Monday, May 30, 2016

Guild Ball - The Scalpel Experience (Morticians)

Remember back a couple months ago when I posted an article talking about my start with Morticians? It's over here for those who do not remember,, and I wrote about picking up Obulus and my experience overall. I have continued to pursue that front, painting and learning the team and have become half-way decent playing them. I did decide to diversify the team and add some Union players to my lineup, players I'm already really familiar with. I have to admit that the Morticians certainly operate better and more efficiently with some Union involved. Bringing in Mist and Rage to their line-up helps a great deal with winning games.

Following the release of Scalpel, our new Mortician Captain, I decided I'd try her out. I think she looks like a very interesting captain overall, although I'm not sure how competitively she lines up compared to Obulus. This puts me into a two minded situation, one where I'm enjoying the new captain for fun and casual games and one where I'm looking to see if I feel I can win tournaments with her.

At Adepticon this year I had a chance to play against a lot of people, including several of the Steamforged folk who had flown over for the convention. I played one of those games with Jay Finnegan of Guild Ball Informer fame, who brought out Filet. He mentioned that his approach to learning new captains was to play the first dozen games with them loaded to maximum influence every turn of the game. He did this even if there were situations he suspected it was not to the greatest benefit to play that way. I like this idea of learning a new player on a team, especially when the new player is a Captain. Loading a player up to max influence regardless of how good or bad of a decision that is, while learning them, is a great way to force yourself to puzzle through what they can do on the board. 

The Team

I decided I'd stick with a Morticians team that I'd become fairly comfortable with and felt familiar with their performance. This would provide the best contrast in the beginning for how Scalpel worked different from Obulus. Additionally, the team was already fairly efficient and generated enough influence that I shouldn't feel the drop of 1 influence from changing captains. As such I started with this line-up.
  • Scalpel - bringing 4 influence
  • Dirge - bringing 1 influence
  • Silence - bringing 3 influence
  • Ghast - bringing 1 influence
  • Mist - bringing 2 influence
  • Rage - bringing 1 influence
Scalpel soaking up 6 influence a turn left me with only 6 influence to spread out among the remainder of the team. Typically Rage ends up with 1, Mist with 3, and the remaining 2 float between Silence and Ghast. Dirge rarely gets influence while I'm learning Scalpel, and only in specific circumstances do I strip influence off Mist to give to Silence or Ghast. This means I'm working with limited control abilities from Silence, and typically looking for counter-attacks with Ghast.

Scalpel Overview

It's important to take a look at what Scalpel can do and start to think about how I'll be able to use her 6 influence. Looking at the front of her card we see a very fast model who also has Second Wind to increase her reach on the board. As Second Wind only triggers at the end of an activation, this increases her ability to position for future turns but does not help her immediate-turn threat.  We also have a really good TAC of 7, although she does not follow that up with a high-damage playbook like other players such as Rage or Shank. It's even stretched out more than other damage dealers among the morticians such as Graves, Cosset, and Ghast. The positive to her playbook is the prevalence of momentous plays, with only her 2 column containing no momentous choices. Scalpel's kick is an increase over Obulus, and makes her one of the better kickers among the Morticians overall.

Of not on the front of her card are two character plays, Tormented Agony and Wake the Dead. I believe these two abilities are her defining traits and where we'll likely want to focus to obtain full impact on the table. Wake the Dead will provide some frustrating moments for opponents, adding additional survive-ability to key models on her team via Reanimate. This can be particularly useful on Ghast, Fangooth, and even players such as Rage, Cosset, and Mist. This is also a useful ability she can drop onto herself, especially considering she has a 1 inch dodge on her 1st playbook result making it easier for her to disengage from combat.

Tormented Agony looks to be Scalpels key ability, triggering only via selections on her playbook. In her playbook both plays that trigger Tormented Agony are momentous and combined with damage. Tormented Agony allows Scalpel to remove an influence from her target and then reallocate that influence to an unactivated opposing player within 10 inches. This looks like an ability which can really mess up the opponents plan for a turn.

Moving to the back of her card we can check out her traits, heroic, and legendary plays. Scalpel has Anatomical precision which makes it easier for her TAC 7 to reliably land 4 successes against most models in the game. This is the sweet spot on her playbook for overall momentous results, delivering momentous damage plus Tormented Agony. She is also Slippery, meaning she has a higher defense when avoiding a parting blow. Looking at her Heroic Play we see she can choose between spending 2 influence or 1 momentum to use Second Wind. This provides a nice decision and really adds to her efficiency as a player. Scalpel's Legendary Play is a bit of a conundrum when looking at her card, giving the ability to pull models within 8 inches 3 inches directly toward her. This may be useful for dragging back models with Unpredictable Movement and dodges, but it's hard to tell how useful this will truly be.

Opinion after 2 games

I'm 2 games into my planned 6 games with Scalpel and she's been a lot of fun to play. I played my first game against Brewers led by Esters, and my second game against Masons led by Hammer. My initial impression is realizing a significant difference between the same team led by Scalpel and Obulus. Obulus without loading up to full influence is the focus of the team, where I'm always looking at how to use his abilities to either enhance what the team is doing or hamper my opponents plans. The focus of play comes back to Obulus and how he'll impact the current round of play. Playing Scalpel shifts the focus to how the team will operate instead of her, despite her being full of influence equating to half the influence on the team. This is not to say she is not important, but it certainly felt more in line with playing the whole team with her supporting instead of playing one model (Obulus) with the team supporting.

My second strongest impression this early is that she lives up to her name. She is not really set up to solo wreck a single player, never mind going after multiple take-outs. She is going to target key models on the opponents team and "scalpel" them out of the opponents plans. She does this in a couple ways including using Tormented Agony to move the allocated influence around the table, attacking to move the target model out of position, or sometimes just removing a model who's already a bit hurt. She's not a killer like Fillet or Capt. Rage, but she's a great finisher on models who are already hurt. Additionally she often has opportunities to grab the ball and potentially take a reliable shot on goal.

At this point I'm not seeing many opportunities for 6 point swing turns with her, taking out a model and then taking a shot on goal. I think she'll need to focus on either making a goal shot or on killing a model to directly achieve VP's in a game. I also have an initial impression that Scalpel does not need or want a full 6 influence a turn, and that her greatest use is not direct VP obtainment. It seems to me that Scalpel's power ramps up the more rigid your opponent is with their plans. In the event that your opponent is not good at adapting the plan for their turn from their original objectives, Scalpels ability to redistribute influence will cause them no end of problems.

All that said, I did have the chance to kill Hammer on turn 2. Scalpel got Tooled Up from rage and then moved to engage Hammer, bringing to bear 6 influence of attacks and taking him out through tough hide. It was unexpected to both my opponent and I.
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