The Season 4 Game Plan Deck Review – Part 1

On August 30th, 2019, Steamforged released a blog which contained that they were releasing a new Game Plan Deck, something that the community had been quite vocal about for a while now. The release date for the new Game Plan Deck is set on the 29th of November, and players can already pre-order the deck on the Steamforged Store.

WHY A NEW GAME PLAN DECK?

The Game Plan Deck was introduced in Season 3 as a way to revisit the way initiative was decided for a turn in a match of Guild Ball. Before, players rolled a d6 die and added their momentum score for their initiative modifier. While some liked that element of randomness, adding a sense of uncertainty for a rush of adrenaline, most players really disliked the possibility of totally outplaying your opponent, but still losing initiative by i.e. rolling a 1 while the opponent rolls a 6.

The Game Plan Deck was introduced to replace the die-cast at the end of the turn. The Game Plan cards have static Initiative modifiers on them, ranging from a +1 to a +7 modifier to your momentum count. The real difference with the die-cast was that these cards also contained an Influence modifier for that turn, and effects that affected the actual game. These effects were said to become stronger the lower the Initiative modifier of the card.

The Influence modifiers and the effects are the reason that a new Deck has been created. Through rigorous playtesting, it seemed that the effects weren’t strong enough for most people to pick the lower Initiative values (except when majorly losing the momentum race). Added to that, most players only picked their cards on Initiative values alone, happy to just get the Initiative and no added benefit for the rest of the turn, and some weren’t even picked as a negative Influence modifier was seriously off-putting for some.

What I myself had hoped to see in the new Game Plan Deck was more interaction between players, more effects that affect both sides of the table, and more diversity in ‘playable’ cards – a Deck that provided an actual choice to a player. I (mostly) feel that they have delivered.

SEASON 4 GAME PLAN DECK – REVIEW

Since Steamforged has decided to split the reveal of the new Game Plan Deck in two parts, I will also split up my review in two parts. Let’s start with the +7 Initiative cards.

Caught Out Of Position is quite like the current Seize the Initiative card, but instead of dodging your own model 4″, you now dodge an enemy model 2″. I would say that this card directly affects the efficiency of bunker strategies and their positional synergies. The negative Influence modifier only adds to the relative downside of the card for picking such a high Initiative modifier. In my mind, Steamforged has hit the nail on the head for this card, but I feel that it caters a bit too much towards the more experienced players. This is a card that can be played very right, but also very wrong. It’s a card you’ll have to play around as your opponent has the ability to make life hard for you, but herein lies the crux: you know you have the card so you will play around it, your opponent (most likely) won’t. This means that the card most of the time will give a massively positive effect to the person playing it. You could say that the -1 Influence modifier balances it out, but I guess only time and much playtesting will tell.

Risky Play I like much better. It’s basically the inverse of the current Go For The Knees. While you get the much needed +7 Initiative modifier, your opponent will get to give a Squaddie model a +1 TAC buff. A trade-off, simple and effective.

Boot Sponsorship is a very polarising card for me. If the Pitch you’re playing on has no Rough Ground or Forest patches (or Ploughman/Granite Broken Earth and Casket/Fangtooth Foul Odour effects), the card will just be a vanilla +5 Initiative, which is fine. But if there are such terrain pieces (or such models being played), the card actually gives you free momentum. A potential 1-6 free momentum slapped onto a +5 seems quite excessive, but obviously not every Pitch should contain Rough Ground terrain pieces. If anything, this card is a straight nerf to the likes of Ploughman, Granite, Casket and Fangtooth.

Mud Slide has the same feel as Caught Out Of Position: you can play around it, while your opponent can’t. As this effect can be even more positive for you than Caught Out Of Position’s effect, I understand why it’s lower in Initiative value. I guess the balancing part is mostly in its dependence on the terrain pieces on the Pitch, as it’s very much possible to just be a vanilla +5 card, and that sometimes you really don’t want to play this card, as the opponent might have access to the only plot of Rough Ground on the Pitch.

Lock Them Down is another variant of Go For The Knees, but instead of buffing your own Squaddies with +1 TAC, you’re debuffing one of your opponent’s with -1 TAC. An enemy striker possibly not getting its tackle off, a beater now possibly struggling to get his KD against your counter, etc. It’s most certainly a (slightly) positive effect for you, so it fits the brief in my books.

Cool Head basically gives you a free point of momentum, that can’t be used for a Shot or Snap Shot. What it cán be used for is a free Rest, Encourage or Heroic Play, or a free Pass’n’Move. Another slight advantage to your team – even more so if you’re quite dependent on Heroics, like the Brewers. Fits the brief.

Aggressive Defence is excellent for aggressive squads that like to play in the opponent’s half. This card basically states “you get anywhere between 1-6 MP for Poised”. On top of that, it gives you a +1 Influence modifier. For a defensive team, that most likely only plays this card for the Influence modifier, a +3 Initiative modifier is fine. But for aggressive teams, I feel that it’s a definite bargain – especially if your squad also has loads of 2″ melee and decent/good counterattacks. (Yes, Fish, I’m talking to you)

Whereas the +3 Initiative modifier cards should have a slight upside to playing them, the +2 cards should have a definite upside to playing them.

Never Say Die is basically the same as the current Dig Deep, but for take-outs instead of goals. Where playing Dig Deep into a fighting team usually made it a vanilla +2/+1, the same happens with this card against footbally teams. I do feel that it is stronger than Dig Deep, as it’s more likely to concede multiple take-outs in a single turn than multiple goals, but this is most likely a card that you pick for the influence modifier.

Raw Enthusiasm is a card that was spoiled at the NOVA keynote in August of this year. Put Me Back In, Coach! is a trait that is a definite middle-finger to jailing strategies, as the chosen model retains its Influence ánd effects (like Tooled Up, Quick Foot, etc.) when coming back onto the Pitch. Slap on a +1 Influence modifier, and you have a very strong +2 card. Well done!

VERDICT – PART 1

I am very happy with the first half of the deck. It’s a definite upgrade to the current Deck in a way that most cards now fit their brief, or at least come close to it, giving the player an actual choice between wanting to go first or choosing a strong effect to make up for losing first activation later in the turn. There is loads of interactivity, and some of the cards actually reward thinking ahead, of which we now really only had Seize the Initiative.

The other half of the cards will be reviewed later this week, and let’s hope that these cards are just as awesome as the others! The Game Plan Deck will be released from pre-order on Friday, the 29th of November. Be sure to get your copy from the Steamforged Store or your own FLGS!