Based in a low-fantasy setting, with a basis in the actual history of football, with it starting as a game of kick the ball, and whoever is closest to you. This grew into something more organised played around the game world. Which also helped people to get over a Great War as all sport seems to be able to do. The Guilds run everything from Masons to Hunters, they saw an opportunity to use the sport as a way of gaining/controlling power outside of the game via all the usual cloak and dagger means. As the guilds couldn’t go to war openly as they helped broker the truce of the ‘world war’. Guild ball helps them to arrange deals, and make and break alliances with their rivals and all the time the masses love the game as well.
The rulebook for Guild Ball is beautiful, full of amazing artwork, fantastic fluff, and nicely laid out chapters dealing with the rules of play, giving examples where needed. The majority of the fluff follows a couple of the teams playing the game, followed by the after events (which are not played out in game, but make for a nice background) of the Union playing the Fishermen and Butchers off against each other in a subterfuge way you would expect of coin loving mercs.
Everything is based upon D6s and pre-measuring is allowed at any point, played out on a 3’x3’ board, with a normal game being 6 models aside (1 captain, 4 players and a mascot) with no points value per player, each of the teams seem to balance out nicely, though there is room to upset that balance by hiring from the Union Guild, basically pirates and mercenaries who will play for the team offering the most coin.
There are a few stats you will need to familiarise yourself with (all of which are printed on each individual players character card)
- MOV – There are 2 numbers associated with this the first is the base movement in inches, while the second is the maximum move allowed (for running/charging).
- TAC – This is the base number of dice allowed in a pool when the model is doing an action
- KICK – There are 2 numbers the first is the kicking dice pool number when the model is making a kick action. The second is the distance the ball can be kicked.
- DEF – This is the number (4+ etc.) that will be the target number an opponent needs to count as a success when hitting you.
- ARM – If a number is present this lowers the number of successes rolled against the model by the value
- INF – This is influence and has 2 numbers. The first is how much a model generates per turn while the second is how much the model can use. This means a model can do more actions than they help generate in some circumstances, dependent on the model
- Character Traits – Any special abilities that the model has.
- HP – How much damage a model can take before being taken out
- Plays – These are special actions that a model can take during their activation. They include Character, Heroic and Legendary Plays.
Plays can be generated by the Play book (each character has a block on the reverse of their card showing their personal playbook) OR paying the cost in INF to activate them. Which grant some nice extras, but it is weighted to be used via playbook as it is generated for ‘free’ via the hits you gain. Heroic and Legendary plays are extra plays that models can use (appear on the front of their stat card). But are not linked to INF or playbook. Heroic plays cost a MP to use and can only be used once per turn. While the Legendary plays cost nothing but are a once per game use and can be pretty powerful.
The playbook is read from left to right. For instance 2 hits lets you go as far as column 2. This means you can pick which column you would like to use for the hits you generated. The greyed out columns are never counted, so in the above example the 8thcolumn is never counted. The coloured (red) cells are very nice as they also generate Momentum on top of the actual effect. If you have managed to generate a bucket load of hits you can actually wrap the results to gain 2/3 more plays. So assuming you generated 10 hits, then you would be able to use any column for you first 7 hits, you would then wrap back to the start and be able to take a second effect from the first 3 columns.
- Number – any number corresponds to amount of damage dealt from the hit.
- T – Tackle, if the opponent has the ball then you take it off them
- KD – Knock Down – You have knocked down the opponent
- Arrows – These can be a push (opponent) or dodge (active model) movement. Each individual arrow corresponds to an inch of movement.
- Guild Ball – Plays, this allows you to take one of the models plays for free (instead of paying in INF). Which play you can use is dependent on which symbol you pick (single or double ball)
Momentum is a system that is unique to Guild Ball, it is gained and spent every turn, being reset to zero at the begining of each players turn. It can be gained if you; Score a Goal (if two sixes are rolled it is a Screamer and generate 2MP instead), successfully pass the ball to another team member, Take Down an opponent, or from the results of hitting an opponent.
What you use Momentum for is pretty varied and really adds another layer of tactical possibilities to the game. Shooting – You need to spend a Momentum and INF point to have a shot on goal. Counter-attack – When targeted by an attack you can choose to spend a MP to get an out-of-activation hit back, but only once against each enemy model per turn. Defensive Stance –
When a charge is declared against you, you can spend an MP to gain a bonus to your DEF for the charge action.
Teamwork possibilities, the following are all based on when a successful pass has occurred. Give’n’Go – Active model (the passer) can spend a MP to make a dodge move. Pass’n’Move – The receiving model can spend a MP to make a dodge move Snap Shot! – Costs 2 MP but allows for an out-of-activation Shot (without spending any INF as well). However you need 2 successes to score a goal. Run the Length! – After scoring you can spend a MP to make a dodge move before ending your activation. Bonus Time! – Spending a MP allows you to add an extra dice to a dice pool for a TN test. Take a Breather Lad! – Allows the active model to recover some wound OR remove conditions. Come on Mate! – Allows active model to target a friendly to do same as Take a Breather Lad. However this costs 2 MP to do and gliding – Spending a MP allows the model to ignore penalty to movement when going over rough terrain.
All pretty powerful abilities that if you can generate the MP can really help your team. They almost become a second aim for the game as they are so useful to achieve a multitude of things.
(the Fishermen Guild Ball Team)
Conditions are pretty important during the game, they are all bad for you opponent but depending on your team can help boost your team as well, while targeting a model with a condition. For instance the Butchers love a bleeding opponent, while Alchemists just love conditions in general.
There are 5 conditions in the game that are seen; Bleed – A model with this condition suffers 3 damage during the maintenance phase, it is then removed as they get patched up Knocked-down – Can’t do much and don’t block LOS. Although they may sacrifice their advance action to stand up. They also suffer a negative to their DEF as well as they are obviously easier to hit. Poison – A model with this condition suffers 2 damage during the maintenance phase. Burning – A burning model suffers a negative to its movement values and also takes 1 damage during the maintenance phase, and Taken Out – When a model is reduced to zero health it is removed from the game and will no longer generate INF for the team or have an activation.
Although a model can be taken out of the game in that turn, it does not mean they are done completely. A lot of models have the ability to be given an Icy Sponge token during the maintenance phase. This means over a couple of turns you can get back an almost fully healed player back. Most normal players have around 2 Icy Sponge Markers on their health track. This means they can come back the following turn or you risk it and wait another turn. Depending on where the ball is and how many team members are still running around, adds another resource management element to the game, as taken out players generate no INF, as the long a model is off the less INF you have to play with. This helps ensure you can never really outnumber your opponent during the game. As you may get into a position of taking 2-3 players out in a turn but they can quickly return so there is never that feeling of bulldozing an opponent into nothing.
Now to help with the feel that the Guilds are using GB as a personal battlefield as they scheme and plot their opponents downfall. This translates as Guild Plots that add an in-game mission which grants a benefit as well. Each player gets to draw 5 of these plots at the start of the game and choose 3 of them to use for the game. These add a little bit extra to the game, nothing huge as generally you will be achieving the missions anyway. Something that does make them even more interesting is that as the seasons of GB change on the annual basis so will the plots allowing for plenty of variation as the game grows.
The rules, as well as paper dolls of the teams, are available to download, for free, from the Guild Ball website, that way you can try before you buy, but DO buy, the miniatures are amazing, so detailed and lovely to paint.