Hi there, Guild Ball community! It's finally time; the first ever Guild Ball Community Project (GBCP) designed errata for the game is here!
Before we go into the specifics, we'd like to acknowledge a couple of points.
First off, this is a fan-designed errata. It is unofficial, it is not blessed by Steamforged Games. This means that people can obviously decide for themselves if they want to organise tournaments staying on the official 4.3 patch from Steamforged, or the 4.4 patch from the GBCP.
Secondly, we'd like to take some time to talk about how the errata was formed. From the start, it was decided - mostly by yourselves through the huge questionnaire we ran last year - that the first GBCP errata would be a small one (no more than 10 models) and that the longer term aim in terms of power balance is for guilds to be roughly at the level of Fish and Masons (the guilds the survey respondents said were the most balanced).
Importantly, this errata would help show the GBCP if we had the right ideas going forward, or that we should re-evaluate our grasp on where the game should go towards. Besides nerfs to models that were causing problems within the balance of the current competitive meta, there will also be buffs to models that have been lacking, or to open up more/other types of play for certain Guilds.
How we decided which models to go for was quite the process. The Rules Committee consists of six members, and added to that are three of the Steering Committee - Steve Cole, Dominic Westerland, and myself. We each made a list: which models are problematic, but can be fixed with simple elegance? And which models are un(der)used, and could be improved with slight changes? Why only small changes? Because most of the statistics and gameplay feedback we're getting at this time is from online play, which is totally different from real life tabletop play in terms of vision, tokens, aura's, clock-pressure, etc.
There are many models which we feel are underplayed enough to warrant a potential buff currently, but in the interest of maintaining game balance and considering the small scope of our first errata, we focused on buffs to models in guilds that have recently been underperforming. In addition, we wanted to try and spread the errata love across as many guilds as possible.
Every model was worked on by the whole committee, but certain members were 'leads' for certain models. We will let those leads tell you some of the reasons why particular models were chosen for this errata, what we thought was the problem, and what our rationale is for the changes we made.
It's been an interesting experience to try and deliver this rather than being a player on the receiving end; just know that doing an errata is hard work. I've never been in such extensive debates about whether a tackle should be momentous or not. I don't personally agree with all the choices we made but I'm really pleased with how we as a group have worked and how we compromised to try to do the best for the community. A massive thank you to the entirety of the Rules Committee and all our amazing playtesters who were supportive and challenging in equal measure.
So, let's not waste any more time. Let's start talking about the 4.4 errata!
Harald - Honestly, there is no need to justify this. Cast was one of 4.3's two best Squaddies by a notable margin and pretty much everyone called this one at 4.3's release. She just had it all: ballgame, disruption and of course pure damage. Add to that the "wait I have to think a second" interaction of her 2nd column with Swift Strikes and this model just screamed "fix me".
Besides this, though, we know that Blacksmiths are a tricky team to balance correctly due to their skill floor being so high. We will be keeping an eye on them throughout 4.4, for sure.
Harald - We took away the damage of Shield Throw and normalized it with Hook & Crook's Howl. She keeps her role for the most part, but her damage and the weird interaction that essentially gave her 7 damage 'Back to the Shadows' on her 2nd column has been reduced just enough to make her "really good" instead of "bonkers". All in all we wanted to keep her relevant in faction without making her the default choice.
Pawel - While being a dual-Guild model, Lucky has never really been considered as a pick for the Mason or Brewer 12, which is sort of a shame, really. Mostly because absolutely everyone had a Lucky lying around somewhere. It's time that this 'promotional' model actually got competitive...
Pawel - Lucky has changed quite a bit. The playbook and his stats have been lightly touched, he's been given some new traits and we've given him a heroic, showing his Brewer colours.
First off, we've basically moved the momentous tackle on Lucky's playbook a column down, giving him a tad more agency in the footballing department. Also, a momentous T on 1 is very Mason-esque. We're also speeding him up a tad, by increasing his jog speed with an inch. To give him a bit more of a Brewer body, we've also toned down his DEF by one and given him Tough Hide, just like Tapper and Hammer.
Lastly, one of the 'fun' rules on Lucky has always been the controversial 'Raise the Stakes'. While a free 4" dodge always sounded amazing, the fact that your opponent could also make a dodge with one of their models made it that the trait actually felt like aiding your opponent. We wanted to keep this 4" dodge and remove the downside, but wanted to make it a tad harder to activate - enter a new heroic play.
We're hoping that these changes will open up a more sturdy allrounder option for both Masons and Brewers. Honestly, we're just hoping that he'll get picked for a roster!
Dominic - This is a very easy two parter answer - Butcher and Cook win rates are currently tanking, with Cooks being the team with the lowest win rate of 38.8%! The second part is that these two teams primarily get their points from take outs, typically erring towards four kills and then a goal to top things off at the end. When racing against either a 3-0 football team or 2-2 take out/goal team, we believed they were struggling to dispatch the foe at a pace that could keep up with the breakneck speed of these less violent teams.
Dominic - Let's get the easy one out of the way first. 'Outfield Defence' was changed back to 'Goal Defence' to stop the double stacking of modifiers to goal shots with the 'Form a Wall!' Game Plan Card.
'Celebrate This!' now (providing the big lad is within four inches of the goal) gives Tendy 'Fear' and 'Furious' for the rest of the game upon a goal being scored.
That's right. For. The. Rest. Of. The. Game.
In the end, we think these changes make Tendy a better tech piece into the teams where Butchers and Cooks need the help whilst also being an interesting puzzle for the foe to overcome.
It is also worth pointing out that his INF cap has been dropped to 3, to take into account that free charge he'll be putting to good use after your opponent dares to actually get VPs against you.
Dominic - The best boys in the game were a relatively late addition to the errata, as we wanted to allow the Shepherds a spot of time in the limelight to see if any changes needed to be made to them. Whilst their current win rate certainly justifies some form of inclusion in this errata, we didn't want to go overboard with putting the nerf bat to them right away (although this isn't to say we aren't keeping our eyes on them). This is because Shepherds feel like a team that excel in the current, Tron-esque online meta - every measurement being available at all times and often, without that nagging clock pressure draining your focus on getting your measurements just right.
As for why Hook and Crook over other models in the team, we believed that their rules gave us the most vectors for meaningful changes (as described below) whilst also tackling one of the more negative play experiences offered by Guild Ball's newest team.
Dominic - 'Herding' is where you'll see most of the changes, with the distance between the dogs to the harvest marker dropped to two inches and the distance to the enemy model dropped to three inches. The first reason for these changes was consistency. Hook and Crook were one of the only two Reapers that interact with their markers from more than two inches away (the other being Fallow, who definitely pays for the privilege in other ways). The second reason is that the Shepherds player now has to put their resources and models at a little bit of a risk to drag an enemy player from their own starting line during Turn One.
The other change is relatively minor. By bringing Hook and Crook into the errata, it allowed us to match up what was previously known as 'Howl' with a nerfed, similar play on Cast's card - again, this was for the sake of consistency.
Mike - Have you been reading the Discord, or posts on GuBS lately? Steeljaw has been coined a menace - an even worse match-up than the previous bad boy, Corsair. Also, the Hunter's Guild's win rate is over 60%, very much attributed to Steeljaw's power. Something had to be done...
Mike - We actually only changed a single thing on Steeljaw's card - Bait.
There were two characteristics of Bait, which we wanted to address, one of which was its ability to automatically hit by being a self-cast Pulse play. We have changed this Pulse to an AOE, as you have to roll to hit with an AOE. Sure, it's now possible to hit more than two enemy models with the push, but that's not a problem - it's actually a move towards a playstyle that she should excel in: breaking down beatdown formations.
The second characteristic that we wanted to tackle was Steeljaw's ability to affect two entirely different sides of the pitch, due to Bait being a 6" pulse. This means that she could debuff two enemy models that were 13" away from each other. Again, the AOE fixes this problem by concentrating Bait's effect to a smaller area.
With this change, we hope to see that Steeljaw's effectiveness against bunkery beatdown teams stays the same, but decreases against football teams - something which she was designed to be weak against in the first place anyway.
Mike - The reason why Egret was picked is simple - even Bryce and Jamie have mentioned multiple times that they've made a mistake by giving her access to a certain trait. Let's just revert their mistake, shall we?
Mike - Egret having access to Close Control, while the Guild also already has access to Edge (with Close Control) and Zarola (with Unpredictable Movement), ánd having a ranged tackle option in Mataagi since 4.3, gave them far too many ways to defend the ball from football teams.
If anything, Egret's way of keeping the ball safe has always been her ability to move 14" for only three points of influence via her advance, Swift Strikes and Back to the Shadows. Putting Close Control on such a model is just a step too far.
Together with the change to Steeljaw, we're hoping to see a shift in the Hunter's Guild meta, opening up other (captain) models, and also affecting their win rate.
Mike - The Falconers game plan has always been quite straight-forward, and very telegraphed through the required use of the Harrier AOE's. Due to all of the extra mobility - added since the start of Season 4 - the Falconers have been struggling to make this game plan work to their advantage.
One of the models that was rarely selected for the Falconers was Ikaros, mostly because he didn't fill any of the parts of the standard game plan - murder your opponent as quickly as possible, and keep the ball safe while you're at it. Let's see if we can change him in such a way that hopefully opens up a new playstyle for the Falconers.
Mike - First of all, let's look at his playbook. We've basically given him the 'Flint treatment' - add a dodge to the momentous tackle on 1, and remove the momentum from all the damage options. If Ikaros now rolls well, he might get a double tackle triple dodge - now that is spicy!
And even if he's unable to get out of melee with the one he just tackled the ball from, the opposing model better have an early KD result on their playbook, because a tackle won't get through Ikaros' newly acquired Close Control result.
Lastly, we've updated Taking Flight to be more influence efficient. We've basically just given Ikaros the Flying trait - he has wings, what do you want from us? The Stamina-esque double movement part of the play is still intact, and we've basically added Updraft's movement speed buff to it. Basically, Ikaros now has a 15" threat on the ball, and 22" goal threat.
Are these buffs a bit too much? Maybe, but Minor-only squaddies have always had a bigger power budget than the dual-Guild models as they should be more integral to the Guild's game plan, and this tune-up might help him fill that space. Might Falconers now also be able to play a goal-centric, or a 2-2 game more comfortably? You bet. Time will tell if we've outdone ourselves, or if we made a huge mistake...
Henry - At the moment, the Ratcatcher's Guild has become sort of a 'meme' - if someone asks the community what they should play, the community always says "Rats!". They are widely seen as the 'fun, but very hard' option. We would like to keep the 'fun' option, but make them more capable of getting a decent amount of wins in.
But who or what to change? When considering the models, we first looked at Pelage and Skulk. These models are play-up's for the Mortician's Guild, who are doing quite alright, so we decided to keep these models unchanged. We also thought about changing Piper, but we already decided on two captain slots for this errata, and the other slots needed changing more. Thirdly, we thought about changing the Disease rule - we heard some talking about removing the downsides for the Rats themselves, but we decided to not do that. More on that later. Scourge is popular and effective, so the only model we could effectively touch was Miasma.
Henry - Miasma's role within the Ratcatcher's is that of a support model. She usually doesn't need any influence, as her strength lies in Salve and Virulent Strain. If she gets any influence, it's usually to throw out a Rataclysm. We decided to give her playbook a small change - the momentous push result has been brought down a column, just to make it less awkward to put influence on her.
When thinking about the Disease condition, we had two choices. Removing the downsides for Rats was one option, but that doesn't solve their biggest issue - putting Diseased onto enemy models just isn't that effective right now. Therefore, we wanted to strengthen the condition by adding another effect to Virulent Strain, which now also decreases the opponent's DEF. This DEF reduction is huge, as it makes Piper and Pelage's playbooks more consistent, and gives Scourge the chance of wrapping his playbook.
Obviously, this DEF debuff is véry strong, but do remember that the rule is on a model. Remove the model, remove the debuff. This is why we didn't touch Miasma's survivability - she still only is a DEF 4+ model without ARM and only 16 HP.
Henry - The Union are one of the top performing teams right now, especially when only considering the beatdown teams. A lot of this has gone on the back of a single model - Minx. At this moment, Minx is a very powerful all-rounder - a great ability to set up teammates, strong damage as a payoff model herself, high mobility, and also the ability to play a keep-away game with ranged damage in Axe Throw and Back to the Shadows.
Because of her must-pick position, she has been encroaching on the roles of other Union models. Before Minx, Decimate was usually coined as the reliable fast damage dealer. Also, if the Union had to kick, they usually put pressure onto the ball with Mist, but Minx has also been taking that spot as of late. Toning down Minx will hopefully open up the Union roster.
Henry - The changes to Minx are twofold - we touched her playbook, and we removed the ability she had to play the keep-away game.
First of all, we changed the momentous 3< on column 3 to a momentous 2<<. This change will hopefully reduce her potential to kill enemy models without any buffs, i.e. at the start of a turn. Next, we changed the momentous 4<< on column 5 to a momentous 3<<, targeted at reducing her explosive damage potential when buffed, or supported by friendly gang-ups. These changes are based on strengthening her mobility over her damage potential.
Lastly, we just removed Back to the Shadows. Her ability to basically throw 3 DMG and Snared on any model ánd having the ability to then retreat to 10" from her target was a bit too much. It encourages a stand-off/gunline playstyle, which is not what we intend for the Union. We hope that she now fills a bit of a niche as a support/proactive setup model via Marked Target and the Axe Throw / Hunter's Prey interaction, and isn't a must-pick into every single matchup anymore.
Harald - Long story short - Order needed a push. Not a big one, but one nonetheless. It felt "logical" to pick a non-crossover model and the other choices are already pretty good. In fact, Brisket as the Captain in many ways was a worse Spigot with a Legendary. She deserved to get the nudge and as an added bonus picking the Captain ensures a push without "forcing" picks.
Harald - First, the T on 1 - a lot of Order goalruns failed simply because Brisket just misses the second net hit to grab the ball. This is irrespective of the target having Close Control or not, though it does help a lot. We did consider making it a momentous T but ultimately decided that it might be too much.
Second, the momentous TT on 4 - this one kind of depended on the third one, but there is a rationale for it alone. Close Control is a football team's worst nightmare and this gives Brisket a pretty good weapon against it. The late position in the playbook makes it a "likely on the charge" and "better have Armor Piercing to get it" kind of result, but that is more than fine.
Third, With Aplomb is now a Trait. We removed the Character Play because the stars just align too rarely for it to be worth it. We did however get the impression that Brisket needed some bells and whistles on goalscoring, so we added a Bonus VP Trait that coincidentally was called With Aplomb. The new With Aplomb is intended to give Order access to a Bonus VP that you can actually play and plan for to succeed. Coincidentally, a model with Unpredictable Movement and dodges on pretty much every column of their playbook is pretty well equipped to stay in Snapshot position and pull this Bonus VP off.
All things considered, we think Brisket - and by extension, Order - got the nudge they deserved to get into that sweet sweet 50-50 bracket in the competitive statistics.
It's an errata. We are legally obligated to include Midas.
We have made substantial and far reaching changes to Midas. He is unrecognisable in this new form.
So there you have it. 10 models - 5 buffs, 5 nerfs. We hope that we've at least shown that we can be trusted with the balance of the game. The idea right now is to see if these changes will have a positive impact on the game. Obviously, because the cards right now are all digital, there is the possibility for hotfixes, so don't worry about something within this errata that slipped our minds and is actually too strong or heavily exploitable staying in the game for too long.
While we feel we have toned down the most noticeable offenders in this errata, there are other models which are strong right now and may require a second look in the future. The model that came closest to being included was Spade, but we struggled to find a way to correct auto-hit character play without significantly reducing her power-level. We would have been fine with toning her down in Engineers but felt that nerfing Miners for a third errata running would be too much. This is the watch list of models which we are currently monitoring for post-errata power levels for possible future nerfs:
And don't think that we've forgotten about those models that are actually never chosen because of the Guild just having better options. Now we've dealt with the worst offenders, we're hoping to deliver more buffs than nerfs in future. Here are some on the list:
If we feel that the response from yourselves is positive enough, the Rules Committee might take the chance at a bigger set of changes for 4.5, but we'll see where the current leads us first. Nothing is set in stone.
Some of you might ask "can we expect a Season 5 errata?" To be totally transparent, we have not yet thought about any of that yet. We'd like to first let the design team earn their merits, before we're setting them the huge task of actually changing core parts of the game. We hope you agree. This is still us trying to earn your trust. So the actual answer to the question above will be: "There is a possibility, but do not expect it any time soon."
Anyway, be sure to let us know what you think of this GBCP-designed errata. Hit us up on Discord, Facebook or Twitter - we'd like to hear any feedback! :-)
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The views and opinions expressed in Tales from the Pitch are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Longshanks.