Monday, August 22, 2016

All the Games

I have recently returned from Gencon 2016 and found myself in a place where I am conflicted, overwhelmed, and incredibly blessed all at the same time. I'm finding myself the embodiment of "The Golden Age of Gaming", with too many games and not enough time nor groups of friends to play them all. It's a strange place to be, as my collection sis beginning to resemble one of those board-game box walls you see behind certain Internet game reviewers.

I realize how blessed I am overall with 3 regular gaming groups (2 weekly and 1 quarterly) plus a family that plays games. In addition to that I have a wider group of friends who enjoy games but do not play regularly, only when we sporadically get together. This leaves my choices of games split into multiple categories, my hard-core gaming groups, my family games, and party or lighter games my extended friends would enjoy. I can be fairly honest in saying Gaming itself has become my hobby. This is a shift from being focused strictly on miniature games where the "hobby" was defined as the gluing, building, painting side of the game activities.

Readers may wonder what type of expense my current game hobby carries. I've been very aware of this and watched it fairly closely over the past two years.  Kickstarter has helped a great deal in managing the overall expense of collecting games to play on both the board game and miniature side of gaming. I'll occasionally have spike of expense in a month where a really exciting kickstarter is coming to a close or where a lot of stuff is released all at once. Those months can push my totals up to $200 - $300 spent, although they are not overly common. On a regular basis, outside the spikes, I'm spending $50 - $100 per month on games. Add in a spike for Gencon or Adepticon then  two big kickstarters a year and I'm averaging a yearly gaming expenditure around $1800. Keeping in mind that's just to put new games or game accessories in my hands, not including any travel or lodging for events or such.

I don't think that's too bad. I could even take time to look at what I'm playing and how often to try and figure out if I'm getting that much value from my spending. I could, but it wouldn't make much sense. Overall I have the overwhelming feeling I with I had more time for games simply because I'm not playing all the games I want to play enough times. This begs the question, what are all the games?

All The Games

Miniature Games

Guild Ball is a tabletop skirmish sports game played with teams of 6 models. It's my primary miniature game currently, the one I play regularly and attend competitions for. I am also a pundit for the game company (Steamforged), which means I give demo's of the game, run tournaments, and generally support the local Guild Ball scene. I am really loving nearly all aspects of Guild Ball and it takes up a lot of my gaming time. I am regularly getting at least 1 game a week played and traveling for competitive Guild Ball events on a monthly basis.

Wrath of Kings is a steampunk fantasy army scale game played on an open table, typically 4x4 or 6x4. I have two armies for WoK, a Goritsi army comprised of Werewolves and Vampires, and a Shael Han army comprised of Monks and naked monk-women..... and a Dragon. I enjoy this game as it's mechanically light but tactical enough on the table to provide room to dig in. I have enough models to construct multiple different forces without adding anything new. I still pick up the random new model or book when it's released, but overall I don't spend much here. My group was playing a game every other week at the beginning of the year but this was sidelined due to involvement in a campaign board game (Kingdom Death to be mentioned below).

Arena Rex is a small scale skirmish gladiatorial game I've recently picked up. this was a kickstarter I was not involved and was exposed to at Adepticon 2016. The models are fantastic but I did not look closely at the game play during the convention. Mid-July 2016 I learned that a group of friends I see a couple times a year had picked up the game and dove in fairly heavily to learning to play. Keeping this in mind I gave the game another look and decided to pick up a force. I grabbed 7 models and a mat and was satisfied. At Gencon 2016 (early August) several people in both my regular local game groups became hooked and picked up multiple forces across the group. Although I was a bit earlier to the game they jumped in and it looks like a game we'll start getting to the table locally. Overall it's a very quick game lasting approximately 20-30 minutes per session. This means it can be a quick to play side game or one where we get multiple games in a fairly short period of time. I've gotten limited number of introduction games played but expect this to ramp up fairly quickly.

Dead Zone by Mantic just released a new version of it's rule set, making some key changes to how things work. My friend John has almost everything for this game and I tend to borrow his models when we grab a game. It plays fairly quickly, although not as quickly as Arena Rex. The new rules  seem to have streamlined the game a bit and we had fun trying out our first couple games. I only get to play this when John brings his set to the store and we have not predetermined on another game, but I would not mind getting more games in. I see an opportunity to use my 40K Eldar models as stand-ins for the Asterian forces in Dead Zone, which would be cool to see on the table.


Currently I have five (six) games in my roster which fall under Pseudo-Boardgames. These are games with models that should be built and painted, some level of character or force customization, and are played primarily on a board of some type. I have 2 more "campaign" style games coming toward the beginning of 2017 which fall into this lot as well.

Aetherium is the game I consistently claim to be the best game of 2015, along with one of the best games not enough people are playing. Aetherium had a successfully kickstarter and released in 2015 with its starter box and 2 full factions of models. This Cyberscape miniature board game plays like a tabletop miniature wargame within the confines of a board game. 2016 saw the release of a third faction, with promises for 2 additional factions by the end of 2017. This is a highly tactical game thats a ton of fun to play and not overly complicated to learn the basics. I would love to get more games of this in, and expect that will happen now that 3-player games are easier considering 3 different factions in game. I believe Aetherium suffers from a lack of major distribution limiting exposure to a wider audience.

Kingdom Death Monster is an intense campaign style board game with some amazing miniatures as part of its line. This game pull's no punches when it comes to providing a high risk immersive experience to the players, very much targeting mature gamers. Violent death, horrible injuries, dismemberment, and soft-core porn style models combine with beautifully sculpted miniature for both the players and the horrible monsters they are fighting. This is one of the best games I've played in 2016, although the mature material, assembly and painting requirements, high price point, and limited quantities put this game out of reach for most gamers. The base game will cost $400 if you picked up one of the retail copies, $650 and more for the majority of people trying to buy a copy on Ebay. It's a campaign style game where you and your friends will play multiple sessions across weeks (likely months) before you reach the end of the game. Our group has completed one full campaign and are looking forward to playing our next campaign in the fall.

Drakerys is a new game to my collection which I kickstarted in conjunction with my daughter. We chose to go with the base armies, Humans vs Orcs plus added in a fantastic dragon which caught my daughters imagination. Subsequent to a demo at Gencon 2016 my wife decided to jump on board and chose the Elf army for herself. This is more heavily on the tabletop war game side of gaming than the board game side, but comes with some nice pre-printed mats (cardboard and neoprene) for playing the game on. This keeps the game partially in the board game space as I cannot see playing without the provided mats. Drakerys is firmly seated in the classic fantasy realm with magical elemental vortexes set-up at the start of the game which are used to summon elementals who serve in your force and fuel the magic spells cast by the army wizards. Additionally there is a massive dragon which can be hired into your force or can work as a dangerous neutral element on the battlefield. This is newly in my collection but I'm looking forward to getting more games in, even if its just with my family.

Star Wars X-Wing and Star Wars Armada fall firmly into this category due to being played on an open table (often on a space printed mat) but not requiring any painting or assembly of the models used. I picked up both of these games to play with a combination of my daughter and a couple key friends who played them. On both fronts the drive to play these games has dropped off but I'm not yet committed to selling off my collections. To be fair, my collections are fairly conservative in relation to some other games so if I get these games on the table twice a year with either my daughter or key friends then I feel like I'm ahead. 

Super Dungeon Explore has been in my collection for a long time, and was once among my favorite board games. I place this in the Pseudo-boardgame category because of the level of painting required to get this on the table. Painting up the SDE models makes such a difference in the enjoy-ability of the game I think it's necessary. The Forgotten King update for SDE was released in 2015 and changed my opinion of the game overall. I am very disappointed in that update, but am hopeful that the 2.0 update coming early 2017 will remedy the issues injected in the game with Forgotten King. There are signs that Soda Pop Miniatures has heard the complaints from the community and are taking strides to fix things, but only time will tell. Although I'm not searching for time to play this, I'd still step up to playing an original version game and look forward to seeing how they fix the 2.0 version of the game.

The Board Games

Zombicide is one of the games I wish saw table time more often. My family and I began playing through Zombicide last year, starting with the introduction mission of the first box set. We had backed the season 3 kickstarter which included both the base set and the expansion set. This was a great deal of fun, leading to us picking up the season 2 set (base plus expansion) as well in preparation for completing the mission thread in the season 1 rule book. Suddenly our regular play dropped off and now it's been a couple months since we've sat down for a game. This is a game I continuously look to get back on the table with my family as we all enjoy playing it.

Forbidden Stars is a Warhammer 40K based strategic control game with a semi-variable sector of space. It has Space Marines, Chaos Space Marines, Eldar, and Orks all battling for control of a sector which has recently become available via clearing warp storms. I had a fairly low expectation for this game due to it being 40K based, but was very wrong. This fantastic title from Fantasy Flight games has a great deal of depth to it as ships track through the open void creating paths for planetary assaults to be launched into enemy territory. I picking this up with the idea that if I played it once a year it was worth the purchase. I'm averaging 2 games a year at this point and am enjoying the game. I'd love to see it on the table more, but I'm getting the value I expected.

Castles of Burgundy falls into a category I like to call the "Damn you Adam" set of games. A couple times of year I get to take working vacations to New England (Northeastern USA) and get games with some friends in the area. Inevitably there is a couples game night with my friend Adam, who tends to introduce me to a new game (or 3). This typically results in my heading out and purchasing a new game. Castles of Burgundy is a Euro-style game where your worker placement is trying to picking up specific territories which can score you points. There's a fair bit of strategy and overall the game is determined by your strategy playing the game (little or no luck). This is a game that's a lot of fun but I have not tried it with my local group yet. My wife and I have also not decided to try it as a 2 player game, although we should.

Fireteam Zero is a light campaign game with limited character development but lots of monster killing goodness. The game comes with 4 heroes, 2 sidekicks, and three families of monsters which scale up across 3 levels (base, elite, boss). The heroes are part of Fire Team Zero, an elite commando team sent to investigate mysterious and suspected supernatural situations during World War II. Each monster family has it's own set of stories tied to it to play through. I had decided that I was not going to start introducing this game to my family or local group until I had the models painted up (considering it was a fairly small number of models to paint). Painting took much longer than expected, only recently completing. I have played through the initial mission of one monster family twice now and the game looks to be a lot of fun. Now that everything is painted I'm looking forward to seeing this on the table.

Xia is another "Damn Adam" game which was originally a kickstarter yet I picked up retail. Xia is a space exploration game with randomly laid tiles and pre-painted spaceship miniatures. This is a very fun game which some of my locals have compared to the video game FTL. The components for this game are absolutely fantastic which only enhances the already excellent game play. This is one of those games that my gaming group enjoys when I bring it to game night, but also a game that only makes it's way out periodically. There's an expansion coming in 2017 that will likely spur some increased play right after the release.

Tides of Infamy is a pirate themed exploration game with random sea/island tiles laid out in a random map each game. Players have 3 pirate ships which they sail out to discover islands, goods, and fight each other over goods. My wife absolutely loves this game with my daughters enjoying it as well. This makes it a very nice family game to pull out for an hour on a weekend afternoon. There are two styles of combat resolution for the game, both using a deck of cards. The first plays like the card game War, while the second is more akin to Poker. We're playing this as a light game so have stuck with the War style combat resolution. A lot of fun overall.

Blood Rage is one of the best recent games to be released, second to Aetherium last year simply because I'd choose a game of Aetherium over Blood Rage where possible. Blood Rage is a viking themed battle game that includes giant monsters, area control, card drafting, and card based combat resolution. It's an exciting mix of game mechanics that comes together for an incredibly thematic fast paced game. It's easy to teach to new players and has depths of tactics for experienced players which shift with every game. This is also a game where it's incredibly difficult to have a run-away win. Players feel like they are in the game all the way to the end, with a constant possibility to jump back ot the lead with just a couple moves. A great game that doesn't get played enough simply due to the pure quantity of good games on the market.

Scythe is the new hotness from Stonemaier Games, a kickstarter, a "Damn Adam" game, and one of the top rated board games from Gencon 2016. This is a fairly pure eurostyle game set in a post-"Big War" alternate history setting. This is a simple game to learn and a difficult game to master. The basics for game play are making a choice on the "action" playmat between 4 zones of actions. Each zone has a top and a bottom action which can be completed. Top actions are things such as producing resources or moving game pieces on the board. The bottom actions are things such as deploying a Mech or Building a new structure. There are 5 factions in the game, each with their own "faction" playmat and unique faction abilities. The "faction" and "action" playmats are randomized each game, providing a tremendous variety of gameplay even if you get the same faction. Overall a really great game and one that's good enough for me to start considering other Stonemaier games.


I am blessed to have the disposable income and understanding family that let's me obtain, own, and play all these games. I'm blessed to have the available leisure time to do so much gaming. A big part of the second has to do with a combination of multiple groups of great friends plus making time to exercise my gaming hobby. I set aside specific time each week to join friends at a local store and game. This is similar to TV time for most people, I just cut back and don't watch as much TV.

I'm both intrigued and mildly concerned that I cut off my board game list with at least 4 additional games plus a category of party games still to go. I felt this overall article was getting pretty long for reading. I'll definitely revisit the part game portion in an article of it's own, as I think readers would be interested in a list of good games for 5+ players.

I often consider my experience gaming and my contacts in the gaming industry with an eye toward moving my career and livelihood into that space. I've not yet found a way to maintain my current lifestyle and income level moving into the board and tabletop gaming space. Although it's a large industry it's still made up of low margin and small increments of income when compared to the executive management of IT and IT Consulting space I'm currently in. It's staying as my retirement plan for now.

Rome Rise to Power

The Group Games - Front Line No Komrades, Dark Dealings, Nevermore, Evil Baby Orphanage, Libertalia, New Salem

Machi Koro



Monday, August 15, 2016

Rise of the Kage - Revisit

Last December I wrote a review of the board game Rise of the Kage and it's associated expansion, Docks of Ryu. I shared this review to Board Game Geek in February of this year, receiving a couple replies. Anyone interested can go back and check out either of those links for my original review. In summary, I felt there was a good game potential but was unable to recommend the game due to imbalance between the two sides and nearly incomprehensible rules.

In March of this year (2016) an update set of rules (2.1) was released for the game. Along with requests from the company and recommendations from others who support the game I was interested to see if things had been fixed. I agreed to work on my gaming group to get this back in circulation with an eye toward revisiting my earlier review. It's took several months but I've gotten two games in with the new rules, one as the Guards and one as the Ninja's.

What is Rise of the Kage, Who makes it?

Nothing in this section has changed since my review, the game is still a stealth themed board game with a host of miniatures. It's listed as supporting 2-4 players, with 1 player taking the role of the boss and guards while the other 1-3 players take the role of the Ninja's.There are 3 Ninja's and 2 Boss's in the base game, with another 3 Ninja and a Boss in the expansion plus 1 extra Ninja from the kickstarter. Ninja players will pick 1 Ninja from each of 3 clans to settle on their team of 3.
  • Game: Rise of the Kage (and Docks of Ryu expansion)
  • Company: GCT Studios
  • Website:
  • Players: 2 - 4
  • Play time: 45 minutes 
I'm not in complete agreement that this is a game for 2-4 players. The refinement of the rules for 2.1 have further convinced me that this is a 2 player game that can accommodate up to 2 additional players for a maximum of 4, but plays ideally with 2 players.

Whats changed with how it plays?

Some of the basics for how the Ninja's work within the game have changed. First, the Ninja equipment cards have been clarified to be placed "into play" either face-down or face-up on the Ninja play mats. This limits the amount of cards they can have "in hand", additionally making even face-down Ninja cards targets for some guard actions. A second change, which is a fairly major change to the game, is the removal of the "pathing" originally required. Now, instead of predetermining the path the Ninja's will take, the Ninja's can take up to 6 squares of movements with an additional 2 upon sacrificing dice on the turn. This removal speeds the game up marginally without removing any key portion of the game. Overall the pre-pathing was an innovative touch but not necessary for the feel of the game.

Noise tokens work the same as before in relation to the Ninja's, but have changed in how they function for the guards. First, only a single noise token may be used on each guard for an extra action. This limits the blitzing of several noise tokens on guards that could occur previously. Additionally, Noise tokens are required in order to play guard cards during the Ninja turn. This significantly limits what the guards can do in reaction to the Ninja's. Although Noise tokens can be saved over rounds, there are other changes in place that create an environment where stockpiling is not the best choice.

Guard cards is one of the largest changes I saw in the 2.1 rule set. Guards now only receive a single card at the begining of the game. Following this first turn, Guards can onlyl draw new cards by purchasing them at the start of the Guard turn with either noise tokens or guard action tokens. In this way a limit on the guards power has been put in place, restricting guard resources by providing the 3 choices of:
  1. Buy guard card to play
  2. Take actions with a guard on the table
  3. Recruit new guards to the table
The guard deck is still a massive deck, despite some limited trimming of the cards with the 2.1 rules. Although this will ensure nearly endless replayablity it also means that the guard have a hard time digging for cards they may wish to play.

Quality: The 2.1 Rules

The cards are still a little thin but the boards and models continue to be wonderful. I'm happy with the plastic quality, despite needing to rebend some of the weapons with hot water. What everyone should be focusing on for this revisit is have the rules been improved?

 The rules have undergone a significant improvement in both clarity and streamlining. There are clear sections that walk through the set-up of the game, with pictures that help clarify the process and explanations where you would expect them to be. The step by step process of a turn is much clearer to understand and it's finally clear what a Ninja and Guard can or cannot do during their activation. The rules have been split into basic and advanced rules, with some sections (such as guards becoming alert) being added to the advanced section. This provides two levels of play for easier access to the game.

There are minor areas where we still struggled to find a reference to how a specific action or situation would be resolved, but overall the game has cleared things up tremendously. Additionally, there is an index which is pretty good (although could still use some improvement). A lot of work appears to have gone into improving the original rules, with clear evidence that the public was listened to during the process.

Recommendation and thoughts

I still like this game and believe I could get it onto the gaming table with new players for at least a first try. It's a challenging game but is no longer completely one-sided in favor of the guards. It's moved to being a mid-length game for 2 players who want to face a challenge.

I'm not confident there's enough improvement to overcome the initial bad feelings my gaming group had toward this game. In the current age of gaming it's tough to recover space on the table after a poor first impression. My own group does not have any other stealth style games to compete with Rise of the Kage, which increases the chance of this being played. In those groups who have another alternative and were disappointed in the original, I'm not sure the changes are enough to recover from the early misstep.

I can't say this is making it to circulation in my group, but I can say it's back to being an option. This is an improvement and completely due to GCT taking the time to rewrite the rules for the game based on community input.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Guild Ball Tactics - Shock and Awe

It's a balmy early July here in the Washington DC metro area and I've been thinking lately. I've been thinking about Guild Ball, specifically playing it competitively. All this has come about for a couple reasons, including a series of recent tournaments and the upcoming US National Championships at Gencon. At the time of writing Gencon is 3 weeks away.

I mentioned writing this article and my thoughts for it to my wife a couple days ago. She agreed it was likely an interesting article to write, but warned that I should not sabotage myself by publishing it prior to the US Championships. I am taking her advice, scheduling this for release on the Monday following Gencon. I'm not sure if there's anything here that would make a difference for my opponents or not, but there it is.

The idea's that I espouse in this writing are applicable to real military maneuvers along with the full range of tabletop miniature war games. In this article I'm going to focus on Guild Ball specifically and how to achieve these tactics using the Guild Ball rules, models, and typical situations.

Shock and Awe

Shock and Awe is a "real life" military tactic technically known as "Rapid Dominance", a military doctrine based on the use of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force to paralyze the enemy's perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight. I've been thinking that this plays out in some of my preferred tactics when playing Guild Ball, across the majority of teams I play. I've recently contemplated how important this tactic has been to my relative success within the Guild Ball competitive environment.

Shock and Awe in Guild Ball is often achieved through a surprising play (or series of plays) during the first turn of the game. Successfully executing this tactic results in your opponent being put on their "back foot", scrambling to string together a series of plays to recover their perceived position in the game. Many times (but not always), this results in generating a large amount of the in-game currency "Momentum" in addition to gaining play momentum in the game.  

Shock and Awe within Guild Ball is characterized by a couple key factors:
  • It's Fast
  • It results in a scoring lead over your opponent
  • It's difficult to counter
Although a Shock and Awe play (or series of plays) can be executed at any time during a match, typically the best results will be obtained when it's successfully executed turn 1. The effect is compounded when the triggering player can follow-through with their execution of plays into turn 2, taking the initiative and compounding the impact of the first turn plays. 

Opponents on the receiving end of this tactic shift their plans to a focus on how to recover from your play. They become responsive opposed to pushing their own game plan and agenda. This shift to responsive play surrenders control of the game to you, opening an opportunity to push your own plan forward. It does this in a way that's not entirely conscious for your opponent, generating the feeling that they are "starting the game behind" or "starting out losing".  It's important to be aware of this and capitalize on it by executing your plan for generating victory points, not returning control of the game to your opponent. Basically, don't get comfortable thinking you have an unassailable lead, your opponent will recover. What you need to do is capitalize on the time before they recover to cement your lead in the game.

In almost every case of this tactic being successful I see some type of activation control in play. This happens most often through the inclusion of Avarisse & Greede into a Guild Ball team lineup. Considering how Guild Ball is balanced, a Shock and Awe play will rarely be the first or second activation of turn 1, but require some level of set-up to be effective. Assuring that the play is the final play on Turn 1 provides the time to set it up and increase the chances of success, cementing the Shock and Awe impact. The extra activation Avarisse and Greede provide makes this critical and allows your opponent to make positioning mistakes during the turn, contributing to your plan. 


 Turn 1 Goal Scoring

Many teams will delivery a Shock and Awe tactic via successfully scoring on turn 1 from their deployment line. Every team has the capability to do this, however Fishermen, Masons, Alchemists, and Engineers  do it most often. There are three keys to successfully delivering a turn-1 goal score from your deployment line and you should aim to understand all of them.

First, is distance to your opponents goal. There is a minimum of 20 inches between the your deployment line and your opponents goal. This is if you set-up your goal-scorer (striker) directly across from the goal on the front edge of your deployment line and there is clear path for you to get there. Modifications need to be made to your plan based on rough ground, obstacles, and opponents models placement during the opening turn. It's key to understand your chosen strikers threat distance on the goal and the positioning you'll have to use to get there.

Second, momentum is going to be required to make a shot on goal. You're going to have to generate momentum during your turn prior to making the final shot on goal. Additionally you should make sure to consider the requirement for an influence when making the shot, as this is sometimes forgotten. Returning to momentum, you'll likely want a second momentum available to bonus time the goal shot. Missing your first turn goal shot is unlikely to create a sense of Shock and Awe in your opponent.

Third, you'll need the ball in order to make a shot on goal. This may seem like a small thing to mention, but its important. If you did not receive the ball and retrieve it on the kick-off you're going to need a way to take the ball back from the opponent. The kicking player often has a difficult time retrieving the ball after kick-off, with only their kicker positioned properly to reach the ball once the opponent has taken possession.

 Let's take a look at a typical Shock and Awe 1st turn Goal for the fishermen. Assume that the Fishermen team has received the ball and allocated influence. We've places at least 1 influence on each model and plan to pass the ball twice before getting it to Shark. Shark will be loaded up with 5 influence on turn 1 to accomplish the tactic. We'll also position Shark to the left side of the field, half-way between the board edge and the middle of the field to avoid some obstructions near the midfield. We're going to make sure he's 24 inches from the opponents goal. We draw out the passing the ball until the second to last activation.

On this activation we want Greede to pass the ball to Shark, generating a momentum which we immediately spend for a Team Play 4 inch dodge for Shark. Shark dodges 4 inches toward the opponent goal with the ball then begins his activation since the opponent has used theirs. Shark's first action is to spend 2 influence for "Quick Foot" and look for a target model 13 inches away in the direction of the opponents goal. Shark spends 2 influence to charge that model, ending as close to the goal as possible but at least 1 inch away from the target. Assuming the average model has a 4 defense, 1 armor, and uses defensive stance for a 5df, we get 2 success on average. This is enough to dodge Shark 2 inches toward the goal and out of engagement with other models. Shark should have moved between 16 and 18 inches toward the opponents goal, leaving him between 6 and 8 inches from the goal. This is within Sharks kick range so he then takes a shot on the goal, rolling 5 dice due to bonus time. 

Capitalizing on this and winning initiative on turn 2 can create severe problems for your opponent. You're up 4 victory points from your first goal plus your starting turn 2 with an additional influence to allocate. You're striker is typically very good at tackling the ball away from opponents and is in a prime position to take the ball away from where ever the goal kick landed. Load your striker with max influence and look for a way to retrieve the ball, generate a momentum, and make a second shot on goal. Even if you cannot bonus time this second shot, it's worth the attempt. If you cannot get into position to shoot on goal after retrieving the ball, send it toward your own team and aim for another model picking it up and getting in a turn 2 goal.

Turn 1 Take Out

The Turn 1 Take Out is a much tougher play to put together for the majority of teams. The Masons are the best at doing this, coining the "Chisel Missile" play. Morticians, Union, Butchers, and Brewers can all string together a Turn 1 Take Out but it's a little tougher for them. Many times this requires the use of either Gutter for her Chain Grab or in the case of Morticians, Lure and/or Puppet Master. One advantage to the Turn 1 Take Out is the generation of Momentum and positioning for starting turn 2 strong.

In nearly every case we want to make a series of attacks with a model who does not need to charge into combat. This is done in order to maximize the number of attacks on the target, maximizing damage and generated momentum. Because of this we're looking for a way to force a reposition onto the target to bring them into range of our hitters. Gutters chain grab, models with push/dodge and push playbook results, and models with access to lure all facilitate this movement. Specifically for morticians there's Obulus with Puppet Master and for Brewers there's Stave's Lob Barrel.  However it's accomplished we want to pull the target into range. Once we reach that point it's time to launch our damage and kill the target. When possible take the target out although it's sometimes just as useful to leave the target low on health (1-3 health) if you can assure initiative on turn 2 to finish them off.

The example we'll use for this is the Masons Chisel Missile play. There are multiple ways to drag out activation with Masons including both Avarisse & Greede and using Honour's Superior Strategy. When nearing the final activation Honour will use her legendary play and Superior Strategy to give Chisel 2 additional influence and another activation.Prior to the activation Marbles will use Tooled up on Chisel. Ideally the Masons will also have Decimate on the team to have given Chisel Second Wind, although this is not critical to the play.

Chisel will activate last with 6 influence and make her first move down the board. She wants to move toward a target model with average or less defense and around 12 health. During her first activation she will activate Crazy, taking 3 points of damage. If she has second wind she will move an additional jog toward the target. On her second activation she will activate crazy at the start of her turn taking another 3 damage, then move into combat with the target model. Her range between these two activation's is 14 inches from her deployment line, 18 inches if she has second wind.

Chisel can now make 6 attacks (2 inch reach) against the target model, averaging 14 points of damage and netting 5 momentum if that takes out a model. She can reduce that damage by 1 if it will not take out a model and still net the 5 momentum. Provided this is enough to gain initiative on turn 2, Chisel should be given 4 influence again. She will start the turn by using Crazy and taking 3 more points of damage, triggering her Painful Rage ability. This lets her deliver 4 attacks averaging 12 additional damage.

Countering Shock and Awe

  How does on deal with an opponent who plans to deploy a Shock and Awe tactic against them? The first thing to do is determine if it's coming. If a Masons player starts giving buffs to Flint or Chisel while they're playing Honour, you can safely assume they are planning a Shock and Awe play. If a Union player is giving Mist a "bag of coffers" and/or Second Wind, you can safely assume they are planning a Shock and Awe play. If an engineers player is using Ping Vise and they recieve the ball, expect a Shock and Awe play.

Once you begin to predict and expect the plays it's time to see what can be done to counter them. The first step is to counteract the activation control. This is impossible to do when facing Honour led masons, just accept that. Aside from that specific team, adding Avarisse & Greede to your own roster evens up some of the activation's. I dread saying that as I'm already seeing A&G in almost every tournament list, but it's a simple fact (and likely the motivator is exactly what I'm describing here).

The second thing to consider is counter-play. Shock and Awe requires an aggressive play-style and this can be thrown off by using effective counter-play. Offering up targets which are not ideal choices for the Take Out focused S&A player then protecting the soft targets is one choice. Any model which has Fear can eat into the required influence necessary to execute the attacks. Areas of Rough Ground slow the attacker down (goal scorer or melee attacker) and Rising Anger will generate momentum for counter-attacks. Using traits such as Gluttonous Mass and Unpredictable movement to hamper your opponents plans are great ways to counter a S&A play series.

Finally, try to stay balanced in your view on the game. If you can keep an eye on your objectives and not fall into the "Shock" portion of the tactic then you may be able to recover quickly and move forward with your plan. This will minimize the impact of your opponents play.

Share your Shock and Awe stories in the comments below, I'd love to hear what people have seen in their games. If I'm blessed then I should be on the road home right now with the US National Championship under my belt. More likely I'm on the way home from Gencon without that title and just had a fantastic time at a great convention.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Rumble Cup tournament report

On July 24th I attended a Sunday tournament, the Rumble Cup, at The Island Games in Chantilly VA. I don't prefer Sunday tournaments as my Sundays are already pretty crazy with family and church activities. I had missed out on a recent tournament and a couple Guild Ball game nights so decided to attend this one. I really wanted to get in 3 solid competitive games with an eye toward additional practice for Gencon. I knew this would be attended by my local scene and I was expecting some of the stronger players, although I also knew it would be a smaller tournament. Additionally, it was the first tournament run at The Island Games and first for the pundit, Sheridan. I wanted to support both the pundit and the store by attending.

I'll take a moment to say a little about the store, as it's a nice venue for events and general gaming. On first entering it is pretty clear the store focuses on card games (MtG, Pokemon, etc), although this should not be a surprise for anyone who frequents game stores in the US. This is only a first impression however, it only takes a look deeper into the store to see the tremendous support for board games and miniature games at near equal level to card games. The retail area of the store fills the front 1/3, with a small table in the middle of the front for some card games to be played. Large racks of board games and miniature games fill the spacious front of the store, surprisingly not feeling crowded at all for the amount of stock. Moving past the opening racks opens up a vista of 12 long tables filling the back 2/3 of the store. These tables are prefect size for board games, and can be pushed together to make space for typical miniature games. Along the back wall is a large shelf system filled with terrain for use by miniature gamers.

Overall, The Island Games is a very nice store and a great place for gamers. Anyone in the area should definitely check it out!


We had 8 people attending the event, meaning 8 rounds for the day. We started a little late but tings picked up quickly and the whole event was completed by 6:00pm. The mix in the field was both interesting and challenging, including Josh (ranked 12th in the US), Dutch (19th in the US), Dan (15th in the US), Dixon (3rd in the US), Ben (124th in the US), and 2 new players. Although these are all from my local scene, I knew I was in for a challenging day as 3 of us are practicing for the Gencon National Championship and Dan is a top player whenever he plays at a tournament.

**rankings mentioned above are per Black Orifice Guild Ball rankings updated after the tournament.

In deference to the new players the clocks were set to 50 minute clocks with 2 minutes of clocked-out time. This was good for the new players and you'll see in the round reports that I was typically playing with a 45 minute/1 minute clock.  

Round 1 - Josh's Hunters

Josh and I have played a lot of games since he's gotten into Guild Ball. Even with the return of MkIII Warmachine, Josh is still getting in 2 - 4 games of Guild Ball a week. He's coming on pretty strong in the Tournament scene, starting with Engineers, moving to Hammer led Masons (and doing really well), and now getting the Hunters on the table. His Hunters are a work in progress and he has not settled into a streamlined team yet, but he's worked out a lot of their tricks and plays a strong game.

Josh and I agreed to play on a 45 minute / 1 minute clock despite knowing the round was 50 minutes / 2 minutes. We expected we'd end the game prior to the normal round time and wanted to see how it played out. Overall this was a casual agreement as you'll see below.

He was running Theron, Fahad, Jaecar, Zarola, Seena, and Chaska facing my Capt. Rage, Coin, Gutter, Avarisse & Greede, Mist, and Hemlocke. Josh's strategy seemed to focus on grinding out the clock against me and trying to pick off players at a steady pace with Jaecar. If he could get in with Seena for a charge and Bear Hug he would but was more reliant on Seena as a threat and tar pit (21 wounds, tough hide, 2 inch reach).

We had a couple highlights and surprises during this game which are worth noting. Josh made excellent use of traps and positioning during the game to control Rage and Gutters charges, limiting what I was able to attack. Even when he grouped up I was rarely able to get into range for the flurry of scything blows I aim for with this team. During the first Turn Josh grouped up Zarola, Theron, and Chaska in a forest for cover, which nicely setup the spacing for Hemlock to drop poison on all of them. Josh also had issues early game with missing most of his character plays. At one point during the late game we were both surprised when Capt Rage charged a full health Seena and successfully killed him during the activation.

We hit a point in the game where I was on 8 points, Josh was on 4, Fahad had the ball in cover and was engaged by Hemlock and Mist. Hemlock and Mist were engaged by Theron, Chaska, and Zarola with Rage and Gutter out of range to get into the fight in 1 round. This was important as my clock ran out (45 minutes) and he had less than 3 minutes left on his clock. We paused to discuss what to do and agreed we'd keep playing as if we had 50 minute clocks, but track the 1 minute point's that would roll over. I also personally decided I'd play my turns within the 1 minute to see how to pull the game out. I had become a bit "tilted" shortly before this point in the game, growing frustrated with some bad dice results on my side along with an inability to untangle the situation Josh had set up.

Although the game officially ended with a score of 12 to 8, win to me, this was the most frustrating series of activation's I've played to date in Guild Ball.  Over the next several activation I was able to spring Hemlock from the tangle, with the ball, move and make a shot on goal. Unfortunately she missed the shot and the ball landed snuggled up to his goal, 6 inches away from Hemlock. In future attempts to generate momentum to move Hemlock up and grabbing the goal Josh positioned well and kept me at range, frustrating my attempts to win the game and grinding out activation. Overall I would have given up 10 points to clock out before being able to make the final points and win the game. This means had we been on regular tournament clocks Josh would have won 12 to 10  three activation prior to my finally winning.

On this day with how we agreed to play, I was able to extract a win from a very frustrating game. Kudo's to Josh for an excellent game, although I was incredibly frustrated at the end of the game. Win to me, 12 to 8.

Round 2 - Alex's Morticians

Round two saw me matched up against one of the new players in the tournament, Alex. I had given Alex a demo game two weeks prior to the tournament and found out that this round would be his fourth game of Guild Ball. I had a moment of feeling bad over this, as I was still mentally tweaked from my first game vs Josh, my brain in a hyper-competitive mode and still moderately frustrated from the game. I made an effort to tone my competitive view back and calm down on the frustration side, hoping to give Alex an enjoyable game.

Alex is starting his Morticians team playing Scalpel as captain. This tournament he was swapping out two of his "regular" models (Casket and Cosset) for Mist and Rage. His lineup was Scalpel, Dirge, Ghast, Rage, Mist, Silence facing Capt. Rage, Coin, Gutter, A & G, Mist, Minx. He was not really ready for this game and was surprised in a couple places despite my trying to keep him abreast of what my models did. He played really well for a new player, taking out Capt Rage and making a goal with his Mist. Overall I was able to recover from my "Tilt" and make this a fun game overall. Alex said he'd learned even more about the Guild Ball and enjoyed the match after our game.

This game put me on the top table going into the final round with a 12 to 6 win.

Round 3 - Dixon's Alchemists

Dixon is a top player in every miniature game I've seen him play, highly competitive, and always a challenge when I face him. He has earned a reputation as a negative play experience to face, but he and I have been friends for years and I enjoy gaming with him as much as I get frustrated playing against him. Dixon was coming out of a strange round 2 where half-way through the game his opponent conceded and then dropped from the tournament. Although it was on the table next to me I am not sure exactly what happened. I do know that both Dixon and his opponent in that game tend to frustrate each other simply based on their personalities during a competitive game, and they also suffer from becoming detrimentally frustrated when dice or plans do not go their way.

I knew Dixon was playing Midas led Alchemists for this game, one of his strongest teams. I also knew that he had recently decided he was not enjoying dice based games and currently feels that dice are too random for his liking and cause him undue frustration. Knowing this, my own earlier frustration, and that he was coming out of a game where his opponent conceded, I was expecting a fairly contentious game. My aim was to keep my cool, say as little as possible, and just play out the game trying to win as quickly as possible.

Dixon brought Midas, Flask, Mist, Vitriol, Decimate, Compound facing Capt. Rage, Coin, Gutter, A&G, Mist, Minx. I am currently struggling between the desire to drop Gutter when facing Midas and my belief that Gutter is crucial to a successful Capt. Rage lineup. If I can figure out how to mitigate the Gutter/Midas interaction I'll be dramatically stronger facing Alchemists in tournaments.

The game opened with Dixon winning the roll for Kick/Receive and choosing to receive. I kicked with Avarisse, not moving too far forward but getting a decent kick. Dixon loaded up Mist and Midas, with a token amount of influence on Vitriol, and Compound. He retrieved the ball and passed a couple times before activating Midas and successfully grabbing Scything Blow. I had considered moving Gutter the activation before Midas went, but then thought that letting him come in for Scything blow and sitting 8 inches away from Gutter would be to my benefit to possibly hurting or killing Midas on turn 1. Via creative use of difficult terrain and ball passes he was able to position himself 12 inches away and keep Midas out of danger. Activations continued with his Decimate coming forward, staying just out of range of Capt. Rage. Minx moved forward and hit with Marked Target (on Decimate), putting Rage (3 inf) back in range. Rage charged Decimate, hitting twice and generating momentum.

This point in turn 1 left Dixon with a final activation of Mist (4 influence, 2 momentum) with the ball, and me with Gutter (3 inf) and my own Mist (4 inf + bag of coffers) remaining to activate. Dixon's Mist shot down the field, bouncing off Avarisse and generating 2 more momentum (putting him at 4) and successfully positioning to have a clear shot past Greede, then took a shot on goal with Bonus Time. 4 dice rolled and the results were 1, 2, 2, 3 for a missed goal. The ball parked itself next to Greede (who did not pick it up) and in front of my goal. I was surprised, readjusting my plans for Gutter to grab the ball and pass it to Mist. I started measuring to determine the best path for Gutter to grab the ball, Pass,  and still get attacks on Dixon's Mist when Dixon conceded the game.

Huh, he conceded at the bottom of round 1. I was surprised but decided there was no reason to dig for an explanation, but it was better to fill out my sheet and start picking up. Dixon started to comment that he conceded because the win meant more to me than to him and he would spend the game over-frustrated and he did not want to ruin the game for me. Overall, I would have preferred to play out a full game against a highly skilled and competitive player but c'est la vie. 

That put me at a 12 to 0 win in my favor, leaving me in first place for the tournament as a whole.

Tournament 8

I've settled into a standard Tournament 8 selection for Captain Rage. I've discussed this before but I'll do another quick overview along with thoughts from this tournament. I'm struggling even now with comparing tournament strength of Capt. Rage and team vs Blackheart and team. The two teams use many of the same models, with the largest different being Gutter vs Rage or Fangtooth. I'm not using Fangtooth much in either line-up, which makes choosing a Tournament 9 for Championship events easier. (Blackheart, Capt. Rage, Coin, A&G, Gutter, Decimate, Mist, Hemlocke,  Minx) The trick will be which Captain I decide to bring to the Qualifiers.

Captain Rage

Veteran Captain Rage has settled into my Union choices in a fabulous way, causing a difficult choice between team captains for me. I find Capt. Rage to be less flexible in his team choices when aiming for maximum impact on the table. He almost requires Gutter, A&G, and Minx to operate at maximum efficiency, leaving only a single swap-able choice on the team. A Capt. Rage led team is going to handily win games by delivering 4 take-outs and 1 goal or push through to a grinding 6 take outs for the win.

Although he and his team focus on take-outs, this doesn't mean he doesn't have tricks. Two things really set Capt. Rage apart from regular rage. First is his loss of "Maverick", allowing him to now gain benefits from other players. This means that Minx, Avarisse, and Decimate can all help him out, increasing his threat and total damage output. Second is gaining the character play "Quick Time". This ability to dodge 2 inches during his activation opens up a lot of opportunities for him.

Unfortunately, I feel a Capt. Rage team loses the ability to switch to a goal-scoring centric build and still benefit. The loss in utility from dropping combat focused players to movement and kicking players hurts Capt. Rage more than it hurts Blackheart. Simply removing the threat of 4 additional Scything blows or Unmaskings is enough to make Capt. Rage less overall.


Coin continues to do what Coin does, and continues to be one of the arguably best mascots in the game. I have not tried proxying the Strongbox on the table yet, I've only read it's card. I cannot see a time when I would take Strongbox over Coin in either a Blackheart or a Cap. Rage led team. I'm still using Coin on turn 1 to fuel up Mist with Bag of Coffers, then he moves forward to assist later in the turn. I've begun to see opportunities to give the Bag of Coffers to Avarisse and to Minx with more regularity during mid and late game turns.


Gutter is a staple in my Capt. Rage teams, and I cannot see this changing. The simple threat of 7-8 scything blows in a turn is enough to scare the majority of my opponents. This works well with my Shock & Awe tactics, especially if I can get off a good set of scything blows early in the game. I've done well with my opponent leaving enough models in a group that I can often find 2 or 3 models to jump on creating a SB threat.

A note is the effectiveness of Chain Grab vs other methods of moving models around. This is part of what makes her more effective in a Capt. Rage team vs a Blackheart team. Capt. Rage has easy access pushes combined with damage on his playbook. These are also momentous, meaning there is no reason not to choose the result. This means that between Capt. Rage and Avarisse, opponent models can effectively be moved into a Gutter Threat Grouping ("GTG") reliably. Blackheart does not have pushes on his playbook, forcing Gutter to rely on Avarisse and her Chain Grab to create a GTG.

Avarisse & Greede

I've recently written about my thoughts that A&G are becoming cornerstone "must take" players on competitive teams. The extra activation for a Capt. Rage team is very important to force the opponent to burn out their activation's and fix models in place before Capt. Rage moves in for attacks. In those instances when Avarisse has influence and lands singled out or knockdown on an opponent in range of Capt. Rage, this becomes even worse.

One key point of interest is the fact Rage tends to want to go first starting turn 2. The extra activation for those later turns becomes useful in pushing the opponent who should already be short on model activation's to bring returning players further onto the board or force unfavorable activation's.

This tournament uncovered one of the liabilities with bringing A&G to a tournament. Once a clocked out state has been reached, extra activation's are not useful but give up points to the opponent. Clocking out near the end of the turn after the bulk of your useful players have activated forces non-useful Greede activation's to still cycle prior to the start of the new turn.


Mist is still in my line-up and is a primary choice for me, but I'm finding I swap him out more often than not. He has become my swap for Hemlock when facing Hunters. I'm still unsure if I need hemlock vs Smoke led Alchemists or if I can keep Mist in the team instead. Overall, Mist plays the same role he always has playing for a 1st turn goal, looking to retrieve the ball, and looking to score as often as possible. I'm looking more at end of turn scores where possible to open up as much threat as possible for my opponents. It's helpful to keep my opponent worrying about a goal at the same time they are worried about Gutter or Capt. Rage taking out a player or two.

I tried kicking off with Mist for the first time during this tournament. I can see the benefit although I need to practice the play more. The aim (for those who are unaware) is to move Mist up the field into cover to kick, putting him into range of the opponents deployment line. This allows Mist to rush out during turn 1 and retrieve the ball, hopefully combined with generating momentum and taking a shot on goal as well. It's an aggressive play but I can see I'll be using it more once I've practiced it.


Early on I wanted to fit Minx into my Capt. Rage team but was struggling to find a place for her. After a number of games this has switched to I struggle to figure out when I should not take her. The trick is her Marked Target extending both Capt. Rage and Gutter's threat ranges. Most players look at Capt. Rage and consider his 7 inch sprint and 1 inch reach, measuring to stay out of an 8 inch threat range. Really good players add in his 2 inch "Quick Time" and calculate a 10 inch threat they need to worry about. Often times even very good player forget about or count on Minx failing a "Marked Target" play granting 2 additional inches of charge.

An additional nice to have benefit is Minx's free charge when Capt. Rage uses his legendary play. That free charge onto an already engaged target reliably delivers 11 dice statistically landing 5 hits for 4 damage and a double dodge away from the combat. Often I've had this spike to wrap 2 or 3 more hits, turning that 4 damage/double dodge into 7/double dodge, double momentum.


Hemlock has delivered some reliable plays for me in numerous games. She is a staple choice when I am facing Hunters, replacing Mist and becoming my striker and healer. She dropped a nicely placed Poison cloud in this tournament and has dished out Blind a couple times here and there. I struggle with her as a striker even though she has a momentous tackle on 1 success and a 3/6+ kick. More often than not I'm finding her not in position to make a kick or as my fail-safe backup if things are not going well.

I also struggle with the short range on her healing. Healing and condition removal is incredibly important when facing Hunters, Butchers, and Smoke led Alchemists. That said, I constantly forget that her range on the heal is only 4 inches. On the bright side, it is a 3 inch AOE of healing, which means that it's not too touch to get it onto 2 or 3 models at a time with how the team plays.


I'm sad to say this, but Decimate is as big of a difference between my Blackheart and Capt. Rage led teams as Gutter. Decimate has not found her way into my Capt. Rage led teams recently. She brings some amazing abilities to the table but needs too much influence to make them work. Minx does better with 0 influence, and even Avarisse brings Greed when he is assigned 0 influence. I've considered adding Decimate into the line-up in place of Gutter when facing Midas, but I'm not sure that will be as good. I need to look at my other choices and see if I like something else better.