Friday, April 29, 2016

Trying to Score with Smashed Shins: A Jump into Guild Ball

Fishermen face off against Butchers
At Adepticon, I was tasked with a role I know well - getting into the vendor hall and grabbing some new releases for friends. I rushed over to Steamforged Games and clearly didn't know what i was doing. The guys there helped me out and actually knew my buddy I was buying for. After that, I was a marked target. I promised I'd do a demo sometime during the weekend. I ogled some of the art which I admit even during the Kickstarter caught my eye.

Admittedly, I am not a sports fan. I have seen games like BloodBowl and Dreadball, and it just wasn’t enough to pull me in. I want to add some smashy to my kicky scorey, but it's easy to find either lacking. Another big downfall is usually there isn't much backstory to get into.

I ended up getting that demo in with Bill, and Pat joined me. We sat down on a cushy neoprene pitch of lush grass, stamped with Guild Ball field lines. We had 6 well painted models per side, along with tokens for literally everything our team could do. I was pretty astounded at the options and choices I had working with 6 models. Kudos to Bill and Andy for letting us check it out and running a demo after a long con day.

Fishermen have great ball handling and weapons with some reach
Now my greatest fear - which team to pick! While there are some teams people consider straight forward, I truly believe now with the complexity of how they play, you can't really nail a team down in a sentence. After a lot of struggle, I went with Masons, mainly due to the season two captain Hammer. He works pretty much like you'd expect a person named Hammer to behave. :)

Let's get away from my story and go into a few basics. Guild Ball is played on a 3x3 surface with teams of 6v6, one of which is the mascot. Premeasuring is allowed at all times. Your players have cards that are used during the game, keeping track of move, tactical dice, kick stats, defense/armor, and the interesting stuff - the playbook and passive traits. The game works on the golden rule, alternating activations, and uses D6's in a net successes vs. misses way. Each player generates influence, which is the ability to do an action. Other than a free move, each model needs influence to do any number of actions during their turn.
Some of the Morticians Guild
Here's the biggie - welcome to 2016, the rules and stat cards are free. There are printable paper-doll standees and templates. There is a Vassal module for online play. ALL of this is officially created and supported. Steamforged wants you to play their game!

The Vassal module is created by Steamforged. Its very clean and professional.
Digging into cards a bit, you'll find all of your players info. Through your playbook, you discover the black-magic feel of each player. After moving, sprinting, or charging, you may find yourself engaged with an enemy. Buying an attack with influence, you'd start with the models number of tactical dice, you'll roll with the target number being the defense of the enemy, gaining a number of successful hits. The armor of the enemy simply takes successful dice away. 

After this, you look at your play book up to the number of successes is your choices for your attack. Do you do 1 damage, tackle the ball, or dodge out of combat to bounce to a new position?! The playbooks are for sure the thing you will find yourself grinding your gears on in your head. I'm noticing you have to ask yourself, 'OK, what did you want to accomplish with this attack?'. 

When passing or kicking, your character has a number of dice to successfully kick, and a distance. Passing is easy but not infallible; scoring is tougher and leaves you vulnerable. There are modifiers for intervening models and people ganging up on you.

On top of the playbook, characters have traits and character plays, which for lack of a better term are spells. Spend a couple influence, poison a dude, slip out of combat, and so on. Ranged attacks are not quite common but these generally fall in the character play section. Traits are passive bonuses, such as ignoring the first ball tackle, being able to react to enemy movement, or reducing damage done to the character.

Playbooks and Plays provide incredible diversity between characters
Games are played to 12 points, 2 points for a knock out, 4 points for a goal. Knocked out characters regain health and return to the pitch, even on the next turn if you wish! Be careful though, they will be easy to knock out again. When a goal is scored, the frenzied mob of fans throw it back in - there's no resetting for a kick off.

On top of influence, there is a mechanic called momentum that really changes what you can do. It's as you'd expect, your players pass the ball around, dodge and weave through enemies, or slam weapons into the opposing force, generating momentum as the team turns into a snowball rolling down a hill. These points can be spent to boost die pools, boost defense, react to charges, and boost initiative rolls. Momentum is required to score a goal, and is reset upon a new turn. The highest level use of momentum is known as teamwork abilities which is when you start to see some real synergy plays that make you feel like a star.

Newest team out, The Hunters, take aim at The Alchemists
Since I got back from Adepticon, I've been playing weekly with our small growing group. Through their help, I'm actually becoming better at a game, which feels great. Guild Ball just kicked off its Season 2 rules and players, which again you can find all for free! Players change as people and get new cards, bringing some you passed on before into focus. These new season veteran characters don’t negate the old model or card, just a new option. Progressing the story on a character really has me invested in the background.

The teams have such incredible flavor, I've had to promise myself to stick to one for now. Luckily I still have a lot to learn about Masons and Guild Ball.

Everything you'll need is on their page:

Guild Ball Landing Page - story and game play videos, all resources

Quickstart Rules

Full Season 2 Rules

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think!

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