Like most Butcher players who looked at their guild when they first bought in, I was enamoured by Boar. He’s a big, burly, no nonsense piece with a beautiful miniature that cries out to be used. He dishes out damage like nobody’s business. However, the general feeling amongst more and more players I’ve seen is that he doesn’t make the grade. I know I’ve personally stopped using him, and I believe I’m not alone. But why?
I started thinking more about this the other day, when I was asked why I was so down on Boar. It made me stop and think about it and really evaluate Boar. Why was this player, whom I had first assumed was godlike, not making my 8 many tournament roster? To really understand this you have to look at Boar himself, as well as the options that other players bring. The reality is, Boar might be a big guy player, and that usually comes with certain inherent defects (slow speed and low DEF), but he still needs to compete with every other player that I have available for a spot on my roster. So who is he competing with, and why does he fall short?
After my Captain and mascot, there are six spaces free in my eight man roster for the rest of the players and then in any single game I only get to choose four of them for my team. Of those six I consider three of the spots to be filled by my personal auto-includes: Brisket, Gutter and Shank. Brisket gives me the option of playing the ball, I often leave her on the sidelines, but she is in my eight and comes onto the pitch if I think I might struggle with take-outs and need to score a goal or two (Brewers come to mind). Shank and Gutter are the quick moving reach models I use to extend my threat range, do large amounts of damage and generally get work done. They form the core of my team in most instances and I usually have them both on the pitch together. So the reality is, I’ve got 3 spots on my roster to fill each time I head to a tournament. Why isn’t Boar among them?
All About Boar
Boar is extremely enticing to new Butchers players, and he does bring some really cool traits to the table. He is influence neutral the entire game, early in the game you might even give him nothing and keep him back a bit, thereby generating influence from him. Not only that but he has the ability to get a lot of work done with a single influence (a big charge plus three additional attacks). Butcher players want to do damage, and Boar does that, he can often one shot an opposing player if given the chance with his momentous 3 damage on a mere 4 hits. He also has one of the best single traits in the game, 2” melee reach, so with all he has going for him why don’t I like him?
Well, ultimately it is his Def 2+ that is the issue. People grumble about low Def models being momentum vending machines but I don’t think that’s a valid argument. If an opponent wants to get momentum off of you, they’ll do it. Most players have a momentous result somewhere in their first two columns, so generating momentum can usually be done off of Def 3+ and 4+ players nearly as easily as Def 2+ ones. In my experience Boar’s biggest problem is that he allows opposing players to easily generate Character Play results off of him that can seriously impact your nearly players: Chain Grab, Thousand Cuts, Dirty Knives, Scything Blow, Commanding Aura; they can all be gotten by attacking Boar more easily than attacking any other player in the Butchers’ roster. These plays can cause serious complications to a Butcher player’s game plan. As players become more experienced, the knowledge of how to deal with ‘Big Guys’ and know they can generate some of their best plays off of them. On top that this problem Boar has fairly low survivability and needs to be played very carefully. He can be a momentum drain as you fight to heal him up or remove conditions from him each turn. So if I think these are Boar’s problems, and I think they are serious enough not to use him, who do I take instead of him and why?
My Boar Replacements
The most obvious replacement that I see Butcher players reaching for is Rage. He feels like a mini Boar, you can play him very similarly if you want, but he lacks a lot of the problems. He doesn’t have reach, but he threats the same distance due to his quicker speed. He doesn’t have the TAC 8 that Boar does, but he has Crucial Artery to dish out Bleed, so I rate his damage potential nearly that of Boar’s. In a pinch he can kick the ball with his 2/6” kick and his 4+ Def makes him far more survivable despite having 5 less damage boxes. On top of that he brings a top tier offensive buff: Tooled Up, giving him more utility than Boar and allowing him to contribute damage without becoming directly entangled in combat. The complaint I hear about Rage from Butcher players is that Maverick is detrimental, and I used to feel the same. “Why not just take Boar, he benefits from THE OWNER and Ox’s legendary play and can out way more damage than Rage.” While that might be strictly true, I see Maverick as a benefit not a hindrance. I’m often too tempted to get all my players bunched up and benefitting from Ox’s auras. This, I’ve learned the hard way, can definitely be a trap. Rage is an independent operator and because of it he helps me keep spread out and be less susceptible to AOE attacks or pulse character plays. Rage nearly always makes my eight.
Decimate is the other Union Guild player I think warrants comparison to Boar, with Anatomical Precision she is a fairly decent damage dealer, and unlike Rage she can benefit from friendly buffs. What she gives up in raw damage when compared to Boar she by far makes up with utility. She can play football with her 3/6” kick and her Second Wind makes her invaluable at helping to speed up the sometimes slow Butcher line-up. Second Wind also can be an excellent resource for moving and positioning Ox, which is a crucial part of any Butcher player’s game plan (keeping Ox safe and getting the most out of THE OWNER). On top of all of this Decimate has Thousand Cuts, a highly effective character play. While I used to think it was an awesome play to get out if I got lucky and rolled well, I’ve taken to occasionally spending the three influence to put it out on an opposing player in certain match-ups. Pesky 5+ Def players can cause difficulties for any team (I’m looking at you Midas). A bonus timed Thousand Cuts has an 80% chance of hitting a Def 5+ player and can bring their Def down to a much more manageable level. Given that I am already including Shank, Gutter and Ox to dish out damage, more often than not I’d prefer those players to be supported with excellent Character Plays rather than simply taking Boar to add more damage to the equation. I don’t often use Decimate, but I think she is a very worthwhile choice for Butcher players and certainly far better than Boar.
Turning an eye away from Union I want to look at Butcher team members. I think there are some really fantastic choices that push Boar to the sidelines. Much has been said about Boiler’s damage potential (see Trent Denison’s article for a better breakdown). Ultimately with the right buffs and circumstances he can deal more damage than any other Butcher player, Boar included. Like Decimate he has Anatomical Precision, like Rage he has Crucial Artery and on top of it he gets an exceptional bonus when ganging up with Princess (be careful people, this can be a trap if you don’t use it properly). He is quicker than Boar, he kicks better and his 4+ Def with 1 Arm means he is more survivable. However, these things aren’t what I bring Boiler to the table for. The key to Boiler, in my mind, is the ability to put out Swift Stance on up to two players at critical moments in the game. This can let you be more aggressive with players like Brisket, Shank and Gutter early game, and often you can set yourself up to have very effective future turns by putting these players in a position where their Def 5+ keeps them safe. Boiler is an amazing piece, and while he doesn’t always end up on the pitch in all of my games he always makes my eight.
The other Butcher player who I feel consistently hurts Boar’s chances of making the line-up is Tenderiser. The Butcher’s goalie is a versatile beast. He can be played passively, back at the goal line simply generating an influence for the team and protecting the goal. On many occasions he has prevented a critical goal from being scored against me and he pretty much takes snap shots off of the table. He fills a very different role than Boar, but he fills a very unique one that warrants his inclusion, especially against teams that want to score two or more goals to help them win. Many players have begun to play Tenderiser much differently, ignoring his goal tending abilities and playing him as a more offensive piece in the mid-field. He isn’t nearly the damage dealer that some other butchers are, but he is a consistent knock-down threat and if you are willing to allocate the influence his Ground Pound play can be potentially devastating if pulled off at the right time (just be careful of positioning, you don’t want to knock your team down in the process). Typically I’ve been playing Tenderiser on the goal line early game with the eye towards counter-charging into the mid-field in the later turns and becoming a more active presence. There isn’t any player on the Butcher team that does what he does, so leaving him out of your eight man roster is somewhat of a gamble in my mind. Most teams don’t want a prolonged fight against Butchers and Tenderiser helps lengthen the game by stopping goal scoring and forcing opponents into a scrum. He isn’t a high damage piece like Boar, but that isn’t why you include him.
There are a number of other options for Butcher players to look at when they build their teams, but I feel like the above four are enough to push Boar out of contention. Meathook is an interesting piece who, combined with Brisket, Princess and Boiler gives you the option of playing the condition game and who has potential to get better with future releases. Avarisse and Greede add an extra activation and an easy access to a Knockdown. Even the remaining two players, who are generally maligned, are more useful than Boar in my mind. Harry the Hat brings Goad, a ranged attack and a very good Heroic Play, while Minx brings a fast moving, influence efficient, model that can lay down Screeching Banshee and therefore harass your opponent. While these players don’t stand out as being substantially better in comparison to Boar, they all offer something interesting to a Butcher line-up.
All these thoughts don’t mean that Boar can’t be played and can’t contribute; they simply mean that I don’t ever include him. He does more of the same, Butchers don’t need another heavy damage dealer because all of their players can already do that when playing alongside Ox. If you do want to use Boar I suggest that he is best used as a late turn piece who needs to be protected from retaliation. Be wary of charging Boar into players with reach that have easy access to knock-downs and especially dodges and/or pushes as these can really impact Boar’s ability to contribute damage, which is the one thing he does exceptionally well. In my experience Boar simply isn’t worth the effort that it takes to keep him alive and be effective throughout the game, I’d rather channel that energy elsewhere. Maybe I just need to play him better or maybe he needs something to help him out a bit (Def 3+ or Tough Hide). There aren’t many players in Guild Ball who I feel are poor line-up choices, but I think as things stand Boar is a model that I don’t feel attached to and end up finding replacements for him more often than not.