A Beginner’s Guide to Blacksmiths

A Beginner’s Guide to Blacksmiths

“The Armourers accomplishing the knights,
With busy hammers closing rivets up,
Give dreadful note of preparation.”

–Shakespeare

Greetings all! This is Lance from the (I’m sure, soon to be) highly famous Guild Ball podcast, The Pitch!

What? No one gives a damn? Ok, cool… never mind then.

I have been tasked to walk those interested in playing the newest team in the Empire of the Free Cities through the basics of opening the box and taking the starting six out for a spin. My hope is that this guide will help you avoid any confusion in your first attempt at playing this very unique team, as well as help you come to your own conclusions as to how to make them click for you in the first few play-throughs. The following is merely “suggestions” of how to begin thinking of each model and, of course, your mileage may vary. With all of those caveats out of the way, let’s get started…

Quick Model Summary:

Unlike any other team in Guild Ball, roster compositions for the Blacksmiths require three masters and three apprentices… hooray, no mascots! The good news is this means that every character (and every activation) on the field will bring a full player’s capacity for effect! However, every one of your models will also grant your opponent two victory points upon take out. Another important note of balance is that every Blacksmith team will bring exactly twelve influence points (three per master, and one per apprentice). This can certainly affect how much each of those players will be able to get done round to round, so you will have to plan accordingly.

Here is a brief description of each model in the box, starting with the masters…

Anvil – slower speed, low reach, great TAC, momentous knockdown on 1 result, helps set up the rest of the team to perform better with “singled out” and repositioning them with a pulse either directly toward your opponent’s goal post (to advance up faster) or your own (to disengage from a scrum), he is a heavy tank for damage from your opponent with high ARM and tough hide, can protect apprentices if nearby.

Furnace – ok speed, two inch reach, great TAC, causes burning on damage, melts ARM off opponents, main source of “Tooled Up” for all damage dealers on the team, good to use for ganging up in the scrum, can protect apprentices if nearby.

Ferrite – high speed, low reach, ok TAC, top end power kick stats, hybrid maneuverable striker/de-buffer.

… and next the apprentices…

Sledge – ok speed, two inch reach, ok TAC, his main function is to be your primary damage dealer, combining “Piledriver” plus “Tooled Up” to hit the momentous seven (up to eight) damage, and possibly a wrap on a charge or “Singled Out” target to remove lower HP model, capable of a side mission to “Long Bomb” an errant ball to a friendly striker or to open field, if needed, try to keep him close to Anvil for a free character play per round.

Cinder – good speed, one inch reach, ok TAC, unpredictable movement, playbook full of decent damage, but tons of dodge options, great kick stat, can cause burning on damage like Furnace if starting close to him, can protect herself with decoy, can retrieve free balls from the field for her team at range, can make ONE attack per round at range as well, which can be interesting when it comes to attempting to trigger ranged tackles off of opponents that felt safe.

Iron – this player is a bit of a quandary to new players, as he is both “good” and “bad” at almost everything in equal measure, (bad) basic speed is slow, (good) but can be super charged to amazing speed levels; (bad) one inch reach, (good) captain level TAC;  (bad) low DEF but (good) great ARM; his playbook is long and includes mostly knockdowns, damage levels near Sledge, and pushes, also has ramming speed to pinball enemies and your own players around the field as needed, Ferrite can get him extra move with “Get Over Here,” close control to avoid losing the ball to enemy strikers and tough hide to try to survive beat downs, a difficult player to master, but once done, can be massively effective on the field

Who Should My Captain Be??

The rosters are not the ONLY unique thing about the Blacksmiths. When you choose your roster for your game, you also need to identify which MASTER will also be your team CAPTAIN. This choice will grant that player an additional +0/+2 Influence value (taking the chosen master from 3/3 to 3/5 for that game), but also unlocks the secondary part of each master’s legendary plays. The Legendaries are formatted in such a way that the first part will only affect the solo model, no matter if they are the captain or not. The second part will only trigger if that master is your captain that game.

With that being said, which master you choose can have a HUGE impact on how your team functions on the field. The following is a quick guide through the three master’s legendary plays and we can try to decide which we want to choose for our captain!

Anvil:

Solo effect = the first part of his legendary is simple: he just gains +1 TAC. This takes his already great TAC to an impressive seven, and I find the best use of it is when he wants to REALLY put the hits down on either a high defense model, or to offset when he is being crowded out in a scrum with the opponent. When you have a momentous KD on one result, every little dice can help.

Effect only if Captain = the second part of the play is to grant all of your models within six inches of him tough hide as an aura. Keep em alive!

Should he be my captain? = Somewhat dependant on the match-up; against teams that rely on medium level amounts of damage output, the minus one damage to every hit could be the difference between winning and losing the game by denying your opponent VP’s. However, your play will be telegraphed to your opponent in a way that they can avoid hitting people in the aura, or move Anvil away with pushes, or even just pile on the damage in an attempt to overcome the hindrance you placed on them. Also, with Anvil’s lack of reach, he tends to be one of your more “forward” active players and having him taken out by your opponent quickly can be a detriment.

Furnace:

Solo Effect = another simple concept, the first part of his play grants him plus one ARM, taking him to a DEF 3/ARM 3. I tend to trigger this play when he is engaged in a scrum with multiple models and enjoying the benefits of cover and crowd outs. He becomes a frustrating player to remove for one full round, without a deep commitment from your opponent to do so.

Effect only if Captain = all models within six inches of him are granted the ability to set opponents on fire with damage and melt off one ARM as well.

Should he be my captain? = Arguments could be made in attempting to spread lots of fire around, to slow down a faster team, or to melt ARM off of a heavily armored team (such as masons, the Blacksmith mirror match, etc). But with the other two options for masters you have in this box, I would be hard pressed to recommend Furnace as your captain. Even fully loaded and Tooled Up, he only has one momentous damage result on his playbook, and I’m sure you could find a better use for that influence within this entire squad than him with an investment of five.

Ferrite:

Solo Effect = take an already speedy Striker model (5”/7”) and add +2/+2… sounds like a pretty good time for a model with acrobatics and a 4/8” Kick, am I right??

Effect only if Captain = the only legendary in the box that’s a pulse (i.e you can pop it and leave the area, while still granting the bonus), Ferrite can turbo boost everyone on your team within six inches for that +2/+2 move, while also granting them the chance to slow your opponent if you damage them.

Should she be my captain? = I’m not sure if I tipped my hand a bit too much with the descriptions, but my answer to this question is ABSOLUTELY YES! WHAT? ARE YOU CRAZY? JUST DO IT!!… ahem, sorry, I digress. Looking at the former two captain options, I feel the decision with this box is VERY clear, isn’t it? Ferrite is a model who wants to do WORK. Whether that be racing down field for a goal score, taking armor off of people, slowing them down, lowering their TAC before they get to go, dodging away like a speed demon, etc etc. She can do ALL of that AND MORE if you can give her five influence when she needs it. A good way to look at it is to see if she can somehow “replicate” what the other masters can do with their second legendary play parts. Can she help her team slow the other team down, like with fire from Furnace? Yup, hobble is a -2/-2 and it can’t even be shaken! Can she lower ARM? Yes, but only from her own attack, which is slightly circumstantial, but so it taking Furnace as your captain. What about Anvil? Can she grant minus one damage to people? Not directly, but lowering a dangerous model’s TAC by two can mean the difference between a higher or lower damager value, or a knock down, or a character play they want to trigger. Again, this effect is only on single target from her, but very possible. If you are playing your box for the first time, I cannot suggest using Ferrite as your captain hard enough. You won’t be sorry.

Who should kick off?

When I teach Guild Ball to new players as a pundit, I always answer this question with another question: “Well, what player do you want to have a free jog with?” Arguably, the Blacksmiths have some slow players that could benefit with a slight boost up the field, and most of the players have very decent kick scores (no 1/6” here, get OUTTA HERE Ghast!!), so really anyone is a likely target, but I want to make a special case for two fun options for you to have a little fun with, if you just happen to fail the initiative roll and are forced to kick off.

Case # 1: Cinder

The Ebony Arbalest is fairly fast and has a lovely kick range of eight inches, but you probably won’t want to use the full distance. Have her on one wing or the other, and try to boot the ball JUST over the midline, and off towards the sideline. If you get lucky, the ball might be hard for your opponent to pick up, and you can use “Kill The Ball” to get possession of it right away, turning the tables on your opponent and taking advantage of the momentum build up. Alternatively, if they DO manage to get the ball with their first activation, you might be able to sprint Cinder up and try a range six tackle (non momentous on three results), then kick the ball backward to your team for a similar effect. The big risk with this second option is that it might get Cinder killed and give your opponent a chance to keep up with the momentum race, while also taking over the VP race upon her death.

Case #2: Ferrite

I mentioned this on the podcast, so if you heard this already, I apologize for the repetition, but this is too much fun to not try to pull off. When you line up on the starting line, try to bunch up a little and have Ferrite in the dead center of your crew. Jog her forward with the ball, but not the full five inches, try to maneuver her so every player on the team is six inches away from her. Your plan is to kick the ball to your opponent, so that they run someone up and pass it backwards to someone on their starting line with a) low Defense, b) low TAC, c) no reach, d) no easy access to KD, e) not in counter charge range, etc. You can do a few activations while you wait: I suggest Tooled Up, or While the Iron is Hot to shift the whole line up forward, but when the time is right, you launch Ferrite forward with her legendary like a missile, trying to tackle the ball off an opponent, and score a goal ASAP. This has the further benefit of letting your whole rest of the team come screaming over the midline and letting you engage their team on their side of the pitch. It’s right where the Blacksmiths want to be! Now, this play is VERY risky, and you have to wait for the perfect timing, but it’s something worth keeping in mind as an amazing synergy for your entire team. Even if you don’t pull the trigger in trying to get the ball, hitting the legendary to position your whole team up the field faster can only be a benefit. It’s harder to win when you have to play the whole game and YOUR side of the field. Put that pressure on!

How Do I Plan To Win?

Some teams in Guild Ball come with an almost pre-ordained idea of how they plan to get to 12 VP’s. Veterans of the game will sometime refer to this as a “Two and Two Team” or a “Three and O Team”, referring to numbers of goals scored to take outs. Of best laid plans, even some of the most goal scoring teams might be able to get a kill when needed, and vice versa. Never has this idea been truer than with the versatility of the Blacksmiths.

Having given this team a thorough vetting, I can say with confidence that I have managed to win without scoring a single goal shot or without killing anyone. O and Three? Six and O? Anything in between? It’s all possible with the Blacksmiths, it often just depends on who you are playing against and capitalizing on opportunities given to you. Much like the Masons, the Blacksmiths are very much about flexibility and making decisions in the moment. Mastering them with come with being able to read the board and making smart investments to rack up the VP’s you need faster than your opponent can react.

Weaknesses:

With all of the above celebration aside, there are some significant weaknesses the team has to deal with when facing off against other teams in the game.

1)  Like the Brewers and other low MOV value teams, Blacksmiths need to be careful with effects that can slow their speed even further. Terrain/AOE’s, Shark’s legendary, fire status, all of these can cause the team difficulty in pulling off their effects, especially against faster and more maneuverable teams.

2) While many of the Blacksmiths can ratchet up their ARM, their DEF values tend to be lower than most average teams. This often lets opponents using primarily character plays (Alchemists, Hunters, Engineers) hit with their effects FAR more often and letting them set the terms of engagement, which can be difficult to come back from, unless you play more spread out than you would probably like with your master and apprentice auras.

3) Enemy teams that can reposition you (drags, pulls, pushes, mass knockdowns) will often mess up many of your inherent synergies, and can take away some of your reactive weapons. Keeping your apprentices alive is one of your biggest challenges, so when your opponent takes them out of Sentinel range of Anvil/Furnace, you might have a sitting duck on your hands.

Final Thoughts

When thinking about breaking down a summary for this team, I did some research on forums and other articles about the team to help. And with all of that, I could not find a better beginner’s tip than from the man who helped design them, Jamie Perkins…

“The only thing I’d suggest in the rest of your early games, until you feel more confident with them, is grouping up more… I tend to play the smiths with a clump in the centre who will do most of the fighting and then a few of the faster players orbiting around them (currently that’s Ferrite & Cinder). That means you will more often trigger rules like Sentinel and you care less about enemy bonuses from Ganging Up and Crowding Out because of One at a Time Lads.”

If it’s good enough for the guy who made them, it should be good enough for you, hm?

I hope this article was helpful if you are new to the Blacksmiths team and gives you a bit of a “leg up” over where you would have been otherwise, if you just threw them on the table without consideration. They are a well-designed, beautifully modeled, group of players that will give you a ton of great games as you progress in your Guild Ball training!!

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