Thank you for joining me in what I hope will become something of a regular column about my new passion, the game of Guild Ball, and specifically, the Butcher’s Guild! Firstly, I do not consider myself an experienced Guild Ball player, far from it. I am in the honeymoon stage, where everything is exciting and new and every single game I learn something new. However I do bring a fair amount of other wargaming experience to the Guild Ball pitch, and it is using that experience that has allowed me to be relatively succesful in a short space of time. I look forward to continuing this journey and sharing my experiences with you. I will be attempting to write articles from a competitive perspective, with a focus on tournament style play, a style which Guild Ball seems tremendously well suited for. In this, my first article for OzBall, I will be detailing how to utilise one of the best Union players available to the Butcher’s Guild, Gutter, and why she should make any competitive Butcher’s Roster.
The Broken One
Looking over her statistics a little more in-depth, she brings what I consider to be the “standard” for stats. She has a MOV of 6″/8″, a TAC of 5, a KICK of 3/6″, DEF of 4+/ 1 ARM, and INF of 2/4. Every single stat is basically bang on average for a Guild Ball player, and with no real outliers in any of them, you know exactly what you will get from her before putting her on the pitch: a good solid all rounder who is capable of both passing and shooting, and getting stuck in. Her playbook is standard length for her TAC, at 5 columns long, with a lot of momentum generating options including both her character plays, but not a huge amount of damage. Where she excels in the game is what else she brings.
The first of her key abilities is a very simple one, her 2″ melee zone. Having a 2″ melee zone is one of the most powerful abilities in the game. Outside of the obvious threat range increase, it allows you to engage from outside of Counter Attack range. It makes it far easier to add some Ganging Up bonuses to a nearby melee. You can attack over terrain pieces. You can threaten Parting Blows from different angles. The list of advantages that having that extra reach brings is long!
Her next key ability is Anatomical Precision, ignoring one ARM point when making any attack. Against those models that do have a point of ARM or two, it basically translates into an extra hit. JamieP has described it as an effective extra point of TAC, taking her to TAC6, and slightly above average.
Healing is a mechanic in Guild Ball that can be difficult to utilise. Momentum can be difficult to generate and often has better or more urgent uses, such as clearing off conditions, or utilising Counter Attack. Having an ability that allows you to self heal outside of spending precious momentum is worth its weight in gold. Despite the errata reducing this to only 1HP per attack, over the course of an activation, you can pick up 3 or 4 damage and then use a momentum to recover 8HP. Its little things like that that can prevent a model from being taken out in the later stages of a turn.
Finally, her biggest drawcard, and the reason you bring her: her two character plays. Lets start with Scything Blow. It’s something of a counter intuitive ability in Guild Ball. The last thing you want to be doing is being engaged by multiple models, because you then suffer crowding out penalties. Unless of course, you have a 2″ melee zone… which she does. That allows you the potential to engage a few models, without necessarily being engaged and suffering crowding out penalties. It becomes a lot easier to trigger it, and with some luck you can often engage your other target as well, and get her rolling 6 dice. When it comes over, it is fantastic. When you roll it and realise you are engaging a couple of friendly model as well… well. Sometimes you just do it anyway. 🙂
Without a doubt, Chain Grab is her most powerful ability. Being able to manipulate the position of an enemy model allows you a lot of positional control of the table. It is so good purely because she can move a model from basically 14″ away, instead of a Push from a Playbook result, like most other abilities that move an enemy model. The benefits of this are pretty obvious – being able to increase the threat range of your other models, or pulling their models away from auras and their protection. One of my favourite ones, is being able to drag a model into Ganging Up range of some more of your models.
A couple of quick notes on using Character Plays via Influence. When you target a model that you are ENGAGED by (aside from your target), you would suffer a -1 penalty to your dice pool. However, since this ability is cost 1 anyway, you cannot be reduced to lower than 1 dice. There is also no penalty on character plays for targeting an enemy model who is engaged by multiple models, it is simply a straight DEF roll with your 1 dice.
Blood in the Gutter
Why is Gutter so mandatory in a Butcher’s roster? Multiple reasons, but the first and most important is the variability she brings. A Butcher’s team will usually have a very predictable game plan – to crush the skulls of anyone who comes into their threat range. However, this game allows you to premeasure literally everything if you wanted to, and more often than not you will find that people remarkably manage to stay exactly 8.1″ away from Boar, or 9.1″ away from the Ox. There are ways around this, which a canny Butcher player will be familiar with. Gutter is a very good one. She drags a model 4″ directly towards herself on a succesful Chain Grab, bringing them into her melee range. More importantly, that is potentially another 4″ to the threat range of any model in your list. And if you have allocated her more than her basic amount of Influence, she can buy some additional attacks and has the ability to Push 1″ (NOTE: Remember that a Push can be in ANY direction, and UP TO the amount of the push) on two hits from her Playbook, or drag the model their remaining 2″ into base contact on four hits. So it can be upwards of 7 or 8″ that she can move an enemy model in a single activation, all the while generating momentum for the team.
One interesting design aspect of this game that I like is looking at a models playbook and seeing exactly where they generate momentum. This is usually an insight into the most effective ways to use the model in question, kind of like a hint from the designers. Gutter has four momentous options in her playbook, of which three of them cause damage, and the fourth is her drag. It is pretty obvious to see that she fits right in with the Butcher’s mentality of doing a shitload of damage.
It would be remiss of me to discuss Gutter in Butcher’s and not talk about the main man himself, OX. In a class all on his own when it comes to assisting damage dealing, the Owner is a great benefit to Gutter. Having 1 momentous damage one a single hit is great, but making it 2 momentous is pretty much insane. It really starts to get crazy when you consider Scything Blow is an automatic 3 damage, which will become 4, also momentous. For one turn in the game, you can use Get ‘Em Lads and turn her damage output up even higher. With anatomical she ignores 2 ARM points, and will add +2 to any damage result on her playbook. That is 5 damage per swing from a Scything Blow, to ALL models in her melee range. Insane levels of damage. And the best part about all of these synergies is because Gutter will be bringing models to her, it is much easier to stay inside the auras and get maximum benefit.
The Opening Gambit
There have been a few different strategies that I have been utilising in my games, here I want to discuss the main one, my first turn play. Much like chess, my opening moves with the Butcher team will often create some interesting opportunities, and Gutter is perfectly poised to capitalise on this. I usually load Gutter up with the full 4 INF, 3 INF on Boiler, a couple of Ox, and the obligatory 1 on Boar. Ox activates first, Sprinting forward, and putting Tough Skin on Gutter, getting her to 2ARM.
I will throw out a few junk activations here, Princess or whomever, waiting to see if someone comes into threat range of Gutter. There will usually be one or two, given the kicker/ receiver will have to come forward, or Gutter herself can be the kicker and get upfield threateningly. She walks/ Sprints to a position where she remains inside the Owner aura, and uses Chain Grab to drag the enemy model.
She then buys her remaining attacks, and uses her Push on 2 hits to throw the enemy closer to Boar, maybe choosing damage instead, depending on the placement of the enemy model. Boiler will activate next, giving Gutter Swift Stance, making her 5+ with 2ARM, and also Mark Target on the model that Gutter has dragged. This gives Boar a 10″ threat range, and with the drag, plus potential Pushes, he will be able to reach out a long, long way.
If you have positioned everything correctly, then Boar should be able to charge the enemy model you have dragged, be inside the Owner, and getting a Crowding out Bonus from Gutter. That is a TAC 13 charging Boar, plus 3 more potential attacks at TAC 9… That is potential takeout territory. If someone attempts to charge Gutter, she can Defensive Stance for 6+ DEF and 2ARM, which requires on average a TAC of about 16 to score a single hit vs her… Tasty. This sort of play becomes less and less effective as the lines converge, but it is a good opening move to the game.
During the mid portions of the game, Gutter will not be getting as much INF.. She lacks any Dodges on her playbook to allow her to float in and around melee, but she is still fast enough to get into good position, and with her 2″ melee zone she can assist a lot of players with Ganging Up. It is around these stages that I look to try and use her as a damage soaker, leaving her until later in the turn to activate. Giving her a decent amount of INF, maybe Tough Skin from Ox (who will usually try to activate first) to give her that ARM2 again, if they attack Gutter it is usually pretty tough to take her out outright. At this point she can buy some attacks, use Lifedrinker to heal up and use a Momentum to heal again, then walk back to the backfield, where she can look to Chain Grab in the following turn and again manipulate the board state.
Towards the end of a game, she is an opportunistic goal scorer, very good at finishing off the last few points on a damaged model and skipping away to safety.
How To Stop Her
Much like any model in a well designed game, she has weaknesses that can be exploited. When looking at Chain Grab specifically, there are a few ways to get around it. The first is model placement, and not just keeping your guys outside of 14″. Putting your models directly behind other models will prevent a drag, and one of the best models to do this with is your Mascot. With Loved Creature the last thing you want to do is kill the Mascot early in the turn to allow you to drag a model. Defense is a decent way of getting around Chain Grab. Often in the early turns Momentum is hard to come by, making a DEF5 model a risky proposition for a Chain Grab. Every INF they put into a the play that fails, is less damage you are suffering if it eventually does succeed, and less movement options after it. Utilising terrain is another key way of preventing the Chain Grab, and it will give you cover also from actual attacks. Remember that a forest, or difficult ground will not prevent a Chain Grab from succeeding, the movement penalties for these peices of terrain only applies to Advances.
Once the lines converge, she is only TAC5, which when Crowded Out drops down very quickly, and vs higher DEF models she will not be able to easily reach the Scything Blow, or even her momentous 2 damage. She will go down to concentrated effort, with 14HP not really enough and no exceptional stats to protect her.
I hope this article inspired you to take this model out of.. the… Gutter. Alright, I am leaving now.
-Trent ‘Big Deno’ Denison