This weekend just gone I headed up to Northern Ireland for my second Guild Ball tournament. This would be my first as a proper player, since I ran the first tournament as a Pundit – the Guild Ball equivalent of Pressgangers – a couple of weeks ago in Dublin. This one was to be in Newtownards (or “Ards” as everyone calls it), a couple of miles outside of Belfast in the North Down Wargaming Centre. My wonderful fiancée drove us both up, while only making very occasional mention of how I had persuaded her to come up North on the basis that it would be a romantic weekend, when I would in fact be spending all day Saturday in a room full of dudes playing with fecky little men. She’s classy like that.
After a nice Friday night of meeting friends and eating good quality buffet food, we drove out slightly late to Ards the next morning. We were still the first there, apart from the shop owner and my Pundit counterpart Rick. In the end the tournament got eight people, which was pretty good going. My fellow countrymen from the Republic (or “down South” as the locals refer to it) had flaked out and some others from Portadown didn’t make it, so the Guild Ball scene looks like it’s going to get bigger and better…as soon as we can rely on people to show up! I’ve seen other people take pre-bookings which might be a good idea in future to assure attendance. Anyway eight was a pretty good showing, it meant we would have a proper 3-round tournament.
We were playing the “Local Friendly” tournament format, which is outlined in the Organised Play Document. This meant we would pick a 6-model team and stick with it throughout the tournament. We were playing 50-minute deathclock. Once the time ran out we would have 2-minute activations, and after each activation we would grant our opponent 1VP. In our previous tournament myself and Rick went 12-11 to me in our very first Pundit-Off. Coming at the game as a Warmachine player, I think this version of Deathclock is much better, but granting a Scenario Point to your opponent would be a bit weird!
Anyway I had to pick a list. I was playing Masons (to whom I have already begun to cleave like unto a new spouse; I have a problem, it’s called faction loyalty) and I had also brought two unpainted Union players, but since there was a painting prize I was eager to make a team composed of my painted models only. Another consideration was the field of teams. I knew there would be at least one Alchemist player coming, so that meant Harmony was out. The reason for this is that she has an ability called Scything Blow, and their team captain Midas can copy that ability. While Harmony gets to use it on 5 hits, Midas can use it on just 1. Scything Blow is particularly nasty when you’re on the receiving end, so I made a team of the remaining six Masons players: Honour, Marbles, Flint (so dreamy), Brick, Mallet and Tower.
I also had the benefit of knowing who my first match-up would be, so I could begin to play the player rather than the team. Rick and I both wanted a repeat of the Pundit-Off, and the tournament rules allow for a little fudging of the pairings in the first round, so I was playing against Rick’s Fishermen. He was playing Shark, Salt, Kraken, Jac, Angel and Greyscales. I won the roll and elected to receive. There seem to be very few reasons to ever choose to kick the ball, unless you’re planning to let them score and then keep the ball away from them while you take out one player after another. Masons are somewhere in between in terms of scoring goals and kicking heads in, but when they have a game plan they execute it very well. Case in point: Flint gets the ball and moves up, Honour gives him Superior Strategy, Flint uses his second activation at the end of the turn once the all-important 1 MP has been generated to score a goal. The Fishermen rapidly score a goal in response, but now it’s time for the other half of the Masons’ game to shine. A fully-loaded Honour with a trusty baboon in tow does 26 damage in a single activation, taking out Kraken and taking half of Jac’s hitpoints. The ball bounces loose for a while but it’s within a nice cage of Mason players, so it stays there long enough for Flint to get in a second goal, and then the wounded Jac is taken out for the win.
While we were waiting for the rest of the games to finish, I had the opportunity to admire some of the paint work that was done. Only having to paint six or seven miniatures means that people can take more time. I even tried some of this highlighting lark for my Masons team, rather than the flat coats I had given to the entirety of my Protectorate army.
After lunch, it was time for Round 2. This time my opponent was Gary, also playing Fishermen, with Shark, Salt, Kraken, Siren, Angel and Greyscales. In total we had 3 Fishermen teams, in this round the other two Fishermen players were playing each other so I was hoping to catch some of that action. I knew from our Facebook group that Gary had played his first game during the week, and since you always want to encourage people who are fresh to a competitive game we took our time and allowed some take-backs. I tried to get my one-turn goal machine working but because I was trying to avoid charges (not noticing the players in question didn’t have enough Influence to charge) Flint was never in quite the right position. Eventually he scored, and the ball came back to the Fishermen, who passed it to Salt the furry heart and soul of the team, who scurried down the pitch with it. Unfortunately for Gary he missed an important shot on goal, which I retrieved with a sprint from Marbles, and he couldn’t get it back off him that turn. Meanwhile Honour did what Honour does against Angel, then when the ball came to her from Marbles she proceeded to score a goal. Angel came back onto the pitch, and while she was trying to get into position to score a Tooled-Up Tower plowed into her and finished her off with her diminished hitpoints. Fishermen need to be able to score against Masons, because their damage output simply isn’t frightening when you have Armour 2 on two-thirds of your players.
So here I was in the unprecedented position of being 2-0 and feeling pretty good. I moseyed over to the other undefeated table, which was Peter’s Masons versus Kyle’s Morticians. Just as I walked over the score became 8-6 to Peter, which was rapidly answered by Kyle taking out Honour, 8-8. Peter had Tooled Up Brick, however, and so Brick took Graves out, 10-8. It looked like it had been a knock-down-drag-out slug of a match, I think there had been one goal all game. The ball was deep in the Morticians’ half, and Cosset and Graves were back on the pitch. Kyle won the initiative, and the ball was passed up to Obulus. A fully-loaded Honour had just come back on the pitch too, however, and she barreled into Silence, taking him out and ending the match with 42 seconds left on Peter’s clock. At first Peter didn’t realise that he had won, such is the draining experience of playing against Morticians!
That meant a Masons versus Masons final. I was pretty glad, because Morticians are tricksy and I know Masons well. Peter was playing Harmony rather than Tower, otherwise our team rosters were the same. I won the roll and elected to receive yet again, but instead of setting up Flint for the first turn goal I elected to take my time and play to my strength of knowing the opposing team. I provoked a Countercharge from Brick with Tower, which knocked him down but that allowed me to shift Honour up with Quick Work and then charge into the big guy, having used Tooled Up from Marbles. Without the Assist from Marbles Brick was still standing by the end, but she took him out eventually the next turn. She was knocked down herself by a charging Mallet, but the Mason captain’s inherent toughness saved her from being taken out, and I healed her up with the MP I had generated from her initial charge. The ball was in safe hands, and Peter was more concerned with setting himself up to score once I had done so, so the first turn was not too eventful.
Next turn, Flint dropped off the ball with Mallet and moved up front to 11” away from the goal, giving himself Super Kick. I generated 1MP elsewhere, then passed the ball to Flint with Mallet from 4” away, allowing Flint to spend 2MP to go for a Snap Shot on goal. Marbles and Peter’s Flint were in the way, but that only reduced him to 3 dice thanks to Super Kick and Mallet’s Football Legend aura. I got the two successes needed, gave myself some points for style, and then the ball was loose. It ended up in the hands of Honour, who was in position to pass it to Harmony, who was…unfortunately not quite in position to score, since my Brick was in the back field and Peter didn’t want to risk the Countercharge. So Harmony engaged Brick on the very edge of his 2” melee zone and was about half an inch away from taking a Goal Kick. They scored next turn, and the ball ended up in my Mallet’s hands again. My Honour finished Brick off, did a few points of damage to his Mallet, used her Legendary Play to give everyone extra Armour, and my Flint scored again.
Turn 3 was lather, rinse, repeat. Peter’s Honour and Harmony did the twin thing again (fun fact: Harmony is actually the younger sister, they’re just very close), and the ball happened to land with my Honour. She was less interested in the ball than in pounding Mallet into the dirt, which she achieved with her 6 Influence. That brought the score to 12-8, and I had won my first tournament of anything ever.
Overall I think I got pretty lucky. Honour was rolling some great damage results all day, and I didn’t miss a single shot on goal which is remarkable. I was happy in my match-ups too, there were dark rumblings of Butchers being played but I avoided that, and if my final game had been against Morticians it might have been a different game altogether. It’s a nice validation when you get into a new game, find yourself spending a lot of money on expensive models and then you start to win things. The Masons are a strong team, very dependent on their 4” synergies, but quite adaptable while other teams just have the one strategy. I had a good time in Ards, and am looking forward to running my second tournament in Dublin, and to the Official Irish Launch Tournament at Gaelcon in October. Maybe in the future I might even travel far afield to the exotic climes of Nottingham and Sheffield, where already there are Big Names being touted around. The future is looking bright for Guild Ball, keep an eye out for it. And if you’re ever looking for a game on Vassal, give me a shout!