Monday, January 4, 2016

How to pick Guild Ball Guild Plots

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2016 with a tactics article for Guild Ball. I have not played in a tournament yet, nor have I had the chance to play all the teams. I've only faced Alchemists once and do not even own Engineers. All that said, I have acted as TO for a couple events and have played my fair share of games with the majority of the teams. I'm confident that as season 2 begins to appear on the horizon I've become very comfortable with the Season 1 Guild Plots. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on that for anyone new to Guild Ball and struggling with which plots to choose when. I'm also happy to share my thoughts for any future tournament opponents I face.

Season 1 Guild Plot Overview

Guild Plots are a portion of the game that is typically added once a new player has 3-4 games of experience. These expand the options within the game, adding in reaction plays that will augment a team's strategy while not dictating the overall flow the the game. These are game changing from the perspective of adding some depth while not completing changing the overall game or play strategy. Players will be dealt 5 guild plot cards from a shared 12 plot deck before the start of the game. Each player will then choose 3 of the 5 plots to keep, discarding 2.

The season 1 Guild Plots can be roughly split into four categories:
  • Defensive: Don't Touch the Hair, Keep the Ball, Man Down, Protect Your Balls
  • Responsive: Knee Slider, Make a Game of It, Vengeance, Who Are Ya
  • Offensive: Man Marking
  • Recovery: Miraculous Recovery, Second Wind, Sideline Repairs
You can see that in Season 1 we have only a single offensive plot to use and the majority (7) focused on defense and recovery. Digging into the Guild Plots also uncovers an interesting split with 5 directly related to goal scoring, passing, and tackles while 6 are tied to take outs. It's a fairly even split, a good way for the designers to open up season 1 and guage how players will play the game.

 Defensive Guild Plots

Don't Touch the Hair - Don't Touch the Hair is a universally good guild plot, one that should almost always be picked if it shows up in your selection. In response to an opponent declaring an attack or a charge this plot can be played to allow the target model to make a 2" dodge following the completion of the attack. This plot is useful against both football and damage focused teams, allowing models to shift out of dangerous combats following an attack. It's important to remember that the dodge occurs immediately following the completion of the attack so will often be counterproductive when counter-attacking. This combines particularly well with the defensive stance momentous play.

In the event this is not in your hand you should always assume your opponent has it in theirs. The best (and often only) way to counter this plot is using a character with a 2 inch reach. In this situation the goal is to advance into B2B contact with the target model before making an attack. This will allow you to continue making attacks after the opponent dodges away.

Selection Priority: Tier 0 - always choose

Keep Ball - Keep ball is a guild plot which requires a successful pass play to be performed in order to use it. Upon completion of a successful pass which generates momentum the receiving player gains close control. This is a situational plot which I only choose when playing specific strategies with specific teams. It can be helpful when I'm playing a footballing team that's looking to score goals as the primary win condition of the game. I'll often choose this with Fishermen, a footballing Masons team (Mist plus Flint), or a footballing Union team. I'll likely add this to my selection roster when taking Alchemists as well.

There is a bit of setup required to get the most use from this gild plot. I'll be looking for situations where I can pass the ball to a striker (or back-up striker) who still needs to move up the field and doesn't have an open path to the goal. I'll use this plot to keep possession of the ball while taking parting-blows on my way to a goal-shot position. I've also used this card to frustrate my opponent when facing a footballing team, using close control to force extra influence on the tackles. This plot pairs particularly well with Snakeskin, Hemlock, Friday, and Angel who can all easily reach 5+ defense and threaten the goal.

Selection Priority: Tier 2 - when playing Fishermen, Alchemists, Select Masons, Union, Brewers
                               Tier 3 - in other situations

Man Down - Man Down is a very strong guild plot to select when facing a team that focuses on dealing damage and take-outs as their scoring strategy. In the situation where one of your models has been taken-out resulting from an opponents attack or play Man Down will grant an additional +1 Arm to all other models on your team. This can be particularly nasty for already resilient teams such as Union, Brewers, and Masons. This creates a situation where your team becomes very tough to land attacks on for one turn. It's important to watch when this is played however, as playing it near the end of the turn negates the usefulness of the plot.

This plot is a good choice when facing Union and Butchers, and can be additionally useful against some Brewers lineup's. It will rarely benefit you when facing Fishermen, Engineers, or Alchemists due to either the rarity of a take-out or the lack of benefit from armor.

Selection Priority: Tier 2 - when facing Butchers, Union, Masons
                               Tier 3 - when facing Fishermen, Engineers, Alchemists

Protect Your Balls - Protect Your Balls (PYB) is a plot played after a model is tackled and loses the ball. This plot allows you to make an immediate counter-attack that ignore the 1-counter-attack per model rule and also does not cost momentum. This is an excellent plot to choose if given the option, almost always useful during a game. The rare exception to this plot being useful is when forced to pass the ball by Obulous or Siren, or when losing the ball due to knock-down. Considering most Strikers in the game have access to a low success Tackle in their own playbooks, this plot will often regain control of the ball.

Countering this plot can be fairly difficult as it requires some specific plays. Obulous and Siren can both force an opponents model to pass the ball avoiding the tackle requirement on this plot. Players such as Spigot with access to "Balls Gone" can shuffle the ball to another player, counteracting the benefits to the PYB counter attack. Aside from that your typically relying on high defense and armor to counteract this plot.

Selection Priority: Tier 1 - almost always choose

Responsive Guild Plots

Knee Slider - Knee Slider is an interesting Guild Plot which is very situational but I often choose. Knee Slider is going to be most useful on a team where you're scoring goals. Instead of spending the Goal earned momentum to "run the length" for a 4 inch dodge, Knee Slider allows your scoring model to dodge their max movement. This is very helpful for making a fairly drastic reposition on the board in anticipation of the opponents goal kick.

I often find myself using this with my long-range strikers who are looking to reposition into a threatening position to take the ball back next turn. I'm looking for a position on the board that let's me activate on the following turn and get to my opponents model holding the ball in order to tackle it and then pass to another of my models or shoot on the goal. I've also used this to reposition models such as Mash at the edge of his 6 or 8 inch threat range to receive a snap-shot later in the turn.

This is rarely a card to worry about in order to counter. Keep an eye on where you opponent positions their model after playing this plot then work around the new positioning as best as possible. This is more of a set-up card than a big game swing.

Selection Priority: Tier 2 - when playing a team that's going to score a goal

Make a Game of it -  This plot is an excellent choice when facing a scoring team. The turn after conceding the first goal of the game you will gain +2 influence to your influence pool (only for that turn). These influence can be used to open up a number of options for your team, often super-powering your ability to respond to the first goal. When facing fast scoring teams such as Fishermen, Alchemists, and scoring Masons it's very common that you'll be conceding the first goal anyway. This plot allows you to benefit from it.

I've found use for this plot even when playing a scoring team myself. Adding in an additional 2 influence can often enable a second or third striker on the team, setting me up for making back-to-back same turn goals. This can surprise my opponent, tipping the game heavily in my favor. Part of the trick to using this Guild Plot is to not telegraph that you have it. Play your turns as normal but leave openings for your opponent to swoop in and score. The more like a mistake this looks the better the impact to playing this plot.

Selection Priority: Tier 1 - almost always choose unless playing as Fishermen or facing Butchers

Vengeance - Vengeance is a plot that's played in response to having one of your models taken-out by an attack or character play. This plot applies a Vengeance token to the attacking enemy model that can be spent by any of your friendly models later in the game. Vengeance tokens are particularly dangerous as they generate 4 automatic successful hits during an attack. These hits will combine with other actions your taking, often guaranteeing a nasty response in terms of multiple damage results (due to wrapping) or triggering a desired character play.

It is important to note that these successful hits can only be used in combination with an attack, and cannot be combined with influence-fueled character plays.

This plot is particularly good when facing any teams that will attack and cause take-outs. The only teams this is rarely a benefit against are Fishermen and Alchemists. Even footballing lineups in Masons, Brewers, and Engineers will often make attacks and take-out players as part of their strategy.

Selection Priority: Tier 1 - almost always choose except when facing Fishermen or Alchemists

Who Are Ya? -  The mirror image to Vengeance is the guild plot Who Are Ya?. In this case a vengeance token is applied to the opponents model after they score a goal. This has all the same benefits as the vengeance token from the vengeance guild plot and is used exactly the same.

This plot is going to be equally beneficial as Vengeance, except when facing Butchers. Even a heavy hitting Union or Brewers team will regularly keep one goal-scoring threat available to grab easy points. Vengeance will assure those hard to hit high defense models are much easier to take down after scoring a goal.

Selection Priority: Tier 1 - almost always choose except when facing Butchers

Offensive Guild Plots

Man Marking - Man Marking is an interesting Guild Plot for a number of reasons. It's the only Guild Plot which I define as an offensive plot to use. This plot grants +2 influence on the turn after you take out the opponents captain with an attack or character play. This forces you to set-up your team to take down a player who is often the most resilient and toughest to target on the opponents team. Taking out the opponents captain has the added effect of weakening the overall effectiveness of your opponents team, often placing the captain out of position on the next turn (due to icy-sponge returns) and potentially hamstringing a team for the turn if the captain is taken out early.

Taking out an opponents captain requires a fair bit of planning along with coming to the pitch with a heavy damage dealing team. Union and Butchers are particularly skilled at delivering the required take-out, with Masons and Brewers coming in closely after. This plot can be particularly hard to achieve with Fishermen, and can be a fair bit of work with the other teams. Morticians can dedicate resources to achieve this fairly well with Obulous, Ghast, and Casket but things need to go their way.

Selection Priority: Tier 1 - Butchers, Union, Masons, some Morticians
                               Tier 3 - Others teams pending build
                               Tier 4 - Fishermen

Recovery Guild Plots

Miraculous Recovery - Miraculous Recovery is the first of the the three recovery focused guild plots. This plot comes into play when a friendly model is taken-out and immediately gains maximum icy sponge tokens. This allows the model come back to the field on the following turn at a higher health level than normal.

This plot appears to be helpful when facing teams that focus on damage and take-outs as their primary scoring strategy. You should count on models being taken out when facing Butchers and damage focused Union, so this plot should be good in those cases. In those situations I do not rate this highly, placing it well behind a general purpose plot such as Don't Touch the Hair, Protect Your Balls, or one of the vengeance plots.

If the overall choices in guild plots are all lower priority, this plot can be useful. There is a strategy playing a fast goal-scoring team counting on the opponent taking out the scoring model following the goal. The scoring model then returns to the board on the following turn aiming for another fast goal. Playing this strategy can benefit from this plot.

Selection Priority: Tier 4 - rarely helpful unless playing a score/take-out/return strategy.

Second Wind - The second of the Recovery Guild Plots is Second Wind, allowing a model returned to the table via the Icy Sponge rule to advance up to their max movement stat. This can be useful for a goal scoring team that's facing a highly focused damage dealing team. Picking up an the additional movement can be critical for placement of a returning striker, especially in the situation where the striker is starting from the forward corners of the deployment area. This is marginally less helpful in a combat oriented team due to the comparatively lower movement statistics on combat oriented models.

Overall I rate this plot the highest of the Recovery Guild Plots. This still places it less favorably than they key priority 0 and 1 guild plots that are more useful.

Selection Priority: Tier 3 - Useful for a goal-scoring team

Sideline Repairs -Sideline Repairs is the third and final of the Recovery focused Guild Plots. This plot allows a model which is returning to play via the Icy Sponge rule to return to the table an additional 8 inches up the pitch. This nearly doubles the reach for the returning model, increasing the threat for return scoring or returning to support a combat.

Overall this does not increase the value of the recovery plot for me. I find that there are some corner case situations where this plot could be useful, but not as useful as others. It's important to keep in mind while using this plot that the returning model is still vulnerable and not at full health. Returning vulnerable models so far up the field could as dangerous as it is helpful.

Selection Priority: Tier 4 - marginally useful but not as much as other plots

Final Standings

That concludes my review of Guild Plots and how or why to choose them. My ratings start at Tier 0 rating for an always choose to a Tier 4 rating, with the lower rating being more desirable. As a quick summary, here is how the ratings came out:
  • Tier 0 - Don't Touch the Hair
  • Tier 1 - Protect Your Balls, Make a Game of it, Vengeance, Who Are Ya?, Man Marking*
  • Tier 2 - Keep Ball, Knee Slider, Man Down*
  • Tier 3 - Man Down*, Man Marking*, Second Wind, 
  • Tier 4 - Man Marking*, Miraculous Recovery, Sideline Repairs

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