To hunt successfully, you must know your ground, your pack, and your quarry. ~ K.J. Parker
Since they were first announced and then released, the Hunters Guild has been greeted with much excitement as well as what I would classify as consternation from certain players. Many theorize that much of the design of the team is really still unseen at the moment with fewer players than the other more established Guilds. Others simply think that they are under-powered and maybe not well developed for where competitive players feels they should be. Let’s just admit that no matter what happens, Hunters are never going to hit as hard as Butchers, knockdown like Brewers, tackle/move/score as good as Fish, or control the board like Morticians. The Hunters are something more unique trying to carve out their own niche in the game, which hopefully will come to fruition with Season 3. For now though, I’ll focus on summarizing the changes the existing players did receive in Season 3, how some of the global rules changes impact them specifically, and until more releases come, some ideas on rosters/teams based on the new organized play Regional Cup format.
Theron – The one, the only…
Theron currently remains the only choice as a captain for the Hunters. It was announced during the SteamCon 2016 Keynote that Hunters will be getting a new captain in Season 3 but look for ‘her’ dropping sometime in 2017 along with a few other players. Until then, here is where Theron sits.
Forest Sight has been removed completely which means Theron is no longer able to drop the forest AOE from Nature’s Growth and play Pinned, Arrow to the Knee, Sun Strike, or Blessing of the Sun Father on a model through his or other Forest Terrain.
Nature’s Growth changed to place at start of activation instead of anytime during activation, but is now allowed to be placed within 2″ away from terrain rather than 3″. While the 2″ change is nice, what this really did is restricted the potential area of placement and limited options for impacting the current turn of the game due to not being able to move Theron first.
Here’s an excellent example which Ratty from Guild Ball, Malifaux, and Vassal fame put together highlighting the difference of placement options when following the maximum terrain placement rules according to the Organized Play documents:
(With 3″ placement restriction)
(With 2″ placement restriction)
As you can see the 1″ difference can make a huge increase in potential placement options but remember overall it will be less versatile because of having to placed before any requisitioning can happen. Good Theron players will need to be considering where he really should be next turn to maximize the forest placement. Or just don’t focus on it and consider it an added bonus.
Theron still has an element of control like other models with Goad but is more situational rather than a go-to tactic that it may have been viewed as in season 2. While a player can potentially setup the same situation of having Theron place the forest, play Pinned on a model, and then advance out of LoS through or around the forest so the target cannot charge him, it has to be done in this order specifically and keeps Theron closer to the player he Pinned.
With the addition of the Home Crowd Initiative rule in Season 3, hopefully situations where the use of Sun Strike feels required will be decreased. Sun Strike should still be considered a very situational investment (first turn most likely) but overall is very inefficient use of a single influence.
Blessing of the Sun Father should be used when possible to increase the INF efficiency of the team, but unfortunately, it really depends on the players in the current match from the available roster and is situational depending model placement. Best uses are with Chaska (Boom Box), Egret (Flurry), Hearne (Skewered) and Zarola (Chain Bolas or Midnight Offering). But this also means that for the teams which I commonly build only 2 models are usually on the pitch and only one may be near Theron when he activates.
Unlike most captains who have a very active role in the match, I feel Theron is restricted to the back half or midfield of pitch working as a support piece rather than a driving force. My standard turn with him will be 3 (maybe 4) INF allocation which will be either used as an advance or charge, with 2-3 hits going for momentum generation and snaring models on playbook results OR apply a Pinned to restrict incoming charging model away from other players. Do not assume that he will be able to take 6 INF and turn it into a 6VP activation like other captains can, but do activate him early and see what you can do to snare, generate momentum, and push models away from your players who have Furious.
Fahad – Meow
Like Theron, Hunters only have one choice here with Fahad.
Fahad had his health reduced from 8 to 6 points, but also now benefits like other Mascots from being able to return to the match with an Icy Sponge at his 3 health and only providing 1VP when taken-out. Seeing how in Season 2 I always took the plot card Husbandry when I could to be more aggressive with Fahad, I think these global changes are a real benefit for the mascot.
Fahad can be a model which seldom gets any INF allocated. Earlier in the game he can be used to burn an activation. Later turns try to charge in, generate a few momentous damage, and dodge away or hangout to gang-up for a take-out. Just do not stay in melee with a model if there are no other supporting players around ganging-up with him, otherwise he’s just going to sit there or be very ineffective.
Egret – All by myself…
The only official striker for the team, Egret did not receive any changes for Season 3 besides the Icy Sponge adjustments.
Egret maintains her standing on the team with the only momentous tackle, best kick stat, and decent speed. Depending on the style you like to play and how bunched up your opponent likes to keep his players really dictates how useful she will be in a match. My personal thought right now is that 3-4 INF for 4-6 DMG, poison on a few models, and Back to the Shadows isn’t worth the investment most of the time. She’s okay with a goal threat of 16″ (19″ max but not reliable with Snap Fires). Seeing the trend, she’s best partnered up with others, targeting snared models, with Blessing of the Sun Father applied to her and 4 INF focused on scoring a goal that turn, but that’s a great amount of investment and setup over a few activations.
Hunters (and Union) Wingers – Best of Friends
Let’s just start this off with, if you don’t own Minx yet, go buy her now from your FLGS! While she’s not a Hunter, with her Season 3 changes, I think she brings the most beneficial impact to the team and cannot be ignored for this discussion.
Minx – The new honorary Hunter
Follow-up was removed and Minx gained Back to the Shadows as a replacement. Overall in my opinion that is a net positive change since Follow-up was very easy to mitigate with pushes, dodges, or the restriction of directly towards the model.
Hunter’s Prey was added which applies Snared condition on ANY damage this model causes. Total win for any team which can take Minx since she can choose to do damage on any playbook column. This alone probably makes her more influential to a Hunter line-up than Theron as she can snare with 0 INF allocated from a Furious Charge.
Screeching Banshee changed the -4/-4 movement debuff for a -1 DEF and since it causes damage it will lead to Snared being applied as well.
Minx also received substantial Playbook changes to add more damage options up the track and more momentum generation on both damage and pushes.
All of these changes took a player who felt okay in certain matches to almost an auto-include for Guilds which can take her. She is a great early turn activation which is INF efficient with Furious, generates momentum almost always, worth investing extra INF in, can buff threat distances of other players, dodges everywhere, and applies snared at any result! Living the dream with her would be allocate 2 INF, first activation of the turn engaged to a model already:
- Attack with DMG/momentum/dodge/apply snare
- Attack again DMG/momentum/dodge to unengaged
- Furious charge another target up to 12″ away
- Trigger Screeching Banshee & wrap/DMG/momentum/dodge/apply snare
- Back to the shadows to setup for later moves or engage for ganging-up bonuses
Her going before Jaecar, Seenah, or Fahad is money before they go in and hopefully finish with a take-out.
Jaecar – Herr Auto einschließen
Jaecar did not receive any other changes besides the Icy Sponge adjustments.
Just like Season 2, Jaecar is still an auto include for what he can bring to the table in speed, damage, momentum generation, Bleed, Pit Fall/Snared, and Gut & String. But because of the changes to Minx, he’s probably no longer a model to lead the turn with. Instead try to use him after a model or two setup a target with Snared for an early take-out or go for the last activation momentum for the initiative roll and early take-out next turn. Always remember though, Jaecar is very easy to counter-attack with only a 1″ melee and no access to Knock-down so plan your charge and other playbook results very carefully.
Zarola – Meh…
Unfortunately, Zarola did not receive any other changes besides the Icy Sponge adjustments.
She continues to be a utility player with Chain Bolas, Midnight Offering, and Linked, but suffers from a max of 3 INF and has to be paired up with a Blessing of the Sun Father to be ran at her intended efficiency. That along with a really unspectacular playbook, TAC value, and kick, Zarola is usually sitting on my bench. If Hunters get another option to put in the roster, I think she would soon be completely take out of the rotation unless something changes.
Seenah – It’s a Freak’in Bear!
The beer is a now the cornerstone of the team as it was always desired to be.
Seenah’s playbook of a momentous tackle with 1 damage on his 3rd result was changed to just 2 momentous damage. Also he lost one point of damage on his 4th result and his 7th result entirely. I personally think that makes his overall damage output slightly increased for the results available with a better chance to wrap on charges.
Intimidating Roar is completely new which improves Seenah’s ability to get unengaged from players trying to negate his Furious charges or crowd him out. This was my biggest concern with the bear in Season 2 so I cannot wait to play him in Season 3. Just be careful of opponents placing their models very specifically to block how far he can push someone with this or placing them in line with terrain which would stop the push.
Mob Favorite was removed but the same effect was added back onto Bear Hug so no concerns there, just making things simpler.
Seenah continues to be even more of a force of nature on the pitch now that it’s harder to tie him down with a single model. His only real weakness is his low DEF stat. Do not put him in situations where you are going to get him and your team Scything Blow’d to death or let him be a momentum vending machine for your opponent. Also, a point of momentum for a well placed counter attack goes a long way on Seenah with this low knockdown, pushes, and high TAC value.
Chaska – Why you got a skunk on yo head bro?
Like some of the others, Chaska did not receive any huge changes except for the adjustments for Icy Sponge.
Tough Skin was slightly adjusted to be only once per turn. I don’t think anyone was heavily investing in multiple Tough Skins in a turn but it may help with things to come in Season 3 for balance.
Even more so now, I feel Chaska is a key player for the Hunters. If Seenah is going to see more table-time, it’s important to keep a scrum of people off of him even though he can usually free himself a little easier. As such, Chaska’s options for momentous pushes, knockdown, and even Boom Box are definitely things to bring to a Hunter teams early and mid-turn. With Theron around the midfield along with Chaska, you’ve also got a chance for three Boom Boxes in a single activation. Sounds kinda good 🙂
Hearne – I really want to be cool…
Hearne really feels like he should be just as useful to the team as Mallet, Greyscales, or Spigot are for their Guilds, but unfortunately it just never works out for me like it does with those other players.
Hearne’s Kick stat was increased from 3/4″ to 3/6″. Considering it seemed way too limited in Season 2, I think this will increase his use in trying to score goals and consistently pass the ball around, which Hunters did not do as reliably as other teams if they were looking to use it as a resource for Give and Go or Shap shots.
Hearne ultimately suffers from his INF stat of 1/3. I understand how his access to Blessing of the Sun Father is supposed to balance that, and it maybe would if it was not target OTHER model. Bringing 1 INF to the team hurts, but is somewhat negated with so many Furious models. But not being able to give him 4 INF so he can work through his playbook during an activation with Singled Out, generating momentum, or the rest of the utilities he brings is what is holding him back in my opinion. As we saw from previous players that only brought a single INF, I feel he’s going to see more and more bench time until something else changes him. Maybe something will come with the Season 3 captain and still being able to have access to Blessing of the Sun Father from Hearne…
Otherwise, he still has his ability with Theron for a first turn ‘alpha strike’/last activation either generating momentum or potentially scoring a goal. As the diagram below highlights, with Hearne kicking-off and his new increased kicking distance, he can threaten the goal even more early in the game.
(Forest jumping with Nature’s Blessing is pretty darn fun)
I’m going to leave out the other midfielder options of Hemlocke and Averace & Greede for now because of changes regarding organized play which are discussed below.
A Discussion on Organized Play & Tournaments
For better or for worse, miniature games like Guild Ball tend to standardize all play around the different tournament documents which exist, as generally they are seen as how the game is developed/intended to be played in a balanced and fair experience. With the latest document for Guild Ball one of the biggest changes was any non-Union team only being able to select 1 Union model in a roster and in team selection for a match. This is a big hit to the Hunters due to their current limited Guild players and the potential versatility of Union choices available.
Previously, a mix of Minx, Hemlocke, and A&G would be common in team selection between different Hunters players as they all brought something different to match-ups and team building in Season 2. Unfortunately now with Organized play only being able to take a single model, Hunters have to take all of their currently available Guild models whether they wanted to or not and a single union model. While all three Union are good for their own reason and flavor, I personally feel that with the changes to Minx she is the auto include choice here for allowing the team to function even more as Hunters were probably intended. Conversely the loss of Hemlocke is a real detriment going into some match ups and what could have been a super interesting build of Theron/Fahad/Jaecar/Minx/Hemlocke/Egret fast goal scoring list. A&G is even removed as a legitimate alternative to Hearne in favor of either Minx or Hemlocke bringing more to the match on a regular basis.
While I do understand the reason for the change to increase the presence of Guild models on a team and lessen the selection/reliance on Union models, I sincerely hope that Steam Forged Games will reconsider this change before too long into 2017. I think a better option would be something like limiting to two Union models per 9 man roster or any amount in the roster but only 1 may be selected during a match.
Oh well, but with that here are what I think are some of the better options to go with playing into the current meta of Season 3. (If you have other ideas, I would love to hear about them in the comments section!)
Regional Cup 9-player Team Roster
- Minx (Union)
Potential Game Selections
General All-round team (1 goal / 3-4 take-outs)
Theron/Chaska protecting back/midfield, keeping models off of Seenah so he can do his thing around the center. Jaecar/Minx threating goals and coming in to the center teaming up on take-outs with the midfield players or both of them ganging up on a winger/striker. Fahad stalking for opportunities and lending a hand on one of the before-mentioned ‘packs’. Basically just keep threatening the same models with the team as much as you can and then move onto the next.
Fast & Maneuverable Goal Game (2-3 goals / 1-2 take-outs)
- Zarola OR Seenah
Here you have probably the most maneuverable and goal focused build the Hunters can field at the moment while still restricted to only a single Union choice. Zarola brings some extra distance options for the already speedy wingers/strikers, but probably should be kept her in the back to Midfield to try to stop any enemy players looking to score and be able to speed up your models again on future turns.
Against Beefy/Center field domination lists (2 goals / 2 take-outs)
- Egret (If oppoenent w/high DMG focus) OR Seenah (If attrition/tie-up focus)
Low DEF is a big bonus for Cheska, along with two options for Blessings on the table. Taking out a models with lots of protective abilities can be darn near impossible for Hunters at the moment so go for pushing things away from the middle if needed and using your more maneuverable players to score. This is potentially the only style of opponent which I don’t think Minx will benefit the team against.
Back to the Shadows
The conclusion I’ve drawn from Season 2 and 3 is Hunters are a different beast from the other teams. I don’t know if that will ever equate to them being considered in the running for top competitive teams but I’d like to think it’s just a puzzle that is missing a few pieces like Engineers were during Season 1.
Here’s at least what I consider on my To-do list in running Hunters successfully right now:
- Choose your last few models very carefully based on what who your opponent brings to a game if you are doing the alternative team selection process. Start with Theron, Fahad, & Jaecar so not to give them any indication of how you may shift your play. Probably Minx next. Your last two picks can really change up how your team runs and adjust based on the models you see your opponent has.
- Accept that none of team is going to be able to pull off a 6VP activation against a good opponent.
- Accept that you will need two models on a single model over at least three activations for a take-out.
- Turn all your INF into momentum. Don’t take a non-momentous result unless you know it will lead to a take-out or goal score that activation. You’ll need it for counter attacks, healing, clearing conditions, and initiative rolls.
- Be like your namesake and Hunt in packs! Travel in two groups, 2/4 or 3/3, focused on an area of the board, trying to isolate a single enemy or score a goal.
- Play on Instinct. Just go in, do what feels natural quickly, and have fun. If you are not careful, Hunters slow down the game for both themselves and their opponents so the clock can become a liability very quickly.
I hope you’ve enjoyed and maybe gained some knowledge regarding the Hunters in Season 3. Share your thoughts in the comments below and I look forward to getting some Hunter games in with everyone as Season 3 unfolds around the Midwest, Adpeticon, Gencon, and hopefully SteamCon USA next year!
P.S. Steam Forged Games Dev Team: Please let one of the new models brings the equivalent of a damage buff to the Hunters. Potentially straight Tooled Up on Fahad and Seenah may not be okay, so let’s see something interesting that maybe only applies it to either Human-only and/or possibly only playbook results. Ball’s Gone would be great too while you’re at it. 🙂
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