Miniature games usually are in constant flux. Rules changes, the addition of new models, and of course the odd total revamp of the game. This has also happened within the beautiful game that we call Guild Ball. Here is a small recap of what has happened since the Longshanks started recording games, and a little bit of history of even before that.
SEASON 1 — 2014-2016
Guild Ball started out as a Kickstarter project with four Guilds: the Butchers, the Fishermen, the Morticians and the Masons. These stood for fighting, scoring, control and allround, respectively. Stretch goals were the Engineers as a gunline squad, the Brewers as a tanky squad, the Alchemists as the condition-based squad and the Union as a band of mercenaries. These eight teams made up the early days of Guild Ball. Sadly, the Steamforged Blog and the Longshanks have next to no information on Season 1. This was when the game was getting its bearings, and grew out be played in multiple countries. Luckily enough, Steamforged was innovative enough to work with the Youtube platform, giving us loads of information through short video updates, presented by Jamie Giblin, of which a small snippet is shown below.
Mostly, these were spoilers for season 2 models, and updates regarding shipping and Steamforged sanctioned events.
Still, I guess we should be happy that season 1 is in the past, as it gave rise to cards like these…
SEASON 2 — 2016
The second season of Guild Ball was effectively launched at Salute at April 16th in 2016, where the Hunters Guild was also released. It was also the home of the actual first Guild Ball World Championship, of which the finals would be played at the first SteamCon at the 27th of November of that year.
2016-2016 – Series One
A new set of plot cards, second captains (Smoke, Esters, Fillet, Pin Vice, Corsair, Hammer, Scalpel and Rage), second mascots, new squaddies, the first card errata, and the Kick Off box-set was released. Also, an alternate League style was added, with an entirely new set of Guild-specific plot cards: the Big League. Season 2 was just EPIC, and it’s clear to see how the game of Guild Ball has had its massive growth in amount of players during this time. Also, we had the first ever community event with the Butcher Civil War!
Loads of things were also spoiled for Season 3 during this season:
- As you can see in the Midas card above, models had multiple Icy Sponge levels. Come back next turn? First level. Come back second turn after being taken out? Second level. This rule was simplified to each model now having a single Icy Sponge level.
- Mascots now also getting an Icy Sponge level instead of just being removed from the game after a take-out, and them also just giving 1 VP instead of the full 2 VP for a take-out.
- The addition of heroic plays on certain models to get Mascots back into play after they were taken out before the start of the new turn. [Creation]
- Remember how players going second in a turn will receive a point of momentum? Season 1 and 2 didn’t have that!
When looking at competitive matches, the second season was ruled by the beatiest of beaters: the Union and the Butchers. Masons and Morticians were also quite strong, Alchemists, Brewers and Fishermen were middle of the pack, and the Hunters and Engineers were at the bottom of the barrel.
Sadly, there is no captain data available, but I cán find the top 5 players of the world, and the top players of their Guilds.
- Jordan Nach with a 17-1 result and a ranking of 631
- Edward Ball with a 19-3 result and a ranking of 630
- Daniel Harwood with a 17-4 result and a ranking of 585
- Greg Day with a 13-6 result and a ranking of 529
- Jonathan Cannon with a 11-7 result and a ranking of 528
- Alchemists: Parker
- Brewers: Jason Mountain
- Butchers: Thomas Simms
- Engineers: John Parish
- Fishermen: Jonathan Cannon
- Hunters: Stick
- Masons: Daniel Harwood
- Morticians: Edward Ball
- Union: Bill Anderson
Because of the novelty of the game, the amount of games played was still a strong factor to decide the top players of each Guild. There is cause to give James Long the Alchemist spot, Alex Botts or Chris Tamplin the Butcher spot, and Alex Shaver the Hunter spot, but I’m going with ratings for now.
The World Championship Finals were held at the 27th of November. Eight players would decide who the first Guild Ball world champion would be: Germany’s Tim Wischniowski, USA’s Jordan Nach, Australia’s Trent Denison, Canada’s, Jordan Murphy, and UK’s Stephen Easton, Steve Newton, Henry Kay and Edward Ball. In the end, Tim Wischniowski won the cup with his Morticians, giving Germany their first win.
SEASON 3 — 2016-2018
Launched at SteamCon 2016, we were told that the amount of Guilds was going to be increased, starting with the Farmers Guild! We were also informed that the next World Championship track would contain multiple Regional Qualifiers, Regional Tournaments, and National Tournaments, of which the Nationals winners would get a place in the Championship Finals at the next SteamCon in 2017. These Nationals were in Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. The first ever World Team Championship was also held in 2017.
2016-2017 – Series Two
After the spoilers for the Farmer’s Guild, we also received spoilers for the Blacksmiths, and the Kick-Off Guilds received extra models: Pint Pot and Granite. Also, the Union received a third captain, Brisket. This was a direct result of the previous community event, the Butcher Civil War. Together with this captain, they also received Benediction and Grace – a first look at the Solthecian Order. We also got the second box for the Hunters, containing Skatha, and at the same time received loads of lore and strategy blogs for the Hunters. Steamforged saw that they were struggling competitively, and I think that this was an attempt at getting people to still play them.
The first ‘errata’ of the third season didn’t actually get any changed cards or rules. Basically, Steamforged created a public FAQ and errata document, and got all of their online resources up to date with the current season 3 rules.
In May of 2017, a change was made to the Organised Play Document:
- Tiebreakers were now cleared in the following order: tournament points scored, strength of schedule, and lastly the opponent’s strength of schedule. This was made possible by the addition of these values through the Longshanks online database system.
- Drafting was changed so that captains and mascots had to be chosen first, after dealing plot cards, but before rolling for initiative. After the initiative roll, the final four models were drafted.
- Tournament rosters were expanded to 10 models.
- Draws were removed from competitive play. After dice down, the game win is awarded to the kicking player.
- Round lengths were extended to 110 minutes, giving people some breathing room in between rounds.
Also, in July of 2017, Steamforged came up with an experiment for the players to try out: Pitch Formations. Something that was heard often by the design team was that the first turn usually felt rather stale and boring, and that the playtime for a single match was long. With these Pitch Formations, they wanted to try and ‘skip turn 1’, getting right into the action from the get go. While it was fun for a while, it never really crystallized out though.
During this same month, the first actual errata was carried out. We were now in season 3.1. These changes were to Midas (huge nerf), Vitriol (nerf), Ox (small buff), Shark (huge nerf), Siren (nerf), Veteran Siren (slight rework), Theron (buff), Hearne (buff), Hammer (buff), Avarisse and Greede (huge rework) and Harry the Hat (nerf). This errata was 100% focused against Alchemists and Fishermen, which were slightly overtuned and basically dominated tournaments.
In August, Steamforged released the Escalation League pack – a League pack for groups that wanted to play a local league-like tournament. It also included the second dual-Guild model for the game: the Brewer’s and Mason’s Lucky. In that same month, we also had the Launch Packs for the Farmer’s Guild!
In September, Steamforged came to us for another round of playtesting for beta rules. This time, it were the Guild Identity Cards. These Identities could be played before the match to provide your team with a buff for the entirety of the match. They also affected the heal rate, or the amount of health a player would gain when they used momentum to heal themselves or their teammates. These were awesome, but sadly also just another community playtesting round. These rules were never implemented into the core game.
In October, the second community event was announced: the Union in Chains. During this event, the original eight major Guilds would strive to get hold of a new version of some of the Union players.
- The Fishermen and Butchers would battle it out for the possession of Gutter.
- The Masons and Brewers would battle it out for the possession of Decimate.
- The Morticians and Hunters would battle it out for the possession of Hemlocke.
- The Engineers and Alchemists would battle it out for the possession of Harry the Hat.
In the end, the Butchers won Gutter, the Brewers won Decimate, the Engineers won Harry, and Obulus did some tricksy stuff to get hold of Hemlocke, offering Minx back to the Hunters.
In November of 2017, another alternate League type was added to the game: the Rookie League. Rookies gave something to the game that hadn’t been there before: player progression during a tournament/league. After every match, coaches could level up their rookies, which would end up as bonafide captain-like models after 10 games. The rookies were Venin, Ferrite, Mash, Boiler, Salvo, Windle, Jac, Zarola, Chisel, Ghast and Fangtooth. Each rookie received a separate ‘rookie’ model.
Also, the second box of the Farmers would become playable at SteamCon USA. Something that will be remembered until this day, because of the strength of a certain captain…
The third season wasn’t yet done in 2017, but I wanted to see what happened in a full year of competitive play – from the 28th of November 2016 until December 3rd of 2017, which was SteamCon USA and the date of the World Championship Finals. Series Two would be defined by the dominance of the Alchemists and Fishermen before the 3.1 errata, with Farmers and Union being runner’s up. The middle of the pack was made up out of the Engineers, Masons, Butchers and Morticians, and the Blacksmiths, Hunters and Brewers came in last.
This was also the year that the Longshanks implemented captain-data. Sadly, this was done áfter the 3.1 errata, which means that these numbers deviate quite from the Guild percentages. It does give a clear image at what was strong at the end of season three: Thresher reigned supreme, Corsair and Hammer were his immediately followers, and Veteran Rage, Ox, and both Mortician captains were the only other captains with a 50+% win rate percentage. The absolute worst of the worst were Honour, Grange, Esters, Pin Vice, Skatha and Blackheart, showing that Masons, Farmers and Union were mostly considered as a one-captain team at that time.
Looking at the rankings, we can see the following Guild Leaders and also the new top 5 of the World.
- Alchemists: Vincent Curkov
- Blacksmiths: Henri-Pekka Henttonen
- Brewers: Patrick Van Valzah
- Butchers: Patrick Vance
- Engineers: Tim Wischniowski
- Farmers: Jonathan Mitchell
- Fishermen: Patrice Lopes Faceira
- Hunters: Blaine Dobson
- Masons: Fraser McFetridge
- Morticians: Charles Nurser
- Union: Alex Botts
The Series Two World Championship track had the following Nationals winners:
- Sweden: Rickard Andersson
- Ireland: Fraser McFetridge
- United Kingdom: JJ Layfield
- Australia: Peter Williamson
- Canada: Blaine Dobson
- Germany: Christian Metz
- USA: Alex Botts
- SteamCon UK qualifier: Henry Kay
One of these eight players would be crowned World Champion. In the end, it was Alex Botts and his Farmers left standing.
- Alex Botts with a 40-7 result and a rating of 665
- Patrice Lopes Faceria with a 26-1 result and a rating of 662
- Tim Wischiowksi with a 33-6 result and a rating of 657
- Jordan Nach with a 50-6 result and a rating of 655
- Peter Williamson with a 18-3 result and a rating of 653
Disclaimer: Christian Metz might also be on this list, but he has hidden his information from Longshanks, so I’m not 100% sure. Still, as a World Championship Finals contender over Tim, I feel he deserves this shout-out.
2017-2018 – Series Three
After Series Two of the World Championship, Steamforged announces that Series Three would have even more National tournaments, namely 15! These were:
- USA West
- Canada East
- United Kingdom
- Canada West
- USA East
The World Championship Finals would be held at SteamCon UK 2018, where a Last Chance Qualifier would also be held for the sixteenth spot.
At SteamCon, there were also some huge spoilers for what was coming up ahead. Instead of choosing to increase the model count of the existing Guilds, Steamforged had chosen to create ‘Minor Guilds’. Every Major Guild would get their respective Minor Guild, of which three Minors would be spoiled at SteamCon: the Morticians would get the Ratcatchers, the Hunters would get the Falconers, and the Union would get the Solthecian Order. These Minor Guilds would contain six models, of which two would be able to ‘play up’ for their respective major Guild, and two members of the major Guild would be able to ‘play down’ for the minor. Knowing that we had eleven Major Guilds, we now knew that in the end, Guild Ball would be a game consisting of 22 guilds!
Right after SteamCon USA, still in 2017, Steamforged made some more changes to the Organised Play Document.
- Coloured plastics and resins didn’t have painting restrictions anymore.
- Rolling for initiative was now placed before the choice of captain and mascot.
Just before the end of 2017, Steamforged also released the Brewers and Masons terrain pack. This meant that we finally had an official source of terrain pieces, besides those present in the Farmers and Blacksmiths boxes.
2018 was the first year that Steamforged decided it would ask for out-of-company playtesters to come and beta-test changes to models or new models. Players would have to sign an NDA and every type of electronics with a camera was strictly forbidden at these playtest events.
Also, in January Steamforged tried to fund the making of plastic versions of the Fisherman and Butcher boxes via Indiegogo, but this fell flat. The community didn’t want more plastic: they wanted metals, or at least resins.
Starting in February, mister BeardMinis himself published a series of recordings: the Tales of the Free Cities. This audiobook collection of sorts contains loads of the lore behind the world of Guild Ball. Go and have a handy listen! BeardMinis can also be found on Youtube. Be sure to follow his content, it’s amazing!
In this same month, the second box of the Blacksmiths was released in the Steamforged webstore!
And in March of 2018, it was finally there. The 3.2 errata – the one that everyone was waiting for. The expected nerf of the beast that was Thresher. The nerf was there, but wasn’t as harsh as everyone expected. Time would tell if it was enough… The 3.2 errata contained Thresher (nerf), Millstone (nerf), Tater (nerf) and the Fisherman’s Guild lost their access to Avarisse and Greede, as they were considered far too strong together with Corsair. A small errata, but effective indeed.
Also, in the same month, the plot cards were finally removed from the game, and replaced with the Game Plan Deck. Instead of having to remember which plot cards you had and at what times they triggered, you could now just pick one Game Plan card per turn with a static effect for the whole of that turn. The Game Plan Deck also changed the way initiative was decided for a new turn. Whereas first this was done by rolling a d6 and adding your momentum to the roll, the Game Plans contained static initiative modifiers that could be added to your momentum. No more luck of the dice gods – you now knew what initiative numbers you would be able to get. This was a very welcome change, and a very successful one, as we can see today.
Finally, March also contained some changes to the Organised Play Document:
- The lay-out of the OPD was changed to be more intuitive for tournament organisers, and alternate formats were taken out.
- The term ‘squaddie’ was introduced as a non-Captain, non-Mascot model.
- Minor Guilds would receive an additional Game Plan Card at the start of the game, and would have a +1 modifier to the diecast to decide initiative at the start of the game.
- Pre-release models were stated ineligible for tournament play. However, the final decision on the eligibility of these models would be with the T.O. of a tournament.
April 1st came along…
In April, the Exiles box would be available for purchase, containing the likes of Veteran Gutter, Veteran Minx, Veteran Decimate, Harriet, Veteran Hemlocke and Veteran Honour. The latter was made as a result of a SteamCon “create a model” session, and would be part of the Farmers. Also, the Navigators were spoiled as the Minor Guild for the Fishermen.
2018 was also the year for Steamforged to get loads of new partnerships: All Rolled Up would supply dice trays, and Deep Cut Studios would produce faction-based play mats. Battlefoam would start creating Guild-specific trays for carrying bags.
In May, it was announced that Season 4 for Guild Ball would start at SteamCon USA 2018.
In June of 2018, the Guilds that lost the previous community event were given some respite in the form of veteran models of their Guilds. The models that were chosen to receive veteran status models were Fisherman’s Sakana, Mason’s Chisel, Blacksmith’s Cinder and Alchemist’s Calculus. These would be included in a ‘Faithful’ box, together with Seasoned Spigot and Veteran Fangtooth for the Union.
From July and on, the design team surprised us with small snippets of what we could expect in season 4. Some changes to the core rules were to be expected.
- Wording of certain rules was changed to be more intuitive.
- Measuring AoE effects would change from edge-to-center to edge-to-edge for cleaner measuring.
- Tap-In would be included to passes as well: half-distance passes would lower the TN by 1.
- The kicking player would receive a momentum in turn 1.
- Models will no longer ‘gain’ influence; it will only be ‘allocated’. This means that it’s no longer possible to go over the maximum influence limit with plays like Topping Out!.
- It would no longer be possible to end movement on top op an Obstruction.
- Zero-cost character plays would be removed or rewritten as traits.
- The roster size for tournament would go up from 10 to 12.
Also, the Big League would get some love, as certain plot cards would be reworked or replaced, and the newly added Farmers, Blacksmiths and Ratcatchers would also get Big League plot cards.
August saw the inclusion of the official Guild Ball Manager app within the iOs and Android App Store. The app was also added to the Organised Play Document as a legal resource in tournament matches. Another small change to the OPD was that the resolution of Game Plan effects would now be performed on the clock.
At the English Nationals, another Minor Guild was spoiled. The Butchers’ daughter guild would be the Cooks.
At the 31st of August, it was also shown that Season 4 would be implemented on the weekend of 13 and 14 October. Special Season Four Launch kits were added to the Pundit store for them to get ready for the official launch. This also meant that the Series Three World Championship Finals would be played on Season Four rules, whereas most Nationals would be on Season Three rules!
In September of 2018, just before Season 4 would go online, another community event was announced. The Free Cities Draft. How did it work? The community would receive scouting report from certain players, containing only text – no hard numbers or action mentions of character plays or traits. Based on these reports, coaches would be able to send in their match reports to Steamforged, with which they could cast a vote for a certain rookie to come to their Guild. Any Major Guild, except the Union, was able to receive such a rookie. The results would be shown at SteamCon UK.
Before we let Season Four hit the field, we’re going to take a look again at the competitive side of things. We can see that the 3.1 and 3.2 errata have had the intended effect to the win rates of the Alchemists and Farmers. Maybe a tad too strong for the Farmers, looking at the 3.2 winrates… The Fishermen remained quite strong, due to the strength of Corsair in the meta-game. Union and Fishermen stayed at the top, but one thing was clear: over the course of the entire season (second figure), the game was pretty nicely balanced with just an 8% difference between the top and bottom teams.
One thing wasn’t shown in the above picture: the release of the Navigators. The re-roll system was deemed as very strong, and players were still coming to grips with tactics on how to deal with them.
While Furnace is in first place in season 3.2, he was not the most played captain. The first reliable result in the picture below is that of Veteran Rage. Him, Esters, Windfinder and Corsair were the undeniable top captains of the latter half of Season Three. But wait, Esters? Wasn’t she one of the worst in the first half? Yup. This can be explained by one thing alone: Veteran Decimate 1.0. Vecimate was purposely made stronger to make the Brewers competitively viable again, but Steamforged kinda went overboard and she kinda did captain-level things. Especially with all of Esters’ buffs.
The downright bottom of the barrel were Grange, Honour, Skatha, Tapper, Midas, and three of the Blacksmiths Masters: Ferrite (the most player Master of the Forge), Farris and Hearth.
For now, I’m only going to look at the top representatives for every Guild over the entirety of Season Three. The actual top five of the World will be presented after Series Three ends in this story.
- Alchemists: Vincent Curkov
- Blacksmiths: Edwin J
- Brewers: Pawel Korpal
- Butchers: Patrick Vance
- Engineers: Tim Wischiowksi
- Farmers: Bryce Johnston
- Fishermen: Patrice Lopes Faceira
- Hunters: Blaine Dobson
- Masons: Stephen Easton
- Morticians: Matthew Stevens
- Union: Michael Klein
- Navigators: Scott Miller
- Falconers: Jay Charles
- Ratcatchers: Greg Day
- Order: Aitor Vergara
SEASON FOUR — 2018-Present
As Season Four hit at SteamCon US 2018, the Media Network was called in to help show the changes to the models. While the game before had seemingly small errata, this one was MASSIVE. I will not be making a list, but will give links to the blogs/podcasts where the changes per Guild were shown.
- Guild Ball Tonight showed the changed within the Union and Order.
- S.T.F. Wargaming showed the changes within the Engineer’s Guild.
- Singled Out showed the changes within the Mason’s Guild.
- Guild Ball France showed the changes within the Farmer’s Guild.
- Beard Minis showed the changes within the Mortician’s and Ratcatcher’s Guilds.
- Rage Quit Wire showed the changes within the Hunter’s and Falconer’s Guilds.
- Fishy Wargaming showed the changes within the Fisherman’s Guild.
- T&G Productions showed the changes within the Brewer’s Guild.
- Strictly the Worst showed the changes within the Butcher’s Guild.
- Double Dodge showed the changes within the Alchemist’s Guild.
Suffice to say, Season Four changed the meta a lot. With Series Three coming to a close, the World Cup contenders now had to scramble to find what was strong and what clicked with their personal playstyle.
Other spoilers shown at SteamCon US were the first look at Veteran Greede, a first look into the new Minor Guild – the Miners, an idea of what the new Organised Play Kits would contain, and the reveal of the Brewer’s Minor Guild, the Entertainers.
In November of 2018, SteamCon UK was held, where the finals for the Series Three World Cup were played. But, for some even more important, the FCD Rookies event had ended and the results were shown. And let me tell you, the reveal was quite interesting. Loads of unexpected setbacks for teams that felt strongly in the lead. In the end, the results were the following:
- The Farmers came in first place, winning control over all-round sweetheart Amber.
- The Alchemists came in second place, adding the gun-wielding Kami to their roster.
- The Butchers nicked the third spot, taking hold of what might have been the best striker of the bunch, Layne.
- In fourth place, the Hunters went for some sisterly reunion. Edge was their choice.
- Before the end of the draft, the Blacksmiths were leading the votes, which would’ve ended up with the Morticians not getting any of their preferred picks. But something went wrong for the Blacksmiths, and Gaffer was stolen from them by the Spooks, to much happiness of a certain bearded fellow.
- The Blacksmiths, missing out on Gaffer, now went for their second pick, Cutlass.
- In seventh place, the Masons were spared much of the infighting between preferred picks. Their main pick was Champ, and they got her.
- In eight place, the Fishermen were hoping to get a hold of Cutlass, but now had to contend with Knuckles.
- Another Guild that didn’t really care about what the other teams wanted were the Engineers. They either wanted Kami or Nomad. They got what they wanted with the latter.
- And in last place, the Brewers ended up with the runt of the litter: Flea.
As said before, the Finals of the World Cup of Series Three was also played at this 2018 edition of SteamCon. Sixteen players competed for the grand prize.
- Belgium: Christian Metz
- West US: Jon Clough
- Hungary: Wolfgang Weber
- Ireland: Charles Nurser
- Spain: Bartek Celary
- East Canada: Sam Doiron
- France: David Cameron
- England: Daniel Harwood
- Poland: Pawel Korpal
- Sweden: Niclas Ledin
- West Canada: Riley Tremblay
- Australia: Will Wijnveld
- Italy: Leonardo Lucci
- Germany: Dominik de Cassan
- East US: Alex Botts
- SteamCon LCQ: Henry Kay
In the end, Will Wijnveld took home the cup with his Hunters. Three series done, three different nations winning the cup. Series Three went to New Zealand!
- Alex Botts with a 51-8 result and a rating of 685
- Will Wijnveld with a result of 20-3 and a rating of 664
- Michael Klein with a result of 66-10 and a rating of 657
- Henry Kay with a result of 38-9 and a rating of 654
- Dominik de Cassan with a result of 55-9 and a rating of 648
2019-present — Series Four
At the start of 2019, Steamforged showed us the roadmap for the Series Four World Cup track. Again, 15 countries would hold National tournaments, and there would be a Last Chance Qualifier at SteamCon UK of that year. The roaming Nationals, previously in Ireland and Italy, would now be held in Scotland and in the United Arab Emirates.
At January 15th, Steamforged made a small change to the Organised Play Document. Previously, whenever a player clocked out, a TO had to be called to the scene to measure one minute activations for said player. To make it easier for the TO, clocked out players would now be set on a five-minute death timer, which would run just like the normal clock would. Within those five minutes, each activation would give 1 VP to the opponent at the end of the activation, and upon reaching the five minute mark, you would just concede the game. Simpler, easier, better.
In February, Steamforged came with some shocking news. They would completely shut down their production of metal models and would switch over to either resin or PVC plastic. This meant that their whole production line would take time to switch, meaning that there might not be anything in stock to buy for the current metal Guilds. Exciting or frightening? Only time would tell.
And suddenly, the Guild Ball development team dropped a bomb on the community. Major Guilds would get a third captain. Mourn was spoiled as the third captain for the Morticians. Over time, Yukai of the Fishermen, Steeljaw of the Hunters and Veteran Boar for the Butchers were also spoiled as the first wave of third captains.
On March 1st, Season 4.0 was over. The 4.1 errata was dropped. Before we go into that, I’d like to take a dive into Season 4.0, though.
Having won the World Cup, it is not weird seeing the Hunters firmly on top. Following them closely were the Butchers, Navigators, Morticians, Farmers and Fishermen. The bottom of the bunch was formed by the Union – previously the leaderboard top dog! – the Ratcatchers and the Falconers.
While not being seen as the strongest Guild out there, Thresher was still a force to be reckoned with, competing with Skatha and Scalpel for the top three. Other honourable mentions are Ox, Corsair, Theron, Windfinder and Esters. Captain that were not feeling great within the 4.0 metagame were Obulus, Honour, Ballista, Midas, Blackheart, Piper, Devana, Grange and a slew of Blacksmiths Masters – Ferrite, Hearth, Farris and Burnish.
The 4.1 errata was quite large. Midas (buff), Stave (large buff), Tenderiser (rework), Falconers (major buff), Devana (buff), Frelsi (buff), Rundaas (small buff), Grange (major rework), Thresher (buff???), Chaska (nerf), Seenah (nerf), Scalpel (nerf), removal of Midnight Offering Character Play for The Power of Voodoo Legendary Play (nerf), Order (major rework), Pelage (buff), Piper (large buff), Squeak (buff). Mainly focused on reigning in the top of the leaderboard and helping out the ones who were lagging behind, although the buff on Thresher was… dubious.
On March 11th, the Steamforged Forums were closed down in favour of social media platforms: Facebook, Discord and Twitter. A Rules Query section was made on the Steamforged website.
At the end of March, wave two of the third captains was spoiled. The Brewer’s Corker, the Mason’s Corbelli, the Engineer’s Rivet and the Blacksmith’s Culverin – Cutlass’ Master.
In late April, the Miners were touched pre-errata, as they were a tad too strong for the meta, as can be seen in the following picture of the French Nationals top 8.
Also, we were given some first pictures of the Butchers and Fishermen teams in resin.
Lastly, April saw a message from Steamforged about SteamCon. There wouldn’t be a SteamCon in 2019, but in early 2020. This would be for both the UK and US version. The LCQ and Finals of Series Four would be played at SteamCon UK.
In June, we had a first look at what would be in the new Organised Play Kits. Dice, momentum coins, certificates, and special alternate models of four characters: Iron, Ploughman, Ikaros (rare) and Windfinder (super rare).
In July, the dev team asked the community to try out some beta rules. They wanted some end-user feedback on some of their ideas for improving the game. First off, two beta rules were given.
- Taking out models wouldn’t result in that player having one less activations. Skip activations were introduced. (These skip activations would still give up 1 VP when clocked out).
- These skip activations would be changed into ‘skip tokens’. This was to make it clear that taken-out models couldn’t still affect the board state. These skip tokens could also be changed into MP, but that would result in being an activation down.
- Lastly, the skip tokens were removed, and players were allowed to pass activations, as long as they would have six activation per turn.
- After a shot missed, the team would still get 1 MP. A goal would give 3 MP, and a Screamer 4 VP.
- This was later changed to 1 MP for a miss, 2 MP for a goal and 3 MP for a Screamer.
- In the last week of beta testing, another rule was added. Instead of ‘the player going second gets a momentum point’, the rule was changed to ‘the player who doesn’t have control of the ball marker gets a momentum point’.
These rules have not been implemented as of yet, but the development team was very appreciative of the feedback we left. Time will tell if we’ll see these rules come back in a new season.
August 12th, the Season 4.2 errata dropped, so let’s see what happened in Season 4.1. The Hunters nerfs did have their effect – maybe a bit too much though. The new top dog were the Miners, even after their pre-errata nerf. Next up were the Butchers and Masons for second and third place, with Farmers and Morticians being the only other teams with a 50+% win rate. The lower class did have some interesting Guilds: Ratcatchers and the Union were still down in the dumps, but the Navigators majorly fell from grace. The newest addition to the group, the Cooks, were also quite weak. This was mostly because they felt like a Season 3 team.
Season 4.1 was basically named Boarmageddon for the simple reason that Veteran Boar was quite overtuned. While the Miners were still strong, and Scalpel, Thresher and Hammer could keep up, it was Corbelli that finally brought down the big boy and stole first place. It was also amazing to see Farris and Anvil, two Blacksmiths Masters, finally having a 50+% win rate.
Season 4.1 might have been the least balanced version of the game, captain balance-wise, as 17 out of 33 captains and 4 out of 7 Blacksmith Masters had win rates of 45% or below! That’s more than 50% of all captains. Ouch!
Looking at these sub-45% captains, some things stand out:
- Both old Brewers, Butchers, Engineers and Hunters captains were sub-45% whereas Corker (53.8%), Veteran Boar (60.4%), Rivet (54.5%) and Steeljaw (52.7%) were doing fine.
- First captains for Farmers and Masons were sub-45%, while Thresher (54.7%), Hammer (54.2%) and Corbelli (62.1%) were doing fine.
- Both captains for the Union and almost Alchemists (Smoke at 47.8%) were sub-45%.
- All captains for the Fishermen were over 45% in win rate (although only Corsair at 50+%).
- The only Minor Guild captains with a win rate higher than 45% were Devana (45.5%), Seasoned Brisket (49.4%) and Shaft (60.8%). Still, only one out of six has a 50+% win rate.
- The only Guild I haven’t mentioned is the Morticians, whose third captain is part of the sub-45% group.
It seems that the Major Guilds have been experiencing some serious power creep with their new additions, except for the Morticians and Fishermen whose second captains are still strongest. Alchemists and the Union, together with all Minor Guilds except Miners, are definitely behind the curve.
The Season 4.2 errata has been the biggest errata up to date. Changes were:
- Alchemists: Midas (buff), Veteran Katalyst (buff)
- Blacksmiths: Anvil (nerf), Sledge (nerf), Farris (nerf)
- Brewers: Tapper (buff), Stoker (buff)
- Butchers: Veteran Boar (nerf), Brisket (nerf), Veteran Brisket (buff)
- Cooks: Wellington (buff), Pepper (slight rework), Sugar (buff), Spice (buff)
- Engineers: Rivet (slight rework)
- Farmers: Grange (buff), Tater (nerf), Harrow (buff)
- Fishermen: Siren (buff)
- Hunters: Egret (buff), Jaecar (buff)
- Masons: Honour (buff), Marbles (buff), Brick (major rework, buff), Flint (buff), Harmony (rework, buff), Corbelli (nerf)
- Morticians: Mourn (rework)
- Union: Veteran Rage (buff), Strongbox (buff), Avarisse & Greede (buff), Decimate (buff), Minx (rework, huge buff), Rage (buff), Snakeskin (buff)
- Navigators: Ebb (slight buff)
- Ratcatchers: Scourge (slight buff)
- Order: Grace (rework, buff), Benediction (buff)
- Nothing new for Falconers and Miners
Because of the sheer amount of change within the game, it was impossible to say how much would change in the metagame, but we knew it was going to be shaken up quite a bit.
At August 30th, Steamforged finally also spoiled the last third captains for the Alchemists (Soma/Pneuma), Farmers (Festival) and the Union (Veteran Greede). Also, they mentioned that the Farmers would get their Minor Guild in March of 2020 – the Shepherd’s Guild!
Besides this new, they told us they were working on a new version of the Game Plan Deck. Also, they gave us an update on the change from metal to resin: the Alchemists, Masons and Brewers were on their way towards production!
In November, the new Game Plan Deck arrived. Another big shake-up to the game, but in my opinion, a great one!
And the last bit of information for Guild Ball is the release of the third captains in December of 2019.
With SteamCon US and UK still nowhere in sight, and the World Cup Series Five Nationals close to a start, I’d like to show what Season 4.2 has looked like until the date this article has been published, and I’d like to show what has happened in 2019 in the competitive scene.
First of all, the changes to the Alchemists and Union have had a major effect, as suddenly they now are top of the leaderboard. (I’m not even counting Miners anymore – they’ve been over 60% since their release…) Even the Cooks have risen from last place to top five. The Butchers and Blacksmiths have fallen tremendously, showing that the nerfs to them might have been too strong, especially with the changes to all the other Guilds ánd the new additions to the game. The Morticians have also fallen quite strongly, while there has been no changed from 4.1 to 4.2, other than the changes to other Guilds. This is a clear example of what a change in game meta can do without even changing the rules to a Guild itself – something that the development team should think about for the upcoming 4.3 errata.
A 73.2% winrate to Veteran Greede over 56 games? Gross… Well, at least Honour has come back from her last place spot to being the best Masons captain around. That’s something.
This time 13 out of 36 captains and 7 out of 7 Blacksmiths Masters are within the sub-45% group. Things we can see:
- Alchemists: lowest winrate is 58.6%. This needs to change.
- Blacksmiths: highest winrate 43.5%. This needs to change.
- Brewers: Esters needs some love. Other than that, they’re fine.
- Butchers: highest winrate 45%. This needs to change.
- Cooks: For a Minor Guild, they’re quite strong. They don’t need to be looked at, though.
- Engineers: Pin Vice and Ballista really need to be looked at – they have sub-40% winrates.
- Miners: Still over 60% winrate. This needs to change.
- Farmers: Festival’s high win-rate might be new-toy syndrome. Other than that, they’re fine. Maybe a slight buff?
- Fishermen: Kind of fine. I’ve been hearing people clamouring about Shark buffs (47.8%), but I’d rather see Corsair nerfs (57.1%)… Maybe both?
- Navigators: 40.7% win rate is painful. This needs to change.
- Hunters: Theron and especially Skatha need some help.
- Falconers: 44.6% win rate is painful, but not bad for a Minor Guild honestly.
- Masons: They’re fine.
- Morticians: Even Scalpel (whom most deem as still the strongest captain around) has dipped below 50%. My main worry is Obulus at 38.1% though. The big chief needs some help.
- Ratcatchers: 42.4% is quite low. They need some help.
- Union: Veteran Greede might be new toy-syndrome, but Veteran Rage at 59.3% is quite strong. I could see some nerfs incoming.
- Order: 46.9% is on the low side, but for a Minor Guild they’re fine.
Lastly, let’s see what 2019 has done for the competitive scene. Who are the top dogs for the Guilds, who have won the Nationals tournaments and are therefore going to battle it out for the Series Four championship, and who are in the Longshanks top 5 ranking?
- Alchemists: Steve Cole
- Blacksmiths: Fraser McFetridge
- Brewers: Michael Coomber
- Butchers: Alex Botts
- Engineers: Zach Cohen
- Farmers: Bryce Johnston
- Fishermen: Fraser McFetridge (again?)
- Hunters: Bryce Johnston (again?)
- Masons: Stephen Easton
- Morticians: Wolfgang Weber
- Union: Owen Bell
- Cooks: Charles Nurser
- Miners: Fraser McFetridge (again?!)
- Navigators: Joachim Molkow
- Falconers: Ross Tully
- Ratcatchers: Maria Wieland
- Order: Riley Tremblay
Two Steamforged employees grabbing hold of 5 top spots. Guess they’re pretty good at their own game, huh? 😉
The Series Four Nationals winners were:
- US West: Jon Clough
- Belgium: Fraser McFetridge (Can he play now that he is SFG? Otherwise Dominik Khaleg)
- France: David Cameron
- Poland: Bartek Celary
- Spain: Javier Nuñez
- Hungary: Bartosz Jankowski
- Scotland: Jon Pugh (in fifth place, as the top 4 were Steamforged Employees or previous Nationals winners…)
- East Canada: Alex Botts
- Germany: Wolfgang Weber
- Australia: Will Wijnveld (the champ is here!)
- Sweden: Krzysztof Bialek
- West Canada: Riley Tremblay
- England: Michael Coomber
- UAE: Mike Thorn
- US East: Peter Williamson
The Series Four World Cup will consist of three Poles, three kiwis, two Americans, two Brits, two Scots, a Canadian, an Austrian and a Spaniard. No French? No Swedes? No Germans? Wow. Well, at least the Germans won their third World Team Championship in a row in 2019.
Last up: who were the absolute best of the best in 2019?
- Fraser McFetridge with a 83-9 record and a rating of 676
- Alex Botts with a 32-3 record and a rating of 667
- Bryce Johnston with a 67-9 record and a rating of 666
- Bartek Celary with a 28-6 record and a rating of 658
- Tim Wischniowski with a 37-5 record and a rating of 653
And with that, I hope that 2020 is going to be an amazing year for Guild Ball. The 4.3 errata is on it’s way, expected to drop around March/April (if Steamforged keeps their 6-month errata cycle). We still have the Shepherd’s Guild and the Entertainer’s Guild on their way, and the Alchemists, Masons and Blacksmiths also still have to find out what their Minor Guilds will be. Besides that, let’s hope that Steamforged will get their resin production line going, so that Guilds will readily be in stock. It’s been a bumpy ride, but I feel that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
What are your hopes for 2020? Let me know in the comments!