Kickstarters!! They have produced some hits and some misses in its short history, but the wargaming industry has exploded due to this type of funding, which has been both a curse and a shining light all at the same time.
Today I will be talking about one of the shining lights.
Guild ball produced in the UK (literally from the conception of model to production, printers, developers of rules all within the UK), which has delivered with a few hiccups lots of shiny models and rules to their backers and also retail.
Without any bad publicity (Relic Knights anyone?) and with a greater furore now surrounding it from backers and more importantly non-backers (me) than I expected for a fantasy football game.
I now will never mention Kickstarter again (in this post)!! So let’s have a little review of all things Guild Ball shall we?
Based upon a fantasy setting although not too fantasy (no dragons seen yet) and has a nod towards actual history of football, with it starting as a mass game of kick the ball and occasionally each other.
This grew into something more organised played around the game world. Which also helped people to get over a Great War as all sport seems to be able to do.
What made the game into what you play on the tabletop, is in fact (as in real life) big business. The Guilds everything from Masons to Hunters, they saw the popularity of the game and saw an opportunity to use it as a way of gaining/controlling power outside of the game via all the usual cloak and dagger means.
As the guilds couldn’t go to war openly as they helped broker the truce of the ‘world war’. Guild ball helps them win battles/games against their rivals and all the time the masses love the game as well.
Very much a game for the masses controlled by shadowy organisations…This sounds oddly familiar.
The actual fluff and stories are well written, my only issue is the font used for the stories but that is a personal thing.
The GB guys have also said that the game will work in ‘seasons’ lasting roughly a year. This will see the teams progress with team changes as players are killed off etc. So plenty to keep teams fresh as we see new captains, mascots etc. Although nothing will become obsolete, which is great.
I don’t have any yet, but based on what I have seen on social media. Which these days proves a helpful barometer of feeling..
The models are stunning and well worth it. I look forward to getting some, so expect a review of the team(s) when I get them.
So as we crack open the rule book what do we find?
Well it weighs in at a nice 130 pages and within those glorious FULL colour pages we have the usual sections in the book. However it is split up by small sections of fluff, very much like MK1 Malifaux rulebook, however this book seems less invasive and easier to deal with than the Malifaux book which has to be applauded as something like this is a very fine balancing act to go with.
Lots of fluff throughout the book, which follows a couple of the teams during the game. The main story however seems to follow the Union playing the Fishermen and Butchers off against each other in a subterfuge way you would expect of coin loving mercs..
The rules are well written and littered with examples. The artwork has a style all of its own, which feels right for the setting.
The guys have made the decision to go landscape with the book, which is an unusual thing to do but again if you have the rules from the website downloaded then it is perfect for the tablet user.
Now for the juicy bits, time to look at the mechanisms and actual rules for GB. Everything is based upon D6s and pre-measuring is allowed at any point.
The game itself is played on a 3’x3’ board, with a normal game being 6 models aside.
What is worth pointing out at this point is there are NO points involved in this game. Each model is an individual character (so can only be taken once) however you can take any models allowed for the team you are playing (Union Guild is a basically a Merc team so you can cherry pick some of them for your own team).
The only restrictions are that you must have a Captain and one of the six also has to be a Mascot (these are at the moment generally various animals that help the team in some way, think Totems in Malifaux or Attachments in WM/H).
This is a huge difference to a lot (nearly all) games out there and it is a credit that the designers are happy with the balance in the game, an impressive feat.
They are a few stats/characteristics you will need to know in the game although nothing to stressful.
- MOV – There are 2 numbers associated with this the first is the base movement in inches, while the second is the maximum move allowed (for running/charging).
- TAC – This is the base number of dice allowed in a pool when the model is doing an action
- KICK – There are 2 numbers the first is the kicking dice pool number when the model is making a kick action. The second is the distance the ball can be kicked.
- DEF – This is the number (4+ etc.) that will be the target number an opponent needs to count as a success when hitting you.
- ARM – If a number is present this lowers the number of successes rolled against the model by the value
- INF – This is influence and has 2 numbers. The first is how much a model generates per turn while the second is how much the model can use. This means a model can do more actions than they help generate in some circumstances, dependent on the model
- Character Traits – Any special abilities that the model has.
- HP – How much damage a model can take before being taken out
- Plays – These are special actions that a model can take during their activation. They include Character, Heroic and Legendary Plays.
Plays can be generated by the Play book OR paying the cost in INF to activate them. Which grant so nice extras, but it is weighted to be used via playbook as it is generated for ‘free’ via the hits you gain.
Heroic and Legendary plays are extra plays that models can use (appear on the front of their stat card). But are not linked to INF or playbook.
Heroic plays cost a MP to use and can only be used once per turn.
While the Legendary plays cost nothing but are a once per game use and can be pretty powerful. Very much in the same vein as a feat in WM/H.
Now onto the phases in your average game;
Initiative Phase – Roll a D6 and add +1 for each unspent Momentum Point (see later) the winner is the one with the highest total.
Maintenance Phase – This is a clean up phase related to dealing with conditions and Icy Sponges. Plus generating and allocating Influence to the teams.
- As mentioned all models generate a set amount of INF this is then pooled together and shard out to the team from 0 to the maximum allowed on a model till it has all been assigned. Simple mechanism that ensures the models YOU think will need it get to do more in the coming turn.
Activation Phase – The fun bit 🙂 everything activates in an alternate fashion till everything has gone.
End Phase – Finish the turn with removing all ongoing-effects (not conditions) and remove any unspent Influence.
Nice and simple! But wait how do I win I hear you say? Well in a normal game it is the first person to score 12 points. What this actually means is you score 3 goals (4 points) or take out 6 opponents (2points) or a combination of two.
This means the slippery fast light teams may want to score goals to win, while the angry choppy teams want to hurt the opposition a LOT. However all teams have models and abilities that mean any balance between the two extremes is easily done and it is a system that doesn’t really benefit any particular team.
Now for the 2 main actions models will be doing, OK they will also be moving and all models can move their base MOV for free (costs no INF) but moving at maximum speed (Charging/running etc) will incur a cost. But we are interested in the kicking and attacking……Although that may be the same thing!
- Pick a target spot within the models kick range (another model spot on the ground)
- Generate the dice-pool using the models stat, while adjusting if enemy models are engaging or generally in the way.
- All kicks have a base 4+ for a success again this is modified by enemies and also LoS to the target.
- If you get a success then the model targeted gets the ball or it scatters if it was a target spot.
- It will also scatter on an unsuccessful Kick
Scatter rules are simple roll for direction and distance and that is the final resting spot.
- Pay the costs to attack (in INF usually) and target a model
- Generate the dice-pool your models TAC value (dealing with any bonuses/penalties).
- The target number for success is based on the opponents DEF (e.g. 4+). This gives you your total number of hits.
- This number can be reduced by the opponents ARM rating (usually 0,1 or 2)
- Once the final total of hits is reached you read the models Playbook to discover possible outcomes.
Now in other games the number of hits would relate to damage done to opponents model. However in GB you read your playbook and decide what you wish to do (damage a model, tackle the model to get the ball or doing something particularly nasty).
The playbook is read from left to right. For instance 2 hits lets you go as far as column 2. This means you can pick which column you would like to use for the hits you generated.
The greyed out columns are never counted, so in the above example the 8th column is never considered.
The coloured (red) cells are very nice as they also generate Momentum on top of the actual effect (more on that later).
If you have managed to generate a bucket load of hits you can actually wrap the results to gain 2/3 more plays. So assuming you generated 10 hits (you really battered the opponent) then you would be able to use any column for you first 7 hits (7 columns max available) you would then wrap back to the start and be able to take a second effect from the first 3 columns.
But what does all these symbols mean? Well, there are 6 common types to deal with;
- Number – any number corresponds to amount of damage dealt from the hit.
- T – Tackle, if the opponent has the ball then you take it off them
- KD – Knock Down – You have knocked down the opponent
- Arrows – These can be a push (opponent) or dodge (active model) movement. Each individual arrow corresponds to an inch of movement.
- Guild Ball – Plays, this allows you to take one of the models plays for free (instead of paying in INF). Which play you can use is dependent on which symbol you pick (single or double ball)
So for the example I gave above I have decided to Tackle my opponent and then push 2 inches away. This also generates me a momentum point and possibly frees me up to then use more INF to kick the ball.
I could have just as well done 3+1 damage as well if I just wanted to hurt my opponent.
This is a reward mechanism for doing something good for your team, the main ways of gaining momentum are;
- Score a Goal (if two sixes are rolled it is a Screamer and generate 2MP instead)
- Pass the Ball
- Take Down an opponent
- Playbook – The results of hitting an opponent may lead to extra MP being generated
What you use Momentum for is pretty varied and really adds another layer of tactical possibilities to the game. But what can you use it for? Well;
- Shooting – You need to spend a Momentum and INF point to have a shot on goal.
- Counter-attack – When targeted by an attack you can choose to spend a MP to get an out-of-activation hit back, but only once against each enemy model per turn.
- Defensive Stance – When a charge is declared against you, you can spend an MP to gain a bonus to your DEF for the charge action.
Teamwork possibilities, the following are all based on when a successful pass has occurred.
- Give’n’Go – Active model (the passer) can spend a MP to make a dodge move.
- Pass’n’Move – The receiving model can spend a MP to make a dodge move
- Snap Shot! – Costs 2 MP but allows for an out-of-activation Shot (without spending any INF as well). However you need 2 successes to score a goal.
- Run the Length! – After scoring you can spend a MP to make a dodge move before ending your activation.
- Bonus Time! – Spending a MP allows you to add an extra dice to a dice pool for a TN test.
- Take a Breather Lad! – Allows the active model to recover some wound OR remove conditions.
- Come on Mate! – Allows active model to target a friendly to do same as Take a Breather Lad. However this costs 2 MP to do.
- Gliding – Spending a MP allows the model to ignore penalty to movement when going over rough terrain.
All pretty powerful abilities that if you can generate the MP can really help your team. They almost become a second aim for the game as they are so useful to achieve a multitude of things.
So that is all the basics covered now for a quick look at some of the other stuff.
All the rules you would expect for terrain (LoS, slowing players down etc.) is here something nothing major to add. However there are no rules about how much. So it will be interesting as the game matures what people do. Go for completely open field or try real dense terrain. It’s a shame there are currently no rules for the ball to start bouncing around off terrain. But then that would be a nightmare to implement.
Conditions are pretty important during the game, they are all bad for you opponent but depending on your team can help boost your team as well, while targeting a model with a condition. For instance the Butchers love a bleeding opponent, while Alchemists just love conditions in general. Katalyst SMASH!!
There are 5 conditions in the game that are seen;
- Bleed – A model with this condition suffers 3 damage during the maintenance phase, it is then removed as they get patched up
- Knocked-down – Can’t do much and don’t block LOS. Although they may sacrifice their advance action to stand up. They also suffer a negative to their DEF as well as they are obviously easier to hit (this is very powerful if the model has already activated).
- Poison – A model with this condition suffers 2 damage during the maintenance phase.
- Burning – A burning model suffers a negative to its movement values and also takes 1 damage during the maintenance phase.
- Taken Out – When a model is reduced to zero health it is removed from the game and will no longer generate INF for the team or have an activation (which then brings me to).
Although a model can be taken out of the game in that turn, it does not mean they are done completely. A lot of models have the ability to be given an Icy Sponge token during the maintenance phase.
This means over a couple of turns you can get back an almost fully healed player back. Most normal players have around 2 Icy Sponge Markers on their health track. This means they can come back the following turn or you risk it and wait another turn. Depending on where the ball is and how many team members are still running around, adds another resource management element to the game (enhancing the INF management) as the long a model is off the less INF you have to play with.
This helps ensure you can never really outnumber your opponent during the game. As you may get into a position of taking 2-3 players out in a turn but they can quickly return so there is never that feeling of bulldozing an opponent into nothing. They just hobble around at the back being cautious the cowards 😉
Now to help with the feel that the Guilds are using GB as a personal battlefield as they scheme and plot their opponents downfall.
This translates as Guild Plots that add an in-game mission which grants a benefit as well. Each player gets to draw 5 of these plots at the start of the game and choose 3 of them to use for the game.
These add a little bit extra to the game, nothing huge as generally you will be achieving the missions anyway.
Something that does make them even more interesting is that as the seasons of GB change on the annual basis so will the plots allowing for plenty of variation as the game grows.
Final thoughts on GB then;
The main mechanism within the game is extremely simple to get to grips with. While the more advance stuff is still very intuitive. The various ways to ‘score’ means you have some flexibility during the game to win.
The teams are diverse offering lots of ways to play. Entry into the game is stunning value. Free PDF rules, stat cards also free AND some print and play paper dolls, means you can get playing straight away. Failing that they already have a pretty robust Vassal module to use as well.
Judging by the fanfare the models have received I will say that they are also excellent but I will have to wait for mine.. Plus you only ever need 7 models to play that will make even the most paint shy painter happy.
OK, I lied I will mention Kickstarter one more time. There is always that worry that a KS game will die after all the backers have their stuff, there is a reluctance of retailers to support the game. Thankfully the GB guys are pimping themselves hard and already most major UK stores will be stocking the game (that is only a great thing). However a game that has not grown organically there will always be that worry.
A downer I know but I couldn’t think of any other Cons!!
Simply go read the rules play around with vassal/paper dolls. I really do think this game is going to be a great success. Just go (especially now it has been released to general say).
Just go you wont be disappointed!!