Up The Pitch: My first experience with Guild Ball

Author’s Note: I wrote this up after my first game, and then promptly forgot about it.  I found it, and figured it still made sense to put it up, even though the games were 6+ weeks ago.

I’ve been watching Guild Ball for a while now. It started off when I noticed just how many Warmahordes players were picking up Guild Ball.  Trade forums were full of “H: Ret W: Legion or Guild Ball” (Because obvs if you’re going to play elves, you need to play corrupted ones, not arrogant ones).  Gaming podcasts kept mentioning this new thing.  Comments about Blood Bowl were met with “Or just play Guild Ball….”

So slowly, it wormed its way on to my radar.  But no!  I play X-Wing.  I play Warmachine.  I play Pokemon, Magic, Game of Thrones (theoretically), board games – I don’t have time, money, or head space for *another* game!  So I filed it in the same bin as Netrunner, Conquest, Imperial Assault, Armada, Infinity, Malifaux – all the stuff that looked cool, but that I wasn’t playing for my own sanity.

Imagine each baby is a game. That’s me. Except I have hair. Look, it’s not an exact metaphor.

And then the manager of my FLGS, bless his heart, tells me that he’s ordering a Brewers starter box for himself and Alchemists for his wife.  And they’re a couple of my favorite people to play games with.  And, I mean, the starter set is only like $35, right?

So I spend a bit of time reading the Guilds, and I settle on Union, because the idea of independently operating teams is cool, and the fact that it makes new teams easier to pick up is basically like saving money, right?  So I tell him to order me a Union starter, and Coin.

And then I change my mind, and decide I’m going with Butchers.  So I swap over to Butchers, except I forget to tell my FLGS Manager at a time when he can actually pay attention and write it down, choosing instead to mention it randomly in the middle of a conversation.  So last week, my Union box shows up, with Coin.  And I’ve already picked up Gutter and Rage from eBay to add to my theoretical Butchers (so yeah, I have two Gutters now), and then I bought Mist because I need a shooter, and now, suddenly, I’ve got a full Union team.  And I’m one starter away from Butchers too.

Fast forward a week to Friday night, Warmachine League night.  And all the slackers in my Warmahordes League are playing each other (THE NERVE!) or playing D&D (Seriously?! Role playing over smash facing?!) or DIDN’T EVEN BRING THEIR ARMY!  Sheesh.  So after giving them all a good talking to, one of the WMH players (MR. NO ARMY HIMSELF!) mentions that he brought the Butchers starter (the one that was going to be mine) he picked up.  So a quick car trip home, a few curses at the WMH people, and we’re gonna play Guild Ball.

Since he only had the starter, we did a 3 on 3 game on the 2’x2′ pitch.  The quick start rules came out, and we’re away!  After the game was over, I did some reading and realized we had messed up a lot of rules, most of them distinctly in my favor, but we were both using the same ruleset, so it kind of balances, right?

The game was, generally, extremely easy.  We ran in to a few issues where the quick start rules didn’t cover some of the things we came up against (What exactly does sustain mean? What happens if you’re bleeding or poisoned?  When do you die from bleeding?) but we had the full rules to cover it too, since all of Guild Ball’s stuff is freely available online.

You want me to kick a ball at *that*?  Are you mad?!

You want me to kick a ball at *that*? Are you mad?!

We didn’t have any goal tokens or templates or the like, but conveniently, WMH has reasonable simulations of everything you need.  A Ravagore and a Carnivean took up positions across the board since we don’t have goal templates, and their bases are the right size.  We set up at the 6″ line (Decimate facing Boiler on the left, Blackheart and Ox squaring off in the middle, and Gutter and Brisket lined up on the right) and placed the ball next to Ox (I’d read that not letting the Butchers start with the ball put them at a huge disadvantage against the Fisherman, so it seemed reasonable).

I won the kick-off roll, and decided to move first (which, on reflection, was a terrible idea).  I had no real idea what I was doing, so I put 4 Influence on Blackheart and 2 on each of the others.  My opponent chose to give each player the Influence they each generated, which was a reasonable choice.  I started off activating Decimate, because I wasn’t really sure what the general idea was.  I moved her (HER! NOT HE! Decimate is not a dude, despite what clearly appears to be a mustache on her art) up a full move, then activated her jog to get her another 6″ up the pitch.  She took a stance, glared around, and passed the turn.

Boiler was first on the Butcher’s side.  He moved up and made a very smart choice, using Marked Target to give everyone charging Decimate +2″ move (which made me really really scared), and then positioned midfield.

I mentally guesstimated how far Brisket was from Decimate (because this was my first game, and I’m a Warmahordes player, and assume you can never pre-measure anything), and did not like the math, so I cast about in confusion.  Turned out the 4 Influence on Blackheart was a great number, so I dodged him up 2″, jogged him up his full move and used Misdirection on Brisket, taking 1 from her and putting it on Decimate.  It was at that point that we realized that maybe you couldn’t just use plays on people willy-nilly and looked in to the rules.  Turns out you have to roll a d6 to hit with a play!  So we each rolled a d6.  He failed, so Marked Target came off, I succeeded, so kept the Influence and passed the turn.

He looked at his card and realized (after we read over the movement rules a few times) that 1 Influence on Brisket wasn’t enough to charge her up to Decimate and murderize her (which was my plan, and I was excited, for a moment, to see it work!), so he reconsidered.  He activated Ox instead and charged up to Decimate.  Between They Ain’t Tough (a skill that reduces enemy Arm by 1) and his 3 attacks, Decimate took a serious beating.

I activated Gutter next, moved her up, and she did some definite damage to Brisket between her normal attacks and a triggered Scything Blow.

My opponent looked back at Brisket for his last action and realized that he could activate Brisket’s Super Shot, do a full move past the ball, and end up in range of the goal with our 2’x2′ pitch.  So he jogged up, boosted Brisket up to 4/10″ kick, and easily nailed a goal despite being in Gutter’s threat range.

Pretty much exactly like that.

We spent a minute figuring out how the goal kick rules worked and I fired it off, trying to place the ball on the side, near Gutter.

And I rolled a deviation off the board.

Now, if you haven’t played Guild Ball, lemme ‘splain: When the ball goes off the board, the crowd catches it.  And then “the enthusiastic crowd quickly throw or boot a spare ball back into play.”  And the do that by throwing it to the middle of the pitch, and then it bounces up to 6 inches in a random direction.

So the ball came back in to the midfield, and scattered.  Straight on to Boiler.

Gutter charged up, mauling Brisket pretty severely between her Tac 9 charge, -1 Arm and Scything Blow off her attacks.  I felt reasonably good.

Until the next turn, where, without any momentum to start with, he activated Brisket, moved her next to Blackheart (while staying in Gutter’s range), made an attack, and scored 2 successes, getting himself a momentum.  He spent the second Influence on Super Shot and once again nailed it, winning the first game played in our city by double scoring as Butchers.

We had an hour or so left, so we decided to play again.

Given my terrible showing, I decided to swap Decimate out for Rage, and we squared off again (Same lineup, with Rage in Decimate’s place).

If you haven’t seen him, Rage is basically Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York.

I won the Kick-off roll again, and elected to go second this time.

Presumably figuring that there’s no reason to change a winning play, he advanced Boiler up the board and Marked Rage, just like he’d done to poorDecimate last game.  He passed to me, and I decided to change my technique.

So Rage activated, used Tooled Up to give +1 to Dam to himself, charged for free at Boiler, made a Tac 10 attack , did 3-4 damage, Berserked, got 5 hits, and did 3+1 (plus a momentum) and 1+1 (plus a momentum) damage to Boiler, taking him down to 8, and leaving him bleeding.  In retrospect, there were much better ways to do that, but live and learn!

He moved Ox up to the scrum that was Rage and Boiler, and Ox did a pretty good murder impression himself between his charge and his extra attacks.  Rage was not feeling good about his life choices at that point.

Blackheart decided it was time to be awful, so he charged at poor Boiler and slapped him around enough that he got him within 3 points of being taken out.  My opponent helpfully pointed out that bleed would finish him off next turn, so I left him be.

Brisket decided that she wanted some of this too, and she got herself up near the brawl, not moving close enough, but trying Dirty Knives on Rage.  Which missed.

Gutter tried to be useful – she moved up to within 4″ of Brisket and tried twice (two tries, two fails!) to Chain Grab her in to the fight.

I lost Initiative the next turn, but Boiler bled out, so was taken off during the maintenance phase (scoring me 2 points).  My opponent chose not to bring him back in with only 5 hp, and then chose to go first.  We did a bit of hitting back and forth, and then he took a shot on goal, which finally missed!  The ball came back in very close to Blackheart, who had thankfully not activated yet.  I tried to find a way to get him to attack Brisket and still take a shot on the goal, which was a little too far away, until my opponent helpfully pointed out that I should shoot at the other goal.  Given that all the action so far had been on my side of the pitch, I’d forgotten it wasn’t just one target.

So in a terribly anti-climatic ending Blackheart moved up 6″, took the ball, and made a 3/6″ shot on goal, hitting the shot, and putting me at 6 points.

All in all, it was a blast to play.  The way the game constantly shifted, the extremely fun beatings and shootings, the random bounces and powerful abilities all made a really tense and exciting game, even with just 3 of the usual 6 players!

We’re both pretty excited to get up to 6 players and take another shot at it soon, so hopefully this won’t be the only batrep that comes out of the game for me!

Author’s spoiler: There have been more games.  Oh yes.  There have. And there will be blood.  And batreps.  Full of blood.  Also, the most hilarious error of the game? I didn’t understand wrapping in a playbook – I was just spending hits to buy columns.  5 hits?  I’ll take column 2 and column 3.  Makes killy teams much better.


Ergonomic Cat

Father of 3, husband of 1, gamer of all stripes (rarely an author), geek, X-Wing (Imperial and Scum), Warmahorders (and Warmahoarder), reluctant Magic Player.

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