Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cornerstones (4) - Mallet

Mallet is the first 'non-support' model I have selected for this series, mainly because Masons do not really have a player that falls into this category. The closest would be Marbles (the mascot), and you could make an argument for Tower being that support player, although it would be hard to make a case for him as a cornerstone since he doesn't make lineups very often.

Mallet, on the other hand, is pretty much in every Masons team. Why is that, you might ask? In short, it's because he does it all, and helps others do it too. He fits perfectly into the Mason shtick of reliability, lack of flashiness, adapting to the particular turn by focusing resources towards a particular plan or players' skill, and being a tough old boot.

As usual, we begin by looking at the stats:

 Much like the other Cornerstone players, Mallet's stat line is not particularly impressive outside his signature Mason 2 ARM - He may be an old man, but he's a tough old Mason man.
  • 4"/6" is quite slow, but he partially makes up for it with his traits (ie. Extended Reach)
  • TAC 5 is reasonably average, but he gets a big buff via his reliable Singled Out play.
  • KICK 2/6" is below average, but Football Legend brings it up to solid 3/7" at all times.
  • 3+/2 is a typical resilient Mason stat, and with 16 boxes he tends to stick around
  • 2/4 INF stock standard stuff.
  • He also has a 2" melee!

Basically his base stats aren't great, even supbar in MOV and KICK, but both those stats are improved by his other abilities.

Moving on to arguably his most valuable asset, his sweet playbook:

This is a stellar Mason playbook, and plays a huge part in landing him a spot in this series. Masons, while lacking flash on the surface, rely on very diverse playbooks to set up a situations where their specialist players can pull the trigger. This playbook tells you Mallet's specialization is either apt at being a grindy workhorse working the centre of the pitch (Momentous KD, Push, Tackle and some sweet 1 hit GB results, all with 3" reach), or a burst damage dealer (good damage on 4/5 successes columns).

Like most Mason playbooks, the momentous results are early in the playbook. This plays into the grindier, slower style of the team of making plays happen around a solid center of Attacking and Defensive Midfielders. Compare this type of playbook to say Alchemists, who have very few momentous results on 1 hit, and really want to avoid drawn-out combat.

There are two standout results: Momentous KD on 3 (same as Brick, which makes it quite low for a Mason) and Momentous GB on 1, which is one of the big parts of him being the star all-rounder centre (see the below section on Character Plays).

Damage is excellent, with a momentous 2 on 2 hits, 3 damage on 4 hits and 4 damage on 5 hits. Basically, if you load him up and set him up properly, he can deal some serious damage.

Of course, we can't really talk about this man's playbook without looking at his Character Plays:

Mallet has only two character plays - both can only be triggered as the result of an attack, and both are RNG: P, meaning their can only target the model Mallet has attacked. This fits in with the Masons' design as a melee-centric faction with very few ranged plays (Goad and Shutout are the only two at the time of writing).
Secondly, both plays are triggered off only 1 success and are momentous.

Singled Out is a solid TAC buff that all Masons can make great use of, especially when not charging. Not much to say about this - more TAC is more good.
Smashed Shins is also a situationally excellent play early turn if Mallet can get it on a key striker, effectively shutting down their scoring potential (even a Super Shot/One-Legged Stance Angel becomes a 2/6" KICK after a Smashed Shins).

Essentially, Mallet can either control the enemy's football game, or set an enemy model up to get wrecked. Both are better early turn, but Mallet himself makes great use of Singled Out (and it gives you momentum) so any time is good.

Moving on to the Character Traits:

First we have the same aura as Spigot, namely Football Legend. I won't repeat what I wrote about Spigot here in its entirety, but suffice to say that Masons are slightly better kickers than Brewers to begin with, so the benefits are slightly more accented on Mallet, and given his usually aggressive positioning on the field, almost anyone in the Masons lineup can become a scoring threat.

Secondly, we have Extended Reach, which grants Mallet a 3" melee zone during his activation (the only model in the game with this trait at present). This makes Mallet excellent in scrums, since he can make attacks where others would not be able to and helps make up for his low MOV by giving him a decent 9" charge range.

Finally, we have Forceful Blow, which basically means Mallet hits freaking hard on a charge and can also reposition enemy models if he wishes.

These later two abilities, combined with his damage-heavy playbook, have led to the popular first turn Mallet Missile tactic with Honour - kick off with Mallet, load him up on 4 INF, use Honour's legendary and Superior Strategy to give him an extra activation and even more INF, Tool him Up with Marbles, sprint Mallet up the field and use his second activation to charge into the enemy and take out a valuable player, perhaps score a goal or whatever.

This play highlights the Masons playstyle perfectly - they are also able to adaptively pool their resources into making a specific play happen each turn. Mallet can either be an enabler - either in terms of ball control, player control, or damage - or the trigger, depending on what you need that turn. And that is what makes him the cornerstone of his team.

Dealing with Mallet

Mallet really wants to get into combat. His damage is there, his plays are there, and other than his Legend aura, his abilities rely on hitting people in combat. His 3" melee helps make that happen.
On the other hand, he doesn't really have a good way of getting out of combat IF you get into his face. His 3" reach can help keep you at ARM's length, but then limit his potential. He is thus prone to getting bogged down in an unfavourable melee, if you can engineer it.

He also likes to be one of the earlier activations for the Masons since he does not really require any set-up to do what he needs to do and has general applications, and is a pretty reliable source of momentum generation. This telegraphs his play somewhat, and he will usually be predictably be allocated a nice chunk of the influence pool.

Finally, like most Masons, he has a low DEF which makes him susceptible to character plays, or abilities ignore ARM (Ox's plays, Anatomical Precision, etc.). Use this to move him around, slow him down, or otherwise hamper his ability to position effectively. Or just take him out - his slow speed will hurt his ability to get back into position.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

March - Rulings

1. While this is intended to be clarified under Season 2 rules (out next month), Legendary and Heroic plays have been clarified to not be actions. Legendary plays can thus be used mid movement (very useful for pulse effects), while heroic plays cannot because they require spending momentum.
The one exception is Blackheart's legendary, because he is a douche and shouldn't get douchier things.

2. Similar to the above,  the Lawyer's Guild have ruled ahead of the Season 2 rules that goal-kicking the ball behind your own goal line will no longer allow you to generate momentum, as if one of your players had dumped it there.

3. Clarification around Get Over Here!, namely that you can trigger it mid-movement and before making a charge attack. I've always played it that way anyway.

4. More interesting follow up to the above, it also affects Magical Brew, so Hemlocke/Stocker can get KDed mid charge and stand back up using Magical Brew to continue their charge. Pro stuff (at least for the next two weeks....)

Season 2 book and an updated version of the core rules comes out in a little under 3 weeks so we should have a whole glut of new clarifications and errata, as is the case with such things. As such I've kept the above reasonably light in the face of the incoming rules drama storm. From a technical rules perspective, one of the most valuable introductions will be the Timings Sequences, which you can see a preview HERE in regards to Tower's Heroic.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Cornerstones (3) - Ratchet

An appropriate follow up to Silence is Ratchet, who shares many playstyle aspects with the brooding Mortician Assistant Captain - unimpressive playbook, a Character Play intensive approach to influence and the ability to bring a Mascot back to play.

Much like Silence embodies the Morticians' weirdness and denial game, Ratchet embodies the Engineers - superior ball playing skills, synergy with the Mechanica model type, and some good old fashioned ranged damage.

Ratchet has a middling stat line:
  • 5/7" MOV is a standard MOV stat.
  • TAC 4 is slightly low but on par with most support pieces
  • 4/6" KICK is very good, in line with most Engineer KICK stats.
  • 3+/1 is a good resilient statline (especially with 17 boxes - tougher than old Spigot), and 2/4 INF is also standard fare.

Other than the KICK stat, nothing really deserves particular attention.

Moving on to the Playbook:

Ratchet's playbook is pretty encompassing of most Engineer playbooks. It includes a low momentous tackle, a double push and some standard non momentous damage spread. Actually, along with Colossus, he is one of the best melee damage dealers on the team - that tells you what Engineer playbooks are about (ie. not dealing damage in combat).

Ratchet, like most Engineers, only wants to make attacks to get the ball or get away from someone. If you get stuck in prolonged combat (other than putting the last bits of damage on a very wounded enemy), you are doing it wrong.

Thus far we have a defensive midfielder with a great KICK stat but nothing really spectacular otherwise. Let's move on to Character Plays:

Most of Ratchet's work will come from these character plays (and the soon-to-be-discussed Heroic). Like Silence, Ratchet brings two strong situational 1-cost plays and 1 generally useful 2-cost AoE:

Fixer is essentially a single target version of Hemlocke's Smelling Salts AoE play, but restricted to Mechanica models. It is very good when you need it, acting as a better version of Come On Mate!. Especially good in Pin Vice teams (ie. can target anyone), and as a late turn play, or to use up excess influence.

Long Bomb is a situational but solid play that is mostly likely used as a long pass, but without the risk of interception. As a backfield model, Ratchet is quite well positioned to pick up the ball defensively, either from a missed enemy pass/shot or a momentous Tackle. He can then boot it back down the field to a waiting striker or winger to put in the back of the net next activation. Perfectly legit first and second activation play which again plays into the Engineer theme of excellent ball control. At worse, it can help keep aggressive ball playing teams where you want them - at range.

Blast Earth is probably Ratchet's most commonly used character play. Engineers like to stay at a distance and plink at you while they score goals. With a massive 10" RNG, Blast Earth allows you to put rough terrain exactly where you want it to slow your opponent AND deal some damage. Unlike most ongoing-effect AoE plays, Blast Earth does not have clause that requires opponents to enter or end their activation in for additional effects - therefore if you can deal some damage and have the AoE in a good spot, why not roll the dice?

At first glance, the Heroic Play Overclocked seems highly situational. It might be useful on Velocity/Hoist to get them into combat, steal the ball, and land multiple push/dodges before scoring then being taken out (and consequently Reanimated).
It also stacks with all of Pin Vice's Mechanica only plays, so if someone is going to die as a result of those, you could always throw in Overclocked for extra efficiency.

Apart from that, giving up 2 VP/a lot of player health +1 MP in exchange for 1/2 effective INF  seems like a pretty bad trade unless it nets you a game-winning goal. To make sense of this, you need to look at Ratchet's Character Trait:

To understand the value of Creation [Mainspring], you have to look back at his Heroic Play Overclocked and at the back of Mainspring's card - specifically that when Mainspring is taken out, he causes 3 DMG and burning to every other model within 3" (including friendly models!).

For 3 MP, you can bring back Mainspring, use Overclocked on it, then send him charging into an enemy model 9" away (getting a few playbook results in the process), ultimately exploding in a huge ball of fire and punishing clumped up enemies. Combo that with Blast Earth, and you've got a serious amount of MOV debuffs and area damage. Very strong damage and denial combo.

Note also that often this will make Ratchet an effective TAC 5 with Ganging Up from Mainspring, making that momentous Tackle on 2 hits quite a bit more likely against the average model.

Ratchet - simple, reliable, with good tactical efficiency. Like the previous Cornerstone players, he has a range of good play at different levels of influence allocation, and can play well at different stages of the turn. He can slow the enemy, deal significant AoE damage at a distance, play the ball very effectively and heal his team. What else could you want in an Engineers player?

Dealing with Ratchet

Similar to Silence, Ratchet doesn't have great ways of getting out of combat. In fact, he only has that double push on 3 hits, and with a TAC of 4 and no outside help, that isn't going to happen against most players. He will thus be relying on other Engineers to help him out of combat, with pushes and KDs from the likes of Colossus, Salvo or Ballista.
To catch is that other Engineers (besides Colossus) are in the same boat as Ratchet - they do not like the idea of becoming tied up or KD, which stops them playing the ball or using character plays effectively. If you rush them and keep them from playing the ball or getting out of combat, they will become sad pandas and have trouble helping each other out.

Second, avoid clumping up players that can get hit by the Mainspring kamikaze / Blast Earth combo!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cornerstones (2) - Silence

NB: this basically rehashes/expands on Dave's article on Morticians 201 here, but with more flair.

Second in the series of Cornerstone players is Silence, Distracted Dave's favourite player bar none. Silence is often looked at by new players with some disdain. I don't really blame them, as he does look pretty average and bland on the surface. Despite that, he still never seems to get dropped from the line-up. There is a reason for that - as you learn to look beyond the surface and into the tactical detail, Silence is the foundation of the Morticians' denial game.

Silence embodies the Morticians playstyle - quirky stats and abilities, a seemingly unfocused playbook with erratic momentum results, and extremely strong control and denial traits + plays. If you don't have a plan, he won't do much for you other than be an above-average INF provider. If you do have a plan and execute it, he can be a massive irritation to your opponent.

Let's begin the investigation by looking at his stat line and androgynous mug:

Immediately, one is struck by Silence's weird stats:
  • MOV 5", seems pretty average. But sprint move of 6"? Weird. With a 1" melee, you're probably not charging anyone then.....
  • TAC 5, KICK 3/6" - pretty average relative to the game, but KICK actually above average for Morticians and TAC quite good for a 'support' oriented character.
  • DEF 5+/ARM 0 - again pretty average. But whoa - FIFTEEN boxes. Most 5+ models have 10-12. Even Midas only has 14! Impressive.
  • 3/4 INF - his most noticeable stat. This is very good and often gets him tagged as an influence battery.

Overall - weird, unfocused stats. Pretty slow, not a great fighter, decent kicker, but surprisingly survivable for a support model. dat INF stat tho.

 Moving on to the playbook:

TAC 5 with a 5-long playbook is pretty normal. Like most Morticians, his momentous results are kind of all over the place, and his playbook somewhat unfocused.
He's got some good damage results, especially Momentous 2 damage on 2 hits. Then he has a momentous dodge on 3 (ie. not great for counter-attacks) but it can get him out of combat with non-reach models, and a momentous push dodge on 5 alongside his Tackle. Again, weird. You don't really get what he's supposed to do at first glance.

Looking at other Morticians might give some context:
  • Most Morticians have Tackles higher on their playbooks (3+ hits). Graves (a versatile winger) and Bonesaw (a striker) are the exception with results on 1 & momentous 2 hits respectively.
  • Unlike most Morticians, he has no GB results, which helps explain his reasonably bare playbook. He doesn't really have a good reason to spend much influence on attacks for that reason, unlike say Casket, Ghast, Bonesaw or Graves.
  • His damage spread is reasonably common, with 1, 2, X, 3 being as standard a Mortician pattern as you're going to get. It's not fantastic, but it does point to the Morticians' flexibility in dealing damage if they need it.
Like most Morticians, playbooks aren't what you need to be looking at with Silence, outside getting a couple of momentum to Bonus Time! or play the ball or react defensively. When you look at Silence in this way, his playbook seems fine. The majority of the time, if you're attacking with him, you're not doing it more than once or twice, unless you are pulling out that surprise 8DMG/4MP for 4 INF on an unsuspecting target.

Next up we have Character Traits:


Again, two seemingly unremarkable traits. At least on the surface. Much like Silence himself.

First, we have Creation [Dirge]. This allows you to bring back Dirge for 2 MP. Doesn't seem that great. However, keeping in mind that Dirge:
  • has both really strong death effects (-4MP to enemy)
  • is generally annoying between Follow Up and his very high mobility
  • provides a valuable TAC buff in Singled Out
  • has good ball retrieval skills
  • and most importantly, will not give up additional VPs if killed again.
And now we can see how this is a pretty powerful trait, and contributes further to Silence's denial game and the Morticians' disruptive plans.

His second trait is significantly weaker, making him a 4/7" KICK if Dirge is nearby. This probably won't happen too often as Dirge likes to run off places, but it does make Silence a very good kicker. This is useful in the early game to help rank up momentum, or later to help land crucial passes in order to trigger Teamwork results. Given his slow speed, he probably won't be scoring many goals, but in the event the game gets super weird (definitely a game state the Morticians excel in), he becomes a snapshot monster :)

Moving on to the meat of Silence's card, the Character Plays:

Immediately, the control aspect shows itself with Tucked and Shutout. Forcing an enemy player to go first or last takes a lot of decision-making power away from your opponent.
If you choose the right target, it can be devastating for your opponent. If you choose the wrong one, it can be tremendously helpful for him/her.

This is why it is important for Morticians players to understand what their opponent wants to do, and how to stop them. Which player to Tuck and which to Shutout is not an easy decision to make and varies on a turn by turn basis.

One aspect you want to consider heavily is your opponent's influence allocation that turn.
As an example, enemy players you want to Shutout are players that want to go early - momentum generators and play maker captains (ie. Shark, Tapper, Ox, Blackheart) are good targets as they usually have a lot of influence allocated to them and set things up for the rest of their team's turn. Shutting them out gives you time to deal with the threat using your other pieces and hampers your opponent's momentum generation until then.
On the flipside, strikers who don't have the ball might want to be Tucked, which basically wastes their activation.

Note that both Tucked and Shutout are once per turn, and cost 1. You will really want to Bonus Time! these plays if you can, especially since 1 cost plays are quite sensitive to Crowding Out penalties. Both plays also want to be used early in the turn, making Silence a first or second activation.
This is where the momentous dodges on the playbook start making a bit of sense - if you REALLY want to Tucked/Shutout someone with 4+ or higher DEF that you can't get in melee with and need momentum to Bonus Time, giving 3 INF to Silence, getting him to charge someone to hit a dodge on 3 or 5 hits to get out of combat, then throwing a Bonus Time!-ed character play at someone is pretty legit.
Alternatively - hit that momentous 2 damage, take the crowding out penalty, and hope averages are on your side :)

Finally we have Embalming Fluid. The best effect from this is the movement debuff from burning. The [1] DMG is also neat when combined with Damaged Target on Graves and Minx, otherwise not a big deal. Like most AoEs, you can also place it defensively, although it would be significantly better in this role if it applied burning instead of poison as the ongoing effect. Then again, if you can trap 2-3 players and force them to take poison with a well-placed AoE, it's certainly worth 2 INF.
The three standout features of this play in my opinion are:
  • It has a long range, effectively 9.5". Given Silence's central positioning and 5" MOV, he can almost put it anywhere he wants.
  • It's a good early turn play, because it puts burning (-2/-2" MOV) on affected players.
  • It's a pretty good late turn play, unlike Tucked and Shutout, due to the conditions (even picking up a poison condition late in the turn is quite a bit less appealing).

Character Plays - it's what Morticians need. And this guy has some good, really disruptive ones.

Dealing with Silence

The core of Silence's power are Tucked & Shutout and Creation [Dirge]. These are difficult to stop as Morticians have ways of getting momentum exactly when they seem to really need it...

Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier, Silence is somewhat prone to getting tied up in undesired combats. Without some additional TAC buffing, he is unlikely to be able to land his dodges to get out of melee. Crowding him out and Play debuffs like Heavy Burden also makes his life quite difficult when he relies on 1 INF, once per turn character plays. Anything that further decreases the success of character plays is good at reducing Silence's impact on the game.

He's also very much a support model - slow and doesn't do all that much heavy lifting by himself. He's probably not putting points on the board via takeouts or goals, but he can make it very hard for his opponents to do so, or easier for his teammates.
Like most support characters in MOBA games, he can be vulnerable to becoming isolated and ganked. DEF 5+ with 15 boxes IS quite survivable, unless you find ways around his DEF, in which case he can go down pretty quick to an even average beater. The Mortician player will inevitably want to bring him on right away lest he give up that 3 INF, meaning he either is prone to getting ganked again or is staying well away from the action.

As for Dirge coming back all the time, you are just going to have to deal with an annoying bird being in your face. You may want to kill it again in the right situation to get activation advantage, but often it's just going to make your life harder. Silence does use up a lot of momentum between Creation and getting his other plays to stick, so hopefully you can take advantage of that through damage, conditions or simple outmanoeuvring with the ball.

In summary - Silence. You don't know exactly why you take him in every Morticians team, but there he is, doing what Morticians do best, holding it all together, being a douche.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Cornerstones (1) - Spigot

I was originally going to write this article as part of the Character Assassination about how to deal with the Brewer deathball, aka. the Spigot train aka. the noobstomp machine. But I realized I have great amounts of respect for Spigot, and while I want him to get taken out every game, I can't whine about him enough to make it a Character Assassination.

Instead I think I will start a companion series that focuses on non-captain players that I think truly characterize their guild's playstyle, those players that might not initially appear very impressive on the surface but in reality epitomize their guild's playstyle and are the foundation of their respective teams' game plan.

I've chosen to write the first article in this series based on a player I consider to be the most underrated player in the game at present, and perhaps one of the best non-captain players available to any team.

This player is Spigot of the Brewers Guild.


Spigot's background is that he is an aging mob football superstar, with a body and mind worn down by years of living a rockstar lifestyle - gambling, multiple random sexual encounters, excessive amounts of alcohol, non-descript drugs... you name it. As such, he has become volatile and unreliable as a player, but for some reason he manages to keep his place in the roster.

That reason is that his rules are in complete opposition to his fluff. Spigot is a fookin' legend the likes of which Karl Tanner would be jealous (link NSFW). He is the most reliable player on the Brewers side, always pulls his weight and always has a sweet play up his sleeve.

Let's see why:

What a moustache. What a man.

His base stats are pretty average all around, nothing remarkable, except maybe his 16 health being a little high and his DEF little a low. Where he shines is in his character traits, plays and playbook. It's hard to talk about each one separately, since like the Brewer team, Spigot is designed around multiple small synergies.

Let's begin by looking at the playbook:

TAC 5, 4 columns. Just Brewer things.

Like most S1 Brewers, his playbook is one shorter than his base TAC, meaning with a few TAC boosts he has no problem entering wrap city and getting results out the wazoo. And with a momentous 3 damage on 4 hits and 2 damage on 2 hits, that means damage can stack up fast.

With a momentous tackle on 1 and "Ball's Gone!" on 2, he's also pretty awesome at getting the ball back. Momentous KD/Double Push on 3 rounds out his tactical potential. Overall, a solid playbook - good damage, excellent ball recovery, good enemy control.

Let's look at his character traits and see how things start coming together:

Football Legend means Spigot is really a 4/7" kick at all times, meaning he is pretty damn good at passing the ball. And so are most of the Brewers near him. This makes them all pretty good at passing the ball around to get some momentum if you receive, basically giving you the next turn. Seems alright.

Remember what I mentioned before about TAC buffs making Brewer playbook ridiculous? Spigot brings his own against KD models with Floored. Not that KD models are a rare sight in Brewer matches. Let's say Tapper or Stave KDs a 3+/1 enemy player in melee - if Spigot with 4 influence Tools himself Up and swings 3 times, that's around 18 damage and 3 momentum without any external help other than the KD. Seems alright - and he can do it without momentum. Who needs Hooper?

 Spigot's hidden third trait is found on Friday's card (Defensive Support [Spigot], namely that he grants her +1 DEF while within 4". This makes Friday 5+/1 against everyone, and potentially 6+/1 vs Parting Blows if she uses her Heroic Play. Seems alright.

So overall - hits pretty hard, buffs the team's ability to play ball, and makes their fastest player even more survivable. Seems alright.

Next we come to the plays:

As mentioned, he has Tooled Up, an innocent +1 DMG to character plays and playbook damage results. Even if he only gets 1 influence at the start of the turn to put this on someone else and use his heroic play (below), he is doing SERIOUS work. Tooled Up is especially brutal in Brewers thanks to the aforementioned short playbooks and the propensity to wrap.

His second character play, which he can access as the result of two successes in melee, allows him to pseudo-tackle the ball and give it to anyone within 4". This also gets around Close Control and other anti-Tackle tech since it's not a Tackle result. Very useful for Brewers given that you'll usually have a good number of targets to give the ball to other than himself.

Finally, we have Spigot's bread and butter, a 4" aura of +2/+2 MOV for 1 momentum. I think this play is what makes Spigot an auto-include in almost every scrappy Brewer list. It's an almost identical effect to Quick Foot, a 2 influence single target play - except it costs 1 momentum and affects the majority of you team. Spigot alone becomes a 7"/10" with this play! It gives Friday a goal scoring threat of 20" (even without Football Legend) This is an INCREDIBLY powerful heroic play that fixes the teams biggest weakness (lack of mobility).

Note that his play was incorrectly written as [6" Aura] on the last run of the Season 1 cards.

You can see that in blatant contradiction to his fluff entry, EVERY SINGLE ABILITY HE HAS IS ROCK SOLID RELIABLE. He makes his team hit harder, move faster, and gives them the ball control skills they otherwise lack.

He is useful at any stage of the game and with any amount of influence:

  • Give him none and just rely on his multiple auras to squeaky shine your team of drunks.
  • Give him 1 influence and he can go second to activate his heroic + put Tooled Up on your beater of choice that turn.
  • Give him 2-3 to get the ball back and kick it off to someone.
  • Give him 4 to beat the living crap out of someone early or late, even better if they are KD already.
 If Tapper nukes a guy quicker than you'd expect, old drunk Spigot is waiting to make great use of Old Jake's. Hooper has to land a pass to get a 4" dodge and charge someone? Football Legend.
Want Scum to score a BM goal from nowhere as the closing play of the game? Spigot's on the case. The list goes on.

Spigot. What a hero.

Dealing with Spigot

Systematically speaking, Spigot is so amazing that it almost forces Brewers to hang out near him - this gives rise to the Brewer deathball meta, which is especially brutal on newer players coming from a wargame perspective (ie. trying to piece trade). Brewers have a lot of short ranged buffs, and when they stack them all up, things get crazy. If you force the Brewers to split up, then the effectiveness of these buffs and auras is greatly reduced. Spigot is the linchpin.

If you are facing Brewers, kill Scum. If you can't kill Scum, kill Spigot. It's the only way to be sure. He is the glue that holds the deathball together. He is amongst the squishiest of Brewer players (despite about par for the game), so seems like a pretty high value target anyway.

All his buffs are RNG 4" - Tooled Up, Football Legend, Time's Called... if he has to spend influence to run into position rather than just doing everything he wants and affecting everybody, his stock goes down significantly. He also like to activate early when he's buffing people, which he needs momentum to do. If you can push him to activate a bit later since he needs momentum to heal himself, that's half the battle.

Finally, much like other aura support models (ie. Ox, Ballista, Tower, etc.), pushing him out of position after he has activated is very powerful - Jac, Stave and Bonesaw are especially potent with large push AoEs, but even more conservative pushers like Brick, Colossus or Midas can make a big difference in reducing Spigot's effectiveness.

TL;DR - Spigot. What a legend.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Character Assassination (2) - The Fat Lady Sings

One of the great downsides of a limited availability schedule combined with a small meta is that these articles are rapidly going to focus on the guild opposition I see on a regular basis (Brewers and #FishOP). I'd like to openly invite contributors to this series who are seeing a wider range of opposition or this will shortly appear to be a VERY biased topic.

Caveat - you don't get to rag on Morticians because Obulus needs all the help and buffs he can get. And because statistics.


This article will discuss the ins and outs of the new Brewers Captain - Esters; lusty singer of songs, bustiest of valkyries, holder of the heart-strings of one Dr "Handsome" Dave Cameron, and latest dire threat to the existence of my pitiful band of hopeless misfits.

Two fat ladies.

According to Wikipedia, the font of all rigorously tested and wholly truthful knowledge (aka the wellspring of information to which desperate students have turned since ages past and time immemorial), Esters are derived from a combination of acid and alcohol. There are a few sub-types:

- Glycerides (fatty acids of glycerols)
- Phosphoesters (the backbone of DNA molecules)
- Nitrate esters, known for their explosive properties

Nitrate Esters. Nick gets it. Probably.

So allow me to unpack by taking these definitions and reapplying them as frighteningly dubious metaphors, pushing the boundaries of commonly accepted hyperbole, all the while highlighting a few of the more vomit-inducing abilities beheld by Handsome Dave's other favourite large lady.


Old Esters has some pretty sweet tech going for her right from the statline, so we'll start there:

- a deceptively adequate MOV of 4"/6".

- TAC5 combines with a 4-long Playbook to deliver solid hitting power. With support, wraps are not uncommon. Lack of reach (2" melee zone) is sad panda but she has three Push results to counter dodges and of course the ubiquitous Momentous Knock Down (third column). Each column offering a Momentous result is... momentous!


- Kick 3/6" is fine and generally not found to be her job. Spigots Football Legend can add some surprise factor here but I've seen the wretched cat be more of a goal threat than Esters (so far).

- DEF 3+ ARM 1 is super ok in combination with her other abilities and a crazy 22 damage boxes.

- INF 4/5 is super solid. Heads up - an Esters fully loaded in turn one is an Esters about to do deceptively serious work.

So now we have some of the basics down let's dig deeper and bring those much vaunted and most heinous metaphors to fruition...


Glycerides - It's the saturated fats that'll kill ya...

Esters has Gluttonous Mass (not Glutinous Mass... that's what I get after visiting the bakery) and good grief if there was ever a gotcha in the game then this would be it. Gluttonous Mass is easy to forget (speaking from experience, cheers Mike) and can make a real hash of your turn. Ignoring the first hit gives you the ability to:

- pseudo Close Control by ignoring the selection of a Tackle result.

- suck up (i.e. ignore) the first Attack then spend a point of Momentum to Counter-Attack a 1" melee zone enemy model, safe in the knowledge you won't/can't be Knocked Down or Pushed away/Dodged off.

- ignore the first Chain Grab, Shut Out, and (lol) Puppet Master. Ignore Deadbolt, Butchery, Tidal Surge. Ignore Brick's (or Compound's, or Tenderiser's) Counter-charge (Gluttonous Mass doens't work during an Advance, but because you've finished your Advance to trigger Counter-Charge it will still be effective).

- ignore a Charge Attack.

Esters - bad for my tummy.


- Gluttonous Mass ignores the first hit "that targets this model" so AoEs don't trigger it (for better or for worse).

- punch through it by allocating extra INF (easier said that done). Don't do what I did for three turns - allocating two INF to Silence so he could punch her to generate Momentum in order to Bonus Time a Shut Out on something else. Fail. Fail. Fail!

- burn a ranged play that targets her if you're desperate to make a Charge Attack count for maximum value later on (1-dice plays are risky because the model has to be hit by the Attack or Character Play, not just targeted).

Remember Gluttonous Mass ignores the first Attack or Character Play that hits. If nothing else it has weird implications on your order of activation and when it's on a key/central high synergy model like Esters (as opposed to a backfield keeper like Compound) it has a vastly different effect on the game. It's also not voluntary - it MUST be used on the first successful hit. Use this to your advantage where you can.

Phosphoesters - the DNA backbone of a good team

Esters is one of the most synergy intensive models available to Brewers (in a Guild rife with strong synergies and model inter-dependence). Practically everything she contributes to the game is designed to make your dudes better. This is reflected in her Push-heavy/short-length Playbook (moving opposing models around to generate Gang Up bonuses, more wraps, and more damage), her unique Character Trait, and her Heroic and Legendary Plays.

Empowered Voice is what most contributes to her comparison with Grissel1 in Warmachine/Hordes. She may choose one (Guild) model within 6" (which may be herself) to benefit from one of the following effects:

- +2"/+2" speed
- +1 DMG to Playbook damage results (not Character Plays)
- +1 DEF

This is a pretty sweet "free" ability (in that it costs neither INF nor Momentum to trigger). Here are a few uses:


- make Esters faster in turn one (sprint 8"), extending the threat of her ranged plays and setting her up for a solid Legendary in turn two.

- make Friday 8"/10" with Unpredictable Movement.

- make Spigot 9"/12" (holy shit!) in combination with his Heroic Play (Time's Called). Or make anyone else within 4" of Spigot effectively +4"/+4". That's... mental.


- non-Momentous 4 damage on Esters' fourth column if she uses this on herself. Plus wraps to a first or second column for additional fun times and bloodshed.

- Hooper bashing a Knocked Down opponent. Momentous 5 damage on five hits. Or how about Momentous 6 damage results when he's been Tooled Up by Spigot.

- arguably the best and most hilarious option? A Tooled Up, Empowered Voice [Strength] Friday. Momentous 4 damage on two hits. Wonderful.

- or just Spigot punching some Knocked Down fool with TAC7 and Momentous 4 damage on 4 hits. Just Brewer things.


- the real stars here are DEF6+ Scum or DEF6+ ARM1 Friday (when she's within 4" of Spigot). Hmm... feels like Spigot is going to be the topic of the next article...

- DEF4+ ARM1 Esters isn't terrible.

- and just for Nikola... DEF3+ Stave. What a champ!

At DEF3+ this guy's the real threat!

Meanwhile, Esters is holding on to her Legendary Play, It's not over until... This allows her to combo up all three Empowered Voice shouts in one turn onto various members of her team. Note that because Steamforged haven't completely jumped the shark (yet) she doesn't apply all three shouts to her entire team! Rather, she may choose to imbue three models each with a different buff (one speed, one defence, one damage).

The restraining factor here (if indeed there is one), is that all three models affected must be within 6" of Esters when she triggers her Legendary, so she has a tendency to brick her team somewhat to this end (commonly looking for the Legendary Play to go off at the top of turn two). The timing of the LP means she wants to go first so Shut Out is looking particularly spicy. If you can spot a big positioning issue you might also stuff the turn for the Brewers by crushing through Gluttonous Mass and pulling her out of position, or if she's really badly positioned locking her down instead (Shark's Legendary, punch through Glut Mass, Tidal Surge her away et al <insert obligatory #fishOP here>). Or pulling away a player that she would just love to buff. Or just killing the player she would love to buff. This is probably going to be quite tricky of course but somewhat like Tapper, Esters is susceptible to a control game (although less so personally).

Finally, and by no means of least significance, is Esters' incredible "bang for your buck" Heroic Play (Soothing Voice) healing friendly models within 3" for two hit boxes and removing conditions. Another nail in the coffin for the "not all in on Midas + Union players" Alchemists build, but also generally a massive pain in the arse for removing Fire and Knockdown (or when Graves has Scything Blowed everything and she just calmly switches off all the Bleeding). Don't forget Soothing Voice works on Esters too. Obviously.

Nitrate Esters

So she's helping her team mates out immensely and can dish out some punchy repositioning goodness in combat. You know she needs to help set her apart from Tapper? I know, let's give her TWO ranged Character Plays!

Blast Earth does 2 DMG and creates a 3" AoE of rough-ground.

Fire Blast does 2 DMG and sets your dude-bros on fire (they suffer the burning condition).

Which means Esters on 5INF at the top of turn one can Empowering Voice [Speed] herself to sprint to the middle of the pitch and instantly slow down most of your starting line-up if they aren't sufficiently spread out (and while you likely don't have the Momentum generated to remove conditions or Glide). Bitch.

This is really indicative of what I love/hate about her - the glorious fullness of her... game. She does work at range with two 2-cost Character Plays, helps her team out enormously, and generates Momentum in combat like a champ while soaking damage and tanking with the best of them.


And there's Esters. One of the more appropriately named Guild Ball models out there I think you'll agree. Also one heck of a competitive choice when balanced against Tapper so nice design work from Steamforged on this one.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Character Assassination (1) - Guttered

A new week, a new series... This one will focus on a player I don't like (because they're so damn good) and/or am having a lot of trouble with.

This past weekend Auckland hosted a fair number of travellers to participate in the annual Ides of March Warmachine and Hordes tournament. Naturally this meant that a lot of Guild Ball was played. Tournament highlights include Union v Morticians (12-6) in Round Four, Will and Pete's across rounds game of Morticians v Masons (8-12), and the simple fact that Adam opted to play Guild Ball in Round Six (I assume Alchemists v Brewers and Adam won because he ended up placing 3rd overall - congrats for that by the way).

While this quite possibly heralded the imminent demise of our success at the OTC it also opened up a very interesting connection between what had previously been independent metas separated by the cruel tyranny of geography. Suddenly Christchurch was playing Wellington and Wellington was playing Auckland! Saturday night also yielded much Guild Ball action. As predicted it was discovered that various locales had been playing the rules "wrong" (Steamforged rules writing being what it currently is meaning no actual shots were fired and all was immediately forgiven).

We/I learned that:

- Playbook wraps are applied simultaneously (huge implications, eyes opened wide).

- Knock Down doesn't prevent Unpredictable Movement (because engaging and having a melee zone aren't the same thing).

- Gun Mages in Guild Ball are not much fun to play against.

- Blackheart doesn't actually have any Pushes on his Playbook if you understand which way the arrows are pointing.

- Wellington doesn't tend to use Guild Plot cards. Oh my!...

- You get a permanent Influence bonus for every goal you score, not just the first.

- Fish OP.

- Will Wheaton executing what he thinks is the closing play of the game and holding out his hand for a GG handshake before realising that he can't count properly and has not in fact won the game is hilarious.

- Peter Williamson is easily as much of genius at this game as he is at everything else.

Pro GB player with pro GB attitude.

- Scum OP.

- Mike Thorn has fantastic taste in photo frames (Mike - Jen says thank-you for the lovely and very thoughtful gift).

- You can return Icy Sponged players from any table edge in your deployment zone and they just have to be touching the edge (within the deployment zone, not completely within).

- Ah... so that's what Jac does.

- Gutter OP.

But for the purposes of this article I want to focus on that last observation.


Gutter does the following:


- MOV 6"/8" with Melee Zone 2". A walking threat of 8" is nothing to be sneezed at with 'reach' allowing her to contribute to or take advantage of Crowding Out from a surprising distance away. 2" melee is one of the best attributes in the game (sounds familiar) and helps to stealth swing the dice math once you get the melee bonuses/penalties/Bonus time train rolling.

Anatomical Precision means that she ignores the first point of ARM on the enemy model's card. ARM1 models become ARM0. Gutter loves her some DEF3 ARM1 targets!

- TAC5 with a 5-long Playbook looks fair but combines crucially with both 2" melee and Anatomical Precision to allow her to frequently bust out 4 hits with a friend or two nearby. She also has a Knockdown on 4 hits because reasons. And Momentous 1 damage on 1 hit because other reasons (we've started referring to this kind of stuff as "just Jamie P things").

- Momentous Scything Blow on four hits in the Playbook. Easier to achieve than you'd first think. Pretty damn busted.

- Life Drinker restores a single point of health every single time she damages one or more enemy models. Her 14 health points with a 4+/1 defensive statline looks somewhat innocuous until you realise she can heal herself for 8 points in her own activation, then another 4 points from Come on, mate! from a friendly model within 8". This turns a nearly dead Gutter about to activate with 4INF into a fresh Gutter ready to carve you up (again) next turn.

- INF 2/4 means she's adding enough to the team to not be considered a big drain.

- Chain Grab (range 4", cost ONE) Pushes a model up to 4" directly towards her. Any time in Guild Ball where you are repositioning models you are likely to be doing huge work. In a game where you only have 6 models to play with, having something not be where you want it to be (or where you left it) is a BIG deal. Sprint + Chain Grab range gives her a 12" threat to Push things around. Remember that it isn't once per turn either.


Gutter has some fantastic synergies within the variety of Guilds that can choose to use her too (these being Fishermans, Brewers, Engineers, Butchers, and of course Union). Here are a few:

- +1DEF Gutter who can Defensive Stance will make you punch the wall. Hard. So Blackheart isn't hating that option with his Legendary. Commanding Aura for more damages. Gutter is crucial in a team that isn't exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to 2" melee zone players, but still has useful damage dealers who need her support and encouragement (Decimate, Rage, Avarisse/Greede).

- +1DEF Gutter in Butchers (from Swift Stance), who can then Defensive Stance, who can then Chain Grab a model for Ox to wreck... that's a problem. The Owner and Ox's Legendary (Get 'Em Lads!) applies to all friendly models, not just Guild models so Gutter goes up to 11 in Butchers, potentially ignoring 2 points of ARM and dealing 5 damage Scything Blows like they're going out of fashion. Broken.

- All the harpoons Fisherman (I'd like to call this build "Fishers of Men") looks like a royal pain in the arse. Corsair + Kraken + Gutter + Siren and suddenly nothing is where you left it, everything is Knocked Down, you can't hold the ball thanks to Seduction, and they have the damage dealing options to smash face while holding Corsair's Legendary so they can downtown a goal to close out the game.

- Anything moving your toys into Tapper's Commanding Aura and/or artificially extending the threat range of the rest of the Brewers beatdown team is something they'll appreciate. Spigot will be well happy, not just about the threat range extender but also being able to charge/jog up to an already Knocked Down player and unleash stabby glass hell. Also more reach, more better.

- Engineers want to extend their Pushing/ranged game shenanigans, chipping damage to eventually apply to the finishing blows, or clearing a pathway for the goal-scoring game. Gutter can cheerfully assist with this. Reeling in a model that's Knocked Down and already bristling with crossbow bolts lets her have another 3 swings dishing out Momentous 2 damage results or Momentous Scything Blows. Be mindful of getting a group of bunched up players Knocked Down and Flurried only for Gutter to lazily wander up and apply 12 damage to all and sundry with Scything Blows.


What doesn't Gutter like to see and how can you deal with her?

- Alchemists, specifically Midas. This all comes down to True Replication and that fact that giving Midas Momentous Scything Blow on one hit in the Playbook is effectively suicide (but that's for another article).

- Conditions are a risky game, specifically Fire. Forcing her to Chain Grab to close the distance means one less damaging roll in melee. Unfortunately conditions are often easily worked around and you still need to roll the 4+ to land it on her.

- High DEF models make Chain Grab less of a guaranteed play but don't forget that Bonus Time exists.

Can cause Gutter some issues.

- Clone/Gluttonous Mass/Beautiful. Something that ignores a Character Play or makes you harder to hit. Something that makes her spend for less outcome. Tough Hide to reduce Scything Blow damage.

- Kill her. Kill her dead. Right now. You simply need to be able to delete Gutter from the pitch in one activation. I say simple - in reality it's obviously difficult to manage for some Guilds. If you leave her alive at the end of the turn and you've lost the initiative roll, unless there's a game-winning play available to your opponent, she will be activating first in the next turn, punching something repeatedly, and healing 8 damage. Then if she's still alive in the next enemy activation she'll be healed for another 4 damage. Killing Gutter can become a kind of horrendous mini-game where you're stuck in an almost indefinite time-loop of misery and sadness. Finding the fine line between playing this game and trying to play around this game is way tricky.


Gutter has been errata'd a few times as far as I can tell (something of a Lich2 counter-part as it were). She used to heal two damage every time she caused damage, and Chain Grab used to have a 6" range. I'm not sure if she needs to be errata'd again and exactly how I would go about doing it. A few thoughts:

Not a drain on resources.

- make her INF 1/4 so she's more of a drain on the team?

A drain on resources.

- put Scything Blow higher up on her Playbook? Remove Knock Down?

- change her melee range to 1"?


So there's Gutter - easy to hate, hard to deal with. No idea who will be the focus of the next article in this series - probably something that smashes me tonight in the Dojo (place your bets on which Fish player I guess)...

Monday, March 7, 2016

Tapped Out

Ah, Tapper. The loveable old soak with a massive weapon (oo-err) and a heart to match. According to Flint (of Masons fame) he’ll pound you into the dirt on the pitch but buy you a pint after the match. With a 2” reach, Commanding Aura and the most “legendary” of heroic plays, who couldn’t love Tapper each and every game? Well, as it turns out that’s me.

Tapper is great, don’t get me wrong. He certainly has the ability to bring the pain on anyone foolish enough to get within reach of his big pointy stick. He’s a super solo with a generous handful of close-up team support. And that’s where his weakness lies I think. I’ve started to turn away from Mr Tapper and have been exploring Esters (ok, maybe I’ll stop trying to hold back the double entendres and let them flow). I’ll offer a few words here about why I’ve turned from the True path.

He’s slooooooow

Tapper jogs onto the pitch with a basic speed of 4/7”. With a 2” reach that’s a total threat range of 9”. Not too awful, but with a total of zero dodges on his playbook that’s a static threat range of 9”. Yes, Spigot can increase this to a respectable 11” but that requires Tapper to activate at least second (which we’ll discuss below). His “Marked Target” Character play is of no use to him personally either, as its range is too short unless he’s had his move reduced (which we will certainly discuss below).

He’s predictable

This static threat range makes him guilty of one of the worst sins in this game. He is predictable. If he can’t get you within swinging distance then he can’t hurt you, and can barely influence the turn at all. He can’t lob a barrel or a flame jet. He can’t chain-grab an opponent nor can he throw dirty knives at them. He has a one-track mind (don’t we all, boys). I’ve found that this makes him both a priority for the opponents to neuter, and that isn’t too difficult. Which brings us to…

He's a victim

“But Dave” I hear you cry.

That’s right, I can hear you.

“But Dave, with 18 boxes, ARM 1 and Tough hide, how can he possibly be a victim?”

Well, fool, that’s not really what I mean. He certainly can be taken out if you aren’t careful and get him isolated but I have in mind a more subtle kind of victim. Like the thuggish school bully being picked on by the geeky kids who’ve had enough (think “Revenge of the nerds”) Tapper is public enemy number one for the controlling teams out there and with DEF 3 he’s pretty easy to hit with character plays.
Allow me to list just some of the ways that other teams can ruin Tapper’s day in one activation or less.

Heavy Burden/Gut&String/Caught in a Net: You are now 0/3”. Enjoy that. Coupled with his virtual inability to influence a turn outside of his melee threat range, these are real killers.
Puppet Master/Tidal Surge: Jog on backwards 4” you beardy wierdo. You are now way out of range to influence the turn.
Shutout: Commanding Aura activating last? Whoop-dee-doo.
Blind: Not as bad as it was but a move of 2/5” triggered by a model 8” away is a kick in the goalies.


Utter Tool

If you think that those abilities sound a helluva lot like Alchemists, Morticians and Fishermen then welcome to the Christchurch meta. Sure, the above abilities can be used against anyone but the majority of other important players have either sufficient melee threat to get around them to some degree or an ability to reach out beyond their own melee threat range and influence the turn. This means that Tapper is going to activate early (if not first) in a turn to minimize the chances of one of the above happening to him. I find that this further enhances his predictability and means that if models can stay a safe distance from him the previous turn, hey won't accidentally wander into his threat before he activates.

So what does all this mean? Well, against good old fashioned “honest” teams who’ll face you in a straight fight (Brewers, Butchers, Union) then Tapper is likely a valuable asset. But when facing the more sneaky, underhand, dirty, conniving no-good teams (Alchemists, Morticians, Fish) of which New Zealand has plenty then we may have a problem. Its possible that I just need to learn how to play better but in the meantime Tapper will be sitting on the bench with a lovely cool pint. 

But where does that leave us?

Next article: Man, I feel like a woman.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Veteran's Playbook (4) - Silent Digital Assassin

Those not unfamiliar with Warmachine will be more than aware of the impact that a clock can have on the game. I can still vividly recall my early forays in Warmachine dealing with timed games; first with 10 minute timed turns, later with the Deathclock. I developed something of a (justified) reputation for timing out and remember one particular game at a tournament in Hamilton where I won with 6 seconds left on the clock. Good times.

It's called Deathclock for a reason.

As noted in the previous Veteran's Playbook post, Steamforged Games has published an Organised Play document for Guild Ball, and use of a clock set to various time allowances is a feature of this document. This article will explore aspects of clock management as they pertain to competitive Guild Ball play, traps and pitfalls, and why you should be playing on the clock in casual games too.


"Man seems to be deficient in nothing so much as he is in time." 

The "Regional Cup" variation of competitive Guild Ball play, which could arguably be seen as the 'standard' of tournament formats, requires players to operate on a 45 minute chess clock. This means each of the two players involved in the game has 45 minutes to play the entirety of their game before the unique time penalties of the Guild Ball clock system come into play.

There are a few things to take into consideration with this format:

- When your clock has run down you have 1 (one) minute to complete your current activation. After one minute has expired (or when you have finished your current activation - whichever occurs first), your opponent may take their activation and you automatically cede 1VP. In most games this will result in a very rapid defeat by clock - 4 activations/minutes of play will cede 4VPs, and at the chronological point you are at in the game (at least 45 minutes of total play time having expired) the score is likely to be somewhere around the 8VP mark on either side. I like this system a lot because if for example you're 8-8 on the board, and you can string together a quick chain of MP to load up a Snapshot! then you can still dig yourself out of the time-deficiency hole - you just have to play really bloody quickly!

- At the end of the second players turn (after their last activation), pause the clock. Roll off for initiative. And I quote...
"In order to ensure timing in tournament games is fair and reasonable, an amended Maintenance Phase is used. At the end of the Activation Phase the clock is immediately paused. Both players resolve the End Phase, Initiative Phase, and Steps A & B of the Maintenance Phase and the clock is then restarted."

... Steps A and B of the Maintenance Phase are resolving Conditions and applying Icy Sponges. After this the player with who has won or was granted the first activation restarts their clock to allocate INF, bring on Icy Sponged players etc before flipping the clock for their opponent to do the same. Then you move on to the first activation of the turn.

- 45 minutes seems like a really long time - but it actually isn't. It's enough time for sure, but as we will explore throughout this article you can hang yourself on the clock very easily. Always maintain an awareness of what the clock is doing!


"Killing time is not an easy job." 

Don't be like Calvin. In reality life is totally devoid of meaning and happiness.

One of the greatest assets of the Guild Ball system can also become one of the greatest downfalls as far as clock management is concerned and of course this is the concept of pre-measuring.

It's quite wonderful - everything in Guild Ball, all distances between any models or points, can be pre-measured before activations are decided, actions undertaken, or even Playbook results selected. In the Dojo this has led to the proliferation of the most dastardly of gamer-nerd tools... the mighty widget.

Horrible things but frequently handy, if not necessary.

The clock-related issue here is obvious but worth considering - lots of time spent fiddling about with widgets and examining the nuances of every conceivable board position or janky Dodge location will cost you valuable seconds and minutes. I'll add explicit and opinionated use of proxy bases under this umbrella too. Now the goal (pun, lol) here is to ensure a high level of accuracy and transparency, getting the most tactical value possible out of the open and testable information that pre-measuring provides, without getting mired in the complexities of the decision-making that you'll encounter. And I think that's no easy thing. The best plays in Guild Ball that I've experienced have been achieved through accurate and assured (and checked, opponent qualified) pre-measuring and it really does encourage you to look for the most exciting avenues to achieve the most gloriously off-the-wall results. Temper this with practiced speed and consistency, and for goodness' sake make sure you aren't...


"Nothing keeps. There is one law in the universe: NOW."    

... overthinking.

This is something I was well-renowned for in Warmachine and it really gained me very little in terms of a quantifiable improvement in my results. Overthinking in Guild Ball however is much MUCH worse largely due to the nature of the alternating activations system of play.

In Warmachine you spend your turn solving a puzzle set by your opponent, playing into an often (accepting effects such as Admonition do exist) position-static group of models. But your turn is mostly unaffected by what your opponent is currently doing in a live sense - they have spent their turn solving and establishing their own puzzles and have now passed the torch to you. In Guild Ball, the very nature of the alternating individual model sub-turn structure means that you can ill afford to spend at best a few minutes deeply considering how your actions will impact the placement of other models and direct synergies with other friendly models, because there's a damn good chance the board state is about to change (sometimes significantly!).

1-2 minutes of deep thinking and locking yourself into a plan can lead to tragic outcomes like planning out your turn based on the assumption your opponent will do 'X' with model 'Y' and (even worse) you will do 'A' with model 'B' in response. Then suddenly Shark is 13" somewhere else and his Legendary Play combined with a few handily applied Gut & Strings stops your entire team dead in their tracks. Or he's scored and you have to completely re-evaluate how to stop the Fish from getting hold of the ball and scoring consecutive goals in one turn. Or cheerfully loading up Ox and Boiler, intent on causing maximum carnage, before Casket wanders up and drops Ghostly Visage clouds all over the show because there's a new errata out and now your lads can't charge in with TAC-for-days and waste them fools.

The key here is that Guild Ball delivers an ever-changing, highly fluid table situation and demands that you constantly likewise keep your plans fluid and adaptable. You're probably still going into a game with the rough plan of looking for so many goals and so many Take Outs, but you simply MUST stay totally flexible in considering how to achieve these desired outcomes. Locking yourself into a plan not only loses you this prerequisite adaptability to the changing state of the table, it also forces you to go back to the drawing board every time, killing your clock as you dig yourself out of the mental dead-end you've created for yourself.

Stay fresh, frosty, flexible, adaptable. Be ready to adopt a different tact in order to cope with swiftly and suddenly changing scenarios and on-table developments.


"Indifferent to the affairs of men, time runs out; precise, heedless, exact, and immutable in rhythm."

So after all this doom and gloom and foreboding... why would you want to use a clock outside of dead serious, life-and-death, "I'm desperately justifying my existence and reason for being" tournament games?

Because it's actually (and surprisingly) enormous fun! Not only do you immediately get past those soul-draining 3 hour games where each activation takes 10 minutes and Dave wants to go to bed but is far too polite to kick you out of the The Shed, but you inject every moment with thrill, vitality and energy. Every model interaction becomes an intense battle for ball, blood and real estate under the auspices of the ticking time bomb. The clock forces you to respond at a visceral level; its primal, inexorable advance - the steady march towards zero hour - literally forces you to make decisions, commit to zany and wild ideas, and be led by your heart.

In some cases it actually addresses what might be perceived as questionable game balance issues. Morticians on the clock are horrendously difficult to play flawlessly (8INF Obulus activations take FOREVER to resolve!). Fishermen measuring out all their girly Dodges and Where'd They Goes? and Tidal Surges - all that delicate planning can catch them in their own net when the clock runs out. Butchers literally rolling all the dice and making that many attacks - that takes time! Blackhearts LP Dodges, Engineers Gun Mage Pushes lined up just so, Alchemists organising Midas to carry the entire team while you try not to get your cheerleading support crew scrubs wiped out... this all takes time! And all of this clock pressure adds hugely to the spice of the game, the parry and thrust of evenly matched teams having it all to play for.


Practice. Practice. Practice.

You simply must practise playing on the clock. At the start of this article I suggested that 45 minutes is ample time to push around 6 models while seeking a way forward to victory and it really is. But unlike Warmachine where you can put in a single 25 minute turn and end up in an overwhelmingly crushing position, able to relax into your remaining time practically assured of victory, Guild Ball is full of opportunities for the opposition to bounce back from the very brink of annihilation - a goal and a Take Out later and the game is suddenly yours to lose once again! I cannot recommend strongly enough that you start playing casual games on the clock.