Building Bridges – Hammer

So I’m hoping by now you’ve all jumped onboard and listened to the Protect Your Balls Podcast, where we were privileged enough to be allowed to spoil Hammer to the masses last week. If you haven’t had a listen yet, go here and treat your ear holes to some of the most dulcet tones you’ll ever hear on a podcast mixed with some opinions of three beautiful men from down under.

Hammer pic

Get Hammered

Now that the shameless self-promotion is out of the way, let’s have a chat about the newest captain for the Masons. There have been many people swinging their well endowed opinions around on the internet in the few days since his release (yours truly included; swinging easily the biggest opinion) and they have ranged from him being amazing to being rubbish. Let’s attempt to take an objective look at him and see how he measures up in the current meta.

As I’m extremely OCPD, let’s follow the format of Chisel’s write-up and begin with his stat line.

Hammer statline

  • 30mm base size: Yep, nobody cares.
  • 1” melee zone: Pretty standard amongst the S2 captains, bar Corsair. I think it’s more of a drawback in Hammer (who is essentially a DPS model) because Masons already have Honour with 1”. I’ll delve into more detail about this later.
  • Move 5”/7”: Base threat of 6” jogging and 8” sprinting, which is increased to 8”/10” with Punishing March and gives him a good threat range to put out hurt on your opponents.
  • Tactical Ability 7: This is where Hammer starts to look awesome. TAC7 with a playbook of 6 means that he’ll be getting higher results on his playbook more often, and combined with his awesome playbook and character plays makes him quite the beater. Also opponents will always be afraid to give him parting blows as with TAC9 you’ll be KDing them basically every time if your dice aren’t shit.
  • Kick 2/8”: Looks pretty average at the start, but with Ball Hog this is easily buffed to the same level as Mist, and add in Legendary Player to bring it to 4/9” and you’ve got yourself a very decent footballing captain. His threat on goal with everything going his way is a respectable 18” (plus Knockback use), so if he has the ball your opponent has to be worried.
  • Defence 3/Armour 1: As per last week, meh. Mason’s survivability is meant to come from their armour and he doesn’t get that benefit. It isn’t bad but it isn’t good. This is mitigated somewhat by Tough Hide and 18 health, but I still really wish we saw 3+/2A on him.
  • Influence 4/6: This is awesome. He can get 6 (and spend up to 9 with his character plays) and go to town, but at the same time he mitigates his influence burden by bringing one more than Honour to distribute to the rest of the team. 13 influence for the team is great.
  • Health 18: One more than Honour, and coupled with Tough Hide makes him one hard mofugga to kill. Puts him at a level that even most Butchers players will struggle to kill in one activation.

Character traits were alluded to above, but bring a bit more to Hammer than at first glance.

Hammer traits

Tough Hide is pretty simple. If your opponent wants to do damage to you he has to do more than usual. As above with 18 health Hammer is particularly hard to remove from the table, especially since you’ll be able to heal him multiple times with all the momentum you’ll be generating. Which is key; make sure he’s as close to full health at all times because he’s the linchpin of your team.

Knockback is an ability we’ve seen before on both Brick and Tower, much more useful on the former because of his 2” melee and being able to push models out of counter attack range (if they’re 1” melee *COUGH HAMMER*). I think with 1” melee zone you have to look at it differently, and treat Hammer as having a pseudo-dodge with every hit he makes on an opponent’s model. He has a push on 4 of his 6 playbook options, so use this and those playbook pushes to angle your opponent’s model where you want to surf Hammer to (be it the goal or another model to smoosh in melee). Also great on counter attacks against all melee attacks as you will push them at least 2” on one hit.

Finally Stoic, a character trait we haven’t seen before in Guild Ball. On the surface it looks pretty straight forward and allows you to ignore when an opponent gets a playbook push against you, so it’s pretty good when your opponent doesn’t have dodges and wants to counter attack push you out of melee. But once you go deeper you see that it applies to a number of effects in the game that specify that they push. Mason enemy #1 Gutter gets her first Chain Grab of the turn ignored. Corsair and Kraken have their first Harpoons ignored (which is pretty clutch). Whenever Jac uses Trident Tested you just flat out don’t care. Deadbolt, Kick Bolt, and Ramming Speed in Engineers. Lob Barrel from Stave. The list goes on. Good little niche ability that Stoic, especially against Fish and Brewers.

With mention to the playbook above, let’s have a look at it.

hammer playbookSo it follows the standard Masons theme of all the low results being momentous, a low momentous tackle, and the potential for ridiculous high non-momentous damage output. Remember throughout this, his TAC is 7. Also remember that with Iron Fist, all these damage results are increased by 1 (and we’ll assume for discussion that you basically always have Iron Fist up). Also also remember that Marbles has Tooled up for total +2 damage to all the above values.

One hit gives you a momentous push or 2 (3) non momentous damage which is pretty good. The most important thing here is the momentum on one hit, and being able to couple the push with knockback to reposition your opponent.

Two hits gives you the momentous tackle if you want to football with him, but crucially combines the first two playbook results into a momentous result with both options. 2 (3) damage with a push is pretty awesome when combined with knockback.

Where Hammer really shines is at 3 hits, which is very achievable against most opponents on the charge. 2 (3) damage and a KD or 3 (4) damage, both momentous. This is where you want to be aiming all your hits, as if you have a fully loaded Hammer he’ll be taking out basically any player bar maybe Fangtooth. On the charge always choose this option first for the KD and damage (unless you get 6 hits, of course), then beat them to snot.

Four hits is just icing on the cake and showcases both of Hammer’s sides; a momentous footballer and beater. Por que no los dos?

Five hits opens up the damage and double hits. With Tooled up you’re doing 5 non momentous damage on this column, or less with a double push. Combine with Knockback and you’re surfing your opponent’s model wherever the hell you want to go.

Six hits opens up your KD and damage. While it isn’t momentous, this is basically the only option I’d consider on the charge if you get the 6 hits and will set you up well for multiple lower momentous damage rolls for the rest of the activation.

We’ve mentioned Iron Fist above, so let’s dive right into the Character Plays. In an ordinary player they are the backbone of how they play, and even moreso Hammer’s are absolutely key to his overall playstyle and how his entire team functions on the pitch.

Hammer PlaysSuch an interesting set of character plays. Due to his Heroic Play, we actually have to look not only at how good his character plays are on him, but how good they are on other players too, which opens up so many opportunities. Spending influence on other players also means he gets to keep all the influence he starts the turn with, so you can really use him to full effect.

Punishing March makes everyone faster. In the early turns you will probably be using this on Hammer to increase his threat range. Mid to late game it shouldn’t matter as much, but gives him a respectable threat on goal with no other buffs. It’s basically Quick Foot for one less influence without having to activate another model first.

Iron Fist is a similar concept to the above; it’s basically Tooled Up on a model within 4” who you don’t have to activate first. Although if you can get away with it, Tool Up a player first then use Iron Fist for ensuing hilarity. A Tooled Up Iron Fisted Hammer who gets to an opponent’s model will basically kill them regardless of who they are. Use this to your advantage and teach your opponents to respect him.

Ball Hog is simply an enabler. It’s a shit version of Super Shot but who cares, the model using it isn’t spending influence. Best time to use it is when you absolutely need a kick to go to your other player, or when having a go at goal. 5 dice shots from 18” out with Hammer will never get old.

Finally, the key piece in Hammer’s repertoire, his Heroic play:

Hammer heroidHow amazing is this Heroic. Debate was abound within the playtesting circle about whether this should have been Heroic or Legendary, but holy shit am I glad it settled on Heroic. In my opinion this is what really differentiates Hammer from Honour; while she carries the team on her shoulders, Hammer enables the rest of the team to reach their individual potential. Masons players already have amazing playbooks and statlines, and being able to tweak them as required opens up so many more options on the pitch.

Hammer it Home

I have been a pretty harsh commentator on Hammer, given that I think he is vastly inferior to Honour as I play Masons. But for you who wanted a support captain, I think Hammer will make you extremely happy. He is a pain to kill and requires minimal input to get a few momentum and put up Hammer Time! He embodies the Masons Guild in that he is a capable beater and footballer all in one.

If you want to use him to beat, Iron Fist and Tooled Up combine to make him one of the most dangerous models in the game. With 6 influence and just Iron Fist you should on average be able to do at least 12 damage to most players and get 6 momentum (and that’s with a paltry 2 hits per attack); with Tooled up that goes up to 18 damage. Let’s do a thought experiment and say you’re getting 3 hits per attack; first one you do the KD with 2 damage and each subsequent one you’re doing 3 damage, so 17 off the bat. Chuck in Tooled Up from Marbles? 23 damage. Start hitting low defence models, throwing in a Singled Out from Mallet or a few crowds… Holy jeebus. Literally nobody is safe.

Then his second option is as a footballer. With Punishing March and nothing else his base threat on goal is 17”. With Ball Hog he’s 3/8”. If old mate Mallet is within 4” jump him up to a 4/9”. If you don’t have the ball but the player who does have it is within 10”, have a go at them and trigger your momentous tackle on 2 hits then start pushing them towards goal if you’re not in shooting range, or alternatively if you’re in range just use Knockback and a momentous push to stop them crowding you and punt that ball at goal.

The guy is pretty alright on his own, but let’s examine what he does for the other players in the team to see his true value as a captain:

  • Mallet: Holy shit. 6”/8” with 3” melee. With Iron Fist (and Tooled Up) he is doing 2 (3) damage on one hit, or a momentous 3 (4) on two hits. Plus if you ever need to go for goal with him, Ball Hog makes him a respectable 4/7”.God I love Mallet, and Hammer makes him even better. Mallet retains his position as the first player you choose after your captain and mascot.
  • Chisel: 8”/10” with 2” melee. Combine with Iron Fist, (and Tooled Up) [and Painful Rage] and literally nobody is safe. She’ll be doing a momentous 2 (3) [4] damage with a dodge on two hits, not to mention what starts to happen at higher playbook results. Ball hog makes her 3/6” which is nothing to sneeze at with all her dodges, as she will be able to get into position to make that key goal late in the game.
  • Flint: Would you like a threat range of 24” on goal? Basically being able to score from anywhere on the pitch seems good. Couple that with Ball Hog and you’ll be throwing 6 dice (with a Bonus Time addition) at the goal. Just ask any statistician; 6 dice never misses.
  • Brick: He doesn’t really do much with anyone, but put influence on him for other people to spend. Haha. He can threat 10” with Punishing March and does 3 (4) damage on two hits with Iron Fist (And Tooled Up), so he’s an option for damage output later in the game if everyone else Hammer loves is dead. He’s great to just keep within 4” of Hammer to threaten the counter attack and to horde influence for character plays.
  • Tower: This is where I think Hammer gets interesting. With such a low KD on his playbook, Hammer enables Tower’s Floored character trait. So he’ll be rolling 7 dice against a KD model, couple it with Iron Fist (and Tooled Up) for an easy 3 (4) momentous damage on 3 hits. He also threats 11” and in a similar vein to Hammer he can push opposing models around the board to where he wants them. Ball Hog makes him 4/6” and with Legendary Player he goes up to 5/7”. Protect Those Close helps Hammer to not die and keep Hammer Time in the centre of the field. This guy deserves another look once Hammer is released.
  • Harmony: lol nothing can save her.

I will be the first to admit that often I see a player on paper and declare that they’re rubbish straight off the bat (see Brick and Chisel), but then come back later to re-examine them and it turns out they weren’t so bad after all (or maybe they are actually good). I’ve only played Hammer in three games to date and I’ve always felt like I’m behind the 8 ball with him compared to Honour, but that’s likely due to my own playstyle and not wanting to give up the Mallet Missile or her Legendary Play. I was putting 6 influence on him and expecting him to get as much work done as Honour when she gets 6. In hindsight, I think this is probably the wrong way to play him. With counter attack dodges and Don’t Touch the Hair hanging around I feel like he’s more of a finesse character to use rather than the Hammer he’s named after. If he’s the first activation of the turn and you have initiative then yes, maybe he’s a good option to load up and send at one of your opponent’s characters. However, once there’s momentum on the table his individual output will likely decrease somewhat (especially if your dice abandon you and you miss that key 3 hit charge attack) due to the prevalence of pushes and dodges in playbooks.

How I will likely play him in the future is use him to generate a momentum or two from a KD charge attack just to get Hammer Time! up and let the rest of the team maximise their output with his Character Plays, or if there are multiple opponents in range, give him a few influence and walk around KDing everyone so you’re maximising your influence while draining theirs. It also probably isn’t a horrible idea to put him within 9” of the goal with Mallet hanging around for that clutch 5 dice snapshot if you need it. Use him to threaten your opponent’s models with the ball, because with a momentous tackle on 2 hits it will be very difficult for them to hold on to the ball if he’s within 9” of them.

One of the mistakes I made in my first games was to use him as a Hammer Cannon and charged him out away from the rest of his team. I just want to warn against doing this, as if there are no models within 4” of him when he starts his activation he can be a very sad panda. Keep him central, keep him protected, and keep him within 8” of all your players if at all possible.

(Still Haven’t) Nailed It

It’s still very early days with Hammer and I admit that after only 3 games I likely haven’t figured out his place in the Masons team. Once I get his model painted up I will be going gangbusters with him and fielding him in every game I can until I’ve figured out the best way to play him, so expect a follow-up article to this one in a few months when I’ve gotten more time with him.

Let me know what your thoughts are on Hammer, either below in the comments or at @EpicSaviour on Twitter where I’m always happy to discuss Guild Ball at any point in time.

Until next time sportsfans, keep it real and never stop protecting your balls.