Wargaming is an odd hobby at the best of times. Its certainly a niche gaming pastime, and it can sometimes be frustrating to be involved in. It can take months to get from an idea to a fully realised game being played on the tabletop. Then sometimes, something comes along that goes from 'let's give it a go', to tabletop play in a very short time. This happened for me over the last week or two.
One of my regular gaming friends, Bob, suggested we give this new game a go - Guildball. We're always up for trying out new things so with some trepidation we printed some paper players from the Steamforged Games website, and cracked on. We were hooked!
I went from zero to fully painted team, token set, lovely pitch and ready to play set up in five days. Very satisfying!
OK, so firstly, what is Guildball? Rather than me warbling on, i'll simply point you at Steamforged Games. They'll give you the introduction far better than me.
Mob football is a game generally played between neighbouring towns and villages on feast days (hence the popularity). Players on opposing teams clash to control a leather-wrapped inflated pig's bladder and attempt to kick it into the opponent’s goal. Over the years, rudimentary leagues and tournaments have sprung up; there have even been some national level games between some city states.
The powerful Guilds of the land have taken advantage of the huge popularity of the sport as another means to control the masses. They invested vast sums of money; creating professional Guild sponsored teams and structured leagues. The public went crazy as the game was elevated to new heights of spectacle. Guild Ball was born amidst a blaze of interest and publicity and with it, a whole new business and revenue stream for the Guilds. Games are now played out in front of vast crowds of fans, whilst behind the scenes the results can mean fortunes are won or lost on the kick of a ball.
I think its worth noting that Steamforged have made their rules etc. available as free downloads. Awesome!
What I will say in addition to this introduction is that this is a fantasy football game I'm actually interested in playing.
Guildball is bonkers fantasy version of football, not American 'Football' as we've previously seen from games like Games Workshop's Bloodbowl. Given the violence involved, i'd say English football during the English Disease era of the 1970's would be a good analogy.
So basically this is a game played to a time limit between two players, each of whom controls a team of 6 rather bizarre team members. In game play terms it reminds me of a cross between Malifaux and WarmaHordes.
Each player in each team is unique, with a specific set of attributes, traits, plays and abilities. The skill in the game appears to be understanding how these various players work together to generate effects that are 'greater than the sum of their parts'.
I believe the business bullshit term is 'synergy'.
My experience so far confirms the game hype that Guildball is indeed simple to learn but with extremely deep tactical play. Our early experiences have been joyfully exciting, and I've found finishing games with desire to immediately play again. Good signs...
OK, so enough preamble, lets get to the toys! I've chosen, based on no evidence, and with a decision made on 'I like the look of those models' to go with a team faction called The Engineers. These appear to have a Steampunk aesthetic which attracted me.
I've concluded from my initial experiences of playing the team that they have two main strengths: ranged attacks, and a decent kicking game. I'm slowly developing tactics and experience to try to maximise and exploit these strengths with a mind that i'll be facing the following teams; Butchers, Brewers, and either Fishermen or Morticians.
This week I played against Bob's Butchers team. As I understand, this team is very much a 'kill everything and score afterwards' sort of team so I was expecting a brutal beating. Here's what happened...
The Engineers (yay!) take on The Butchers (boo!)
We set up, and the Butchers kicked off. (Apologies for the low quality of the photos, I'm sure the Brewers got to the cameraman before kick off...)
The Butchers set up with two flanking forces and Ox, their captain put the kick in to start proceedings.
I set up the Engineers in a tight center group. My ranged players were grouped to kick out damage and generate Momentum from the hits (using my captain Ballista's special ability). Colossus took the east flank, and Velocity the west flank so I'd have a decent goal scorer option wherever the ball went.
Ballista and Ratchet loaded up on Influence to give me a lot of options with crossbow and grenade shots.
Early game I pushed up the gun line to support Velocity as she clanked forwards to take the ball under her feet. Mainspring, our little wooden cricket mascot hopped forwards innocently. I'm pretty sure the Butchers don't know what Mainspring can do...
I kept Colossus back as goal defense, ready to react as needed.
I lost initiative.
They do that that no plan survives contact with the enemy and what happened next pretty much proves that rule! With the initiative gone, Velocity finds herself out on the wing without her Influence being sent and gets mobbed by the Butcher's dog (Princess), and her handler Brisket.
Luckily Velocity survives, Influences up and becomes almost impossible to hit. But, my goal rush is stymied. curses!
So, the gun line comes to the fore and I lay down a barrage of grenades to chew up the ground and a flurry of ranges attacks from Ballista, Ratchet, and Salvo. The groundsmen are losing their minds as I chew up their pitch and blast craters (rough ground) into their turf. Hehe.
Over on the east flank, Mainspring finds himself surrounded and ganged up on. Poor little thing! Ox, Meathook, and Shank kick the crap out of my mascot, knocking him down and busting open his hydraulics. As the little fellow bleeds out, he dies and explodes!! Three butchers players take a hit and catch fire. Awesome.
The game progresses and Velocity, nimble minx that she is, although severely damaged and stripped of the ball, manages to get back out of trouble and into range of Ratchet, who breaks out the spanners and fixes her up a bit.
More grenades and crossbow bolts fly, as the Butchers, now in possession of the ball, make their play for my goal. Ox sticks it to Salvo to try to open a hole for Brisket to exploit.
It doesn't go well though and my Engineers barrages begin to tell, knocking down and taking out the Butchers. Brisket kicks the ball to Shank down the west flank, but the pass goes awry, and Velocity picks it up and retreats into the Engineers' pocket.
Colossus steams forwards to try to make a hole, and mostly to keep the Butchers' vicious, thuggish 'big lad' Boar occupied.
However, a passage never really opens and as the time runs out losses are counted and the Engineers win 8-4.
An excellent game, although I was disappointed there were no goals scored. I managed to secure the win by busting Butchers heads.
For my view of the Engineers, see here.
I suspect there will be many more games of Guildball on our table in the near future!