What is Guild ball?
Per their site:
Guild Ball: Tabletop Fantasy Medieval Football Game
minutes to learn - incredibly deep gameplay - modern-design game mechanics - fully realised world - amazing miniatures.
So medieval football was actually entire villages of people pushing against each other, this is a bit more stripped down, 6 players per team and two goals rather than the aim being to get the 'ball' to the other villages church! But broadly the theme works. Also it features guilds to represent the teams rather than a village so it gives them a distinct theme to each team.
'is it just another bloodbowl rip off?'
In short my answer would be no, in practice this game appears to have more in common with the likes of Malifaux or Warmachine than Bloodbowl other than the fact it terms itself a football game. It plays on a 3x3' board, the movement is freeform rather than a grid and the objective of the game is to score more points than your opponent (points are scored by goals and by what is effectively killing people).
Why should I be interested?
The game is completely free, ok you'll want 6 model but they give you the rules, all the player stats and everything you need to play free to download off their website. Personally I think the models they are producing for the game look incredibly cool so I'll be using them, but you could use any old 6 models (preferably not all identical!) and be able to play.
Rules & player cards are linked here:
Yeah but so what?
Um ok, you're right being free isn't enough these days in a competitive gaming market. The game designers are Warmachine players of some repute (and also great painters which feeds into the figure design) these guys have tried to design a complex and engaging game system but one which has at its heart very simple rules and mechanics. In short it looks like a really fun game with a good tactical depth to it. Personally I love small scale tactical games as they let me not need to paint countless hordes of models but have a fun evenings gaming with a high replay value.
So why are you pushing this?
Obviously I have an agenda here. I bought into their Kickstarter and I would really like to have a bunch of opponents to play against. I think there are a few of us locally who all took part and picked up some teams, but more players is what makes a game system really fun to play as everyone has their own take on the gameplay and it also just makes it a better chance of getting regular games!
What's the games future?
Always a worry with Kickstarter games, but I think this should have some legs. The developers have released the teams for 'season 1' and plan to develop more teams and story/plot developments which will feed into future seasons and there is evidence of this work already out there. Plus they have committed to a delivery vehicle in order to get product out there through a partnership with Element Games so it feels like they've geared up for this to be a long term project not just a one time splash.
You mentioned Plot/Story?
That's right, this isn't just a set of mechanics. A lot of time has been put into setting up an entire backstory/world in which the game is set. It's not something utterly revolutionary that will blow your socks off but if you think a combination of the guilds from the Discworld novels combined with something like the aesthetic of the medieval Assassins Creed video game you'll not be far off. Personally I'm a massive fan of the Renaissance period of history and this fits quite nicely into that feel. The power struggle between the guilds is akin to the main Renaissance families of Italy as they vie for overall power/control of the world, but the battlefield is played out on the field of a Guild Ball game.
How does player development work?
This question is one which usually comes from other sportsball gamers. In short it doesn't. The designers have got round the issue of imbalance that comes into sports games by simply not having team development in the game. Instead they will control this through the changes made to teams in line with the wider story as each season progresses, so overall game balance can be maintained. But the players all start with a good number of special abilities and different attacks which gives the game the real depth of how they interact, so it's not that you'll just have the equivalent of 6 linemen, 2 catchers, 2 blitzers and a passer with the handful of skills that entails in Bloodbowl (I'll restate I don't really think comparing to Bloodbowl is actually relevant, think more like the stat cards of other modern skirmish games).
But doesn't that mean my Season 1 players get invalidated?
In short no, you can continue to play your season 1 team players for as long as you like. I believe you'll be able to mix and match players from different seasons once they're released, the only restriction being you cant take the season 1 and season 2 versions of the same player in the same team. So you won't suddenly lose a player just because the story has moved on, you can keep your favourite version of player x in all your teams.
Ok I'm sold where do I sign up?
At present (Mar 2015) the Kickstarter is due to deliver this month and after it has shipped the models will become available for general release. The designers aren't really wanting to be retailers so in addition to the deal with Element Games they are also ensuring many game stores are dedicated stockists. Currently the closest (to Bristol) I'm aware of is Firestorm Games, but if it catches on I'd expect to see its models in all good gaming stores near you. But remember the rules & cards are completely free to download (link above) so if you don't like the models they are making you can still play without giving them a penny.
So really, why are you pushing this?
Ok we asked this already and you fobbed us off with an answer of 'you want some opponents to play', really what's the answer? Well it is exactly that, but the driver would be that I backed the Kickstarter to the tune of 5 teams. I've put my money down on this one as I genuinely think it looks like a great game to play and I'd love to see it succeed so that I can use the cool models I've bought. For anyone that hasn't checked them out yet go have a look at the Guild ball website and other various social media outlets which host photos, I think these are some of the best looking models for games around.