Howdy folks! I'm Rhiannon, though you might know me better by my discord handle, Kyler. Today, I'll be looking at what I think is both the most important turn of a game of Guild Ball and the turn that is the easiest to practice. I'll be looking at turn one and explaining how understanding a few concepts can improve your play immensely.
In general, you have three goals during the first turn of the game. These are the three most important things to keep in mind as you plan your activations. First, you want to get as much out of your influence as possible. Next, you're looking to gain the initiative for Turn 2. Finally, you're looking to create a favorable engagement for your team moving forward.
Using your influence effectively can be very difficult. Many guilds have good ways to use their influence when they can interact with their opponent but struggle to make use of it when they cannot. It is important here to note that we are not looking for direct conversions of influence to damage or momentum. When this is possible, fantastic! More often, you'll be trying to make that influence meaningful in other ways.
Each guild approaches the idea of making use of their influence differently. Guilds like Engineers or Alchemists might emphasize the use of ranged character plays. On the other hand, guilds like the Brewers or Falconers spread out buffs that their last activating model can make use of. Any team, when receiving, has the option of passing the ball among their team to generate a stack of momentum. The most important thing here is that your influence should be doing something, rather than being burned without doing anything.
Your second goal on Turn 1 should be to gain the initiative for Turn 2. In essence, that means trying to win the momentum advantage at the end of the first turn. Your main method of doing this will vary greatly based on whether you are kicking or receiving. A team that is kicking will tend to have a play pattern along the lines of "load up my kicking model with a full stack of influence, then activate them last and make a bunch of momentous attacks against an enemy model". A team that is receiving will generally want to pass the ball among their team to generate momentum, then take their last activation using a model with a full stack that can engage the enemy kicker and make a number of momentous attacks, perhaps even passing the ball back to take a 4" dodge forward to be within range.
While these are general game plans, several guilds deviate from them. Some scoring teams, for example, will choose to trade their ability to win the momentum race in favor of a high-power goal threat on turn one. Vitriol and Mist are infamous for their ability to steal a goal from opponents who do not expect it. Piper has the reasonably consistent ability to move forward after kicking and punt the ball back towards his team, allowing him to maintain ball control even after kicking.
Winning the initiative for turn two is important largely because it can create an easy last-first activation for the kicking team. Back-to-back activations are one of the most powerful things you can do in Guild Ball and doing so from the first turn to the second can be backbreaking in the right scenarios. You've likely heard of "jailing" models: putting them at low health to be able to guarantee the kill at a more beneficial time. Jailing from Turn 1 to Turn 2 is one of the most powerful plays that you can make – your opponent will find themselves behind on victory points, activation control, and momentum at this crucial point in the game.
This is the most esoteric of our goals and the one that is most likely to change from game to game. The central part of this goal is to put yourself in a strong position moving forward, and each team looks at this goal in a different way. Scoring teams, for example, will often end Turn 1 relatively spread out. They are looking to minimize the places where the opponent can place the ball safely. On the other hand, more killing-centric teams will tend to focus on creating a favorable scrum, putting their models within gang-up or crowd-out distance.
A favorable engagement is hard to strictly define. It might take the form of Blacksmiths putting the ball on Iron in a Sentinel aura and cover when facing Fish. It might be Scalpel rushing forward and jailing a model turn one, then taking the first activation of Turn 2 and killing that model before jogging and Second Winding back into the middle of her squaddies, having gained 2 victory points and some momentum as well as effectively resetting the position of her team. Regardless, you are looking to put your team in a favorable position for the next turn and the rest of the game.
Turn 1 is the only turn that you are guaranteed to play in every game of Guild Ball. In addition, it is the most practicable and one of the things that I see many Guild Ball players do in a very sloppy manner. The next time you play a game of Guild Ball, ask yourself if you are achieving the goals that we’ve discussed. Are you letting influence burn for nothing? Are you keeping the momentum differential in mind? Are you putting yourself in a favorable position for the game moving forward? By keeping these goals in mind, you’ll be able to sharpen your play and become a better Guild Ball player overall.
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