Steamforged Games is a new company to the miniature game scene. So to read the rules, play the game or talk to the mad men responsible for Guild Ball, you would think they are 28mm battle hardened veterans. Great miniatures, exciting rules and strong organized play; Guild Ball will find a way to your game tables, if it has not already.
Guild Ball is a skirmish sports ball miniatures game, akin to Blood Bowl of old with some heavy influences from Warmachine/Hordes. You control a team of Guild Ball players to try to score goals or beat your opponent into submission. With each successful play, gain “Momentum” and keep the pressure on your opponents. Use team work to “Influence” to make power plays. Drive your opponents from the pitch and seize more territory for your Guild.
A Little History Lesson
The now Free Cities of Guild Ball were once ravaged by war from coast to coast. During the Centory’s War the Guilds began to gain some control and eventually did. During the hard times of the war, the people took to playing the game that we now call, Guild Ball. The mercantile guilds (Butchers, Fisherman, Alchemists etc) formed their own leagues and their teams replaced soldiers to end trade disputes and control territory.
The people of the Free Cities no longer live in times of war but instead, live in the age of Guild Ball. No longer do they stay awake from the looming sounds of war. They stay awake from the booming crowds gathered to watch the games. For now, the Free Cities are at peace and the Guilds are content behind their filled coffers.
Butchers – Sure, you could score goals and win the match but would be the fun in that? Butchers take Guild Ball seriously and don’t mess around. They cut to the chase and have no problem taking their opponents out to get the job done.
Fisherman – Patience. Skill. Positioning. Teamwork. The Scales are a force to be reckoned with when they have the ball. If you take your eye off them for a second, they will be across the field launching a Screamer at your goal.
Brewers – Big and burly, the Brewers are ready to fight at the drop of a hat…or keg. Tough as nails, they may not be the best ballers but they will be in it for the long haul. Long after they beat their opponents down, they will be standing.
Masons – Sturdy as the buildings they erect, the Masons will make their opponents work for every inch they get. Controlling the ebb and flow of the game, the Masons work together like bricks in a wall. Despite their sturdy build, the Masons are quite flexible on the pitch.
Alchemists – One of the newest Guilds, the Alchemists use their advancements in science to alter their abilities and hinder their opponents. Not the toughest, meanest or the best players but after the Alchemists get a hold of you, you won’t be either.
Morticians – *shudder* These guys and their damned bird give me the willies. This Guild brings a dark cloud with them wherever they go, hindering their opponents with every play. Spending their nights putting bodies in the ground, they control the pitch like they do their graveyards.
Engineers – Technology at their finger tips and sometimes, literally it is their finger tips, Engineers use their advancements to help them do just about anything. Striking from a distance and laying traps for their opponents, the Engineers use their precise skill in everything they do.
Union – The Free Cities’ lost children and mercenaries ready for hire. You have to be careful around this lot though. They will stab you as soon as punch the person in the face you hired them to punch. Of course, this diversity allows you to hire the right player for the right match.
What’s in the Box?!
Guild Ball, like other miniatures games, has a starter box for each Guild. These boxes come with 3 models each, a captain and 2 teammates. This is all you need to play a small or “Introductory Game”. Intro games are also played on a smaller 2’x2′ pitch (game board) and playing only to 6 points. You can escalate your game by adding more models and increasing the total score needed to win.
It all starts with the simplicity of the Guild Starter Box. This makes it easy for any new player to jump right in and start playing the game. The rest of the team is filled out by adding blisters of other team mates and mascots. Players can also use different captains than those that come in the starter box. The model count is low per Guild, so players will easily be able to try other Guilds.
There’s No Point(s)
Oh, one of my favorite things in Guild Ball, is how easy team assembly is. Unlike traditional miniatures games, models do not cost points. Depending on the size of the game you are wanting to play, you have to fill your roster with a certain number of positions.
- Introductory Game: 1 Captain and 2 Teammates.
- Quick Game/Typical Game: 1 Captain, 4 Teammates and 1 Mascot.
Guild Ball seems to have in it’s rules set, double uses for single rules/features. The game size determines: the pitch size, model count and points to win. Again, every hurdle you normally have when beginning a miniatures game, Steamforged has removed or made the effort seamless in Guild Ball.
One Roll to Rule Them All
What would you say, if I told you a single roll determined if you hit your target, accounted for armor and delivered damage? Well, no I’m not a liar. Guild Ball miniatures have a Tactical Ability (TAC) that tells you how many d6’s you roll when taking an action. Defensive Ability (DEF) tells you what players must roll to get a success against them. Armour Value (ARM) removes the specified amount of successes. The remaining successes are then used to choose your desired result from that models “Play Book”, such a great system.
So, let’s do a little example. Brisket has a TAC of 4 and she wants to attack the Guild Captain of the Fisherman, Shark. Shark has a DEF of 4 and an ARM of 1. Brisket rolls 4 dice, 3 of them are above the 4 needed for Shark’s DEF. The 1 ARM removes one of the success dice and leaves Brisket with 3 successes against Shark. With 2 of those successes she causes 2 damage to Shark and spends her last success to Tackle the ball away from Shark. All in a single roll. Elegant and fast resolution for such dynamic game play.
Monumental Play…wait, Momentous…words are hard…
Momentum might be one of the single best game mechanics I have seen in a miniatures game since, Warmachine introduced me to their Focus system. Momentum, like I said above about the game size, has some double uses within it’s design. At it’s core, it’s bonuses you earn for successfully completing certain actions, like passing the ball to a teammate or scoring a goal. These MP go to the team to spend, not the individual miniature. This allows you to really set up for a strong power play for a later teammate’s turn.
Here is what I really like about the Momentum system, it negatively impacts players for not taking an engaging approach to the game. It rewards players for being aggressive and taking chances. Momentum encourages players to give it all and leave it on the pitch. This is where Guild Ball shines and really comes alive with powerful plays and deep optional strategy.
Is That All?
Not even close. There are still several other unique features that allow Guild Ball to stand out and feel unlike any other game. Influence Points, Plot Cards, Model Activations, Plays, Icy Sponge system and I barely scratched the surface of the Momentum system. The game itself is quite robust and has a lot of options for growth.
Growth will be achieved through the game system itself but Steamforged started Guild Ball from the beginning knowing it will be heavily involved with Oragnized Play. At the store level and larger tournaments, Guild Ball will be alive and strong in the competitive scene around the world. But we’ll speak about all that later. Far too many good things to fit in this single article.