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.

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