Whilst there are many websites which give a breakdown and idea of individual player, or team tactics, there are also some key ‘general’ tactics everyone needs to learn when playing Guild Ball. I thought it was worth trying to group them all together and whilst some are very ‘common sense’ others only come through practice and participating in tournament games. These are not ‘how to play’ but more ‘things to think about’ when you have played a few games already. It’s a great game and if you haven’t tried then you owe yourself to give it a go!
1. Remember your PLOT CARDS! Take time at the start of every turn to just refresh yourself about what you hold in your hand. I have lost count the number of games where either myself or my opponent has only looked at their cards after the final whistle and realised they had something which may have changed the outcome of the game. They are a bonus to you and make sure you use them to full effect. One piece of advice is to just lean them on a box or something so you can see them at all times whilst keeping them hidden from your opponent.
2. Be willing to sacrifice a goal (!?). Against some teams you are going to concede a goal early on, there is just little you can do about this (curse you Fishermen!). It can therefore be a tactic to accept this and prepare your positioning to make sure you don’t concede a second. If playing the Fishermen with Butchers you will almost always concede the first goal. Make sure for example you position Shank and Brisket on separate wings so if your opponent decides to ‘cover’ one for the goal-kick you can just pass to the other one. Alternatively have your mascot close to other players who can form a ‘cage’ around them. The last thing a lot of teams want to do is go into a fight with multiple players. Once you have control of the ball you are much more likely to dictate the game.
3. Don’t rush your turns! Whilst you might panic playing on a chess clock for the first time if you actually timed your usual non-clock game you would normally see that you don’t come anywhere near running out of time. So don’t panic and make sure you think before any move. The worst thing you can do is rush an activation without thinking through (or measuring before moving) what you intend to do to maximise the return for your influence investment.
4. Always add extra dice when trying to score. I know this is a broken record but even on Brisket with 4 dice needing a single 4+ always always always ALWAYS add the bonus time extra dice. The most important thing in the game is scoring a goal to get the 4 VPs and you don’t want to waste an opportunity as you won’t get many. Remember that 4 VPS is 1/3 of a win and always use Bonus Time whenever possible.
5. You can pass the ball to ‘no one’. This is something I have learnt both with Tenderiser (just pass to space to knock down everyone on the path) but also in general play by ‘passing’ to a point on the pitch. This is a good way to just ‘get rid’ of the ball to an area that there may be no opposition and maybe buy you an extra activation whilst they try to retrieve the ball. A sneaky trick is that you can actually pass the ball to 1mm away from the edge of the pitch. You are not able to pass the ball off the pitch but you can pass the ball to a position so no matter where it scatters it will go off the pitch. This means the ball appears back in the centre circle and scatters from there. This can be used as a ‘last gasp’ scenario or if you have dragged their team into one corner a great way to free the ball to score.
6. Learn your opposition. This is the biggest thing in the game about learning what your opposition team does. Make sure you read forums which describe how each team works even if you never intend to play them yourselves. In addition it is worth buying a set of player cards for every team and having them with you when you play just to keep an eye out for tricks and traps especially if facing a player/captain/team you don’t often face. This is the most important thing you can do to improve in the game and you will soon learn what the opposition does and how to avoid it.
7. Score from the Kick-Off. If you are receiving the ball (can be done when kicking off but it is harder) then it is always possible to score from kick off. If you can position your best (longest range?) striker directly in the middle of your set-up you can always pass the ball to them (gives them an extra 4 inch dodge) before activating them and you usually have someone available who can score from this distance (sprint and kick) or have people how give further movement abilities (like a Quick Time for example). If doing this then try to activate towards the end of the turn and almost accept they may be taken-out but it still leaves you 4-2 up and with a bonus influence for the rest of the game. Every team has someone who can have a 20 inch goal threat which means everyone can score from kick off even if they need to pass the ball and take a 4 inch dodge it is always possible.
8. Focus your turn on generating as much momentum as possible. When you are playing the ‘top’ players the games can come down to the management of resources and particularly Momentum Points. You almost always want the first activation every turn to maximise your opportunity to focus attacks on a target or score a goal. However there is also no point in losing the initiative roll when you have 6 MP whilst your opponent had 8 MP. If you focus on generating MP you will be fine, but if your opponent is leading then make sure you spend it when possible to finish the turn on 0 MP but you have cleared all conditions, healed everyone and used ‘bonus time’ to roll extra TAC dice. I have a general rule that if I can’t finish at worst case 1 MP down on my opponent then I am spending everything to heal every condition and heal point wherever I can.
9. You don’t have to set up on 10 inch line to start with. I have known people set their team up there just because they always have set everyone up on the 10 inch line. You can set up your team anywhere behind that line so if you know Hammer or Fillet can reach you in turn one then you may want to hang back a little bit and force your opponent to make the first mistake for you to capitalise on. Remember you can’t win the game on turn one but you can lose it on turn one by gifting your opponent easy VPs with a poor set up.
10. Consider what you are doing turn one. Most people almost write off turn one as a ‘set up’ turn but to me it is the most important. For example if using Butchers I always try to have Fillet activate last. If I don’t try for the turn one goal then she often has the ball and also Tooled Up from Meathook. This gives her a potential 16 inch threat range for a charge and at least 3 momentum points to be generated. This can often swing in the last activation who goes first in turn two. Remember the maximum threat ranges of your opponents players in turn one and where they can generate momentum (keep an eye on their influence allocation).