Monday, October 19, 2015

Guildball - Union Team Review

I've been playing with the Union team for several weeks now and feel I have a good handle on them and how they work together. I thought this was a good time to review my second Guild Ball team and share what I've learned. I'll again refer people over to Docbungle at Miniature Musing's of the Bear and his character write-ups, found using the Team Talk tag. He has also handled Union already, without the overall team review.

Union Team Overview

The Union has been billed as the "Dirty Tricks" team from early in the kickstarter, and earns that reputation in the story of the game. On the table I can see how they live up to that reputation, although I think they obtain it in a unique fashion. I find that the Union is similar to the Masons, where the team functions as a machine built upon the player components used to build it. Union teams can be built to operate in a number of different ways, each of which approach winning a game of guild ball in thier own way.

The variety of choices within the Union combined with the large number of players makes the Union one of the more difficult teams to fully grasp on the table. It's possible to put together a Union team that can dish out nearly as much damage as the Butchers, then play a different union lineup in your next game which scores goals and maneuvers nearly as fast as the Fishermen. It's possible to play a game with a lineup that dishes out up to 3 different conditions in a turn (Bleed, Poison, Knockdown), and also leaves clouds of smoke on the table to provide cover. The magic to the Union comes with deciding which tactic to take then insert the requisite team members to build out a team to deliver.

One of the largest differences I see between the Union and other guild teams is how it approaches synergy. On other teams the players tend to have abilities that combine together to strengthen one or two players on the team. This creates strong combo's across a whole team, where each team's player combined to form a greater than the sum result. The union is exactly the sum of it's parts (players). I find combinations of plays within the union are fairly straight forward additions of each individual player to reach a desired result. On most teams there are lynch pin players who can be taken out to break apart a strong combo, but those players are often tough to get to, or tough to take out. The Union suffers from a situation where each player contributes exactly what they contribute, minimizing the risk of a lynch pin player, but reducing the overall team effectiveness as players are taken out. There is not really a quick drop of a set of plays stopping to work, but a gradual weakening of the entire teams play style.

This effect of an overall weakening vs lynch pin play can be a boon and a curse for union players. In a situation where the union player knows the roles of each of his models intricately it becomes very tough to stop that player from achieving his/her goals. There is not really a place to maximize efforts to reduce that players success in the game, but you have to wear them down over the whole game. In the converse situation where the player is not yet familiar with what their team does, the whole team will not work well. The Union team becomes clumsy and each of the model's can tend to get in the way of each other, hampering a final positive result of play combinations.

Let's take a look at the individual players and their roles on the field.


The team captain for the Union is one nasty character to tangle with. Here we have a Pirate Captain turned Mercenary King turned Guild Ball captain, who holds his own with dirty tricks on the field. Blackheart has abilities that give him very good mobility while also bringing a great sword to play for beating down his opponents. His playbook is interesting, with very light contributions at low levels of success, and incredible momentous plays with 5 and 6 successes.  He can really dish out the damage if he can get the hits, with all of his 5 & 6 success plays combining damage with another effect such as Tackle, Knockdown, or dodges. Blackheart also have the Commanding Aura play, allowing him to raise an aura which buffs the damage and TAC of other players on his team. I spoke about his role in the Union Brute squad in an earlier article on this blog.


I can make the argument that Coin is functionally the best mascot in the game. He may not be the best sculpt or the most fun with his rules, but he makes the most significant contribution of any mascot in Season 1. Coin has a trait (Bag of Coffers) that allows him to give a model on the team (including himself) one additional influence plus a single free use of Bonus Time once per turn. He only needs to be within 4 inches of the target model, and can do this at no cost during his turn. This is an amazing ability that is only restricted from Blackheart and Rage within the team (due to Blackheart being a captain and Rage's Maverick). Additionally, Coin has a really good move stat along with a 2 inch reach, making him a real threat to players on the table.


Rage is arguably one of my favorite players in the game, not just on the Union team. I started out liking his sculpt but favoring other models in the game. The more I use Rage in the Union and other teams the more I like him overall. Here I will discuss his play's in relation to the Union team as a whole. Rage is incredibly influence efficient, combining free charges with furious and free attacks with berserk.  This means Rage can use his single influence to reliably pump out 4 attacks a turn, most of which will produce momentum when used. Berserk only gives a free attack upon damage, so the first and third hit Rage does will always include some sort of damage in order to maximize his abilities, and most of his damage plays produce momentum. Added in, Rage causes the bleed condition on models, leaving behind a reminder why he is a nasty character to deal with. Check out the previously linked Union Brute Squad article for a discussion on how he works best.


Decimate is a lot of fun to use, finding her way into two different Union play styles overall. Decimate has some really good movement stats and abilities (Second Wind) which combine with her mid-field (3/6") kick stat to make her a contributor to a Union scoring team. She also has a playbook which becomes downright scary when combined with abilities that increase damage, such as Blackheart's Commanding Aura. Decimate truly shines as a momentum generator, easily producing one momentum per influence and occasionally able to produce 2 per influence spent. The only challenge I find with Decimate on a team is she needs a lot of influence to make her excel, often looking for 3 and 4 influence from the team pool. This influence is always well spent, but limits the activities the rest of the team will take. In this way Decimate moves the Union team to resemble other teams where multiple models are grouped together to super-buff a single model to achieve results. That tends to be counter to Union game success.


Gutter seems to be the most hated player in Guild Ball currently. I am not sure she deserves the amount of bile she draws, but she is a very good player. In Gutter we have the third member of the Union Brute Squad, along with some very useful abilities. Gutter has a good move and kick, allowing her to contribute to a football scoring team, although she really shines for damage dealing. Scything Blow lets her trigger one of the very few plays that affect multiple models and push out at least 3 damage to all targets. Her high TAC plus ability to heal when damaging AND ignore armor make her a real threat on the field.  Finally she brings Chain Grab, an ability to reposition enemy models to locations that better suit the needs of the Union. All of this combined make her a high priority target for other teams to hate and take out.


 Mist is also climbing the charts as one of the more hated models in the game. Mist is the Union striker, along with clocking in as one of the best strikers in the game. I've written my soap-box stance on if Mist is overpowered in an earlier article, and will not rehash it here. Mist brings high movement and strong goal scoring to the table as any striker should. He can quickly reposition where he is and fills the role of striker exceptionally. This means that he only threatens on that axis of the game, bringing nothing useful for combat and damage dealing. Mist does his job well and only his job. I like to have Mist included on all my union teams, as he adds another threat component to my damage dealing Union which my opponent needs to contend with.


Hemlocke is the single player in Guild Ball that I could support an argument portraying her as "broken" or "not working as intended". Hemlocke is the only player with a natural 6 defense, making her incredibly resilient. She brings some intriguing and "out of the box" abilities to the team, applying conditions, hobbling the opposing models, and having a good movement and moderate kick for goal scoring.  Overall it appears that Hemlocke was a collection of moderate abilities which were all cool, that all grouped together to becomes far more than was intended. She looks like a behind the lines player who can buff/debuff/harass players. She ended up being a player who can sit inside a scrum nearly untouchable and move the ball to score while completely hamstringing opposing players. The only thing Hemlocke is clearly bad at is dealing damage, although even on this side her ability to dish out poison makes her a secondary threat.


Snakeskin brings an intriguing "sideways" playstyle to the  Union, earning her a key place on the team. She is an overall defensive player, scaling her defense with abilities such as Charmed Male, Nimble, and Clone. She is another mid-range movement and ball handling player, contributing the the Union scoring team. She also brings along an easy application of poison to enemy players. These abilities combine to create a very versatile "swing" player on the field, able to withstand enemy focus and quickly disengage after dealing some damage.

Avarrisse & Greede

Avarrisse and Greede are the only player in the game who brings two players in a single model. This is not only unique from a modelling perspective, but also the particular play ability that you are going to include them on a team for. A&G are also the only Union player that can play for every guild in the game. At the start of every turn, A&G can choose to separate into 2 players who each bring influence and an activation to the team. This means that the Union could achieve 7 players to activate on the field, guaranteeing them the ability to out activate their opponent.  In the event that the two are separated and in base contact during a maintenance phase, they can choose to recombine to a single player and model and moving forward as a single choice. Avarrisse is a "big player", bringing a low defense but a load of wounds to the table. Conversely, Greede is a small model who's hard to hit but only has 4 total wounds before being taken out. Greede, once taken out, cannot be returned to play. Greede can only be taken out while separate from Avarrisse however, providing him protection from VP hunters. There are a number of tactics that can be employed with this player, none of which are direct or easy to walk through. Success in using A&G comes down to putting in a fair bit of time to learn how to use him and get the best use from them on the table.


Big and ugly and the model I like least in the entire game of Guild Ball. I have read several comments from other players on how much they love the Fangtooth sculpt. Overall he has been my least favorite sculpt in the game, but that's personal taste for you. Fangtooth has earned a reputation of being a "not so good" choice for union teams. He brings an aura that creates slow terrain, but it affects his own team. He has the most wounds in the game but no armor and a low defense.  His heroic play buffs him but damages his own team. All of these make him a tough model to play with on the team. Fangtooth also brings some of the easiest Knockdown results to the Union, along with some real damage dealing potential. He is resilient along with being able to generate momentum on some key playbook plays only he has easy access to. Overall I believe Fangtooth is a very situationally good player, who is a moderate choice in some situations and a very good choice in others. I do not see where he is a bad choice once you learn how to avoid his "gotcha" plays. Considering that, he is one of the few "gotcha" choice players in the game.


I'd like to be able to talk about Mynx, but I have not assembled or played her yet. She is in my queue of models to build and paint. Once that's done I'll be getting her on the table to try out.

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