Monday, June 20, 2016

Guild Ball - Graves, Scalpel, the fun list

My locals have observed that I suffer from fairly severe Guild Attention Deficit Disorder. My brand of GADD presents itself with a fairly constant swap of guilds and teams, even from game to game. Apparently the only time I play the same Guild back to back in casual play is during tournaments or when required due to a campaign (such as the Figo League).

I enjoy switching up guilds and playing teams I have not played recently. I prefer to swap guilds rather than face a same-guild match-up, especially when playing casually. I also enjoy trying out new builds and new model combinations to see how things work. After a recent tournament we had a discussion about a potential Scalpel led morticians team fielded to specifically support Graves as a player. I recently finished painting my graves and had not seen a good opportunity to put him on the table. The discussed team and a recent casual game provided the perfect opportunity to try out some wackiness.

The Team

The general idea behind this team is to generate a lot of influence to off-set Graves' greedy nature. It also includes the idea of looking for teams which suit Scalpel's leadership over Obulus. To both of those ends we ended up with the following:
  • Scalpel
  • Dirge
  • Silence
  • Cosset
  • Minx
  • Graves
This provides a total of 13 influence and 2 models who charge for free, thus not needing influence every turn to contribute to the team. As an added benefit, both models who can charge for free contribute 2 influence to the team for reassignment elsewhere.

There is an often overlooked benefit to this team in terms of charge ranges. This is an incredibly fast team, the average movement at 7"/9" and Graves slipping in slightly behind at 5"/7". As an additional bonus, Minx can use Marked Target to add 2 inches to players charges and Graves adds an additional 2 inches to his charge if the target is wounded. This gives Graves a 13 inch threat on a wounded model for 2 influence, and Cosset a 12 inch threat on a model for a free charge. Those are some really long "reach out and touch someone" ranges.

 Graves on the Team

Graves is a touch player to make work in Morticians, although I do like him overall. He has Scything blow and wants to charge to use it but it's located on 5 successes in his playbook as a non-momentous selection. This detracts from the overall desire to trigger that play. On a more positive note, Scything Blow hitting multiple targets will cause them all to Bleed, which is a nice benefit to land for extra damage. Back on the negative side, nothing else in the team truly benefits from a target having the bleed condition on them.

Graves bringing a 2 inch reach to the team can be a huge benefit, as he is the only model in this line-up with that advantage. In games where this comes into play the reach will be a big help and greatly appreciated. Unfortunately I believe that is not common enough an occurrence to keep him on the list in lieu of a choice such as Rage.

Play Experience

Wow, is this a fun team to play. They really want to win by Take-outs, but can take the ball away from the opposing team fairly easily. All of the free charging is really cool, keeping the majority of the players as a threat even without influence assigned. The team works like a pack of wolves, working to pick a target then gang up and tear them apart. Typically the Bird will lead the way, followed by Cosset then Graves Comes in to lend some damage. Minx can then fly across the board to try to close down the opponent, with Scalpel following up if necessary to complete the take-out.

The team likes to gang up on a target, leaving them vulnerable to anything targeting a group such as AOE's. This also means that careful positioning for Graves is necessary, especially if he's planning to use Scything Blow during the turn. One recommendation is to lead the charge with Graves, who only gets 2 influence to charge and specifically aims to scything blow multiple targets to spread out Bleed.  This is a good idea considering how easy it is to follow-up with the remaining free charge models.

As an added benefit, Silence brings 3 influence to the team plus the ability to shutout key targets. Forcing the target model to go last often leaves it isolated and prime for the pack to jump on it. It also alleviates the vulnerability to a double heal on the target.

Overall the list is a load of fun to play around with. I would likely make one change for future games, swapping Rage in for Graves. I'm not fully convinced Graves brings the best benefit in the slot he's filling, and Rage charges for free, hands out Bleed, and deals more damage overall. This drops the team to 12 influence but frees up 3 potential influence on Graves netting an overall positive swing for allocation.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Guild Ball - The Scalpel Experience (3)

I have now played through my obligatory 6 learning games with Scalpel and am deciding how I plan to proceed on my casual games. I'm pretty comfortable with how she works and what she does, spending the last couple games not maxing her influence. Scalpel is certainly a team player, not a super-solo captain by any means.

My sixth game was against the Butchers, played by one of the local pundits in the area who I do not get to play against often. He started as a Fish player and played his Butchers with a strong Fish influence. This means he focused on Scoring with Shank and Brisket a bit more than doling out tons of damage during the game. Fast scoring was something that actually game Scalpel a tough time facing. Combining the quick scores with Brisket's unpredictable movement defense actually created challenges my team was not in position to deal with.


Looking at where Scalpel is strong is a good place to start with her. Scalpel has some very specific strengths that have come into focus while playing her, specifically her high movement, her playbook, and her ability to finish off a model.

Movement / Speed

Scalpel is incredibly speedy for a guild ball model with a 7"/9" movement stat plus second wind. Slippery as a character trait making it tough to hit her with parting blows increases her overall movement. I've found she can easily engage models where she wants, quickly moving across the board to do so. I've even run into situations where my opponent extends a model too far on turn 1 and Scalpel can engage and generate enough momentum to get me initiative on turn 2. The prevalence of Dodges in her playbook, most importantly a push/dodge on 3 successes, gives Scalpel the ability to move long distances across the board.


Scalpel's playbook is very strong with momentum generating results in every selection except one. Only her 2 success Tackle is non-momentous, which is not a real concern overall. She has easy access to both her character play (tormented Agony) on 4 successes and dodges plus damage through the rest of her playbook. Considering Anatomical Precision ignoring 1 point of armor, it is rare for Scalpel to land on a less than 3 successes. Her playbook access to dodges becomes more important when combined with being able to reposition using her Heroic play to get Second Wind, dodging out of her combat first then repositioning without generating a parting blow.


It's odd to talk about kicking strength on a model that only has an average 3/6" kick stat. That said, we are also looking at a morticians team which means that's actually pretty damn good. Obulus struggles with a 2/6" kick stat, often looking for the bonus time to reliably take a shot. Scalpel plus bonus time hits a reliable 4/6" stat, which is excellent when combined with her movement plus dodges. 

The Finisher

Scalpel is an amazing finisher when it comes to combat and damage dealing. Once a select model is down to less than 10 wounds Scalpel can get to the model and reliably finish the job of taking them out. Anatomical precision combined with the easy access to 2 damage strikes in her playbook can quickly generate 8 - 10 points of damage in a round.

Tormented Agony

Scalpels Tormented Agony character play is a really good transition between her Strengths and Challenges. Tormented Agony is a tricky play to use, much more so than it originally appears. On first glance it seems straight forward. Attack a model and transfer their influence off onto another player who has not yet activated. Many times this means a mascot is ending up with 2-4 influence that would be better assigned to a player. The tricky part is when Scalpel may force a take out on the turn. Scalpel sitting on 6 influence and targeting a model with 12 - 14 wounds remaining is the tough spot to make a choice on. This is the range where Scalpel could take the model out but can also easily miss the mark by 1 - 3 points of damage. In the event Scalpel can take the model out it is a poor choice to transfer their influence away when it will be removed with the target on take-out.


Scalpel struggles in some specific areas which are important to keep in mind while playing. The biggest area is with damage dealing where she appears to be a killer but truly is not. Targeting a "typical" model with defense/armor of 4/1, Scalpel is only statistically hitting 4 successes per influence spent on an attack. This locks her in at 2 damage plus her character play, netting a total of 12 damage based on a full stack of 6 influence. That's respectable, but not really in range of doing a lot of damage. Scalpel does not have damage buffs on her card, nor easy access to damage buffs on her team. The most reliable source of increasing her damage is Tooled Up by taking Rage, which is unreliable as Rage can typically put that influence to better use. Additionally, Scalpel will want to dodge more often than not, leaving her short of the 12 damage unless she spiked to 5+ successes per attack.

The second challenge using Scalpel is her Legendary play. Voodoo Strings is really helpful if Scalpel moves to finish off an unpredictable movement model or any other target with the ability to dodge away from/after the first attack. She can use the legendary to pull them back in and then go back to work taking them out. This seems like a great thing until you take into consideration two other facts. First, it's only once per game; Second she only gets the best use from it if she can take out the target model. Considering these two facts means that the Legendary play is sub-par overall. I would have preferred to see this as a Heroic play with a shorter range to it (perhaps cover 6 inches instead of 8). As it stands this becomes a challenge for using well, and is a generally sub-par legendary play when compared to other captains.

Using her in Tournaments?

The biggest question on within the Competitive arena is her viability as a Morticians captain for tournaments. I think she is viable and can be good with the proper team. A highly skilled player who has selected a team that does not benefit from Obulus can get a lot of work from her and be very competitive. As a matter of fact, I would say she is very competitive overall. Unfortunately I do think that Obulus has easier choices and can get more done in a turn than Scalpel can. This is going to push most players, especially competitive ones, to using Obulus over Scalpel. I also find that the teams which do not benefit from Obulus are very limited, and although fun to play are not flexible for tournament play.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Guild Ball - The Scalpel Experience Stage 2 (Morticians)

Sessions 2 and 3 with Scalpel netted me three more games with Scalpel. I'm starting to feel fairly comfortable with her, although I've begun to deviate from my stated testing plan. In my most recent game I began spreading influence around the table, not focusing on loading her up to 6 every turn regardless of circumstances. I'm feeling fairly comfortable with what she does on the table and part of what she does is force you to play the rest of your team. She can certainly "make something happen" with a full clip of 6 influence, but that should be a specific plan not the default with her. It's been a great plan initially for learning what she can do, but in an effort to start moving toward winning games (or at least challenging my opponents), I'm finding that her default seems to be running with 4 influence on many turns.

The Team

My recent 3 Scalpel games have been spread across 6 weeks so I am a bit hazy on the lists I took in game 3 and 4. I know I tried Bonesaw out in one of those games, on the recommendation of one of my locals. I did grab a quick not on the team I took for my fifth and most recent game, which consisted of the following:
  • Scalpel
  • Dirge
  • Silence
  • Mist
  • Cossett
  • Avarrise & Greede
 I made these choices for a couple reasons, looking at some specific roles on my team. Scalpel and Dirge were mainstays for the obvious reasons, but let's look at the other slots.


I want to have a goal threat in the team, I feel it's necessary in every team. If your playing without some type of striker-role model in your team then the high-goal-threat teams such as Fish and many Alchemists teams will walk over you quickly. Morticians have the choice to take Mist onto their team and I see little reason not to. I've discussed the benefits and strengths Mist brings to the table previously, and those stay true here. Another option for this role/slot is Bonesaw, although he does not work with my playstyle. bonesaw plays a more brutish and bully style game in how he executes as a goal-threat, which does not fit into this specific role/slot well for me.


I'm not sure any other way to name or word this slot/role on the team other than the Silence role/slot. Yes, you read that correctly, it's an entire role/slot named after the single model/player that will fill it. Silence brings a specific blend of control abilities, momentous attacks, and 3 influence to the table. This alone makes grants him his own unassailable place on the team. The reality is that the 3 influence alone gets him a non-removable place on Morticians teams. In the Scalpel led team he has filled several very useful roles for me including the removal of Gluttonous Mass and being a back-up, back-up goal scorer. Silence is fairly slow moving up the field but turn 3 and after he can be in range to threaten a goal kick, both via a snapshot and straight on his activation. Parking the bird nearby bumps his kick stat to 4 dice making him excellent at a bonus time snapshot.

Primary Damage Dealing

Dealing damage on a Scalpel team is important as she can switch between goal-scoring and damage dealing fairly easily. The typical choices I'm looking at for my primary damage dealer are going to be Rage, Cosset, and Graves. I have not yet played Graves so that narrows my choice even more. I used Rage in my first 4 games with Scalpel because I think he's more reliable than Cosset and he brings Tooled up to the field. Tooled up is a fantastic ability to drop onto Scalpel, combining with her anatomical precision to make her a very dangerous threat.
In my most recent game I realized I already had 2 of 4 player choices from the union and decided in favor of Cosset in an effort to play a balanced morticians/union team. This may not be the best reason to make that decision but it worked out ok. One area where Cosset brings a potential benefit over Rage is her Influence. Cossett brings 2 influence and will not always want both influence assigned to her (in the event she's not attacking during the turn). Rage will always want his single influence assigned to him, thus not contributing to the teams influence pool during the game. As long as Dirge is on the table and parked within 4 inches of where Cosset will be attacking both Rage and Cosset deal nearly the same damage during a turn. Overall it a toss-up on which I would take.

Utility / Complimentary / Other

This role/slot on my team is typically assigned to a player/model that I'm looking to expand my capability in some area of the team. It's often the easiest role to swap out and gives me choices to meet some of the challenges other teams present. This is the spot where Hemlocke drops into my union teams for facing Alchemists. In the Morticians team I have a couple choices here, two of which have really shined with Scalpel. Ghast and Avarisse &  Greede both present themselves as viable players to fill this slot. Initially I was putting Ghast in here and he was doing well with complimenting my control and damage aspects to play. He brings an easy to reach knockdown in his playbook and messes with peoples choices via Fear. In my recent game I opted for the dynamic duo of Avarisse & Greede, primarily because I'd been using them a fair bit in a recent tournament. The 7th activation was interesting, although not as helpful as it is with other teams and captains. I'm finding that Scalpel likes to go first in a turn, both to reshuffle my opponents assigned influence and to remove a model from the board before they get to activate. Using her as an early or first activation lays out a good activation sequence for my turn and makes the extra activation from A&G less useful overall.

Avarisse bringing Singled Out on his playbook was very helpful to the team, more-so than the extra activation. This is where A&G really contributed to the team, adding in the helpful +2 TAC for a number of plays. I think the most unexpected use I've seen is when Mist, holding the ball, charges a singled out model and ends up with enough successes to wrap his playbook into a 6 inch dodge. This typically positions him perfectly for a goal-shot (bonus times due to +2 momentum from the 2 dodges) and a threat on the return ball. Overall, Singled Out is a great boon to every player on the team and also becomes a huge compliment for Cossett, making her a slightly greater threat than Rage.

Opinion after 5 games

Scalpel is good, not great but definitely good. I'm enjoying my games with her and will continue to play her moving forward. I'm even looking forward to my 6th learning game with her, and to raising my overall win percentage with her. She's a utility captain who is not as clear with her threat as other captains (both season 1 and 2). She's more complicated than many captains, but I think that fits the intention of the Morticians overall.

Competitively there is a question on if Scalpel is a viable alternate choice to Obulus. I feel with my limited experience that she is viable, but not necessarily better. Admittedly, I do not agree with "Obulus is OP" opinion currently popular in some guild ball communities. If I were to choose a captian to play in a tournament (between Scalpel and Obulus), I would choose Obulus, but simply because at this point I'm more comfortable with his play-style and capabilities. Given another dozen or so games with Scalpel I think the choice becomes less clear and a true toss-up between the two.