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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Guild Ball - An Introduction

By Maurice Kent
(An earlier version of this article appeared on the Metal Skirmish blog. This is updated!) (Any art linked/posted in this page is from Steamforged games)

Hello, sports fans! Oh, you're not? Well, could I interest you in a low-fantasy skirmish game that doubles as a sports miniatures game? Yes? Excellent. Welcome to Guild Ball, from Steamforged Games.

Guild Ball is a Medieval Football skirmish game, in which teams of players representing various mercantile guilds battle it out on the pitch to settle differences between their employers and generally keep fractious city-states from going to war with one another. 

So the Olympics, but with more Necromancers and less nudity

I really enjoyed Blood Bowl earlier in my gaming career and have always been on the lookout for new sports games. Although I skipped the original Guild Ball kickstarter despite loving the art, I finally read the rules and realized my mistake. One quick group order later and I had my much adored Fishermen's Guild on bases and ready to stab some punks with spearguns...and also score goals... mostly score goals. I'll go into a bit about the gameplay below, followed by a bit of a summary of each faction.

You win a standard match by scoring 12 points, with 4 scored for a goal and 2 for taking an opposing player out. Some teams (which comprise a Captain, a Mascot and 4 unique players in a standard game) focus on the goal-scoring game, some on the punch-fest and some on a balance of the two. This allows the game to have a reasonable length while not favoring scoring teams over killing teams, or vice versa.

I've gotten a bit of game action in with them now and the game is excellent. It offers a lot of dynamism and action, with a good dose of problem solving.

Almost every activation can feel like one of those set-piece puzzle articles from a No Quarter or old White Dwarf, where you try to gin up the best solution to a situation. It manages to do this without generating analysis paralysis or slowing the game down as well, which is really clever.

Basically, each turn you and your opponent alternate activating your players until they've all gone once. Players are assigned influence (action points) to start the turn, which they spend to attack, sprint, pass, etc. 

As you do things, you'll generate momentum points, which you need to do things like trigger heroic plays, exercise effective teamwork, heal mid-turn, and most importantly: shoot the ball at the goal.

Each player has a set of plays that they can carry out, as well as a little damage chart that they use when attacking. You roll a pool of D6s for every action and try to score a number of successes. The damage chart (playbook) for your character lets you know whether you can hurt or knock down your target, dodge or push them, or trigger a character play, depending on how successful your attack was.

One quick descriptive sentence about each faction:

The Alchemists
The Alchemists are all about board control, throwing AoE effects that variously damage and slow their opponents.

The Brewers
The Brewers are a tough, slower team that push other teams around, knocking them down.

The Butchers
The Butchers guild are unsurprisingly about cutting the opposing team to pieces; they're deadly.

The Engineers
The Engineers are a mixture of specialists with a lot of ranged effects and skills that enable them to excel at a particular role (scorer, fighter, ball-recovery, etc.).

The Fishermen
The Fishermen focus on outrunning their opponents and scoring goals, lacking in damage; every player is a threat to score.

The Masons
The Masons guild is balanced and all about team synergy; they can equally succeed fighting or scoring.

The Morticians
The Morticians employ a number of dirty tricks to control and punish the opposing team, making it easier for them to finish them off or score that final goal.

The Union
The Union are both an individual team and mercenaries; each player brings a particular skillset to a subset of the other teams, and as their own team, they are a very flexible group of powerful players.

Well, there you have it. Guild Ball is just taking off and has a very bright future, with the second season of characters due out this fall. If you want to learn more about the game, I recommend Guild Ball Tonight, an excellent podcast focused just on this game. See you on the pitch!

Want to join the conversation? Please sound off in the comments below, or let us know on our forum!

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