Guild Ball: a Rookie Fisherman's Perspective

Since picking up my first Guild Ball box of the Fisherman's Guild, I have been hooked. It's a very modern miniature game with an entrancing amount of depth. It is like X-Wing combined with Malifaux and a dash of Warmahordes. Put those three in a blender, then inject steroids, and you have Guild Ball. 

The part that fascinates me most about Guild Ball is how many resources a player has to deal with simultaneously. X-Wing for example really only has three resources when thought about it a high level: board state, unit, and initiative. 

Malifaux adds a couple extra resources in the player's hand, soul stones, scenarios, and victory points.

Guild Ball has a similar number with the eight that I currently think about in the game:

  • Score.  The victory condition. First to 12 wins.
  • Momentum. Required for scoring, and helps to make rolls more potent. Momentum is also critical in determining another resource: initiative.
  • Influence. The resource that enbles models to act in the game. Called out separately from Board State because it forces important player choices.
  • Board State. Primarily model and ball position. Board State is especially key in Guild Ball as it influences resource generation more than any other game with perhaps the exception of X-Wing. 
  • Initiative. Determines which model goes first. Also, without takeouts, determines who goes last. Generally derived from Momentum and a little luck.
  • Models. More specifically, model's health, status, and attributes. One of the standard resources in wargaming. Perhaps this is combining too much as some teams emphasize the status or health of opponent models more than others
  • Possession. The ball is an extremely useful tool, allowing resource generation, board state modification, and victory point accrual.
  • Plot Cards. A static and limited resource that is only acquired at the start of the game. Plot Cards most frequently modify the positioning aspect of the Board State, but there are a few that modify Models.

Again, this is a rookie's understanding. It is an attempt to establish a framework for decision making before and during games.

 Jac of the Fisherman's Guild beckons you into deeper understanding.

Jac of the Fisherman's Guild beckons you into deeper understanding.

Let's lay out the resource priority for the first team and Captain that I have been playing, Shark from the Fisherman's Guild. 

  1. Score.
  2. Board State. 
  3. Possession. 
  4. Influence. 
  5. Models. 
  6. Momentum. 
  7. Initiative.
  8. Plot Cards. 

The Fish under Shark value Score more than anything else. They are playing for a 3 goal game, always. Therefore, the resources that impact the team's ability to score are the most important: the Board State and Possession.

It follows that two things help inform team choice when selecting your roster. Characters that can impact the Board State dramatically are valued over Momentum generation and damage to other models.

Let's use this metric for some positional comparison. I am not implying that positions are more important than these values, just that they're a metric for comparing models.

Angel vs Sakana

The front of the card sees two models that play a similar game. 6"/8" movement and 8" kick are key statistics for a goal-focused team in board control.  The dice difference between the two isn't huge, but it will enable Angel to take slightly riskier shots.  Angel can spend an influence to get an extra die and 2" on her kicks, which is matched by Sakana's extra movement with Smoke Bomb and Cover of Darkness.  On their base stats, they're tied at a full 18" of goal threat, meaning they can score from the Deployment Line if they can get an additional 2" of dodge.  The 5+ DEF of Angel is roughly equivalent to Sakana's 4+ DEF/1 ARM as long as the player is avoiding scrums.  They're also both 2/4 INF, but Angel can go super-solo if she's within 4" of Shark at 2/5.


The playbooks are where problems start to occur for Angel.  While tackle on 1 is great, the lack of movement results until 2 on a 4 dice model means that she cannot reliably reposition.  Combine that with a Melee Zone of only 1", and Angel's impact on Board State is limited.  She does have a Momentous Tackle on 1, but Possession is less important than Board State for the Fish. 


Meanwhile, Sakana's Momentous Dodge on 1 is critical for moving through a scrum.  The non-Momentous tackle on 2 with 5 dice and 2" Melee Zone oddly makes him a more reliable choice for Possession as he can avoid counter-attacks.  Both players have solid defensive skills between Nimble and Smoke Bomb, but Sakana's gives more control over the board for the same cost.

 Sakana may not look like a striker, but the old pirate plays a mean game of football.

Sakana may not look like a striker, but the old pirate plays a mean game of football.

Ultimately, Sakana is better at achieving Shark's top two priorities than Angel, and should be included in the roster over her in general.  Ultimately, Angel needs to be able to cheaply modify the Board State or take/maintain Possession better in order to make it on the team over Sakana.

These are the current evaluation criteria for Shark's team.  It winds up with a roster like:

  1. Shark (Captain)
  2. Tentacles (Mascot)
  3. Sakana
  4. Siren
  5. Greyscales
  6. Jac

The last two slots are actually quite difficult to populate given Hag and Angel are also in there.  Hag has a 14" goal range, and her Fisher's Reel opens up a lot of board control. Greyscales offers an immense amount of Possession pressure while Jac has a mountain of control over opponents.

 Hag is much faster on the pitch than she looks.  She's still not that fast...

Hag is much faster on the pitch than she looks.  She's still not that fast...

This framework does not yet take into account the opposing team, and that WILL impact roster decisions.  It's a start though, and given my limited time for games due to life, gives me a framework to check results against.

Sketch Style - Thoughts and Results

If you haven't previously seen any of Matt DiPietro's sketch style miniature painting, let's pause here.  Take a minute and go read this blog (or at least look at the pictures of the painted minis):

The principle achievement of switching to Sketch Style is that my time to paint a model has gone from two to three nights down to one.  Three to six hours down to two.  While there is a difference in quality, it is not so dramatic as to be disappointed with the final result. That is what has sold me on the approach.

It is a truly unique style that focuses on value contrast over all else.  Seriously, over everything else.  Smoothness, blending, all of the crap that's a "sign of a great painter" is ignored.  Look at the results he produces and tell me that he isn't a great painter...

So here's Greyscales, my very first attempt at sketch style.  In total, he took around three and a half hours over two days.  Much of that time was simply learning, making mistakes, and choosing colors.  However, I think he's a great result.

I waffle back and forth between the style being a true paradigm shift, or just a re-focusing of painting efforts.  If i have to simply pick one, it would fall in the paradigm shift category.  Here's why.

My traditional formula has been prime, base coat until even in a mid tone, shade, and then highlight. Base coating in particular is massively time consuming, and can be horribly frustrating.  I started using the airbrush to speed up base coating as well as help with the shading and that does help to speed the process up.  The focus of this approach is always on individual pieces of the model, with an inexplicable exo-ambient light source the justification for the highlight.  As I painted in my previous style, I was constantly focusing on two things at once: lighting and color.

Due to the daily average humidity of 25%, I could not apply many of the more advanced blending techniques such as wet blending to make the transitions as smooth as I would like.  Paint begins to dry the second that I pick it up from the wet palette, and leaves coffee stains on models if I brush over it more than once within about three seconds.  This leaves glazing as the best approach for smooth blending, which means significant time consumption.  On average, I was spending five hours over three nights per model.

As I write the description of my previous painting style, I realize that it really isn't that advanced.  It's the product of self-training, YouTube videos, and a few years of practice.  Perhaps simply receiving instruction (albeit in video form via Miniature Monthly) and trying to follow that approach is enough to justify the difference in quality.

The paradigm shift in transitioning to Sketch Style is that you break it down to focus on one aspect of the miniature at a time.  What this really means is that you're doing either lighting or color, not both simultaneously.  Instead, you focus on your light first, and then apply color later. It's very similar to sketching when drawing like you learned as a kid.

This means that you start by trying to "sketch" in the light on the model.  There are a few different techniques that can help save time, such as priming black, then adding light to the model with a white primer.  Those are just time savers though.  You could start from an all black model and sketch in light, or start with a white model and sketch in the shadows.

For me, I start with a black primer, then dust the entire model with a white primer in a classic zenithal prime job.  An important note is that it is only a dusting with the white at this point, leaving a speckled grey behind.  Then, I will pick an angle that I want to light the model from and strengthen the white primer.  Having an explicit, strong direction of light helps the drama of the model overall.

A sketch of Honor from the Guild Ball Kickoff box set.  Notice that the transitions on her legs aren't particularly smooth.

With the sketch, focus on how the lighting of the scene is interacting with the model more than anything else.  For the Guild Ball models, I lit them all as if the sun is shining above and from one side of the face.  First, fill in the natural shadows that occurred from the priming job with a black.  Next, with a very light grey, begin to strengthen the light spots and add some additional. Finally, go in with white to pick out details.  It's during this final pass with white that I will start to think about textures on the model and paint those in.  Non-Metallic Metal, shine from a wet surface, and shimmer from hair are examples of textures to pick out with white.

The principle behind spending so much time on the sketch is that you are creating value contrast.  More than any other type of contrast, the human eye picks out light versus dark.

Now that the sketch is done, it is time to start glazing in color.  Matt DiPietro recommends Daler-Rowney FW inks, and I can second that recommendation.  However, any of your acrylic paints you know and love can be thinned to glaze consistency with a little water.  Now, you simply glaze over the sketch with the colors that you want the model to be.  With the exception of skin, this works extremely well.

Honour's sketch colored over about an hour.  Total time on this figure was around 1.5 hours.

For skin, Matt has a few techniques that can work to keep it simple with glazing flesh tones, greens, and reds, but I have not yet mastered those.  Faces are important for me to be high quality.  For now, I use the face sketch to place my colors, instead of simply paint.

An important note is that the transitions of the sketch do not need to be perfect, and the fact that they aren't will actually give the model texture and character.  Over the top of the sketch you will glaze colors.  This will naturally make the transitions smoother as it brings the blacks, greys, and whites closer together.

I know.  It's a little counter-intuitive.

The results speak for themselves.  For me, the most important result is number of models painted.  In the month since I started Sketch Style, I've painted 30 models.  Basically one per day.  Sure, there are 8 cheater models in there that are significantly smaller, but there are also 7 larger-than-average sized models.  I think it evens out.

Part of the reason that so much was painted is that the approach is fun.  It allows for rapid progress, and just sitting down for an hour or less to complete a sketch is satisfying.

That's 259 models down, only 738 to go...  But this elephant is going to get eaten one lead-filled bite at a time...

A June Wrap

Sounds tasty!

Or buggy. Not sure.

Speaking of bugs, I made a startling amount of progress on the Rap Sheet Builder in not a lot of time in June. It started with a rebranding, and ended with integrating assigning equipment to actual units. Super cool!

A feature summary is: 

  • Added the equipment for all crews under /equipment. This allows you to print cheat sheets of equipment for your particular crew.
  • Added the strategies for all crews under /strategies. Similar to equipment, it allows you to print cheat sheets for a crew for their available strategies.
  • Added a trait browser under /traits. More basic as it only allows searches, and is less useful. 
  • In the rap sheet builder, you can now add equipment to crew members. 
  • In the rap sheet builder, you can now print the current list out to a code, and can print a summary for pasting into Facebook or other forums. 

Kinda awesome, really! 

Painting was a bit less productive. The month started with three speedsters for BMG: Black Flash, Reverse Flash, and The Flash (CW).

 The Reverse Flash, The Flash, and the Black Flash. Three speedsters for the Batman Miniature Game. 

The Reverse Flash, The Flash, and the Black Flash. Three speedsters for the Batman Miniature Game. 

Then, almost no painting for three weeks. Craziness at work, and a desire to get Bruce's Utility Belt out the door pushed painting onto te back burner. 

However, the last week of June, I felt challenged to crank out a few Saga minis that had been sitting on the back burner for a while. 

 An Anglo-Dane Warlord directs his most loyal warriors and warrior priest across a psychedelic battlefield. 

An Anglo-Dane Warlord directs his most loyal warriors and warrior priest across a psychedelic battlefield. 

I kinda had fun with these , and the firm end-of-the-month stopping date helped keep their pallette more simple. I wanted to trend toward more yellows, greens, and reds to contrast against the cooler green grass.

 Onward! Show the Viking dogs who has the best mustaches!

Onward! Show the Viking dogs who has the best mustaches!

There was some downtime while the Saga minis were drying, so I picked Gordon out of the vat of primed and 1 color painted BMG minis, and somehow finished him in two days to a reasonable level.  

 James Gordon as an old man. He was really a fun mini to paint, and deserves better pictures. 

James Gordon as an old man. He was really a fun mini to paint, and deserves better pictures. 

I may go back and add a couple white glints to the glass part of his glasses, otherwise I am really pleased with him as a tabletop+ model. 

Gordon was the perfect send-off for the month. The closing totals are: 

  • June ending model count: 870 (+50)
  • June ending painted count: 211 (+14)
  • June ending painted percent: 24.25% (+0.52%)

Next month I will continue to hit Batman Miniature Game minis hard, will hopefully release Bruce's Utility Belt into the wild, and...

 HAVE BABY #3!!!


Finally (Almost) Getting It...

The Arrow was a sign of the next level.

Man, there should be something really clever to say about an Arrow and feeling like I am getting better at painting. The Arrow is pointing at improvement? Too obvious.  

Evidence that eyes are still hard. 

Oliver Queen is one of the first minis where I feel like I got it. Which is strange, because he is one color. 

What I finally grok is contrast. The value of shading. The importance of pushing your highlights those extra shades brighter. It finally paid off with Ollie.

An angry hood watches over his paper towel. 

The paints here range from Reaper Brown Liner, through the Reaper camo green triad, up to Vallejo Ice Yellow. Near black to a white yellow. Contrast. 

His other side is also an angry side. 

The lessons learned from Oliver have carried over into other models. The Gotham Police Department Officers were done faster, but with the same approach. Blue liner to shade, up through a white-blue. 

Not quite Gotham's finest. A few too many donuts. 

Liam Neeson was a blast to paint, and I intentionally left his skin a darker tone, focusing on bringing out the contrast of his skin.   

Ra's Al Ghul - somewhere between the Batman Begins Ra's and Arrow Ra's. 

Most recent was Bane and a few lackeys for 150 point Batman Miniature Game demo games. He was an interesting challenge as he is supposed to be in all black. Instead, I chose to have contrasting armor pieces and a leather jacket to make the model more interesting. 

Clover, Bane, and McGregor. Mercenaries to murder the Bat with.  The shadows on Bane are actually painted there. It still surprises me.

Nearly two years after starting to paint miniatures, probably close to 1000 hours of painting, I finally feel like I get it. 

The feels are good.

A Painting Manifesto

Vacant blog is sad blog.

The origin of this despair has been abundant productivity. Not the painting kind of productivity, but producing a software product productivity. Hopefully I will get the go ahead from the copyright holder to post said product, but until then, peaceful silence for all...

But painting! In the highly occupied month of April, I only completed two models. I believe that is the worst month in the past year, maybe since I started painting. However, I think there was a hidden benefit to having put down the brush for 4 weeks.


Specifically the rejuvenation of my perspective on painting.

Slipknot and Killer Croc from Knight Models's Suicide Starter Box. I did a bunch of experimenting with these models, and none of those experiments turned out great...

The reality is that my painting queue is 624 long. 624. And I truly do want to paint about 90% of  it. That is a lifetime of painting unless something changes... Or about three years at 15 models a month.

So something changed. 

I had two Batman models from the previous order to complete, and decided that I would power through them. The result was actually quite excellent:

 Completing the Quick Response Force.  Really pleased with how they turned out in a short amount of time.

Completing the Quick Response Force.  Really pleased with how they turned out in a short amount of time.

In my post-mortem for the two, I reached nirvana, or at least a state of greater understanding, and wrote down a series of guiding statements in the form of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development:

As a painter, I favor:

Contrast over blending
Dark lining over washing
Faces over outfit
Getting it done over getting it right

As with the earlier Manifesto, the stuff on the right is important and should/can be done. However, the stuff on the left is more important and is where more emphasis should be placed.

These statements form my style. They give me the freedom to work on contrast instead of making sure my blends are prefectly smooth. They also let me put more time into the face than the clothes, guns, swords, or backpacks.

Style is good. For now, this is mine.