Introduction to Guildball: Part I – The Gist
by JD Haigler · Published · Updated
Think Rugby, but in a Gladiator stadium. A Captain, four players and a mascot. Your team, your fight.
You know Dark Souls or Resident Evil? Did you know it has a board game? You may have heard of Steamforged. They recently held a wildly successful kickstarter for the Dark Souls boardgame. However, the Dark Souls boardgame is neither their first game, nor their first miniatures game. It started a few years ago with Guildball. Some of you may have heard of “Warhammer” or it’s American competitor, “Warmachine/Hordes”. Both fall under the tabletop wargaming umbrella, along with many other miniatures games. One of the newer contenders to this genre is Steamforge’s “Guildball”. Guildball is a ballgame set in a fictional world full of crime, poverty and heinous organizations full of greed and intrigue. It’s almost a low magic steampunk Victorian setting for the most part. Many guilds have become increasingly powerful in the wake of the Century Wars, and instead of settling their disputes through politics or money, they settle it on the field with their team. Thus: Guildball.
Guildball is a game of 12 models, six per player. This is quite a jump from the traditional wargaming idea of masses of infantry on each side and towering beasts or structures. This goes from a luggage case to a lunchbox in terms of storage for a team, guild or faction. It’s played on a 3×3 surface, be it a mat, or a dining room table you taped lines onto. You won’t usually need more than a handful of dice, rarely more than a dozen, and certainly less than 20 Space Marines assaulting in Warhammer 40k. Incidentally, that’s like, 80-100 dice. Yeah.
The goal in the game is to reach 12 Victory Points first, be it through Take Outs (removing enemy models at 2 VP each) or goals (Scoring the ball in the opponent’s goal for 4 VP each)
At the beginning of each round, players allocate “influence” to each character depending on what your plan is that turn, and each character is able to do an action per influence or use it towards “character plays.” There’s a second resource in the game, called momentum. Momentum is created by the players based on successful attacks, passes and scores, and can be spent to heal or perform extraordinary acts, or “heroic plays”. Some teams are better than others at building momentum, others at using it, and others still at taking it from you.
Playstyles are extremely varied. The Fishermen Guild and the Alchemist Guild both want to play ball, and bring the best “Strikers” to the game for that purpose. The Brewers’s Guild and Butcher’s Guild, on the other hand, would rather take out your players, and maybe score at the end when your team is down and broken, laying on the field in pieces. Then there’s Guilds like the Hunters and Morticians who don’t particularly excel at either, but are dominant at controling, and limiting. There’s currently thirteen Guilds, with two more on the way, and almost any playstyle can be found among them. If you want to hit hard and survive, but maybe score a goal too, there’s Masons. If you want to hit from range and focus on scoring with the ball, there’s Engineers. If you want to be good at any and all of it and have the widest selection of players, there’s the Union. Any and every option is available and more on the way with each season.
Unlike Warmachine or Warhammer, a list is not built up of points spent on models. A tournament list is 10 models including at least one mascot and a captain, and you draft six every game while four of them sit on the sidelines to be subbed out between games. Because a tournament list is just 10 models, most guilds only have 12-14 players available currently, though this number will go up slightly as the game ages. Compared to Warhammer or Warmachine where a tournament requires two lists, each one being anywhere from 20 to 50 models, and a pricepoint of 400-1000$ per list, Guildball hands you a full six model team for 50-75$, and individual models sell for 10-20$ per model depending on the size of the model. I own most of eleven Guilds currently, and all of that for less than one Warmachine army, and waaaaaaay less than one Warhammer army.
Here’s a few models. This is a Fisherman team. All about kicking the ball, pushing models around and being hard to get ahold of.
A few of the Butchers. They’re out for blood.
My particular favorite, the Brewers, or the drunks. They can brawl and ball both, but they’d prefer to brawl.
The Morticians. They’re dicks. All control, denial, and taking things from you.
A little bit of everything. There’s some union, some morticians. It’s all painted beautifully. Well, it looks confusing. Sure it does. I thought that too, and I’ve played seven years of tabletop games. It took five minutes to figure this out.
Let’s look at a card real quick. Here’s the front and back both. All of the cards are freely available on Steamforged’s website.
This is Corsair. He’s a badass from Season 2 for the Fishermen’s Guild. In Season 1, the Butcher Captain chopped his leg off in the storyline, and now he’s back. Unlike the Season 1 Fisherman Captain who plays ball all day long and exceptionally so, Corsair brings the fight back into the game. What’s the difference between Season 1 and 2 and now 3 you ask? Is the Season 1 guy gone? Nope. You can play them both. Seasons just introduce new players and rules modifications to the game, much like large patches to any online game, or editions if you’re familiar with other miniature games.
This card is still confusing though, I digress. Let’s look. He’s got a name. Corsair. Under that it says his Melee zone is 2’’. That means he can hit people from 2’’ away which is great, and probably the best character rule in the game. Most Fisherman Players have it. They’re annoying like that. In Guildball, melee ranges are important because your opponent has the option to swing back at you during an attack. If you put a 2” melee model into a 1” melee model, you’ve robbed them of that ability. 2” melee isn’t make or break, but it’s nice to have. Now all the numbers. From left to right, let’s talk about this.
MOV 4/6. He can walk 4’’ for free, sprint 6. Sprinting costs an influence, one of those resources we talked about.
TAC 6: He rolls 6 six when he attacks things in melee. This is pretty high, and only a handful of models have higher. TAC 6 and 2’’ melee means this guy is a boss in a fight. Most captains can handle themselves, but this guy is in the top half for sure.
KICK 3/6: Believe it or not, this is what the game is supposedly about. The 6’’ is how far he kicks, and the first number, 3, is how many dice he rolls to do it. 3/6’’ is pretty decent, a little above average. Most players in the Fish have at minimum that, and usually more. There’s ways to modify it but 3/6’’ is a great place to start.
DEF 3: So, let’s say Corsair attacks another player’s Corsair. TAC 6, we talked about that, right? So he rolls six dice. On a three or higher, it counts as a hit. 3+ is pretty average for a big guy like this. Not amazing, but with 2’’ melee, he has other options. Also, the back of his card says that he doesn’t give a shit about some things. We’ll get there.
ARM 1: So, everything on a 3 or higher hit, right? Well, take one away for his ARM stat. If four dice hit (average), then take one away, now he only has 3 hits. While we’re on this topic, let’s step away from the statline for a moment, and talk about the Playbook.
Playbook. So we hit at TAC6 against a model with DEF 3 and 1 ARM (3/1 for short). We said we got 4 dice at 3 or more, and subtracted one for armor. This leaves us with 3 net hits. In Guildball, this isn’t 3 damage or penetration or any such thing. What it gives us is access to the first 3 columns on the playbook. In Corsair’s case, this is 6 different options. A 1 damage, 2 damage, a dodge, a tackle, a knockdown or a 2 damage and push. You can pick from the top row or second row. Anything in those first 3 columns. The playbook singlehandedly adds a depth to Guildball you just won’t find elsewhere and it’s one of my favorite things about the game.
You’ll notice that some options are colored in. We mentioned Momentum earlier, and this is the best way to get it. The colored options net you one momentum when you use them. Two Damage and a Push is really a great option because it does 3 things. Obviously two damage to a model. It also lets you move them an inch, so you can push them into another model’s melee range for another dice on the attack (TAC6 to TAC7 in this case) or maybe it lets you push them out of cover. Maybe they’re 1” melee and you just want to push them back out of range of hitting Corsair back. It’s really a powerful option. And again, it gives you a momentum, so now you can bonus time a roll (add a dice if you’d like) or use a heroic, or buy a shot at the goal. Momentum is extremely important in Guildball and the Playbook is where you get most of it.
Other options here are the Tackle, the KD, and the Dodge (<). Further down the line, we see 3 damage, a Guildball, a 2 damage with a double push (2” push) and 3 damage with 1” push momentously. All really great options. A Tackle (T) lets you strip the ball from a model. A Knockdown (KD) puts them on the ground, drops their Defense by 1 and prevents them from hitting you back. The Guildball lets you use a character play that we’ll look at later. The Playbook is the bread and butter of Guildball and it’s where you’ll spend the most time.
Back to the Statline.
INF 4/6: The main resource here. 4 is how much he generates, 6 is how much he can be allocated. At the beginning of the turn, all of your dudes put their influence in a pool. Corsair contributes 4. Then you allocate it to people you want to do work. If Corsair’s in a good spot to kill a guy, then give him six. Someone going to take a ball and kick it? Great, give him some. Etc. It’s a resource.
Corsair, being a Captain, has a lot of good options in his Character Plays. We can see a description of each one, we can see how much INF they cost (CST), the range (RNG), if it’s an Area of Effect (none of these are), if it sticks around (SUS Y/N) and if it’s Once Per Turn or not (OPT). Stand Firm, at the bottom, is a great one because remember the Knockdown we talked about on the playbook? Stand Firm allows Corsair to prevent the first KD on another model. He has it innately, so that’s 2 models in a Corsair list that ignore the first KD which is really solid.
Remember the Guildball option in the Playbook? This is what it’s for. On Drag, if Corsair hits that column 4 Momentous Guildball, he can choose a model in range (6” in this case) to pull in. He can also just buy it for 2 INF, and roll that number of dice and try to hit their DEF but the playbook is much easier in most cases.
At the bottom, we’ve got his health. This guy’s a pretty difficult guy to one or even two round in some cases. Pretty decent for a captain. In season 3, models returning to the game come back with roughly half health, which is what the symbol near the end of the first row indicates.
Here’s the back of his card again so we can go over it in a bit more detail.
The back of the card is similarly cluttered with abilities. Corsair’s got a lot of good ones, including Sturdy so he ignores the first Knock Down like we mentioned earlier. A great ability. He also has a “Legendary Play” which he can do for free once per game. Most captains have something like that. There’s a base size on the lower right on the back of the card (the right one). We don’t care because he comes with a base in his pack, but it’s good information to have. The roman numerals indicate what season this model arrived in, but that’s just historic information, nothing more.
Those are the basics of a card, which comes with the model. Getting into the game is easy. There are 3 man starter kits from Season 1, but these are really being phased out. What they’ve moved to in most cases is….
6 model boxes. Whereas the first boxes came with a Captain and 2 models and not enough for the full team, the new boxes have enough for a team right off the bat. A Captain, four players and a Mascot. Buy both boxes and you’ve got the whole team in metal, unassembled. For me, this is preferable, and I enjoy the hobby aspect of it.
Then after that you can buy individual models, if you want. They’re trying to get away from individual model blisters, but they’re still available at most stores that stock Guildball and online. I just bought Morticians not that long ago and I grabbed the initial 6 man box and a few individual blisters of models I knew I would want. I got into the guild with enough for a tournament (10 models) for around 80$. I’m a measuring tape and dice away from being ready to go. Except I have all of that and more.
Right now, most of these kits are metal. However, the last two Guilds to release have been preassembled plastic, coming with cardboard tokens and a little bit of terrain. SFG has gone for more of an immediately playable business model recently as opposed to the traditional hobby aspects of Miniature Wargaming. There’s some give or take on this decision, but it definitely benefits players new to the miniature wargaming genre.
The Guild below is one of the recent ones, the Farmers. Here, you can see it comes with six models just like the Fishermen above. However, this one comes with a goal post (The Pig), a terrain piece (The Millstone in the back) and of course a ball (the turnip front left). With a pricepoint around 50-60$, you can’t really beat this if either this guild, or it’s brother guild the Blacksmiths (also in plastic like this) interest you. Coming soon are the Falconers and the Ratcatchers in this same preassembled plastic 6 man, 2 terrain and all tokens format.
The next option is the starter kit called “The Kick Off”. This is probably the most efficient way to get into Guildball but there’s some pros and cons. The Kickoff comes with 2 preassembled plastic 6 man teams. So, two captains, 8 players and 2 mascots. It’s the Brewers and the Masons, and both are teams where you’re going to use the original six models a lot. It comes with a cardboard pitch, cardboard tokens, measuring sticks, health counters, the cards, even dice. You can buy the box at 62$ MSRP and be ready to play the game as soon as you pop the tokens out. No other purchases. You and a friend are ready to go. It is easily the best bang for the buck.
The only considerations for the Kick Off set is really the quality of it. If you’re new to Miniature games, this is the box for you, bar none. I can’t recommend it enough. If you are not new to Miniature games, and you know the playstyles you enjoy, and you like metal models, or the hobby side of the game, I don’t recommend the box. The models are not very high quality, though they are paintable. For me, I’d rather get the metal models, plastic tokens, and the whole team, not six members of two teams. But I’ve been wargaming for ten years at this point and I know what I enjoy. Again, if you’re new, try this box. Easily the best option. If you’re not new, I recommend a few hours of research and try something you’ll enjoy. Part II of this series is the basic stuff to get started if you didn’t buy this box, and Part III is choosing a Guild.
The Guildball buy-in cost is very low for a miniatures game. Even better, it can be free. Steamforged has posted their entire ruleset, including the model’s cards and the complete rulebooks with tokens and scale sized printouts of the players themselves, all on line. You can literally print everything you would need except the dice and maybe a tape measure, for free, cut it out and play it. Even better, there’s an online option, ALSO FREE, called Vassal. Vassal is free to download, and Steamforged has developed an also free module for it allowing you to play the game online with friends, people from other countries, states, or just online because it’s easier than putting pants on. The game is widely accessible at 0 cost if you want it to be. You wouldn’t download a car, but you can download Guildball. It’s encouraged!
Try a game! Print it out, give it a shot. The rules are all there, youtube is full of videos, there’s a complete set of forums for assistance, news and strategy. Try the game! Want to get started?
For all of the rules and paper proxies, check out:
For trying out vassal, try:
For regular support and online community, go to:
Want a professional introduction to playing the game? Steamforged has one, at:
Hopefully this has piqued your interest enough to take a look, maybe even give it a shot. If you have a local game store, contact them and see if they have anyone there willing to do a demo. You can even use the Pundit locator on the steamforged website to locate a nearby rep to demo for you.
TL:DR A small miniature game that’s fantastically addicting and either free or cheap to get into. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me through here on imgur, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m a long time miniature wargamer and have two years of hobby support on my blog so hopefully I can answer a lot of your questions. Thanks for reading!
EDIT: Part II is up, here.