Sunday, January 31, 2016

Morticians 201


Because all the games I've played (a little more than ten?) - and (as predicted) having not played for weeks due to the imminent and now recent start of the school year - qualifies me to write this, here's some insight and next levelling into the morbid masters of mischief, mayhem, and model movement manipulation.


Classic Morticians humour.


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Obulus

Defensive Midfielder, Captain


- The most important thing to know about Obulus is that he is without doubt going to screw you massively at some point and that the flexibility of his shenanigans makes him extraordinarily hard to predict. This is largely due to the unbelievable OPness that is Puppet Master and the 1 INF cost, cast on all your friends and yourself, "let's manipulate the dice math" Confidence. These two Character Plays combined with his deceptive movement abilities, Reach, and a surprisingly ball-busting (albeit nuanced) Legendary Play do in fact a captain make! He looks slow, his Kick seems pretty pathetic, and his defensive stats are nothing to write home about. In actual fact he is hella fast, his Kick is legit solid due to his potentially crazy speed and ability to manipulate Momentum, and you can't punch what you can't engage. This semi- unwritten added mobility can seal the deal in the heat of the game if/when your opponent forgets to account for it in their own planning.

- His team buffs are either real (affecting a friendly model) or artificial (affecting an enemy model) threat range extenders and again this stems from effective and timely application of Puppet Master. And Confidence. If you haven't taken a Confidenced, Furious Charging, Crazy!, Damage Supported Cosset to the face then you just haven't lived!

- His impact on the game is so driven by Puppet Master that not giving him at least 4 INF automatically feels like a terrible mistake almost regardless of his position on the field. In fact it's so easy to load him up with the maximum of a mind-boggling 8 INF and have him do all the work that here in the Dojo he's actually been renamed Captain Obvious.

Probably a Magic joke. I wouldn't know. I've never played.


- So it would be remiss of me to write this and not delve at least a little into what Puppet Master can accomplish in the game. Here are a some things that have happened in my own experience:

  • Obulus' personal threat range is 14" (straight line) before he punches anything to get a (Momentous) Dodge on one hit. Shadow Like (2" Dodge) + Sprint (6") + Puppet Master himself (4" jog) + Melee Zone/Reach (2"). It costs him 5 INF just to achieve this threat but that also means... he can kick for goal from a staggering 18" away! And if you happen to win the game in that activation then it doesn't really matter how much it cost you to make it happen. Pre-measuring in Guild Ball and the use of proxy bases is an enormous benefit for the discerning Morticians player!
  • Forcing an enemy player to Pass the Ball -  there's a whole lot of jank going on with this play. If you manage to target a model with a good to excellent Kick stat you can all but ensure a point of Momentum from a successful Pass. Jackpot time if they are Kick 3/8" and don't forget that because this is the friendly successful exchange of the ball you not only gain a point of Momentum but can trigger a Pass 'n Move 4" Dodge after receiving it! Again this gives Obulus himself unprecedented personal threat on the goal depending on field position, especially if he can receive the ball after Shadow Like but before a Jog/Sprint/Charge. Finally, the passing model counts as a friendly player so in addition to all the other aforementioned benefits, you can also Bonus Time their kick! This is a great way to hedge your bets if the ball is being held but a mascot with crappy kick stats.
  • What if their Kick isn't so great or you don't want the ball? Kill the ball by having them Pass to empty space away from the rest of their team! Teams that want to play football hate a dead ball out of position and even a ball that doesn't appear to be well out of the game can force positioning issues that stretch the best Kick stats to breaking point.
  • Forcing an enemy player to Snap a free ball and bring it to you. I did this against Scum in a recently while he was trying to keep the ball away from me without holding it (having been forced to Pass it to me in a previous game). Turns out you can't also have them drop the ball at your feet (sorry Nick!) as there's a big difference between the activation of a model (where you can Snap the ball) and being the active model (only active models can choose to drop the ball).
  • Jog a friendly player into an unexpected location. This was especially amusing when cast on Ghast in one game allowing him to engage models that didn't have the INF to swing at him in their own activations but then couldn't move away for fear of a Knockdown Parting Blow. I also used it on Silence once at the very start of a game allowing him to Embalming Fluid a particularly clumped enemy deployment which was kind of hilarious. Turns out Masons struggle a bit when three of their players are on fire before they've left the starting zone.
  • Jog an enemy player to the board edge and Push them off in the next activation.

- This said, if you can "get around" or negate Puppet Master then you are waaaay up on Obulus. He hates Siren for example; the -5" of range to Character Plays targeting her frequently takes Puppet Master off the board (it is very easy to forget she has this as it's a passive ability). Any abilities that apply INF penalities or ignore effects (the first attack or Character Play targeting Ghast, Clone etc) are pretty much gold and while they can often be creatively played around it forces the Morticians through additional hoops to regain their dominance of the control game.

- Misdirection is incredibly niche and will come up maybe once in 10+ games. And when it goes off it will cripple you. Be aware of it's existence but don't be overly stressed out about it.

- Obulus' playbook is sadly not amazing. He gets a good number of swings in with TAC 6 but the book itself is really lacking in Momentous options with only the Dodge on one hit, 2 damage on two hits, and a Push/Dodge on 5 hits. While he's capable of doing considerable damage by racking up Momentous 2 damage results (non-Momentous 3 damage on 5 hits is a rarity) it's a big sink of INF to make it happen and you can't help but feel you should have played a better game with your punchy players (Cosset, Graves, Ghast et al) instead. If he manages to wrap on the charge or with a lucky roll it's probably a non-Momentous Knockdown and some minor damage or a Momentous Dodge on the wrap - nothing to write home about and certainly nothing Ox, Tapper, or Blackheart-like to fear. He really struggles against ARM 2 models, often getting nothing more than a swell of Dodge-based Momentum and little or no damage. Also considering most turns he's spending an effective 3 INF on Puppet Master (assuming it's successful) you begin to realise that he really needs to be contributing positioning shenanigans to the rest of the team instead of going hammer and tongs on a one man Rambo mission.

- If you want to engage Obulus in combat the easy answer is you need a Melee Range 2" model to get into base contact so that he can't Unpredictable Movement away and make you flip the table. Unpredictable Movement is VERY easy to forget in the middle of the game and brain-farting just once on this can screw your whole turn. You can also play around the "once per turn" nature of this Character Trait by forcing difficult decisions from the Morticians player about when he wants to use it.

- Rigor Mortis, Obulus' Legendary Play, is another excellent endorsement of the control and denial play style of the captain himself. Timing of course is crucial and there are two issues to exploit if this LP is giving you grief:
  • To get (arguably) best use out of it (i.e. the most Momentum) Obulus has to go late in the turn once a base of Momentum has been built by the opponent. Use this activation knowledge to your advantage by getting work done early and making plays with less worry about Puppet Master wrecking you.
  • Spend spend spend! If you have no Momentum to take then he has no Legendary. This is of course a double-edged sword because no Momentum = no initiative in the next turn and Obulus guaranteed to go first from a position that he wants will cause you a real headache. On the flip side look for opportunities to heal players and remove conditions, making the long game more difficult for the Morticians. The other downside is that if he has no Momentum to steal, he'll be saving his LP for the next turn.
  • It you end up giving the Morticians player 5-6 Momentum and Obulus is activating last, reconcile yourself to the fact that you're going second next turn and watch the Morticians player desperately try to spend their overflow of Momentum in their last activation. "Too much of a good thing" is a real possibility.
I've consistently found that the better I get at reading the opponent's team, likely activation order and overall strategy, the better I've become at timing Rigor Mortis correctly and frequently it's only used to steal 1-2 Momentum. This sounds like a waste but stay alert to players positioning for the goal kick and those that need to remove conditions (especially Knockdown and Fire which reduces their movement range and options). The crucial loss of even a small Momentum base in the middle of the turn can ruin your enemy and Obulus activating 1-2 places early in the order can be a nasty surprise! Count out INF allocation to enemy models and calculate how it can be used without Momentum and you'll get better at finding the best moments to frustrate your opponent as you screw with one of the core aspects of higher level Guild Ball gameplay.

- Pro-tip: Obulus is such a HUGE part of the Morticians turns (every turn) that once he's activated you get the chance to unclench your butthole a little. The timing of his activation is massive to the Morticians and you can sometimes use this knowledge to force the issue, get over the Obulus hump, and start to smile again (until the next turn).

- There's one other substantial hole in Obulus' game and it becomes most apparent in a tournament setting when you're on the clock. Such is the range of his options for optimal Puppet Mastering, remembering Shadow Like, keeping in 4" range for Confidence buffing and so on that his activation can take a HUGE amount of time. Once you start adding widgets and pre-measuring and proxy bases and rethinking and mind-changing to the equation you're looking at the distinct possibility of death by clock. This likely means that against a less experienced Mortician player the Obulus activation will be more straight-forward and possibly more predictable, determined in the early planning stages of the overall turn in the Maintenance Phase when INF is allocated. More experienced Morticians will have greased the wheels on a larger number of "set plays" and be more fluent and fluid in their approach when it comes to sudden surprises. It's with good reason that on the GBHL YouTube channel in the "Meet the Morticians" video, the commentators are in awe of a chap who managed with considerable success a forced 2 minute, 8 INF Obulus activation!


This game from the Armada Games YouTube channel vs Engineers illustrates the range of the Obulus game - Puppet Master to force a pass, Dodging from receiving, shooting at goal, issuing beatdowns, utilising Unpredictable Movement to escape Colossus. You can also see that between Mist and Obulus the Engineer player is under substantial pressure when returning the ball to play with a goal kick as it's incredibly difficult to keep it out of Mortician hands.


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Dirge

Mascot




Stupid Dirge. Or so I thought when I had just started playing and was even more of a complete scrub than I am now. You look at all those other sexy team mascots like Princess and Marbles and "WTF why?!?!?" Coin and bemoan being burdened with this useless feathered mess with no defensive tech and this bizarre juxtaposition of conflicting abilities. He's simultaneously designed to die a quick death while buffing your other players.

- It's reasonably easy to play around Dark Doubts - just spend all your Momentum so you have nothing to lose! Of course at the same time, you're playing into the hands of the Morticians player who all but guarantees that crucial first activation in the next turn...

- Worse for you the wretched budgie can be returned thanks to Silence having Creation [Dirge]. Killing Dirge the first time nets you the standard 2VPs (and probably loses you any Momentum you had in the bank). Killing it a second time gets you 0VPs and you still lose Momentum. While the Morticians player isn't necessarily going to go out of their way to get Dirge killed off, it does make him an incredibly frustrating annoyance as a contributing player when Crowding Out.

- Follow Up is a lot better than I first thought. The move directly towards a player leaving the bird's 1" Melee Zone is advantaged by two things:

  • Flying allows you to ignore intervening models and terrain.
  • As the text specifices "move" and not "Advance" it is more akin to a reposition and therefore not subject to Parting Blow attacks. So once Dirge has engaged something, with an above average jog of 8" it's going to stick like glue. 

- Gluing Dirge to an isolated player (like a Winger or Striker trying to avoid unwanted attention) on the flank creates one of those delightful "royal pain in the ass" situations for your opponent. Suddenly DEF 5+ kicks in and without Ganging Up bonuses a lot of models can spend their whole activation flailing ineffectually at the flapping menace, unable to effectively escape it's clutches thanks to Follow Up. More hoops for your opponent to jump through every turn is more fun for the Morticians player :)

- The playbook of this mascot is about as bereft of excitement as you would expect. Singled Out looks cute but you frequently have better stuff to do with even 1 INF (and your activation order) than to attempt a TAC2 Singled Out against anything DEF 4+ or better. That said, despite its somewhat niche location when combined with Follow Up, Singled Out can swing the dice math substantially (plus Confidence, obviously). Cosset with +3 TAC (Singled Out + Ganging Up) on top of her "normal" dice pool is a sight to behold (at +1 damage to boot!) and Ghast doesn't mind a carefully positioned buff to help trigger Unmasking (even if it will nearly kill the bird off!). Especially useful against a model that's already activated and has been Lured or Puppet Mastered forward into the rest of your team.


- Playing the Dirge game required careful timing and positioning to take full advantage if it's unique abilities and I quite like the meta-game, high wire balancing approach. Big unlocks to higher level play are tucked away in there and it takes some work to get consistent value.


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Silence

Central Midfielder


This chap takes a bit of getting use to from both sides of the table. As a player with one of the best Kick stats in the team (3/6" or 4/7" within 4" of Dirge) you'd be fooled into thinking that's the focus of Silence's game. But then you look at a non-Momentous Tackle on 5 hits and a single Dodge needing 3 hits and you die a little inside. So he's a man of some great inner conflict. Let's unpack...

- There's three reasons Silence is on the team. In order of importance:

  • His crazy big contribution of 3 INF each turn. Amaze.
  • His ability to control the board with some reliability as the 2nd or 3rd activation of the turn.
  • His ability to return to play the bird of most malicious malcontent.


- It's hugely important that if you want to gamble on Tucked or Shutout you need to either man up and gird your loins (i.e. roll one dice and pray), or Bonus Time the attempt. Or both. I hate relying on either of these abilities but to be fair, depending on how well you know and understand the enemy models, a successful hit with either one at the right time can break the turn for your opponent. Tucked on a ball carrier with 1 INF for their late-turn kick is quality, as is forcing them to go last and giving you the most time possible to clobber them and steal the ball. Shutout will stop the ball carrier off-loading and passing to a friend which is also magnificent if they aren't positioned to score on goal.


Surprisingly dangerous stuff.


- Embalming Fluid is money and again plays into the control style plays for which Morticians are renowned. Movement debuffs are incredible and forcing the spending of Momentum to remove conditions helps to lock in your initiative for the following turn and reduces spending opportunities for the likes of Bonus Time and pass/receive Dodges for your opponent. Abusing the placeable nature of the AoE also means laying down Poison - don't disregard the chip damage and stacking of conditions that Bleed, Poison and Fire incur over time, and/or the inherent challenges in attempting to nullify these over the course of a turn.

- Silence's playbook is oddly damage intensive with Momentous results most likely to occur around the 2-3 hits area. With TAC5 this goes against his strangely wizardly appearance and "spell caster" Character Plays. The lack of Character Plays generated by playbook results is disappointing and requires INF to be spread wide in the Maintenance Phase, and the lack of Knockdown and Pushes (I've not yet managed a Push/Dodge - requiring 5 hits! - that would have been worthwhile) also pigeonholes his options. As previously mentioned you can't rely on him in the slightest to Tackle the ball off almost any opponent but I guess if you're looking to create miracles and highly improbably situations there's a special place where a Kick Supported Silence Snapshots! at the goal. Good luck with that!

- In my experience Silence plays around in the mid- to backfield and I'm convinced I have a lot of learning to unlock with him. His DEF 5+ doesn't do nearly enough to keep him alive and aside from that Dodge on 3 hits there's nothing special about his playbook that allows him to escape the jaws of the enemy. There are also arguably better places to stack INF if you want to put someone into the dirt. This all means you can get a good read on INF allocated to Silence and how it will be spent. One INF and the Morticians are looking for a Bonus Timed Shutout or Tucked in the 2nd-3rd activation (after gaining Momentum elsewhere). Two INF and he's looking for both or an Embalming Fluid, and so on. This makes Silence fairly predictable on the table when he's not just being an INF battery for the rest of the team (which he frequently is) and I definitely struggle with this aspect of his game - knowing how much of my hand is revealed before I play the cards can be very frustrating.


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Ghast

Centre Back


This very big, very bad man has been in almost every list I've made and with good reason. Reading around the internet there's a lot of discussion on the pros/cons and comparisons to Casket/Fangtooth and sometimes even Graves, all of them fighting for a similar spot (though with obviously enough difference to not make it clear cut). For the most however, especially when compared to his comparable peers, his game plan is both reasonably straight forward while also being horribly effective despite its relative predictability.


I knew it!!! Ghast is just a blonde Alice Cooper!


- He's not invulnerable. Between Fear and 21 boxes and a 3+/1 statline (not to mention giving up "free" Momentum when he gets damaged the first time each turn), it can initially feel insurmountable and some teams struggle more than others but if you apply enough of a blowtorch the big fella can go down. And hard. And once he's off, his jog of 4" means that he can (depending on where the scrum is) struggle to impact the game when he returns.

- The most likely outcome of his first punch in combat is a Momentous Knockdown on 2 hits. After that he can struggle to make money in the Momentum game being TAC6 and needing a mighty 4 hits to generate a Momentous damage result (as Knockdown cannot be selected if it has already been applied). The outcome of this is I have tended to use him as a "barrage o' Knockdowns" player, trying to engage 2-3 models, abusing Reach when he can, and Knocking Down as many targets as possible to make life easier for the rest of the team. This also allows you to build maximum Momentum.

- The "Ghast Jam" tactic is real. If you pick your placement carefully he can threaten multiple Parting Blows (read: Knockdowns) and Fear can completely stuff some Guilds. Be aware that models that don't spend INF to attack (Boar's initial charge attack and Berserk for example) ignore the effects of Fear. One INF cost ranged abilities (costing 2 INF for the initial attack against him) are also useful to burn the Fear penalty allowing other models to step up and do the real work. I've had this successfully used against me with Gutter's Chain Grab and Engineer shooting.

- For goodness sakes be VERY careful about putting a big guy in his sights surrounded by friends. After many games I managed to engineer three The Unmasking results in a single turn by punching a Knocked Down Stave with 3 of his nearest and dearest taking an absolute thrashing as a result (before Pushing them all into positions of great inconvenience). You certainly won't see The Unmasking in effect in every game but when it goes off good grief it can be fantastic. Again, be watchful for friendlies clumped near a big guy.


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Cosset

Winger


The Mortician's Wingers are both fascinating players that I've found to be love/hate as I read around the internet and forums, watching games on YouTube, and review lists. I personally think they're both fantastic and I love the design philosophy behind them, the differentiation in their approach, and what they add to the game.


When Guild Ball becomes a movie, she gets my vote to play the role of Cosset. Golly! Keep reading you pervs!


- Cosset is most commonly seen as a damage dealer who at full steam - Crazy, Furious, Damage Support form Dirge, maybe a Tooled up from Rage and a Confidence from Obulus - can potentially wreck house. With a "base" TAC7 she can punch out 4-5 Momentous damage on 2 and 4 hits respectively with the proper support. This is key to the Cosset damage game because unsupported she's actually pretty pathetic - a series of Momentous 2-3 damage results is obviously good but she's fighting uphill with 12 boxes (you should almost always spend to heal during her activation to recover Crazy damage) and a 4+/0 defensive statline.

- Of more interest is the clutch control plays she is capable of. Chaining Lure with Puppet Master is hilarious and you can pull an unsuspecting first/second activating enemy player right across the board for a good thrashing in the opening turn of the game. The faster the player, the better! Bear in mind that Lure is directly towards Cosset so other models and terrain may interfere with this movement.

- Screeching Banshee is yet another legit movement debuff. I'm losing count of how many movement debuff options we have in this guild. Amazing. It requires 6 hits (ergo, Crazy + Charge against a Knocked Down enemy is optimal) to achieve but movement wins games and applying this at the right time to the right model will get you up on the scoreboard in the long term.

- Taking Out Cosset is a double-edged sword because she's fast enough that she can project considerable threat from a number of vectors when returning to the pitch. She's especially happy finding a luckless Striker lurking near her goal - be wary of killing her off only to lose a key player in a more significant position. There's a few Guild Plot cards in particular that are enormously effective with her.

- Cosset's playbook is looong (7 columns!) and hugely various. She can hand out up to 6 damage in one big slap with bells and whistles up and has a useful Tackle on 3 hits.



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Graves

Winger


Another low-end contributor to the INF pool, taking Graves puts considerable focus into dealing damage and the awesome Bleed condition, while putting pressure on your INF pool and ability to resource other players. With no cost-INF Character Plays or ranged Character Traits, or friendly player buffs, Graves is all about getting into (the right) combat on his terms and getting value from his inherent abilities. He's therefore at once very direct and straight-forward, and also quite nuanced and dangerous to your own players too!

- People tend to gravitate straight towards Crucial Artery and Scything Blow but don't overlook Damaged Target. Abusing this rewards positioning and planning. There are very few movement buffs available to Morticians and this one literally turns Graves up to 11 (11 inches of threat that is!). It's also persistent - the model in question doesn't have to be damaged in that turn, just damaged full stop. It also isn't "damaged from a melee attack" so a successful Embalming Fluid that immediately causes 1 point of damage makes for quite a nice synergy.

- Following on from this, putting him around 2nd to 4th in the activation order, is a strong desire to Scything Blow all the things, not only inflicting 3 damage on everyone in his 2" Melee Range (including friendlies, not including Rage - hint, hint) but applying Bleed to them all as well. Ideally he's charging in against a previously damaged, Knocked Down target (threat 11" Charging that target, easier to hit and therefore trigger Scything Blow) and engaging a bunch of enemy models that don't themselves have 2" reach (ergo, not getting Crowded Out and suffering TAC penalities). This makes him somewhat matchup dependent. Having no Knockdown himself can also make him susceptible to reach counter-attacks but if all he's done is Scything Blow 3 models then he's actually done a lot of work (9 damage now, potentially 9 damage from Bleed, forcing spending of Momentum).

- The very rare Momentous Push (rare for Morticians) is on 2 hits in Graves' playbook, providing an easy kill for an enemy player Puppet Mastered to the board edge. Tackle (non-Momentous *sob*) on 1 hit is also uncommon and most useful on a reach model.

- Rabid Animal much like Screeching Banshee on Cosset is another gem, although it requires a mighty 6 hits to unlock. Still, Fire from Embalming Fluid combined with Heavy Burden, combined with Rabid Animal... well, you can see where this is going. There's nothing quite as frustrating as having a MOV stat of 0"/0".


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Casket

Centre Back (Guest spot: Peter Hunter)


When I started playing Morticians I immediately gravitated away from two players - Casket and Bonesaw - but as I become more experienced in the game I'm starting to think that maybe (maybe!) that was an early mistake on my part. Casket in particular seems to open up a quite different direction in both play style and opportunity.

- If you're going in on Casket, bear in mind that he's deceptively tanky. DEF 3+ is unusual for a big guy and ARM 1 + Tough Hide can really slow you down (in addition to any healing managed by the Momentum-rich Morticians). In this sense, Reanimate is the icing on the cake and grinding out another 3 damage to a model with Tough Hide isn't as easy as you would hope. Of course what will literally slow you down is forgetting to account for Foul Odour. It's the combination of these abilities that not only enables him to be more survivable than first appears on the page, but also contribute to the control game of the Morticians. Seems that 3" of rough-ground around a medium base is a lot of table space.

- Remember than Reanimate is once per turn. Seriously, if you can't kill Casket off in one turn (burning through the first Reanimate) then he can be healed back up a bit (8 boxes if you really stuff things up) and can then Reanimate again!

- Use Foul Odour to your advantage because it also affects friendly models (Pro-tip: don't get caught out by Rage ignoring friendly Character Traits and Plays!). This giant, ugly walking no-go zone of rough-ground requires Gliding to play around which in turn means needing to gain that Momentum first. Reading these requirements carefully will give you immediate insight into how the activation order must play out if Casket ends up in a place of considerable inconvenience for friendly models (and he will be inconveniently placed once he commits to a melee!). He presents a real challenge to Morticians looking to assist with Crowding Out bonuses. This also means he will often be last to contribute to a combined melee - the combination of his rough-ground and Legendary Play puts him late in the activation order.


Yeah... Casket has issues.


- The more supportive play with Casket is applying Ghostly Visage to a crucial location on the battlefield. Stack this with the Foul Odour aura and timely application of Embalming Fluid from Silence and you can slow down a whole bunch of unfortunate scumbag opposition players. This is one of his more cost-effective options - generating the 1 INF himself that he needs to apply the AOE. It can also give him the surprise jump on the enemy - his 5"/7" MOV is curiously ok in a world where charging models suffer a -6" penalty on their charge (rough-ground + ghostly Visage penalties). The TAC penalty adds further to his survivability and that of his friends (and only affects enemy models!).

- But wait... let's stack it with Heavy Burden (ideally applied with Bonus Time) for more fun. Allocating Casket 2 INF and having him activate second after gaining a point of Momentum can really stuff your opponent. Even a Light Footed, Quick Timed Shark can struggle with those numbers (-4" on the Jog, -8" on a Charge!).

- Meanwhile he's lurking and waiting patiently for the timely application of Casket Time. I've read articles that suggest if you're taking Casket then your whole team is all in on the Casket Time play for the game and I really couldn't disagree more. It's the ace up his sleeve while he mopes around slowing down enemy players and denies table space while not dying. Both players need to understand how valuable Casket Time is and how it will impact the game - the best time to apply, the optimal target, what it means for the following turn. Suffice to say if you get your captain in the coffin you are probably completely screwed. Even with the errata change to "just" delaying their return, being down not only the INF they contribute but also being behind on board position and options for even one additional turn is game-breaking. The big 'catch' with this ability is that Casket has to be the one to deliver the Take Out blow. Because the Morticians can't risk it not going off this means a Casket allocated more than 2 INF is likely a Casket looking to cause you a real headache. His playbook makes this a not totally straight-forward prospect however - TAC5 with no damage on 3 hits means he tends to do Momentous two damage with each swing. He can inflict a Knockdown himself but that's a waste of a valuable attack if he's looking to coffin something. Whole turns (not necessarily whole games) need to be built around Casket Time going off - Puppet Master something to move it into range, applying just enough damage that Casket can finish off the target etc. So much can go wrong that it turns into a Rube Goldberg machine against a canny opponent so look at it as an option in the game, not necessarily the focus. Celebrate the removal of an enemy captain when it happens, but also revel in the removal of a slow big guy who is almost out of the game completely if he goes down, or a Striker whose removal stymies goal scoring opportunities.

- Casket Time doesn't work on animals (Human models only). If a Morticians player forgets this feel free to laugh obnoxiously in their face.


Pete says!

- I've only put Casket on the table once - and wished he was Ghast - but that was back when I had zero experience with the game. Casket is definitely someone I would like more play time with against footballing teams where his damage output and player removal (Casket Time Legendary Play) could be more decisive.

- The problem is that both Casket and Ghast only produce 1 INF, wanting more than they generate and making them challenging to field at the same time. Maybe I just have to get used to running with less Influence on the pitch, but with anything lower than 13-14 I really start to feel like my guys aren't doing enough.

- This is all from my perspective of finding games against footballing teams far more compelling than the games against fighty teams where I feel behind the 8-ball from the word go and struggle to implement a successful gameplan, and instead get suckered into a fight in the middle, or even a fight across the pitch where I don't feel I can get free enough to score the points required to reliably put away the game.


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Bonesaw (Guest spots: Peter Hunter and Will Wheaton)


I am not responsible for the atrocious spelling and grammar that you overlooked the first time in this meme.


I'm sorry to say that, unlike Casket, I simply cannot reconcile myself to Bonesaw. He has a playbook absolutely flooded with Momentous results and the ability to Advance through enemy models but in my eyes he's crippled by too many associated issues:

- Swift Wind doesn't allow you to ignore Parting Blows and despite his ninja-like appearance he isn't Steady (needs more Ghost Walk - early call from me: Scalpel will be able to hand this out), nor does he have Close Control. His enormous ass (50mm base - why Steamforged, why?!) also gets in the way by itself a lot of the time. And of course you need Momentum to trigger it - you'd think this isn't exactly a problem for Morticians but then Offensive Defense wants him activating earlier in the turn rather than later. Much conflict.

"Poor Bonesaw. The one member of my Morticians that remains unassembled."- Will Wijnveld

- Kick 3/8" is legit but the otherwise weird combination of abilities seems to force you into using Bonesaw as a Snapshot! Striker which is just playing with fire.

"His Character Play makes no sense and 1" melee on him is trash." - Will Wijnveld

- It dead set feels like Close Control or Where'd They Go? (or both) would have made him. As it is I can't see a place for him on an 8-man roster when there's so much competition from Eiryss (sorry... Mist) and other players making a more varied contribution.

"I feel like they intended to give him another rule but forgot." - Will Wijnveld

- He looks like a total beast but only has 13 boxes.

"Seems fine." - Will Wijnveld (may have been referring to Nikola's money-maker, not Bonesaw's rules)

Pete says!

- All my experiences with Bonesaw have led me to wishing he was Mist. While in theory his Character Plays seem sweet I've found that having TAC4 is a real ballbuster, especially when you don't really want to have to charge with your Striker all that often, or are trying to get one of the more hit-intensive playbook results against a medium to high DEF model. 

- His Heroic Play has been good a couple of times, but I haven't felt it's enough of an upgrade to Gliding for it to be super relevant all that often. 

- Having to have your Striker activate early to go up to DEF 5+ has been problematic, especially when I don't want to commit Puppet Master or rely on Snapshots! as my goal scoring opportunities.

- Reanimate has been good a couple of times however most the time I've found that people just commit and extra 1 INF and inflict a Take Out as per usual. It's been rare that the 'once per turn' addendum has been relevant, rather than just having 3 extra hit points.


******


So cheers - there's another brief article. Next time I'll be back to the Veteran's Playbook and examining the excellent design concept of the 8-man roster in tournament gaming as we edge closer to the possibility of actual for reals tournament Guild Ball in New Zealand.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

January - rulings


1. The goal is a barrier. Missed goal kicks can also be intercepted:

A commonly missed rule that the goal is a barrier, meaning it's impassable and blocks all movement (including the ball). Scatters treat it like a barrier ie. if the ball path from a missed shot scatter takes it across the goal, the ball stops, rather than going through and behind the goal. This ruling may appear a little unintuitive at first, but think of it sort of like hitting a post or a net in football.

This does mean that if you get a model in b2b with the goal token, you can keep shooting until you score as long as you have influence/momentum, since the ball will stop at your feet and snap back every missed shot (assuming nobody is contesting the snap).

2. Midas' legendary play errata-ed (but not in the errata - yet):

Pseudoepigraphy (LP):
Each Inf spent (up to 3) after using this play generates 1MP
 
This is in the clarifications thread but has not made it to an errata  - the wording in the card strongly leads to the interpretation of straight converting influence to momentum, but this errata allows him to use the influence on actions/plays in the process, thereby potentially generating additional momentum (effectively a buff in the majority of circumstances).

3. Kicking at a goal means you target any spot of the goal token, and centre the kick to that spot. Passes between players are still centre to centre:
This is also a little unintuitive, but one has to remember that the goal is NOT a model, but essentially a terrain piece. It also makes jamming the front of the goal with low impact models like mascots or Greede slightly less powerful.

4. Furious! can be used as a free sprint if target model is out of range.

Similar to the use of a free charge in Warmachine, this makes models like Rage, Boar and Minx even more efficient! Some may be upset from a representational point of view, but from a legal standpoint it just saves adding "and may sprint without spending influence" or equivalent.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fishermen 201

I thought I would kick off what will hopefully become a long-term collective work in writing about different teams in the game, aimed slightly above the very beginner overview stages, but still relatively noobish.

There are many examples of 'summary' articles that can be found on every model in the game online, as well as the actual cards. I hope the approach in this series will therefore not be to repeat the information you can find on the cards, but to provide player summary information in the context of applied play experience, as well as discuss particular players' weaknesses without going into great detail.

Shark

Captain, Striker
  • The most important thing to know about Shark is that he is without a doubt the best striker in the game. Flint and Mist might be able to score from almost anywhere with the right support, whereas Shark can score from almost anywhere by himself, as long as he has a nice stack of influence to do it. Very fast, good kick, and a playbook built around mobility - and the fact that he is a Captain!
    On top of his rock solid KICK, his mobility is unparalleled. He can get out of almost any combat with high TAC and low result dodges, then follow it up with a jog/spring/charge, some additional attacks to dodge and get momentum and then score a goal and/or lock down the enemy with G&S/feat.
  •  His team buffs are movement oriented, namely Quick Foot and Tidal Surge (which can also be used on enemy models). In my experience these buffs alone are reason to always give him at least 3 influence, even when he's just come back onto the pitch. It adds a good deal of unpredictability to the Fish team, extending almost any threat range.
  • Shark's other big team support lie in his movement debuffs, either via his Legendary "Caught in a Net" and Gut & String. Unlike damaging legendaries (ie. Ox, Ballista), this legendary doesn't really have an optimal use-by date, and is arguably more useful in the later stages of the game. Used very early, the Legendary will usually be used to protect Shark after scoring a superman goal, used midgame it will usually be used to stop an opponent getting to the goal kick or scoring/protecting from a goal, while late game use is usually about protecting the remaining Fishermen.
  • Finally, Shark is also one of the better damage dealers in the team (along with Corsair, Jac and Kraken), with 2 damage on 3 successes and 3 on 5. Don't be afraid to use Shark's boatload of influence to take out an enemy player, even if doesn't give you any of the momentum you could be getting from his dodges and character plays. 2 takeouts, 2 goals is a pretty good win strategy for Fish against most teams.
In terms of weaknesses, the only things he really hates are KD and being taken out (he is one of the less durable captains and has no defensive tech available), although movement reductions such as Burning or Hamstring are also good ways to clamp him down a bit (outside his million dodges of course).

Look at this fine specimen of a man. Admire him.

Salt

Mascot

Salt is the worst mascot for sure, but not totally useless.
  •  If Angel is around I just keep him around her for the DEF bonus. It's pretty good. He's also not bad at running to pick up missed passes.
  •  He's basically +1 TAC for Jac (Ganging Up), and also protects him a little bit (Crowding Out). Then can get out of combat easily for 1 influence and be where you want him. Not too bad.
  •  If you combine the two things above, then it's a respectable amount of work for the little guy. If you keep him distant enough to make your opponent go out of his way to deal with it, then good!
  • If neither Angel not Jac are there, his suckitude reaches its peak. I will either use him as a goalkeeper (if playing against an aggressive football team) to reduce shots by 1 die or pick up missed shots, or play him aggressively to get in the way of charges and Gang Up/Crowd Out. If you can get him killed early in the turn and thus get a goal or two out of Loved Creature, that's not terrible either but the important part is trying to be annoying, especially to ball carriers who might take a parting blow.
  •  His best trait is that being bad means people often ignore him completely, so he can often sneak out, pick up loose balls, and miss shots on goal a surprising number of times. Also sometimes his DEF 5 will save him and frustrate people, which is always hilarious.

Basically he's a 30mm base with little ability to do anything except be quite mobile UNLESS Jac and/or Angel are there, where the synergies enter the realm of "almost one third as good as Scum". He's just a little bit off where he needs to be outside of the Jac/Angel teams.


In summary, #buyflask

Visual representation on the Fishermen community whenever
we discuss our appropriately named Mascot.

Greyscales

Winger

  • Greyscales embodies the slippery, slippery nature of the Fishermen. He is all about his abilities, which are about staying out of combat, getting where he wants, and controlling the ball.
  • The way I usually play Greyscales is to put him on a flank such that only one or two enemy models can potentially get to him, most likely enemy models without reach who can't hurt him due to Unpredictable Movement. As such, he can control a large part of the board and pick up loose balls and goals kicks, either scoring himself or passing it over to someone who can.
  • In terms of ball control, he has a Tackle on 2 and "Ball's Gone!" on 4, which gets around Close Control and such jank. He's not the best kicker, but with a momentum to Bonus Time he's usually able to hit it home with his high mobility. A very good player for late game clutch plays, since he'll usually be one the players left on the field in a reasonable position.

Greyscales, when he was but a lad.
His weaknesses are:
a) if you focus him with quantity (as opposed to quality) of attacks, he will go down hard. 4+/0 with 15 boxes goes down surprisingly quick once you get around Decoy, Unpredictable and his counteratttack -> dodge out tricks. The flipside of this is that it makes space for the other Fish.
b) Outside of being mobile and hard to pin down, he doesn't contribute a whole lot. He's an average kicker (for the Fish), his damage output is crap, he doesn't stop the enemy team doing anything, he doesn't buff anyone else. He just slips around and plays the ball. If you can hide the ball from him, he does almost nothing to be scared of.

NB: Decoy works only against the next 'Attack', which applies only to melee attacks and not character plays. Think of it as a bad version of Gluttonous Mass for 1 which gives you at chance at counter attack rather than death.

Angel

Striker
  • Angel is the best kicker in the game - not the best striker, but the best kicker at 5/10" with Super Shot without any external help. Throw in some buffs like Corsair's legendary, Shark's Quick Foot or Tidal Surge, and her goal-scoring threat gets slightly ridiculous.
  • Unlike other strikers though, she lacks mobility and easy access to dodges. While her playbook looks good with a momentous Tackle on 1, and dodges on 2 and 4, with a TAC of 4, she will often have trouble getting the results without a charge or a little assistance. Her lack of reach compounds this, meaning she has a harder time getting out of combat. In summary: she needs a lot support in terms of mobility and survivability.
  • As such, Angel is best used as a turret - standing in a good spot with Nimble + Salt nearby puts her at DEF 6, and with Super Shot up can pretty reliably put Snap Shots in the goal even while engaged. Usually you try to get a first or second turn goal with her, then leave her on the enemy half of the field with her buffs up to try and get another goal (either via a pass, or by stealing the ball with that momentous Tackle on 1 and then scoring straight away).
  • Speaking of first turn goals, she has an easier time of this than many others thanks to her +1/+1 INF buff if she starts within 4" of Shark. Past turn 2 however, I don't think you will ever get this bonus given Shark's need to stay on the move to live/make plays.

Weaknesses? Baseline 4+/0 with 12 boxes means she gets wrecked without the proper support. She is also vulnerable to KD as it stops her moving and kicking, not to mention the decrease in DEF. Similar to Greyscales, she also contributes nothing besides the ability to kick the ball really well - no damage, no control, no buffs, no positioning tricks.


Jac

Defensive Midfielder

  • Jac - the Brawler. An accurate nickname, given that Jac is one of the toughest and most combat-capable Fishermen. He's quite resilient: 3+/1 and 15 boxes isn't stellar, but with Tough Hide he can usually stay in the fight for a bit against teams that don't stack a lot of damage buffs. As a defensive midfielder, Jac does well holding the centre of the pitch and disrupting the enemy.
  • He is also one of the best damage dealers in the Fishermen - 2 damage on 3 successes and 3 damage on 4. TAC 5 (usually TAC 6 with Salt on the table) helps get these results. And at a 3/6" KICK, he's not bad with the ball either.
  • While Fish usually like to dodge, Jac likes to push. Momentous Push on 2 and Momentous 2" Pushes on 5 successes. He also has Ramming Speed for 1 influence, and a sweet heroic play (the only one in Fishermen) that pushes all enemies within 3" a grand 4" directly away. For 2 influence and a momentum (which he usually generates himself), he can push someone up to 7"! If an enemy is on the wings, Jac can charge in and shove almost anyone off the board.
For his weaknesses, he can't unengage from combat without Parting Blows as easily as most other Fishermen. As such, he doesn't fit into the standard Fish gameplan of staying out of combat and scoring goals, which means that he can often get isolated and focused if left entirely unsupported.


Kraken

Centre Back

  • Kraken is a tar pit. He pulls people in and holds them there. His best skill by far is his momentous KD on 1 combined with reach - if you do not have dodges or pushes on your playbook, you are probably not getting out of combat, especially if you don't have reach. He can also convert influence to momentum 1-to-1 quite effectively with this result.
  • He is also pretty good at dealing damage. 2 damage on 2 successes, 3 damage on 4. And you get almost his entire playbook on 5 successes (Release the Kraken = KD, 6" Push, 3 damage. Baller). If you have a mildly soft KD opponent already in front of you and no Crowding Out or anything, go to town with damage results!
  • His last sweet trick is that he brings some bursty repositioning to the Fish (like Siren), in the form of Harpoon and Release the Kraken. Harpoon is an excellent skill for a tarpit to have to bring desirable targets out of position and into Kraken's loving arms, and Release the Kraken is great for slamming models off the pitch or into irrelevance under Shark's legendary.
The downside is that despite having all the tools to tarpit, he is still a big guy with 2+/1 and only Tough Hide to protect him and his 20 boxes. Teams that can stack damage or wraps like Butchers or Brewers will mop him up quick if left to their own devices, and his slow speed means he will take a while to get back into action. On top of that, he brings only one influence and usually demands his full 3.


Siren

Winger
  • Siren does one thing, and one thing well - she messes with your opponents. She is basically a baby Obulus.
  • Lure is excellent when used to move either an enemy model that has yet to activate away from where it wishes to go, or an enemy model that has already activated to bring it in for a beating/really bad position for next turn. It combos well with Shark's movement debuffs or other repositions (ie. pushes, harpoons).
  • Seduced is her big money play, available on either 3 successes for 3 influence (thus sometimes worthwhile to charge in or simply hit a low to mid DEF model with her TAC 3). It is basically a baby Puppet Master, and you can make an enemy model within 6" make an attack or pass the ball once per turn. Excellent way to get the ball back in your hands.
  • Despite her pathetic hit points and 4+/0 stat line, she has a handful of defensive abilities that can protect her in the right situation:
    - Beautiful gives -5 RNG on character plays targetting her. This makes her excellent vs teams like Engineers who rely a lot on these accurate shots, or protects her from Puppet Master! Also a good choice for the initial kicker vs such teams, as she can then Seduce the ball right back and be safe thanks to her mysterious
    - Charmed [Male] brings her to 5+ DEF vs most models in the game.
    - Protected [Kraken] gives her 1 ARM if Kraken is nearby, and to be honest they play very well together. She is best used as a backline model anyway, since you want to keep her safe until she does a big play, and her high base speed allows her to get around the battlefield and gives her abilities a significant threat range.
    -2" reach, low dodges on playbook... the Fishermen specialty.
  • And at the end of the day, she's also a decent kicker at who can help you move the ball around. 

If you're looking for weaknesses, read the bit about the pathetic hit points and 4+/0 stat line, and avoid the things that follow it :). Not to mention the characteristic crap damage output, low TAC and only having a Tackle on 3 successes. She does one thing well - the rest, she's not so good at.


Season 2:


I haven't had much experience with Corsair yet, so I'll only write about Sakana for the moment.

Sakana

Striker

The most important thought I have about Sakana: he always feels relevant.
  •  He can score goals and play ball: He's potentially fast enough to get where he wants with a good base MOV and Cover of Darkness. His playbook has some very strong movement results, which he usually gets due to Anatomical Precision. He's also good kicker - not at good as Angel or Shark but certainly good enough to put the ball in the net.
    Especially good in a dual Striker team, he is stellar at being put on a flank with some cover and waiting for goal kicks or long passes.
  •  He can support his team: He has an ARM debuff in Weak Point (huge in Fishermen in my experience) which makes him excellent vs teams like Union, Masons and Brewers. He can also drop cover from a long range away on exposed teammates. Dropping a cloud early in the turn with spare influence gives your team some additional options in advancing up the field.
  •  He's pretty survivable, at least for Fish and a Striker: He gets a free counter attack, even when you lose first turn, and if he can't get out of combat with it then he can just apply an ARM debuff to help him/the team get out later. Respectable HP, stats at 4+/1 and a fondness for hanging around cover.
  • Basically, he's always got game, whether he goes early, or late. He might not be the best at any of those things, but he is good at all of them.

He also doesn't feel like he has any uncharacteristic weaknesses that stand out, other than not being excellent at any one aspect of the game. Like most Fish, he is vulnerable to knock down and/or focused aggression, and his damage output is pretty terrible (however he does have ONE momentous damage result when applying Weak Point).





Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Veteran's Playbook (2) - So it's like Soccer then?


Welcome back to your best, your biggest, nay your ONLY real source of quality Guildmachine ( Or is it Warball? I forget) articles this side of the Bombays (Auckland, not India). Or just another load of literary craptacularity (new word, must add to the Urban Dictionary) designed to assist in wasting away another pointlessly horrific working day.

Not me though. I'm still on holiday.


Todays masterpiece brings the astounding revelation that Guild Ball is a sports game (shocking, I know) but further to that how you can make the sportsy nature of the system work better for you by focusing on just one magic word:

Positioning! Your players. Positioning your players.


Ok, three magic words.


******


You've played a few games now and you've got a good feel for the mechanics. You can score the occasional goal and dudes get beaten up a fair bit. You think you're having fun and you've stopped crying yourself to sleep over eVayl. But every game seems to devolve into a hopeless scrum in the middle of the table and the only thing wandering the flanks is a shame-faced colleague returning to the fray with that now characteristic single Icy Sponge worth of boxes. Why does this keep happening? Simple - you're terrible at the game and so is your opponent. You should both feel terrible. Go back to 40k for a time out and think about what you've done.


Your Guild Ball games look like this. And you're England. That is literally how bad things currently are.


I've heard it said that the sports game aspect of Guild Ball provides "a functionally live and balanced scenario element in what is otherwise a skirmishing beat-down game" and I respectfully disagree. Nah jokes, zero respect in my disagreement with that ridiculously inaccurate statement. In reality, Guild Ball is a sports game that tries to distract you from actually winning by sucking you into killing guys while getting jammed up in the middle of the table wondering why you bothered. Unless you play Butchers in which case please continue drooling quietly in the corner.

Truth - inflicting Taken Out results is fun when it happens, but the real meat of the game - when you realise you've unlocked something quite special - is when you start scoring quick, consecutive goals. And that can really only happen through good positioning.


Grab one of your player cards and walk with me on this one. You're drawn to the stats and the Character Traits. And the Playbook results. And the sexy Character Plays. But have you ever noticed the bottom left corner of text on the back side of the card? It gives you some fluff garbage for sure but it also gives you a VITAL indicator that will open up your game - it literally tells you the recommended position of the player. And astoundingly, it's legit.


For reals Soccer positions. Or Football. I really don't care what it's called if you're a purist.


Here's the not-so-secret secret. What if you... wait for it... actually used your players in their recommended positions on the table? Hear that sound? That's your brain exploding at how awesome I am for making you aware of this game-changing suggestion.


Let's get past the two most obvious ones first:

- Strikers (aka Centre Forwards): designed primarily to shoot goals and not much else. Lightweights in a fight (mostly Dodges and Tackles on the Playbook) with low TAC but good Kick values. Want to shoot goals and not get punched too hard while doing so. Some will have better ball handling skills to help with defence.

- Goalkeeper (aka... Goalkeepers): their rules promote staying within "X" inches of the goal, getting in the way, Counter-Charging with a gotcha!, and generally trying to make shooting attempts on goal miserable.


These guys tend to leap out as "well duh!" in terms of where they end up on the field although I'll come back to Strikers in a bit and blow the roof off the toilet cubicle where you're reading this. Hunched over your iPhone, avoiding any real work or responsibility. Sad bro, real sad.


- Winger (aka Wing Backs): this is where your game changes. These players are generally faster, can punch well, want to be attacking a ball carrier in an uneven and isolated fight. Some charge for free or can capitalise on positioning errors (or both *cough... Cosset*). Some will debuff enemy movement values. They don't necessarily want to find themselves in a protracted fight and most definitely don't want to get Ganged Up on. Watch out though - Wingers are danger men walking the fine line between glory and getting their asses Pushed off the pitch. Nothing worse than getting surprise-shivved by the opposition's supporters (pro-tip be VERY careful playing Wingers hard out on the extreme wing against Engineers).

- Centre Backs (as per the diagram but some will range into being Sweepers): the juicy middle of the team and the pitch. Tend to be big guys, want to punch stuff, slow down the enemy, grind it out more. They're like the anvil waiting for a poorly positioned Winger to fling themselves into a waiting bear trap. Knock Down is a favourite Playbook result as is keeping you engaged in combat, bogged down in the morass. If you've found your games turn into a scrum you've possibly found these players to be amongst your favourites followed or preceded closely by...

- Attacking Midfielders (somewhere around/between the forward-most Centre Midfielders and the Centre Forwards in the diagram above): these want to punch stuff super bad. They exist to tangle with Centre Backs (a dangerous game indeed!) and like nothing more than to Gang Up on some poor fool Striker or Winger and smash him off the pitch in a welter of blood accompanied by the sting of humiliation as the crowd jeers wildly. Ah, just like when Richie plays the French.

- Central Midfielders (aka pretty much what you see above): these guys are far from equal when you compare them across factions but they tend to have a few things in common. They hand out buffs and auras where they can have the most reach and impact. They can be flexible in their application (varied Playbook, Kicking ability, Character Plays that use INF and don't rely on hits to generate single or double guild balls to trigger). They're commonly the glue connecting your backs to the attacking forwards while the Wingers roam with greater independence.

- Defensive Midfielders (like a less forward Centre or perhaps ideally a Sweeper): if you have one of these guys my bet is that they're amazing. They're problem solvers extraordinaire and whilst they can't necessarily do all things brilliantly (fielding roles and specialisations being what they are) they nevertheless bring a strong sense of being in the right place at the right time. Controlling the opposition or reaching out with ranged plays that affect board position is relevant here, as is supporting the grind crew at the back with additional beatings. They can replace and addend Centre Midfielders quite easily allowing you to connect more effectively with your forward attackers and Strikers.


A final word here on Mascots. Even the most useless looking of them aren't the dead weight they appear to be at first. The unwritten words on their cards are the positions they want to be playing in. Some should be on the wing supporting players in those positions and escorting Strikers (Dirge, Salt). Others are midfield players who should be buffing friendlies (Coin, Marbles, Princess). Spend some time finding more optimised positioning roles for your Mascot and you'll find they let you down a whole lot less than they currently do.


Whoever gets a duck as their mascot officially wins Guild Ball forever.


******


"But oh wise and mighty Dave, how do I make it all work?", I hear you say. More chill, young padawan. More chill. And more words....


Simply put, the strength of your team is the sum of its parts. How many games have you played when as the Fishermen player Shark on his own ruled the field and did all the work? He did that because your opponent was a scrub. Now imagine a game where all the players make a valued contribution, most get a touch of the ball on more than your first turn, and magically when you want it to happen Angel is in the right place for once before you activate her! And she doesn't need to Super Kick to get the job done!

This is the aim and if you'll excuse the pun, this is the goal. Let the other guy bunch up for the scrum - your job is to use as much of that 3x3 pitch as you can, push Kick range to the limit, Pass 'n Move or Give 'n Go to set up for shenanigans in the next turn. Be flexible, yes. But don't get baited into a punch up in the middle where Momentous Pushes and Momentous Doges are wasted and movement is left unspent.

Push your Striker up hard in the opening turn (all the movement tricks available plus Give 'n Go if you can) and leave them looking innocent in the next turn with no INF. Then shift the ball across the field after issuing a beating with an Attacking Midfielder, Give n' Go your Football Legend into range, and boom! Snap Shot! to glory with your Striker. Lose less models to Taken Out results and have less of those moments where the other guy is getting +3 TAC from Ganging Up bonuses. Out manoeuvre him, score twice, then reconvene on a frustrated, scattered and isolated individual and go for the throat a couple of times. Or just Fish harder and flank for days making it impossible to Goal Kick to where you don't have an available and threateningly positioned player. Push Stave up the guts as your kick-off player then Lob Barrel into an unwary noob who's collecting all his players together into some kind of daisy-chain making hippy circle of hand-holding awkwardness. Knock Down and Push all the terrible players! Or kick-off with Ghast and bully the centre forcing the fight into an uneven and ugly scrap towards the flank before you flick the ball out the other side with a Puppet Mastering Obulus solving all your problems in his Defensive Midfielder role. Give Rage no INF then "surprise bitches!" charge for free anyway and get two attacks in with some sweet sweet football hooligan bezerking action as an Attacking Midfielder.


Explore the cards, read the rules, imagine the possibilities. Try playing it less as a 5v6 (because your Mascot is "shit because it doesn't punch hard enough") skirmish wargame, and more as a 6v6 "if I out-position my opponent and score goals he will feel humiliated and emasculated and that will somehow validate me as a person making my existence more meaningful". Plus you will enjoy the fact that you're playing a violent sports game without having to sacrifice your body to any actual rigour (unless you're a Fish player in which case GG to your lower back playing the whole game on your opponent's side of the table).

It's a sports game with the additional benefit of punching things. Not the other way around.


******


Let's finish with a little bit of scandalous frippery. Which is the best Guild Ball team?

Why, the one that plays the best Guild Ball of course! Why chase idiots around the table and rely on their positioning to get a Taken Out result for 2VPs when you have a fixed position goal that will net you 4VPs? A goal that can't run away and has predictable Goal Kick options? That makes Fishermen the superior team where the only real issue is how screwed you are in the Fish mirror. That's right, Fishermen are the best team in the game. If you play Fishermen and you aren't winning all your games... you should probably re-read this article. Or play Butchers instead. Here's a video of a Fishermen team correctly annihilating the shit out of some Morticians in the final round of a store tournament. It's a thing of beauty and horror. Be inspired and awed. And be very worried the next time you play a semi-competent Fisherman.


******


Actually you know what? It's not like soccer. It's more like Aussie Rules with less "stuck in third gear and keep missing fourth but changing into second instead" level ear-grinding babble coming from the commentators. Read the Guild Ball fluff - even the audiences are the same!


More words when I can be bothered. Cheers.



Shark receives the ball and Momentous Tidal Surges off a hapless Tower. Classic Guild Ball!


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Rookie's Corner 4 - Resources

So you've thought about playing this game for a bit and decided you'll give it a go.

You've picked a team based on your personal aesthetical and playstyle preferences, but mostly because you've probably got a massive crush on a particular captain.

You've gotten a couple of games in, made some mistakes, gotten your head around some of the intricacies and conventions of the system and generally are now hooked in.

Where to next?


Podcasts:

Guild Ball Tonight

The longest running Guild Ball-exclusive podcast, this show covers a broad range of topics within the game, including news, event coverage, community interviews, etc.

Strictly the Worst

Excellent podcast focusing exclusively on the competitive aspect of the game. Features Jordan Nach, current US #1 player, Alex Botts, current US #1 tiebreak expert and that other guy.

Double Dodge

Classy podcast from our Australian neighbours. Good interviews, good memes, and always willing to praise Pete Williamson.

Singled Out Podcast

Officially the 4th best Guild Ball podcast, based in the UK with a focus on the UK scene.

Discussion

Steamforged Forums

The official forums for the game - more or less what'd you expect. Best place for official information and pictures of amazing paintjobs and conversions.

NZ Facebook Group

Featuring the best url of the lot, it's the best way to stay in touch with other NZ ballers.

Guild Ball Supporters

Biggest worldwide Facebook group to discuss the game.

/r/guildball

Young reddit subforum, but becoming increasingly active

Websites


Guild Ball Official

The official site - the most useful section will be the Downloads section, which includes the full rulebook for the game, the latest errata, the full updates rules for all models, the Organized Play document, reference sheets and last but not least, the official Vassal module.

GB Scrum

An incredibly useful resources hosting the latest cards in an easy to navigate UI. May be turned into an app in the near future.

Nick's GB Health Tracker

Very efficient little app to mark health during a game, made by a local.

Youtube channels


Steamforged Official

Weekly updates with news and spoilers. 

Run the Length

Channel by a member of the Chicago meta. Focuses on the competitive game. Sped up reports with excellent analytical commentary.

Hot Gates Gaming

High quality video batreps.

Where to buy



Mighty Ape is the primary supplier of Guild Ball in New Zealand. Competitive prices, quick shipping, good service, and supports the scene. Can't go wrong.

Guild Ball Official

A good place to start and browse, and the first place to get things in stock. Also has periodic sales for limited edition models.




Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Mob Ball, Part 1

This is going to be a somewhat different series of posts to what has been contributed thus far. Introducing myself, hello my name is Dave and I am not a Guild Ball player. I actually viewed the game with some disdain; as others started dropping Warmachine, a game I've learned to love and enjoy, I was hesitant to making the shift to pick up Guild Ball. There were attempts to coax me into joining in all this fantasy-football hooplah, but the more JS tried, the less interest I had and the more resistant I became. 

I spouted out all sorts of other practical considerations, like I was completing a pretty intense University year,  I only had so many resources I wanted to dedicate to playing war-dollies, what's this Bloodbowl wannbe crap, I only have the attention span to focus on one system at a time, etc etc etc. Ultimately, these were all just excuses. I resisted because I felt I was being badgered into playing something I didn't want to engage in. Warmachine was my game, and I was dedicate to the path of glorious mediocrity with my Skorne.
But I did cave. Well, "caving" is probably disingenuous; JS in one final push to shill, incorporated the assistance of several other of my fellow gaming compadres, including Nikola, Peter, Dan, David, and Chas, to pitch in and buy me a team of Alchemists.
such joy

You can see how touched I was. Honestly, you guys are the best - at the end of the day, these games are about the people, and I'm so fortunate to be in the great company of such a hunky bunch of man-meat.

So, as I write this Mob Ball series of posts, please don't get me confused with the other Dave, that David Stent fellow who waxes lyrical about all sorts of tactical rules nuances, and playing with Morticians. No, I'm the Dave that's going to play with the dashing and progressive Alchemists.

Upon receiving my box I started putting them together and spit-balled some ideas of what I could do with them creatively. Hearing that some random complained that Midas looked too "feminine" and paid a bunch of moolah to have the sculpt made into his own likeness, I cranked up the douche-ness of Midas by giving him a fedora to aid in his attempt to pick up 7's and 8's with his piece of flair and skill at negging (if you're unfamiliar with this terminology, good). 

I had grandiose goals of turning the whole team into a pack of fuck-boi pickup-artists, but I wasn't getting much inspiration for pieces of flair for Catalyst and Vitriol (wtf is up with her pose), or Compound. Mercury is pretty much already a skeeze-ball, level 10 creep. Might do something to Katalyst though, if I ever get around to getting him. And Venin could do with a nice hat.

From here, the approach I want to take with this series of posts is one of wide-eyed openness and naivety - what I think and experience as I learn the game and play matches with those rascally Alchemists. I have next to no knowledge about the game or its setting, and at the moment of this writing I have played a grand total of one demo 3v3 game, watched 2-3 games played by others, and have  viewed one online video. As such, the level of tactical insight and analysis I can present will be rudimentary at best. But I am interested to see what will happen as time passes and my experience develops. Hopefully documenting this will prove an interesting and insightful endeavour, if not entertaining at the very least.

In the meantime, I'll share again my greatest accomplishment to date; making this shill-meme

Friday, January 1, 2016

Veteran's Playbook (1) - Use it or Lose it


This series will focus on getting the most out of your Guild Ball games once you have a basic understanding of the most general rules. You've played somewhere between 7-10 games and the mechanics are becoming familiar so now let's get some more mileage out of the more intimate aspects of the game design itself and explore just why Guild Ball has so much depth that goes well beyond the first glance.

Let's talk about Momentum first.


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The generation and timely expenditure of Momentum is undoubtedly one of the key focuses of any game. Having Momentum available is money in the bank allowing you to make unexpected miracle plays (known as "Vintage Guild Ball" or "Champagne Guild Ball"), hold the initiative over your opponent, and enforce your plan upon an unsuspecting enemy. It also gives you some unbelievably useful 'get-out-of-jail free' options.

The basic mechanics of the game offer us an understanding of how to build Momentum in any give turn and while there's variation from guild to guild (cf. Engineers in the Ballista bubble) it's mostly generated by three things:

- successfully passing the ball between your players
- selecting unlocked momentous results from playbooks
- inflicting Taken Out results on opponent models / scoring in the opponent goal

It's worth noting that while the main objective of the game is to score goals and/or kill dudes to get 12VPs, your plan will most assuredly require you generate Momentum at some point in your turn (if only to spend 1MP for a kick at goal). This game within a game aspect demands considerable attention because while you go about your side mission to gain Momentum you are simultaneously trying to scupper your opponents chances at doing the same. While trying to score goals. While inflicting Take Outs. While positioning for the next turn. While accounting for their plans. While keeping your guys alive. While defending your goal.

Yes, it's quite complicated.


MASSIVE EDIT in an obnoxious colour!!! - you CANNOT generate Momentum if a friendly ball-token carrier is completely within the friendly goal zone and you CANNOT generate Momentum if the ball-token is a free ball and a friendly player was the last one to touch it. This is a VERY big deal if your strategy against Fishermen is to play 'keep away' and give them the run-around!


This will tie into a later article in the series, but start by having a really good look at the playbooks of your own players. As you gain experience this will help drive your means to an end in obtaining Momentum. For example (and most obviously), Butchers generally want to punch stuff to get Momentum ergo not punching means they gain much less. You need to be in combat to punch stuff. Which means threat ranges are important. On a deeper level, once you engage the buff machine (Butchery and Ox's passive aura / Legendary / Ganging Up bonuses / Princess) you might find you're inadvertently killing guys off accidentally too quickly without farming maximum Momentum from your activations, inefficiently having INF left on your models at the end of the turn. On the other hand, Fishermen almost definitely do not want to punch stuff - they want to Tackle and Dodge (slippery bastards!). They're looking at a similar but distinctly different play experience where threat ranges are relevant in order to bounce off enemy models, tie down, slip around, disengage, and push past and through gaps to exploit an open goal. They're most happy seeing a poorly positioned and isolated low DEF model to build their Momentum train.


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But Dave, where's this magical next level in using Momentum you mentioned?


One of the criticisms (arguably rightly) levelled at me as a Morticians player earlier in my career was a tendency to have a Momentum overflow (8-12) and not look for opportunities to spend it throughout my turn. This meant I frequently took the initiative with the first activation each turn (often winning the roll-off automatically) but also resulted in less glorious and exciting or innovative play throughout each turn.

Now don't get me wrong - having the first activation can be game-winning. But my conservative play was leading me down the path of least resistance and frankly, boredom. At its best Guild Ball is a fluid and ever-changing play experience; at worst it's a static grind where ball, space and positional manipulation becomes largely irrelevant (taking the 'ball' out of 'Guild Ball' as it were). Have a read of Using Momentum from the rulebook and walk with me a while...


Shooting for Goal

Fine and pretty obviously basic. You can't (for example) run Mist in possession of the ball straight at the goal and just take a shot in the first activation - someone has to get that vital first MP in the bank to enable your kicker. This can clearly be the kicker him/herself but there's a risk element here - range to enemy model v range to goal, how much INF you need to allocate, enemy DEF/ARM, how many hits generate momentous playbook results and what these are / how useful they will be in that situation. Dedicated Strikers don't tend to punch terribly well either.

Pro-tip: remember that Momentous Tackle results can't be used if you're punching someone who doesn't have the ball!


Counter-Attack

This is massive and frequently overlooked. Make sure you get it right - before your opponent makes his roll you must declare you are making a Counter-Attack and spend 1MP. After your opponent's Attack has been resolved, if you are able, you may make your Counter-Attack. As the counter is named as a generic Attack action Ganging Out bonuses and Crowding Out penalties will apply. Counter-Attacks do NOT generate MP but unlike Parting Blows which are limited in their outcomes, Counter-Attacks offer the full range of your playbook. Let me stress again how amazing this is.

- some poor fool is already engaging Shark and punches him. Shark Counter-Attacks rolling up 3 hits after ARM. He 'Gut and Strings' your guy. Good luck moving now, chump.
- some poor fool moves up and punches Shark who Counter-Attacks rolling up 2 hits after ARM. He double Dodges out of combat and the attacking model scratches it's head wondering what it can do with all the INF it's sitting on.
- some poor fool moves up and punches Kraken who laughs it off and Counter-Attacks rolling up 1 hit and Knocking Down his attacker. The Fishermen player laughs and his opponent rage-quits the game.


Parry! Thrust! Vault! Counter-Attack!


As with practically everything there are ways around all of these things. Here are a few:

- the Counter-Attack action happens after the enemy model has resolved it's Attack. You get Knocked Down = no Counter-Attack for you, 1MP flushed down the toilet. He Pushes you out of melee range = no Counter-Attack for you, 1MP burned for no gains. He Dodges out of melee range = no Counter-Attack for you, 1MP gone to the dogs.

Melee ranges are also a big deal here - a 2" range model engaging a 1" range model is safety first. On the flipside, engaging a 2" range model can be risky business.

This also discourages punching at your maximum melee range.

Pro-tip: declaring a Counter-Attack can pressure your opponent into reviewing their playbook results and may dissuade them from selecting something they really wanted.



Real-life example from last night. Angel on 4 INF engages Gutter who has the ball and has played the Guild Plot card "Keep Ball" (model gains Close Control, ignores the first Tackle result against it). Angel punches and gets 1 hit (Momentous Tackle) which is ignored. Gutter Counter-Attacks and gets 2 hits, pushing Angel out of her melee range. 3 INF is effectively wasted this turn. The Fishermen player says something rude about Gutter and mutters something else about switching to Masons.


Defensive Stance

High DEF basketball players are the worst!


How do you make something even better? Push the limit of what makes it strong already.

Defensive Stance only works against the initial Charge attack and is designed to off-set the bonus dice received from the Charge. Bear in mind it must be a Charge attack, not just a model walking/sprinting in and buying a punch.

This is best used on a DEF 5+ model making it DEF 6+ against the Charge.

Pro-tip: don't bother Charging a Nimble Snakeskin who can Defensive Stance, with a Male model.


Bonus Time:

Another excellent rule. Spend 1MP, roll one additional dice on any TN test. Some revision on what constitutes a TN test and how Bonus Time might be useful:

- Character Plays spending INF to hit an enemy model - roll 2 dice to hit with Shut Out instead of one!
- Attacks (and therefore Counter-Attacks) - off-set terrain or Crowding Out penalties!
- Passing to another player - off-set Crowding Out or passing over an enemy player penalties!
- Kick attempts on goal - off-set Rush Goalie by rolling more dice! Bonus time your Snap Shot! (see below)

A little extra insurance against bad dice by just rolling more dice can go a long way!


Teamwork

Finally, let's look at the Teamwork options (the rest of the Using Momentum options being comparatively straight forward if you can remember to use them!).





  • Give 'n Go: amazing. Successfully pass the ball, spend 1MP to make a 4" Dodge. It's incredible how quickly you can redeploy a sprinting Shank with Where'd They Go? after passing the ball... (answer = 16").
  • Pass 'n Move: amazing. Successfully receive the ball, spend 1MP to make a 4" Dodge. It's amazing what Harmony can do when Honour passes her the ball, she Dodges 4", then immediately gets to activate!
  • Snap Shot!: freaking out of this world AMAZING! This is champagne Guild Ball territory and so far I've managed to pull it off once late in a turn having built a very healthy amount of Momentum when I passed to Mist who used it to shoot successfully at goal. It requires TWO successful hits on the goal and is subject to all the usual modifiers but doesn't require the kicking model to spend INF. This type of play rewards excellent positioning and is one of the pinnacles of top level Guild Ball. Remember that sprinting, Give 'n Go, Where'd They Go? Shank from earlier? What if he positioned himself to receive the ball later in the turn and Snap Shot! after Ox has punched up enough Momentum?

Pro-tip: early activation of your goal kicker by sprinting/dodging them up to within kicking range of the goal and leaving them looking incredibly innocent on 0 INF having finished their activation. Next activation - they receive the ball from somewhere in the back midfield and Snap Shot! for the win! Next level - they sprint and use Super Kick to be even further away.

Pro-tip: you can only use one Teamwork option per successful pass so no chaining Pass 'n Move with Snap Shot!


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Looks like Momentum is pretty sweet, right? Now get out there and make it happen!


EDIT - in all fairness while it looks obvious it's probably worth pointing out that strategically speaking if you are well down on Momentum and likely to be going second anyway next turn it's better to spend than to bank, especially later in the turn. Healing your players is an outstanding way to burn "unwanted" Momentum.