Saturday, December 3, 2016

Season 3 Overview

Yay Season 3!

To give a broad overview of the core changes and trends, without digging into too much detail (read the cards!)
  • Tap In is now baseline - -1TN to goal kicks within 4"
  • Home Crowd is now baseline - 1MP if you do not go first each turn after the first.
  • Mascots now have icy sponges, and give up only 1VP when taken out. As a result, most mascots have had small (1-3 boxes) health reductions.
  • All players now only have 1 Icy Sponge marker about halfway up the playbook. Many players have had slight health reductions.
  • Many healing effects outside momentum use have been reduced or removed.
  • A lot of players changed nationality (for the purpose of the 'Homelands Cup' format)
  • Most (but not all) buffs are 'friendly Guild' so no longer affect Union models.


What was thought as the "weakest" guild in Season 1 (largely due to lack of synergies between their team & captain) received a big boost to their AoE condition play with Smoke in Season 2. Season 3 in turn brought them big changes to their non-AoE aspect, with huge changes to both Midas and Katalyst.

The most significant changes were to Midas and Katalyst, who were heavily reworked:
  • Midas has lost every single Play and Trait he had before (other than arguably combining 2 of his previous 3 heroic plays into 1), and became an A-list shifty showoff of a striker instead, with some excellent (indirect) team support options.
    The Midas of S1 and S2 that you either loved or hated is completely gone and replaced by a whole new different beast.
    In my opinion this rework is with good reason, as the first Midas had some issues that broke the game and its future development - True Replication combining with his Playbook being foremost and throttling future options for little real gameplay benefit.

    One more important note - Midas' new Legendary brings the Snared condition to the Alchemists, giving them access to every condition in the game, without Union models.
  • Katalyst has become a human ball of flame that can spread fire and KD like a madman. 2/4 INF, shitload of health, and Seismic Kick to take advantage of his decent (for a big guy) kick stat and inflict KD at range. Legit.
    Somewhat ironically, the only way to "force" him to remove the fire is to get him or his team to shake ALL conditions off him - bleed him, KD him, poison him, snare him....
In terms of minor changes: Vitriol received a surprisingly small but measured nerf (Hidden Damage once per turn only), Mercury received small systemic buffs (extra INF, Flame Jet cheaper), Compound's Rush Keeper is once per turn, while other guild models were mostly unchanged.

The real MVP of the changes is Veteran Katalyst's Heroic Play, which has been rightfully renamed to "Witness Me!"

All in all, I think Alchemists are in a position where they can, at one extreme, play a very strong football game (led by Midas) , while on the other end have an identity as a grindy, condition-based team (based on Smoke), and plenty of space in between to play around in. A very strong contender for top Guild in Season 3.


Brewers received perhaps the fewest changes of any team (tied with Fishermen):

  • Small changes to Tapper (+1/+1 INF but can no longer Old Jake's himself) and a change to Commanding Aura (now a +1 TAC/DMG buff to friendly guild models with 4")
  • Esters' Heroic Soothing Voice no longer heals 2 HP
  • Friday's 2 DMG on column 2 no longer momentous
  • Mash traded Long Bomb for a 4" push/KD playbook ability and slightly different playbook
  • Stoker received sizable buffs (extra INF, cheaper character plays, faster)
All Brewers basically the same. Praise be to the Spigod. Don't fix it if it ain't broke? Brewers remain a synergy-driven, durable guild with good options in both the goal scoring (especially with Harry the Hat!) and "good old fashioned scrap" department.


Overall Butchers have received a number of balance changes, while retaining their core identity of "extremely hard hitting but relatively fragile" aka. glass cannons:
  • Nerfs to Shank (2/3 INF), Brisket (no Princess TAC buff) and Fillet (Haemophilia effectively removed). 
  • Small system buffs to vBrisket and Tenderizer (improved character plays)
  • Significant buffs/reworks to Boar (3+ DEF, new playbook, better healing) and Meathook (+1 ARM, 2/3 INF, pushes added to most playbook results, inflicts -1 DEF on damage)
Ox and the mascots have received slight changes that in the greater scheme of things evens them out, and Boiler is entirely unchanged. 

Perhaps the biggest stealth change is that Ox's auras no longer affect Union models, thus likely removing Gutter from most Ox lineups in favour of a Butcher player, despite Gutter's actual playstyle with Ox being relatively unaffected. Minx's rework (more on that later) will also be interesting for Butchers, since DEF debuffs are huge for them.

The Butchers should remain a strong guild in Season 3 with an emphasized '4 TOs- 1 goal' strategy, although Tap In definitely boosts someone like Shank to a viable striker (likely the reason for his INF cap reduction). I don't think the nerfs invalidate any of the affected players at all, and the reworks make those two players a lot more valuable (Meathook will become the new cornerstone/support player for the team). The mascot changes I think will be especially visible in Butchers, who have mascots capable of dealing good (momentous) damage. Meathook also looks like she will work very well with both captains.


Likely the most fundamentally changed guild, from a ranged attrition/denial guild to a much clearer football-oriented direction.

Engineers had too many changes to cover in detail, but here are the big ones. As a trend, most models have received reworked playbooks, with more impactful momentous and damage results:
  • Ballista now has a weaker version of his old legendary as a character play to replace Flurry, and a Seismic Super Kick as a legendary.
  • Pin Vice character plays now deal only 2 DMG, she's now DEF 5+/0 and traded 5 health for Reanimate.
  • Mother's nests and Burrow reworked to be TN debuffs and ball retrieval instead of fire.
  • Mainspring gets a 3/8" pass FOR FREE every turn, with a momentous tackle on 1. What a mascot.
  • Colossus picks up Unexpected Arrival, Stoic and the ability to pick up loose balls within 2".
  • Ratchet gets some momentous damage, Tooled Up, and more Mechanica support abilities (the recursive cricket bomb is gone though).
  • Salvo loses his Bolts, but gets Flurry, Arrow to the Knee and the ability to pick up loose balls at a distance, effectively making him a striker in all but name.
  • Velocity picks up Acrobatic (2" dodge, 1 INF)
  • Hoist maintains True Replication, but it costs 0, targets friendlies and is usable every turn. Lots of really cool plays to steal!

Basically, most players got better, the guild picked up a handful of ball retrieval abilities, they can do better damage and momentum generation in combat, and their ranged KD game (ie. Salvo) was reduced severely.

Overall they will be a very different Guild in Season 3, with better combat options and unique ball-control abilities to make up for the loss of mass ranged KD. Whereas Fish football relies on mobility and dodges to score and pick up loose balls, Engineers rely on teamwork actions (Harry!), pushes and character abilities. 


Relatively few changes to Fishermen, which I considered the possibly the most balanced guild in Season 1 & 2 (others may disagree, #FishOP)

  • Small buffs were received by Angel (base DEF 5+), Salt (2/4" KICK)
  • Kraken got a few more buffs with 2/6" KICK, DEF 3+/0 and some 2" pushes on the playbook.
  • Greyscales lost 2 health in exchange for Decoy working against character plays and a better Ball's Gone!
Everything else appears untouched.
Somewhat surprisingly, Shark and vet Siren both remain completely untouched, despite the murmurs of 'negative play experience' resulting from their core abilities.

All in all - Fish remain Fish, but the game around them has become even better for them .


Hunters were considered by many to be the weakest guild in the game by the end of Season 2, in my opinion largely due to having a lower number of models and therefore tactical depth than other teams. 

Despite this perception, there were only few changes on the Hunter side of things:
  • Theron's Nature's Growth can only be used at the start of his activation, but can now be placed within 2" of other terrain (rather than 3"). He also lost Forest Sight.
  • Hearne is now 3/6" KICK
  • Seenah gets a free 2" push within his melee range at the start of activation and a reworked playbook.
  • Also Minx.

Other models appear unchanged. Overall Hunters received some nice little improvements, but the community complaint seems to be based around not getting enough buffs to bring them into line with other guilds, and a nerf to their 1 captain on top of that. 

My (completely speculatory) theory is that the Nature's Growth / Forest Sight change is partially to do with Farmers, and partially because getting a forest in front of your face and then getting Pinned is a pretty hard counter for which only a minority of players have a counter-play, and you could do it every turn (more likely you missed the Pinned and got tilted at Theron :)

Otherwise the other buffs seem pretty solid to me for a guild that had good internal balance and will likely (hopefully) become more openly competitive with the release of a couple of new models in Season 3. 


Masons received a significant number of small to medium adjustments on top of Harmony & Tower's reworks:
  • Hammer 4/5 INF
  • Honour got several small changes that mostly even out (perhaps a small decrease in overall power) - Responsive Play -> Poised, Legendary 4" -> 6" (still "gains" INF!), Superior Strat now allocates & is OPT, KD result down a column.
  • Flint loses Super Shot, but is 4/8" KICK baseline
  • Vet Harmony traded Scything Blow for Marked Target, but Smelling Salts no longer heals.
  • Marbles loses Tooled Up, but gains Counter Charge while within 4" of Brick
Harmony was reworked to have a longer Family leash (8" instead of 4"), Back to the Shadows, new character plays, and a better playbook.
Tower picked up Tooled Up, has an AoE play that grants Sturdy, and one that grants Defensive Stance. He's like the defensive cornerstone of the Masons, leaving Mallet as the offensive cornerstone.

A handful of vocal posters on the Masons forum community seem to be taking a very siloed, model-by-model approach to evaluating these changes, thinking of everything strictly in "buff/nerf" terms and not looking at the model in context of the team and in context of the game. Which is a strange way to look at it, given that almost every model that received a nerf also received a buff, and there were a lot! On top of this, the two reworked models are in my opinion also significantly better than their previous incarnations.

I think Masons remain as almost strong as previously and most of the "nerfs" received have good reasons behind them. The "power roster" will likely change a bit from what it is now but they will still be able to do their thing with great effectiveness.


The boogiemen of Season 1, dominating metas everywhere with the Obulus/ Dirge/ Silence/ Ghast/ Mist/ Rage/ Avarisse + Greede roster.

  • Obulus himself took a few hits: -1 TAC, -2 health, 5/7 INF, Puppet Master no long refunds an INF.... but then again his Misdirection was significantly improved at -2 INF & OPT
  • Silence, the other terror in the lineup, took a hit with 2/4 INF and -3 health. At the same time, he got +0/+1 MOV and traded Embalming Fluid for Fire Blast (significantly better IMO)
  • Dirge's Dark Doubts is only -2MP now (net -1MP, rather than -3MP).
And that's it in terms of nerfs. Most models were unchanged, but 3 got significantly better:
  • Graves picked up 2/4 INF, traded Rabid Animal for Tooled Up and now has a momentous Scything Blow.
  • Cosset got a reworked, shorter and much more efficient playbook, and traded Damage Support Dirge for Assist Dirge (more potential, but harder to set up). Screeching Banshee now a DEF debuff over a MOV debuff.
  • Bonesaw now a legit goal threat with the reworked Football Dervish allowing yoyo football dodges, a very reliable goal kick and more consistent defensive abilities in exchange for 1 health and Reanimate.

Morticians in general have lost slivers of health on most players, reducing their tankiness down a few notches. Most of the power roster was addressed both directly (Rage's Tooled Up being Guild only, A+G rework, Mist nerf..) and indirectly (1 Union player per roster max), resulting in an understandable loss of power for the Morticians. At the same time, most of the underused models were significantly improved, and Scalpel has become a very competitive choice with Obulus, which I think will open up the guild a lot.

The Union

Steamforged's favourite nerf bat target (mostly on account of being ridiculously OP in Season 1), the Union make a stellar recovery in Season 3 with a few small nerfs and a number of sizable reworks:

  • Blackheart, in my (unpopular) opinion the best captain in Season 1, was reworked from being a mobile tank deathstar into something a little more tricky and football oriented. He is still very mobile and durable, but his team's area damage output has been reduced significantly in exchange for gaining one of the few abilities in the game to get the ball off a friendly model that has already activated, plus a usable Misdirection.
  • Minx' Hunter identity has been well and truly developed, with a number of Hunter traits like Back to the Shadows, the ability to apply Snared on damage and the new Screeching Banshee. Very INF efficient winger for any team. May actually be legit OP.
  • Harry has gone from dumpster to throne with a massive rework, the most notable features of which are a new playbook, 2" melee and an aura that grants -1MP cost to teamwork actions. Rock solid midfielder.
  • Finally, Avarisse and Greede have changed significantly, most notably on the Greede side of things: lots of stat buffs and icy sponges. Both activate at the same time and Greede can detach at any point in the activation and use Avarisse' INF. Still look really solid in both the damage department and ball-control/striking.
    I have a small fear that losing Greede won't be as big a deal anymore though, as you can bring him back on straight away and just hide in a corner, giving out his 1 INF at no risk like Mascots of old.

A few tune ups (two of which are sizable buffs):
  • Vet Rage's Heroic can now be used on other models as well.
  • Gutter now has Scything Blow on the 5 column (which no longer heals her), and 6" Chain Grab on the 3.
  • Snakeskin picked up a momentous dodge result on column 1.
The only arguable 'nerfs' are to: 
  • Coin (who now has a 1" melee range and Bag of Coffers is "allocated")
  • Mist (who lost Where'd They Go for Acrobatics, and Shadow Like in certain teams). 
  • Oh, and Hemlocke's Smelling Salts no longer heal. Good old Hemlocke, taking it on the chin again and beating Gutter for the crown of Most Nerfed Model.
    At least, if you ignore that she gained +1 TAC and a new << >> momentous result on 4 hits....
All other models appear to be the same. Union as a guild will remain competitive but now have the ability to play the game with team-oriented football lining, instead of just outfighting and outtanking most rosters. This could make the two captain pairing very interesting in 9 man rosters, since a lot of Union players can go both ways (ie. are good fighters with 3/6" KICK stats)

Also it looks like we might be getting a red haired, striker-oriented Union captain in Season 3, coinciding strangely with the exile of Brisket from the Butcher's Guild and Ox's release by the Solthecian Church.....


You may have gotten the impression I think Season 3 is very good, and I do. Is it perfect? Of course not. There are several areas where changes were perhaps warranted but weren't implemented - Hunters as a whole, Chisel, and Stave have each received a large amount of attention as underpowered models in S3, and there are likewise some concerns that Minx & Harry the Hat have become too powerful and too much of a shoe-in for that coveted 1 Union slot.

What I think is most important about this process is not only that the overall changes are by and large overwhelmingly well-received and backed by good reasoning, but that Steamforged continues to show willingness to do what is necessary in order to make Guild Ball a more compelling, competitive and enjoyable game, to the point of making significant changes to about 1/3rd of the models in the game, and even going so far as DELETING a captain model entirely and building him back from the ground up, because he was a negative games experience for many and skewed the game in a way that affected future development.
Not only this, but the game's developers have repeatedly shown to be willing to directly interact with community media in order to explain their decision making process. And you still don't have to pay a cent to access the full rules for the game. 

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