist managed to pluck the ball back off Siren and score again for 8-0. Sad times for the Fish. 

I'll be honest, the challenge was now seeing if I could win 12-0 rather than just winning. That may sound harsh but I wondered if it was do-able in a tournament setting against Fishermen. Sakana is quicker than I remembered however, and managed to get a shot off..

....which he missed! Leaving the ball sad and alone until Salt got to it to put the Fish on the scoreboard at 8-4. With 12-0 out of the equation I scored again asap in case anything else went wrong.

Final Score: 12-4

Lesson Learned: If I ever DO play Fish, I think it'll be Corsair.

Final thoughts

Those of you who watched the streams may have seen Aaron Wilson's Morticians pull off a (perhaps) surprise win against Steve Easton's Engineers, putting him 3rd overall and so of course I was not the top Morticians player. I did come away with the giftbag swag for attending which included a LE Morticians ball. Yeah baby! 4-2 and 17th/64 overall is something I think I can live with. Just have to learn how to deal with Alchemists, my Achilles heal.

Of special note for the weekend was friend of mine called Quinn Duggan who ripped open his Farmers box on Friday evening and even managed to get three colours on them by Saturday morning. With Tater not yet officially released Quinn was trapped into the original six plus Benediction. The mad fool was the sole Farmers representative (so guaranteed the world's first official "Best Farmer" award) but even managed to go 4-2 into the bargain, ending 23/64. A fair dinkum achievement I think you'll agree. Farmers seem more and more appealing...

Next time: Spreading my wild oats?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

July 2017 Errata - Analysis from our foremost experts

Howdy sports fans!  Today we bring you a special feature (at least as special as the 40 other features doing this exact same thing), rich with provocative analysis and spicy meme references.

Our commentators on this ride will be:

  • Peter Williamson, first and only winner of the Billy Wijnveld Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.
  • David Stent, future Australasian Guild Ball champion and veteran scene analyst.
  • Handsome David Cameron, an average player in the NZ meta but a veritable god in the UK scene.
  • JS Imbeau, a man with no Guild Ball achievements of note but not bad with a pen and paper.
  • Billy Wijnveld, Football Legend. A man of few, but momentous, words.


PW: All aboard the Steamforged Errata Express! Choo Choo. The train has picked up a captains from both ends of the spectrum and moved them closer to the middle. Equality in action, under the "no captain left behind" policy. The changes for me are all positive, regardless of whether it is a reduction in power or an increase.
Whilst I feel that one captain change might have been slightly hit too strong with the nerf bat and will consequently have the adverse effect on Steamforged goal of increasing diversity,  Alchemists and Fish were slightly above the curve according to statistics, the changes should see more diversity in team selection, and this can only be good, right? On top of that I do feel like they have narrowed the gap between captain selection, on most of the captains changed.

HD: Come gather round people, wherever you roam - The 2017 errata has dropped. For some people, the sky is falling. For others, a mariachi band has been their heads since they read the news. So what do I think?

JS: A good shakeup to the game, that as usual I feel did not quite go far enough – there’s a small number of players in each guild that just aren’t really seriously considered for 10 man rosters and this likely will not change that. Alas, one step at a time.

Billy: *glares thoughtfully*


HD: The second big change is to Alchemists. This really made me do my happy dance. I don't disagree with the top brass who say that Alchemists are the top guild currently. You'll have seen my last blog post where I faced Midas, Naja, Mist, Vitriol, vKatalyst and Compound and really didn't have an answer. Well now the Steamforged gods have smiled upon poor old me.
Midas was too much. That's as simple as I can put it. Virtually unkillable at 5/1 and a 10" goal threat just put him in superhero territory. I've already heard alchemist players say that toning him down will make them consider Smoke on an equal footing, and that can only be a good thing.

JS: Perhaps a little too much in one go. I’d have gone with just the change to the heroic (the +1 ARM was basically free money) and removing Light Footed (both because it made no sense and was partially to blame in losing me a game to Stent). Losing Super Shot is probably fair in that it was very ‘win more’, but not a fan on making Lure of Gold once per turn on top of that.

Billy: Overnerfed.


HD: As for Vitriol, that's just gravy. Again, I don't think anyone would claim that nothing needed to be done. I don't think I've ever played against an Alchemist team that didn't include her. That's a bad sign in a player. Losing such easy access to high damage was a good start but removing 'Cover of darkness' was simply a stroke of genius. If she kicked off and moved into cover then her threat range was simply unfair. Alchemist players might just reconsider her status as an auto include, and that can only be good for the game in my opinion

JS: I must have been the only person that didn’t find her completely unreasonable before. She was however still a clear auto-include so a tweak was justified. She kept Clone, 2” melee and Skilled Within Shadow so she’s still pretty legit. Dunno if the health nerf was necessary but doesn’t seem too bad overall.


JS: Ox had a shit playbook (about half as bad as Jac's). Now he has a pretty decent playbook. Kept everything else that made him cool. Good stuff.

Billy: Still shit.


PW: How do I call him the worst captain in the game now? I feel so hard done by with this change, although I feel he still doesn't touch Honour in terms of sheer awesomeness. He does provide a very different play style to her now. The Heroic changing to Legendary and the character play range increase, just allows for more of a big turn, rather than my feeling of before where popping his heroic just drained even more resources. Like I said, Honour still for me will be number 1, but I feel like I can at least play him now. Congratulations Hammer, your new title is "no longer the worst".

HD: Hammer is now categorically better. Again this balances the captains so he might get a look-in compared to Honour. Small enough tweaks that there doesn't feel anything specific to comment on, but big enough that he will certainly see more play. Good for the game, likely bad for Morticians.

JS: Verdict is out on the playbook changes (seems better to me), but that Legendary is very good. It’s basically choosing between Hammer being Ox, Spigod or Kicking Support activation by activation.

Billy: Might be alright.


PW: Yup he is the captain I feel that got hit overly hard with the changes. The changes to his legendary are certainly justified, but the changes to his third play book result are staggering (sorry). It just feels like a trash ability that you would only ever take if you just happen to roll 3 successes and don't need to do anything with that influence.  Stagger and a dodge would have been a better result in my opinion. With this change I just feel that Corsair will become everyone's default drop if they are not dealt Knee Slider and even then... why? The choice between the two was really close, but now it feels like Corsair is just a more all round solid drop.

HD: Shark had a minor range reduction on his legendary play, and Gut&String replaced with the less useful Stagger (arguably even less useful than a KD option). This was perhaps further than people expected them to go but it seems fair to me. Steamforged's reasoning that a combination of both plays led to a Haley2 level of "negative play experience" is something that rings true. No one needs that level of movement reduction. I empathise with those people saying it went too far - why not word the legendary play such that opposing players suffer "Gut&String"? That way it couldn't stack with his character play and a balance is still maintained. A further kick in the teeth is that Gut & String isn't gone from the game. Granite retains it as some sick taunt of what the Fisherman used to have.
My biggest fear regarding this nerf is that it will drive Fish players into the waiting nets of Corsair. My Morticians always seem to come up against Shark Fish, and I'm used to dealing with him (see earlier blog examples for my "Shark cage"). I'm far less used to dealing with Corsair, sad face.

JS: Most people thought Shark was weaker than Corsair before already (once you knew how to protect the ball) and this cements it. The Legendary range reduction is entirely justified, and -8/-8 (ie. not doing anything for an activation) was pretty traumatizing so don’t mind that being gone. I don’t think they hit the right lever in just removing G&S entirely though as that was a core part of the character and playstyle for me (moreso than the legendary).

Billy: Dead.


PW: Totally legit change, what more needs to be said. I feel like she still does everything she needs to, just has that threat ever so slightly reduced. It's not a huge change, but reasonable. Although Siren1 could always punch pretty hard too, so i guess this a reduction in damage for her as well as the following.

Billy: Well I never liked Siren1 anyway.

JS: Fine. It limits her potential ceiling, which was extremely high before. Now I can just miss 3+ DEF models with Seduced and not have 1 useless INF sitting on her. Thanks SFG. Still a strong model.


PW: It's a total blow to Corsairs main source of damage, The damage becoming non momentous is not that big a deal, but the extra column in the playbook, that's where the real sore point is. She just doesn't wrap as easily as she used to. So charging or having a lot of crowd outs her damage is severely reduced. All that said, you will still pick a Siren, they are both a mandatory pick, so dry your eyes petals, they are still way above most players in the game.

Billy: It's a fair change.

JS: Also fine, her momentous damage was very high with just a small amount of set up. Her damage output did go down the drain though as a result of the longer playbook, momentous or not. But she still does basically all the other cool stuff she did, so still has her place.Still in the roster.


PW: To be honest, I never felt that Theron was that bad, he had some real control elements to him and having snare on every attack makes him a good set up piece. His biggest weakness to me was that he wanted damage, rarely rolled the 3 hits on the first attack to get it. The momentous 1 now is unbelievably his biggest buff. After playing him he just feels like a strong captain now, he still sets up the rest of his team, but now he can hit people and influence the field with his heroic. My actual problem with the guy now is. Where the hell do i find the influence to put on him?

Billy: I didn't know what he did anyway.

JS: Things get pretty cool when you remove the Skornergy. Basically he’s the same as before except actually works efficiently – early activation, put out snares, get a bit more momentum doing his thing… enough to drag Hunters out of Hunter tier IMO.

Maybe this would have fit better under Midas than Hunters


PW: Hmm interesting. He's certainly a better piece, but I do wonder where he fits into the Hunters. I just have to experiment with the guy some more. He still makes a really terrible control piece. But I guess now you can fail that first roll and cry a little when you take singled out. I think his heroic change to allow himself a free skewer is a big deal. Does he replace others?  Not sure. Certainly will go in the 10 now.

JS: Similar to Theron, some Skornergy removed with the change to Blessing of the Sun Father and getting a momentous Singled Out. Now a valuable early activation that gets out debuffs and sets your team up.


HD: Avarisse & Greede. Wow. What to say. The best advice I've heard so far is from Jamie Perkins; forget the old A&G, we have new models. It's not a tweek. It's not truly an errata. It's a top down reboot, and it's welcome.
Removing their insane turn 1 goal threat is welcome, as it was rather predictable route that Steamforged seem determined to steer away from. Some people seem terrified now about Avarisse's ability to set up effective TAC8 with +1 DMG and whilst it does seem extremely powerful, it doesn't seem necessarily catastrophic. Expect to still see them. Expect to still fear them. But it'll be an easy 2 points for them, rather than an easy 4 points.

JS: A second radical rework for these two, their goal scoring ability was almost entirely removed in exchange for captain level damage. Walk up to someone, put Greede out in melee, Single Out or hit with Avarisse (in either order), then proceed to pump momentous damage into the target and have Greede jump back up. Easy.  Influence hungry but 5 INF for a bunch of momentum and a dead enemy player is usually a good trade. The flexibility of two simultaneous activations is still really strong as well.
Saying that, in my only post errata game, Greede got me the game winning goal, tapping in a goal following a teamwork dodge from an Avarisse pass. SeemsGood.


JS: Essentially removes Harry’s Crazy and equally stupid damage potential, thus refining him as a tank/brawler and set up piece. Still very good at that though.



PW: Overall Predictions

Alchemists: You almost forget these guys can take Decimate...(take her, she's easily the best union choice). I see a shift to a more Vet Kat style of play. They don't really have 2 bruisers now, but still have so many set up pieces for Vet Kat. Will be interesting to see if Midas or Smoke wins out, but I think it will be Smoke. Though I foresee a lot of A&G being a straight swap for Harry.

Butchers: Still Fillet all day every day. Ox's play style is just too slow, compared to Fillet's. That said, think we actually see Ox now.

Fish: Corsairs reign of terror begins a new. Damn...

Masons: Still Honour... Hammer will at least see more play now though! Overall they are still a solid team, and probably the nerf to Alchemists and Fish is more of a boost, rather than the buff to Hammer.

Hunters:  Hard to say. I think they are certainly in the pack now. I don't think anyone can use the phrase "Hunters are shit" now. There are now only shit Hunter coaches :). I am not sure which captain will actually be played more, I believe some will still prefer Skatha, whilst others will prefer Theron. Your personal preference in playstyle will determine the captain choice.

Union: Roster is so deep, will see frequent amounts of A&G, Harry will probably disappear for a bit, but will come back.

HD: Rather drastically changing the most popular four models in the game less than a month before a major tournament? It's a bold move cotton. Ironically this will hamper both players and opponents as they struggle to remember new threat ranges and abilities! I can't pretend to be totally impartial but I judge these changes as balanced; nothing too extreme and all in the name of the overall health of the game.

Am I upset that Morticians didn't see a bump? Not really. I understand why, and wouldn't want every model to be errata every year. That doesn't mean they aren't being looked at, but does mean that nothing on the spooks roster has been inarguably "too much" and in need of toning down. I'm content for now.

Wish me luck at the British Nationals!

JS: Wish Handsome Dave luck at the British Nationals!

David Stent: Buff Vileswarm please.