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.


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.


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!


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!


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!


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.

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