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Mittwoch, 20. Dezember 2017

Review: Guild Ball Blacksmith's Guild



Hey guys, it's been a while, but here's another miniatures review!




...and it's a very special one today. If you've followed this website you will have noticed that I painted almost every single figure that was released by Steamforged for their immensely successful game Guild Ball.


Guild Ball is roughly based on an odd little soccer variant called "Calcio storico" or "historical Florentine football" which is about kicking and punching people and looking dead 'ard with slitted pants on. Somewhere between the 54 lads kicking the snot out of each other there's also a ball on the field. Have a look, it's insane. I've watched a documentary about it a bunch of years ago and all I can say is that it's very impressive and very odd.









Anyway, Guild Ball's teams are much smaller, basically around 6 characters or more. In its essence Guild Ball is a skirmish tabletop game about a violent sport in a fantasy setting. Noo, it's not yet another Blood Bowl. It's quite different, and from what I hear a lot of fun. Never played it myself, I just painted a whole lot of figures for it. For more info on the game itself and an interview with the designers, do listen to this Meeples and Miniatures Podcast episode.


Guild Ball, ever since its Kickstarter roots in 2014, has been immensely popular with players around the world, and thus the different factions (guilds) have gotten new releases constantly ever since. Each guild usually has a starter box of three characters, all the other characters are available on their own (along with character cards with stats, special rules, and so on) in blister packs. Apart from special limited edition releases which are cast in resin, all Guild Ball figures are cast in white metal (and of exceptional quality by now).


That is up until recently, when the nice people at Steamforged Games released a 2 players starter box with plastic pre-assambled versions of already released figures. Since then two new guilds have gotten the plastic treatment for their starter box. The first was the Farmers Guild..


...the latest being the long awaited Blacksmiths Guild pack. This is the box I'll take a closer look at today and give you my thoughts on it.


The Box



The figures come in a very well presented, sturdy cardboard box, which doubles as a carrying case.


The back of the box gives us a little more info on the contents as well as some fluff.

Much to my surprise, the box contains much more than just the plastic inlay with the models: There are several cardboard sheets of counters and dials (all very good quality), a leaflet telling you where to download the game rules for free...



...and unit cards in 7 different languages.


I guess this is cheaper than having separate releases for different languages? Anyway, this product makes it clear to the onlooker that this is a premium product and you get your money's worth.


The Miniatures


However, we're not easily bamboozled by fancy production values and all that jazz. Let's get to the nitty-gritty, the figures themselves.

After a pretty bad initial impression I got with the metal figures from the initial production run Steamforge inproved the quality of their models by incredible leaps and bounds. The first figures were mostly pretty, but in many cases cast and designed in very unfortunate ways - typical problems of designers who draw up a figure on a computer, but aren't quite aware that it also has to work in the physical world.


However, they improved with every subsequent release, redesigned the initial figures a bit too and by the end of last year they had me won over. Excellent sculpts, excellent fit, excellent casting. Then they switched to plastics for a lot of their figures.

As mentioned above, the first plastics of theirs I worked with was the farmers. The quality was OK overall, but the material was rather flimsy and mold lines were a pain. 

It feels like they improved on the Blacksmiths here already. The plastic feels less cheap, the mold lines are a problem, but a bit less prominent (still, much worse than on their metals).


The models come pre-assembled and glued to the bases already. So far I haven't encountered any major troubles with painting completely pre-assembled figures. However, in terms of casting of course this approach of the least necessary number of parts means having to make concessions, mainly to avoid undercuts. This lead to a few unpretty bits on the Farmers. These here have next to no problems with that on the Blacksmiths, but poses still are rather uninspired, and wilder designs such as on the Butchers or Morticians teams are pretty much impossible.


In general though, the casting quality is nice. Hardly anything bad to say about these, once you've gotten rid of those mold lines.

A word on scale - these figures are done in a very exaggerated cartoon style and scales and sizes are kinda all over the place. Not as extreme as with Malifaux, but foot to eye measurements range from 32mm to 39mm.


Painting 


Painting the figures was a bit of a marathon in NMM (non-metallic metals) as I had to beat a tight deadline. I managed though, and I think they turned out really nicely.


Rather more monochromatic than the teams I painted before, but that helps them stand out. Once painted, it's impossible to distinguish between plastics and metals in terms of casting style or quality. The material takes paint well, nothing bad to say about it.




Verdict


These figures are of very good quality. I'm sure plastics will be more attractive to younger folks for some reason who feel a bit scared of metals it sometimes seems. A very tight approach to the mainstream system of selling fantasy figures via a game to go with them.



The fact that they're pretty much all done as one-piece (or as few pieces as possible and pre-assembled) comes with detriment to the poses and sculpt quality, that goes without saying. The models are designed in a way that painting them is completely unproblematic, despite the models being put together already.


My guess would be that they stick to the concept of plastic starter boxes with metal extra players for now. Which sounds like a good way to go actually. If Steamforged showed one thing in the past it's a keen business sense and the ability to improve.



So let's see what's in the books for Guild Ball next year. I sure hope to keep on working with their models, because they're just fun designs and usually of good quality.


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