The NOVA Open always attracts exciting companies with compelling game systems, and NOVA Open 2017 is shaping up to be no different. One of these great companies is
, whose flagship game Guild Ball is shaping up to be a major player in the sports miniatures world.
NOVA Open staff recently spoke to Charles Agel from Steamforged about the company's exciting plans for NOVA Open 2017, including Guild Ball's North American Regional Championship, ways for new players to get involved in Guild Ball, and the upcoming Dark Souls board game based on FromSoftware's popular videogame series.
Q: It seems like we're living in a golden age of sports miniatures games. With so many great options out there now, what makes Guild Ball coaches keep coming back to the pitch?
It's a combination of things. First you have the rules. They are easy to learn but rich, with enough depth and variety to make them a challenge to master. So the more you play, the more you get those "Aha!" moments where things just click, and before you know it, you're discovering ways to combo abilities or position players for these momentous, cinematic plays. On top of that, the game is packed with tons of choices, from the Guilds to your playstyle. Do you want a goal-scoring strategy or a take-out strategy or some hybrid combo? And that kind of variety and power of choice is so important when you want to pull players into your game. So far, we have nine different Guilds, each with their own aesthetic and playstyle for Guild Ball. Yes, many miniatures games do this, but what makes Guild Ball different is you only need six models for a full team. That lets our coaches really experiment with their rosters and frees them up to try different players or even other guilds without a huge cost.
Then, you have our production standards and model quality. We're all gamers at Steamforged, and we're dedicated to making our games the best in the industry. Recently, we created a brand-new board game plastic to make sure our materials could live up to our expectations for our two-player starter set, Kick Off!.
Q: The competitive Guild Ball scene is really heating up, we're excited to be hosting the final North American Regional Championship for the 2017 season at the NOVA Open. How can coaches secure a spot to play for the title?
They should play in our Regional Qualifiers for the NOVA Open, which will be held between June 3 and August 19. Any coach who wins a Regional Qualifier will not only earn exclusive prizes but he or she will secure a spot in the Regional Championship. You can learn more about the Regionals
in our blog
, and be sure to follow our Facebook account for updates.
Q: For new players who are interested in fielding a team, what's the best way to get started playing Guild Ball?
Two words: Kick Off! It's literally everything you and a friend need to play a full game of Guild Ball in one box. You get two complete teams of pre-assembled board game plastic models (12 total!), two ball-markers, tokens for both teams as well as the condition tokens, tons of dice, a double-sided fold out pitch (that's not paper!), enough health dials for each player and mascot, two sets of movement widgets and templates, two victory point trackers, two goals, punch out terrain pieces, and a rule book! Then, crack open the box and watch the
Guild Ball: How to Play series
from Watch It Played. It's the perfect video-walkthrough to get you from unboxing to crushing face on the pitch.
Q: Are there any exciting new teams or players taking the pitch in 2017? What plans does Steamforged have for Guild Ball this year?
Steamforged fans have a lot of big, exciting things coming their way in 2017. We're kicking off the new season with two new players in January-Granite for the Masons and Pintpot for the Brewers-perfect additions to Kick Off!. For February, the Morticians get to welcome Brainpan & Memory to their teams, the Fishermen will see Hag's debut, and the bloody Butchers get to enjoy Veteran Ox, chains and all. By March, there will be the always toxic Crucible for the Alchemists, well-oiled Locus for the Engineers, and the mysterious new Union Captain (all will soon be revealed!).
If you've read through the strategy guide included in Kick Off! (or followed our Facebook page), chances are you've heard some rumblings about the Farmer's Guild. It just so happens they'll be releasing sometime in 2017. You'll just need to keep an eye out to find out exactly when that might be.
Q: I understand that Guild Ball has its own spinoff game as well. What is Shadow Games all about?
Lies and backstabbing! (Knives not included.) Behind the scenes of Guild Ball, there's a lot of double crossing and politicking between the Guilds (think House of Cards meets HBO's Spartacus but with soccer) especially when it comes down to player recruitment. Why is it so sinister? Because top-notch talent means your Guild has an edge on the pitch, which means more money and power off the pitch! In Shadow Games, you compete against other guilds to try and be the first to recruit a new star player by stealing, bribing, and straight up lying. Alliances will be formed and broken, friendships will be tested, and you'll find out just how sneaky you can be. Fans of party and bluffing games will really have a blast playing it.
Q: Is it possible for players to incorporate Shadows Games into league play?
Anything is possible in the Free Cities. We have not incorporated it yet, but the year is still young. If you think of a great way to do it or you have a particular craving for a new format, let us know on
. Guild officials are always lurking.
Q: Steamforged waded into the Kickstarter world last year with the Dark Souls board game based on FromSoftware's hit Dark Souls videogame. How did this project come about?
Guild Ball was actually our Kickstarter premiere, and its success was a big part of the groundwork for the Dark Souls campaign. Our co-founder, Mat Hart, was an executive producer in the videogames industry, who worked on titles like Heavenly Sword and Devil May Cry. At one point, he had worked with Bandai Namco. After the success of Guild Ball, he bumped into a former colleague at a convention and everything just fell into place.
Q: What is the gameplay like in Steamforged's Dark Souls?
Dark Souls™: The Board Game
is a dungeon crawl for 1-4 players that is pure Dark Souls. It's brutal and teeming with iconic Dark Souls creatures from the grunts to the Titanite Demon. In the game,
players explore tiles, battle enemies, collect loot, and level up their characters to fight increasingly difficult Encounters that culminate in an epic showdown with one of the infamous boss battles from the Dark Souls series. Much like the video game, death is expected. Each time a character falls in combat, the whole party must return to the bonfire, and all enemies reset-but die with purpose! You only have a set number of resets (known as 'Sparks') until you lose the game. These resets can help you improve your strategies and plans, especially if you've learned the enemy's specific attack patterns and weaknesses.
The boss fights are where players can really get their Dark Souls fix. Each boss has their own unique behaviour cards and special ability that capture the experience from the video game and give it new life on the table top. For example, one of our Mega Bosses (not included in the core game) Vordt has quite a few behaviour cards that take him across multiple nodes of the battlefield quickly, making him one of the most difficult bosses to corner in the board game. To make his battle tougher, he has the deadly combo of the frostbite and stagger conditions. Either one on its own will really slow you down, but both at once can truly shut down a character's efforts in battle. Combine these powerful debuffs with Vordt's own innate speed, and players will need to puzzle out how to defeat a foe who can drastically outmaneuver them.
You can read the rulebook online right now
for an early preview.
Q: Will the game be available for NOVA Open 2017? If so, do you plan on running any events for it?
We'll have to wait and see just how much table space we can get our hands on! All NOVA attendees can look forward to demoing the game and we hope to be able to expand the Full Game Experience (a 4-player run through that builds to a boss fight) to include Dark Souls. The game will also be available, but we except it will sell quickly, so be sure to visit us early.
Q: The Miniatures for Dark Souls, and Guild Ball for that matter, are phenomenal. What is your process from getting this fantastic figures from concept to table?
It all starts with the materials, whether it's resin, plastic, or metal. They're the raw ingredients that have a huge impact on the player's experience, and not all materials are created equal. Each has unique features that can accomplish specific objectives. Metals are great for detail but can be spindly. Plastics are softer but durable. We wanted a high level of detail that could do the Dark Souls art justice, but we also needed a material that could survive the wear and tear of play. To fit the bill, we invested in developing a new type of plastic to make sure they would meet our standards. This new plastic was first used for Kick Off!, and we were so thrilled with the results, we continued to develop it for Dark Souls.
Character-wise, the model begins with concept art. We work closely with an artist to capture the pose, clothing, armor, weapons, finer details, and a pose to bring their role and story to life on the tabletop. This goes through a few iterations, making sure the art and the models rules come together to tell the same story. Then, we put it in the hands of our talented 3D artists, who transform the concept art into a 3D render. During this process, adjustments are made to correct any posing or details that wouldn't work with the molds. Then the 3D printers spit out a prototype, one layer at a time, which we use to double check the work. When it's got the all clear, bam! It's off to the printer to be mass produced and shipped to the tables of eager gamers.
Q: Does Steamforged have any other projects in the works that NOVA attendees should look forward to?
We absolutely do. We can't reveal much now, but we can say there is ever more work to be done.