Thursday, 18 June 2015

[review] "I'm Gonna Blatter You!" - Guild Ball Season 1

So I pretty much hate football. As in soccer. No let's be more fair. I hate a lot of the culture around it.

But Guild Ball is much more fun.

Now previously I had blogged about the demo game I had at my flgs in Sheffield, The Outpost. But this time I am going to delve into the rules some more and the rulebook itself.

Let's start with the obvious. The Guild Ball rulebook is free to download, and is full colour. In fact there is a lot that is free to download, such as quick start rules, print outs of the character cards, and print outs of templates, and even paper standees so you try the game out.

Next up the book itself. I have fortunately had a look at the hard copy of the book, and it is high quality, full colour, and comes in a sleeve. The book is slightly different in that it is a landscape orientation, much like the book for Battlefleet Gothic. This has some advantages in that it takes up a better amount of space on the gaming table, and is already a useful format for tablets.

Now the art. The art is lush, evocative, and has a cartoonish feel to it. Doug Telford has an excellent resume, having work on games like Kill Zone, and Heavenly Sword. Marc Molnar has worked on the Star Wars RPG and 40K RPG. All the art, character sketches and design and layout of the book really do well at depicting this new world.

Now about the world. It's a fantasy setting, but, unlike many other settings in the war gaming genre, we only have humans (well other than the team mascots). Guild Ball is a sport played in all the of the states that exist on the shared continent, and of course is controlled and managed by the various competing trade Guilds. Magic and alchemy exist in a fashion, but again, are not as explosive or significant in the game compared to say in other fantasy settings. As time passed, and states grew, and in turn so did the Guilds, the states formed a joint collective, The Empire of the Free Cities.The peace of the Empire was shattered by the Century Wars, and this caused havoc and strife, and of course ground down city states and Guilds. And it was the Guilds, who were independent and border less, who brought about peace. The Guild, seeing the power they could wield to bring about peace, sought to cement it, and so saw a institution of mass entertainment as a means to bind together the different peoples of the new empire.  This would be Guild Ball. Based upon the old sport that was played on festival days, this transnational sport would give the people something to focus on, and bring together fans from different communities. But Guild Ball would have another role. A means by which to settle disputes within the Guilds.

So what Guilds do we have?

Butchers. Fishermen. Alchemists. Masons. Morticians. Brewers. Engineers. The Union.

For each of these Guilds there are 6 characters to use in your team, and of those 1 is the team captain (and so has to be used in games), and there is a further character, the team mascot, which has to be used in the quick and regular game sizes. In a introductory game, each team consists of 3 models. In a quick game and regular game, you have 5 characters, and the team mascot. So currently that means for the larger sized games you have options by deciding which team member out of the full roster to leave out. Future releases will undoubtedly introduce new captains, players, and new mascots.

The rules I have explained a bit in the previous blog post, and the full rules expand upon them a little, detailing the issues with passing a ball, scoring, and the use of Momentum to enable team plays (so where the ball is passed and a model runs onto the ball, or snaps off a shot on goal). The rules for all characters are in the book, and each character is defined by a stat line, plays (special skills essentially) and their play book (which is a list that depending on successes gives you access to different effects when you succeed on an attack).

Having read through all the rules, it is clear how this is an incredibly well designed rules system, using concise dice rolls and  dice pools, and minimal modifiers, to create a deep, tactical game. It is clear the game is design to promote an aggressive play style, board control, synergies between models and game effects, and a flow of play that means a player is never left waiting to act.

Will I be getting this game. Oh hell yes. About 20 GBP for a starter set of 3 models, and that is enough to get gaming on a 2 foot square gaming space. I have some ideas in mind already. The setting of Guild Ball, and the rules, suggest the use of cluttered pitches. That means games taking place on farms, even with groves of trees in the play space, or in the streets, with players kicking the ball about the narrow streets, and over carriages, or hell, why not having to jump over canals. Some pitches could be on an icy tundra, and so players and the ball skid over patches of ice. Or perhaps the game is taking place in a prison, and there are sharp hooks to be avoided.

So watch this space for some future match reports for Guild Ball.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

[Battle Report] Skorne vs Everblight - Back into Action

So it has been quite a few months since I have played Warmahordes, and so I organised a friendly game to ease back into things. Both I and my opponent Neil are either learning the rules, or refreshing on the rules.

Of course, our venue was the excellent flgs in Sheffield, The Outpost, and that shop has plenty of gaming space.

With the mission selected from the Steamroller missions, and we were playing Destruction.

I was running my 35 pt pHexeris theme army,

Aptimus Marketh
Titan Gladiator
2 Cyclops Savages
6 Arcuarii
6 Paingiver Beast Handlers
2 6 man units of Praetorian Swordsmen.

My opponent was running with,

Saeryn, Omen of Everblight
Nephilim Bloodseer
Strider Rangers
Strider Deathstalker
2 Blighted Nyss Shepherds

Essentially the game played out with the Angelius and Neraph surging forward into the control zone, perhaps a bit too far forward, while my army march forward, with upkeep spells letting the army surge forward ready to smash into the Everblight who were comparatively out numbered. Early losses were to the Swordsmen, who really just powered up Aptimus (just as you want). With the Angelius engaging the Arcuarii, my counter charge had that beast cut down swiftly by the Arcuarii and one of the Savages. The second savage and full unit of Swordsmen engaged the Neraph and almost cut it down. Aptimus happily fired off Soulfire, while Hexeris used Obliteration to hammer the Nephilim. The death of the Angelius denied Saeryn fury, as Hexeris stole it.

The Titan charged and pummelled the Nephilim in the first hit, but even with these dramatic losses and injuries, the Neraph was able to fly out of combat and pound Hexeris into the dirt.

Looking back there were some mistakes on the rules here and there, but hey, first game in 6 months or so, so not bad really, and great fun.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Guild Ball at the Outpost

Guten tag.... oh hold on, I moved back to the UK.

Yes, the last few months have been quiet on the blog as gaming stuff got packed up, painting ground to a halt, and reading gaming books even became a bit of a chore. But now I am back in the UK, in the city of steel - Sheffield!

Now a new city means trekking about finding the local gaming stores. Sheffield has a few, and of course in the UK, a compulsory GW. But, perhaps the best gaming store I have seen in a while for wargaming, is The Outpost.

The Outpost stocks a lot of popular games, and provides gaming space (which is also being increased in size in the future). And of course, the shop is run by some ex-GW staff, which explains a lot. So expect me playing there a lot in future, and some more batreps. Also the shop is home to one of the best Warmahordes tournament teams.

However, this morning I tried out a new game, that pulled in a total pledge that hit over 300% of their target. That game is Guildball.

Guild Ball is a 28mm fantasy sports game, in the same vein as Bloodbowl, and the more recent Dreadball. But Guild Ball stands out where Dreadball comes across as just a scifi Bloodbowl on a hexgrid.

Guild Ball takes the concept of Medieval mob football, and adds some fantasy elements (but not too much), and, shock horror, uses a game system the required no grid for movement and scoring.

Clearly Guild Ball takes popular elements from a number of wargames. Attacks and skills are resolved using dice pools against a target number. Resolving actions and attacks rely on typical a single roll. There is no I roll to hit, you roll to dodge, I roll to wound.... ad nauseam. Guild Ball also makes use of resource pools, sort of like focus points or fury points in Warmahordes, control zones about models, and alternating activations (for me this feels like a nice throw back to Confrontation).

A turn begins with each model generating Influence, which is pooled together for a team and then allocated to each team member. Models can be allocated a maximum amount, which is often more than they generate. These points are used in a turn for a model to do a number of things, but primarily they are spent to allow a model to charge, shoot, or perform extra attacks, or to activate abilities.

You may be thinking, how does a model control the ball in the game. Quite simply, a ball, that is not being controlled by a model, can be "snapped" to a model, as it passes by the ball counter within 1 inch (oh to note, you can pre-measure everything!). The way a model's activation progresses, it means it is possible to charge and attack, and then if you have movement left, continue on, have the ball snap to you, and then carry on, and then pass the ball.

But that is not all. Attacks are not as simple as they are in Warmachine. A model has a "playbook", and the number of successes on the attack pool unlocks a certain amount of types of actions. This can be dealing more damage, or it can be tackling in order to steal the ball, or knocking down the enemy model, or pushing the enemy model, getting to make a free move, or generating a free special action (rather than spending the influence for the same action).

Perhaps the most important element of the game system is the generation of Momentum. Momentum opens up new options, like counter attacks, ball passing actions (so running on once passing or receiving the ball, or increasing a model's defence i.e. the target number of attack pools). But most importantly, Momentum is spent to allow a model to make a shot on goal. This means the system is setup to promote aggressive play, and ball passing for the more defensive teams.

Add on modifiers to dice pools due to control zones of models (so ganging up on a defender) or making a shot or pass through enemy zones, pretty much completes the core concepts of the game.

What I got to play in the store for the demo game was a quick 3-a-side match, where I used the Fishermen guild, vs Myk, who used the Butchers Guild. The gameplay, once you get used to it, is rather fast and flowing, with a lot of tactical options. The best thing is that the game is that the 3-a-side quick game fits on a 2 foot square play space, while larger, typical games (involving 4, or 5-a-side) use only a 3 foot square space. That is awesome, and reflects a sort of growing trend of skirmish games that they can be played on a smaller surface, and makes it a far more beer and pretzels game.

I can definitely say I will be picking up two teams, more than likely the Alchemists and the Morticians (yeah yeah, Chris, you bloody goth!).

Oh and the rules are free to download, and there is a Vassal module ready to use! Plus excellent figures to paint.

Thanks to the guys at The Outpost for a great demo day.