Monday, May 30, 2016

Guild Ball - The Scalpel Experience (Morticians)

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

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

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

The Team

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

Scalpel Overview

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

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

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

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

Opinion after 2 games

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 23, 2016

Guild Ball - Get Over Here! tournament report

Recently I attended "Get Over Here!", a small tournament in LaVale MD run by Duane. It was a 2 hour drive up for me but Duane has come out to many of our local tournaments and I wanted to support his first event. In addition to supporting him I was able to see some players from the WV Mountaineers guild ball group which was fun. Unfortunately things did not line up during the day and I ended up not being matched against Brad Mooreland. This is amusing as he and I have been to 4 tournaments together and not played each other, although we are often at close tables. One of these days I'll get a game against him and his Butchers.


Although I think I can remember the lists that my opponents played, I'm going to stick to my previous format for this article. I'll add the lists in the start of each round recap, but still plan to just write a synopsis of the key moments in each game. 

Round 1 - Michael's Morticians

Michael appeared to be a new player, mentioning that his local group brought him up and told him he was going to play in the tournament. He was a great sport and I had a lot of fun in our game.

He was running Obulus, Dirge, Bonesaw, Silence, Ghast, Casket. I won the roll and chose to receive the ball. Overall the game went well but it was fairly quick and went to my favor fairly heavily. Michael was not prepared for the damage that Rage and team can dish out, surprised when Ghast could not soak the incoming attacks from Capt. Rage and Gutter. Additionally his dice truly hated him in this game, with showcase being 5 rolls of 6 dice by Obulus, each rolling a single 4 and five 1's, 2's, and 3's. Michael was only able to pull 2 points out of the game with Obulus killing coin after 2 turns of attacks. The game ended 12 to 2 in my favor, moving me to the top table for round 2.

Round 2 - Jason's (Steve) Hunters

Jason has played in one of my tournaments previously and we had a great time playing against each other this game. He was a great opponent and we were joking with each other through the whole match. Strangely, I had it stuck in my head his name was Steve for the whole day and he kept (nicely) correcting me when I got his name wrong.

Jason brought the Hunters to the tournament, switching from Mason's to try the new team. He brought the starter box line-up of Theron, Fahad, Zarola, Egret, Hearne, Jaecar. He didn't have a bench at all, running those 6 all day. I was really looking forward to facing Hunters due to having a great time playing them in a couple games prior to their release. I was excited to see how much fun they were across the table.

There were a couple key plays in the game which stick out in my memory. The first was Egret moving up on turn 1 to take a flurry shot at coin. Jason was expecting to hit the shot and then dodge Egret back an inch, pulling her out of Gutter's range. He ended up missing the shot which let Gutter move up and pull Egret into the death zone, giving Capt. Rage the ability to kill a model turn 1. This set the tempo for the game with Capt. Rage, gutter, and Coin pushing into his team and unleashing a beating.

The second memorable point of the game was the final play. Unintentionally I had left Rage unengaged when Gutter pulled Zarola into a murder-ball position on the field. Gutter was engaging both Zarola and Jaecar and I won initiative on the turn. Rage, being unengaged, charged across to engage and attack Jaecar and put him down to 2 life remaining. He then used 2 influence to dodge onto Zarola, staying outside Gutter's 2 inch reach. He then attacked Zarola, hitting her and putting her down to 3 health. I then used Red Fury to get Gutter to attack, landing a scything blow on Jaecar and killing he and Zarola for 4 points to win the game.

This game put me on the top table going into round 3 with +20 on my differential.

Round 3 - Dutch's Brewers

Round 3 we had 3 undefeated players lined up for pairings. Based on differential I was sitting at 1st, Dutch was at 2nd, and Brad was at 3rd and facing a "play down" against an opponent who was only 1&1. The top ranked 1&1 was Dixon, who had already faced Brad, raising a pairings question for the TO. At the end of the day, Dixon and Sheridan were swapped (basically swapping the top 1&1 players) and the undefeated matches moved forward with the original pairings.

Dutch is a newer player to Guild Ball, having only played in 1 tournament prior to this one. He is one of my locals and we've played a couple casual games together. This was our first time facing each other competitively, and it was a fantastic game. He was running Esters, Scum, Friday, Spigot, Hooper, Gutter.I was happy to see Gutter in his line-up as I had not faced a player using union so far during the day. I was happy to finally get a chance to use Usurper on Rage's card.

Our game was a long and drawn out punch fest, trading blows on both sides of the table. I ended up landing 2 goals during the game then missing my 3 and game winning goal with Capt. Rage. Dutch landed 1 goal after the mid-point of the game and racked up 3 take-outs during the game. After Cap. Rage missed his goal we played 2 more turns, both dealing damage and looking for a take-out to close out a 10/10 game. I described it on Gamers Lounge as being similar to a Heavy Weight boxing match where both fighters are in round 8 and just throwing body blows until their opponent drops. It was a great match, with me winning initiative on a turn and closing out the game by Capt. Rage killing Spigot.

Brad lost his game to Sheridan on table 2, leaving me as the only undefeated player through the day and the tournament champion.

Tournament 8

I had a fairly straight forward lineup in mind for Capt. Rage. I'm a bit concerned that the Union team led by rage becomes very one dimensional and struggles to switch to a scoring game when necessary. There are core models that want to be played with Capt. Rage as he ramps up their utility and capabilities a great deal. Some models which are already considered good become drastically better when you can effectively give them an additional TAC and 4 additional influence. Here was my tournament 8 and my thoughts on why I had them in my list.

Captain Rage

Veteran Captain Rage is here and I slotted him into Blackhearts slot to lead my team. I decided on him for this tournament based on a couple reasons. First, it was a smaller tournament and a good place to bring him out for a trial run. I was not expecting the same level of competition I see at 4 and 5 round larger tournaments. Second, I feel Capt. Rage really "turns on" Gutter, and the chance to play her with him would be enjoyable, especially in the face of how much worse I feel she is with Blackheart. Lastly, I was expecting one of the other top-table competitors to also run Rage led Union, and the match-up would have been fun but he ended up not using them.

Capt. Rage is Rage ramped up to the next level. He still charges for free and hits really hard. He generates momentum on essentially every hit, and has lots of ways to wrap his playbook by adding in extra TAC. He's lost the ability to make people bleed, but adds a new ability to make his teammates attack on his turn. One of the tricks with Capt. Rage that needs to be adapted to is his need to attack models who are already engaged by other friendly models. This means most fights are being tied up 2 to 1 from your team. It ends with opposing models being taken out, but still ties up 2 of your players per fight.

I also found that Capt. Rage moves the team into a fairly singular fighting and take-out build. This is where they are most efficient and it almost feels like the team starts to fight you when you try to switch to a goal scoring tempo. It's much harder to get the ball back from the opposing team or even line up favorable goals with your team while maintaining efficient play and damage dealing tempo that Rage wants.


Coin is a trooper and I don't have much to add over what I've said previously about him. He's still our only mascot for the time being, but he is one of the best mascots in the game. I find that in a Capt. Rage led team I end up with a bit less use from Coin, but mostly due to positioning. He's giving Bag of Coffers to Mist in the early game, then opportunistically handing it out when Mist takes off to score goals. Where possible I drop it on Gutter, not as much for the free bonus time but more for an extra influence for her to attack with. I also see Coin moving to engage more often, especially considering how much Rage wants gang-up opportunities on the field.


Post-nerf Gutters role in my game has changed drastically. No longer am I looking for her to be able to re-position models for others to kill. Now I'm simply looking to her as a damage dealer. Although I no longer see her as a valuable member of my Blackheart teams, she will always roll out with Capt. Rage. Gutter and Capt. Rage were made for each other, and she's critical to his play style. Gutter is now in a constant hunt for places where she can get 2 or 3 models into her range and manufacture excuses to Scything Blow. This becomes a bit easier when Rage can charge in late in the turn, after opponents have discounted Gutter doing anything else, and then use Red Fury to make Gutter attack out-of-sequence. Although the Bloody Coin on Rage's legendary play does not buff up Scything Blow, if you have multiple models in range it's the play to do.

Overall I'm disappointed that Gutter's control element has been heavily reduced and further disappointed that the team effectively centers on manufacturing favorable combats for her. It's going to get easier for opponents to realize what a lynch-pin player she is in a Rage led team and start to take her out early and often.

Avarisse & Greede

A&G bring two important things to the table for a Capt. Rage led union team. The most important of these is the 7th activation. Detaching Greede for the second influence and extra activation brings a tremendous benefit to Capt. Rage, giving him the ability to pick critical fights each turn. This is especially important when you consider how necessary it is to line up favorable combats for Gutter. Often these two do not even get influence, simply walking during their turn and hoping to engage opposing models to set up targets for Rage to attack.

On the rare situations Avarisse is given an influence or Rage uses Red Fury to make him attack, his second benefit to the team comes in. Singled Out being dropped onto a target opponent is a fantastic gift to building those key fights during the turn. Singled Out will almost guarantee Gutter her scything blows, and that starts to show where she'll be targeting on the turn. Additionally, Rage no longer has Maverick so can take advantage of the extra TAC as well.


Mist is still a core selection on my team, and has moved to a must-take in my core 6 since playing at Snowball earlier this year. Arguably the second best or best striker in the game, Mist is where we get goals from on Union. He fills the same role with Rage as he did with Blackheart.

I'm starting to set-up first turn goals with him and then hoping to either receive the ball or  find a way to get the ball through tackling it away or goal-kicking in return to an opponents first turn goal. A Rage led team can put that extra goal influence to use very effectively, necessitating landing a goal early in the game.


Decimate continues to place among my favorite players in the game. She is incredibly versatile and simply loses out on the Capt. Rage team to Gutter. Decimate is an amazing damage dealer under Capt. Rage's legendary play but loses out on the consistent +Damage she gets with Blackheart. I tend to use her more for harassment, grabbing the ball, and second wind for when she's near Mist. Occasionally I'll use Coin to toss her an extra influence and she'll swoop in to finish off an opposing player who I might need to clean up with 1-3 more damage for the take out.

On the Rage led team she becomes one of my swap out positions on the team, being the easiest to replace among the primary line-up.


I'm including Hemlocke into my union line-ups due to the increased condition play in Season 2. Her original role of bringing Blind to the game to combat Butchers and other heavy hitters is no longer as useful following the nerfs to blind. Hemlocke was also directly nerfed across the two errata's, making her easier to hit and reducing her reach overall. She dropped from my 8-player lineup for a while due to those changes, but has returned due to her healing abilities. Being able to drop a 3-inch AOE heal that also drops conditions has become very important with the new S2 players. Hemlocke only made my game versus Hunters in this tournament, and didn't actually do a lot during that game. I pushed so hard against the Hunters that my opponent didn't have many chances to put Snared out on the field. Regardless I still feel she has a spot on the team, especially facing Filet, Smoke, and Hunters.


I want to like Snakeskin and have been regularly putting her in my 8-player lineups. Unfortunately she's just not leaving my tray for the table. Snakeskin is really good at getting and holdling onto the ball. She also has a good enough kick to work as a back-up striker. This role is not served well when facing Obulus, so taking her out in round 1 would not have served me well. Against Hunters it's more important to have Hemlocke on the field. Against Brewers I could have taken her, but instead chose Decimate for the Second Wind and armor piercing. I still think there's a play for her with Capt. Rage as a place to park the ball and potentially switch over to goal scoring. Perhaps in a future tournament she'll win the whole thing for me.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

It's getting Dusty around here!

Things have been quiet around here since February, it frustrates me to look at that. It's not that I haven't had idea for articles, it just life has piled up on lack of motivation.

A variety of reasons put me in a situation where I decided to jump into online college courses at the end of last year. The program I've decided to do requires I take some very basic level college classes. This is not a bad thing, especially for those students who've just completed seconday school (High School) and are entering college for the first time. These students have no real-world experience and are early in their lives.

I'm a fair journey away from those students, having worked in my career field for 24 years already, with the past 13 years as an executive for consulting firms. I'm also an autodidact who loves to read, lending to being very well-read across a wide span of material and subjects.

So.... one of the courses I just took was a Freshman level English Composition class. This is a basic university level writing class which I'm confident is supremely helpful to new students. It was completely frustrating to me, and really killed my motivation for casual writing on my blog and elsewhere. My professor acted determined to treat all students in the class as if they were at the same experience and skill level, and the level she chose was that of a recent high-school graduate. During the class my attempts to break out of this mold during discussions or in private correspondence was not effective. That ratcheted my frustration up to fairly high levels, which ended up being unleashed in my class assignments.

I ended up with high marks (A) in the class, which I'm happy with. At least it's now out of the way and I shouldn't need to take a similar class again. I was concerned about this course of study and if I would run into this type of instructor in my classes. Much of the coursework required for this program will be entirely review for me, and at a level that's below my current education and capability levels. I'm anxious about facing similarly frustrating instructors and classes moving forward and this class has only increased that anxiety.

Regardless, the blog is back and I have a series of articles about Guild Ball, Games, Book reviews, and all things DTP coming up. First full length hobby article back will be up Monday morning, talking about a recent Guild Ball tournament I attended.