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!

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