Hello, and welcome back for another article on this amazing game of Guild Ball! In this regular series I will be delving deep into the strategies and tactics of the Butchers Guild, hopefully expanding my own knowledge and understanding as I do so. I’ve been painting and playing at a furious rate now, and I have begun to develop favourite models, and today I want to discuss one of them in detail… Boiler.
I have said that in many places that I am a modeller at heart, and when I first decided on a Guild to play my reasons were purely aesthetic. I was initially tossing up between Fishermen, Butchers and Morticians to collect. In the end, I decided on Butchers because I really wanted to paint Boar! However, of all of the models in the Guild, Boiler was probably my least favourite. I was kind of dreading painting him, which translated into not really wanting to play him either. I bit the bullet one day and put him on the table, and after that single game I was so excited about Boiler that I went home and assembled him that night. Instead of disliking the model, I started finding the almost childlike features appealing, and after painting him he went from my least favourite model to one of my top three.
Boiling It Down
Let’s start off by dissecting the statistics, as most of these articles tend to do… Last article I gave a breakdown of what I considered an “average” Guild Ball player, and once again Boiler falls right in that same spectrum as Gutter, with the single difference to her statistically being that his Kick is slightly worse at 2/6″. With a TAC of 5, his playbook is the expected 5 columns long, with momentum generation on most of his damage results, and also his tackle. He does have a KD as well, and despite being at 4 hits, it can go off fairly frequently given some of his other abilties. We will start with his two character plays, which are kind of deceptive as to what I see his role as, although I’ll discuss that further in a moment.
Mark Target is a somewhat useful play, although it is very dependant on the board state as to just how useful it is, much like everything in the game. With the turn structure that allows a lot of counterplay and reactive movement, having an ability that attempts to benefit other players in your team has positives and negatives. You have two really good targets for this ability, lowish DEF models who have already activated, and models who you are trying to force away from the fight that are yet to activate. It is a delicate balancing act here, because as soon as you Mark Target you are signalling your intentions to attack that model. If the target has already activated, even then your opponent can still pass the ball to them to allow them to dodge backwards, or setup a model to try and block your charge lane, place a model in range to assist, or even something like Obulous can Puppet Master them back to safety. If the target is yet to activate, Mark Target is potentially less effective given that the will be able to premeasure your new and increased charge distance and prevent it from benefiting you. The other thing about Mark Target is being only a cost 1 play, unreliability is a problem. Bonus Time can alleviate this, but anyone over DEF3 it can still be a somewhat risky proposition. Despite these downsides, oftentimes you cannot avoid a charge from a model and still remain relevant, so it can be a clutch play. One final use that I quite like Mark Target for, is allowing you to proc some abilities that ignore first hit/ character play, such as Gluttonous Mass or Clone. Mark Target has a RNG of 8″ and a cost of 1, allowing you to not invest a precious attack roll to remove that ability from that table for the turn.
Swift Stance is a fantastic Character Play that allows you to skew the numbers in a game that is heavily reliant on scoring multiple hits. If you are playing against a team that is going for a lot of damage, DEF5 is exponentially better than DEF4, particularly when you can add Defensive Stance or Charmed Male to that number. There is a few trap targets as well, although others may disagree. Personally I dislike trying to make a poor statistic better, and like to focus on making a good statistic great. Boar can be made DEF3 with ARM1 if you add Tough Skin from Ox, which gives him significantly better durability. However, comparing that to a DEF5, ARM2 Gutter… In the early turns, Boiler will often activate earlier in the turn to try and give someone who is in a potentially precarious position a little bit more safety. I’ve occasionally gotten him upfield and realised I made a big mistake, and thrown up Swift Stance to try and prevent a little bit of that incoming pain.
With these two Character Plays being very support oriented in nature, it would be easy to assume that Boiler plays a support role in your team, Marking Target and then using Swift Stance to help your durability. And oftentimes in games he will do exactly that, and be a very useful part of the team. But it is three other traits that I think makes him such a surprise packet in what he can do.
Firstly, Anatomical Precision. Virtually making him TAC6, it increases the chances of scoring that KD, as well as making it a lot easier to get some damage out there. Anatomical is such an amazing ability and I value it almost as highly as I value Reach, so for Boiler to have this ability it makes him very attractive in my team makeup. Crucial Artery causes Bleed on the target when this model damages an enemy model, and Bleed is a devastatingly strong condition. Conditions are actually a fascinating part of this game, especially when combined with how Momentum interacts with healing. Forcing people to either heal or remove conditions is especially important to the Butcher’s starting a momentum train and then continuing to ride that for the rest of the game.
And finally, Assist [Princess]. This ability is what defines him for me, and why I rate him so highly. The Butcher mascot is a great little annoyance piece. I like to run her out early in the turn, blocking charge lanes and engaging an enemy model. This gives them a bit of a conundrum: Do I try to kill Princess (Loved Creature WOOOT) and unengage my player, or do I give her a Parting Blow, or do I ignore her? All three of these have positive results for the Butcher player, unless they happen to kill her as the last activation (and even then, +2MP isnt bad at trying to win initiative). When you do this with Boiler nearby, people who know what is coming will almost always walk as far away as they can! Let me delve into this a little further…
Reaching Boiling Point
If you ask an inexperienced player to look over the Butchers cards and asked them “Which player deals the most damage in this team?”, most would probably opt for Ox, or Boar. And while it is true that those players do have a very obvious damage output, in my experience, they are not the best in the team. Actually, the model that has the highest potential output is this little guy, Boiler… It takes layering of a few bits and pieces, which is where in practicality it can break down, but when it comes together, it is majestic as fuck. Lets talk absolute maximum damage output firstly, then look at things a little more realistically. Firstly, Boiler has been allocated 4INF. We have Ox in range for both Owner, Get Em Lads, and Butchery on the target. We have Meathook Tooling Up Boiler. One thing to remember, that +4 to any damage roll will work on any player, so this is not the important part. The key part is having Princess engaged with the target as well. That will take Boiler to an effective TAC7, one from the trait, and one from Ganging Up. Suddenly his Playbook is looking very small, for his base TAC. With Anatomical and Get Em Lads in play, he is ignoring 2ARM. For a single hit, he will do an incredible 6 damage per hit (compared to Ox, who with all those buffs will do 5). At a paltry two hits, that becomes a momentous 7 damage per swing (Ox, still 5). Five hits, momentous 8DMG (Ox, 6). Now, where it gets interesting is on six hits. Suddenly Boiler has wrapped, and his damage goes to a whopping 14 from a single attack (Ox, 7). Oh, and by the way… you are also Bleeding.
To be fair, there is some inconsistencies to the comparison there. Ox cannot cast Butchery on a target and still have the same number of attacks, Ox is rolling 8 dice with Princess engaging vs Boilers 7, although Boiler ignores an extra point of ARM, but the overall point of the exercise is clear. Boiler kills a lot of shit when the stars align. And again, he always causes Bleed! Leaving him until the last activation on a turn to stop your opponent from clearing the condition means they basically have three less health to work with.
But what about when they do not align? He is still a serious little beast. Even with no support at all, his momentous 3DMG is on five hits, which is a decent position on the playbook for such a high damage result, especially with anatomical factored in. Just for a quick comparison: Boar, 3DMG on four hits, Brisket, no 3DMG result, Meathook, 3DMG on six hits, Ox 3DMG on six hits, Princess, 3DMG on four hits (lol), Shank, 3DMG on four hits, Tenderiser, 3DMG on four hits, Decimate, 3DMG on five hits (non momentous), Gutter, Scything Blow on four hits. Comparing all of those stats, its clear to see with Anatomical he sits exactly where everyone else does for his damage output. All you have to do to get those numbers off the charts is get Princess to start Ganging Up on the model Boiler is attacking and effectively his momentous 3DMG result is on two hits. In other words, shit gets nasty, really quick.
The trickiest part of playing with Boiler I have found so far is his influence allocation, although I think this is a crucial part of being a good Guild Ball player in general. Allocating an overabundance of INF to a single model telegraphs your turn plan in some ways, so you often have to spread it around in a way that is efficient and will allow you to build a turn in a flexible way. Boiler does not help this situation much, because he usually wants to be allocated a minimum of 3INF, to Swift Stance someone, and sprint. That means he is draining someone else of influence to do so, but fortunately Princess brings one, and I like to consider her influence basically belonging to Boiler.
Trying to position Boiler on the pitch is another tough thing to consider, and it is dependant upon a number of things. Who you are playing will obviously decide which role he will focus on. I like to start him just off centre, alongside Princess who obviously always follows Boiler around wherever he goes. Butcher teams tend to bunch up a lot anyway to get maximum value out of the Owner, so he wants to stay close to that action where possible. When playing against a team that looks to pass the ball around, and not be very aggressive, I will try to push hard with him as the vanguard model, using Swift Stance on himself. He is decent as a bait piece. He has a nice Push Dodge Counter Attack to potentially get him out of trouble, and with his DEF5 ARM1 he is hard to trivially remove. Also, dont forget a Counter Attack can still cause Bleed, so it is a nice way to sneak a bit of extra damage through if you’ve managed to pick up a momentum. Against a melee focused team he is a much better counter puncher, coming in late in the turn, when the lines are together. Princess is usually already in place now, just waiting for her moment, and Boiler can charge in with just his two INF, probably pick up a pretty easy wrap vs a DEF3/4 target, and knock out a lazy 7/8 damage. You also have the potential that Thousand Cuts or Dirty Knives is in play on the target, and this makes things a lot easier for him. A walk followed by two attacks is much better in that instance, potentially picking up a wrap without too much difficulty, and scoring upwards of 10 damage for that investment of two influence.
In any competitive Butchers team, Boiler is the second model I reach for. Although he has that downside of not having reach, the other support abilities and his incredible ability to crank up damage can force your opponent to adapt their turn to you, and I think on a fundamental level that is how you are able to win a game of Guild Ball. When you are creating the running, you are able to leverage that into momentum generating opportunities, and positional advantage, and Boiler is surprisingly adept at doing both of those things. Not bad for a little kid.
-Trent ‘Big Deno’ Denison