Starting a new game can be a daunting experience for anyone, whether they’re a seasoned veteran or a rookie who’s fresh to the pitch. The process of combing through rules, assembling miniatures, understanding components, and tracking a changing game state can be an overwhelming barrier to entry. So overwhelming that it can easily kill the excitement that a new hobby should inspire. That’s why introductory products are so important. They help new players bridge the knowledge gap in a way that keeps things fun and exciting. This way, rookies can build enough confidence to embrace the hobby.
In a previous article, we explained our desire to rethink the traditional introductory set by smashing through the most common barriers. Accomplishing this task would allow anyone who picked up the game, regardless of their gaming experience, to have as much fun as possible. And we believe Kick Off! has done exactly that. One of the best examples of where we’ve really improved the introductory set experience is with the exciting new damage trackers that come with Kick Off!.
Let’s start by looking at the way most modern miniatures games track damage. Traditionally, you place the model’s rules card in a plastic card sleeve and mark damage with a dry-erase marker. But this method introduces immediate barriers to gameplay for new players. Sure, for veteran players these items are part of the lifestyle and always lying around, but for people new to the hobby, that's two more things standing in the way of gameplay. We knew we could do better.
Hello, health dials! Adding a health dial for each of the players found in this two-player starter product simplifies this element of gameplay. With the Kick Off! health dials, coaches can easily change the model’s health when it suffers damage or when it heals damage. Plus, by keeping the dials near their respective models, you can make it easier for opponents to see a model’s health total.
For those who prefer the traditional method of marking damage on the card, don’t worry—the cards in Kick Off! still have damage circles along the bottom. So if you’d prefer, you can still sleeve your cards and mark damage with a dry-erase marker—but you'll need to provide your own card sleeves, marker, and soon-to-be-smudged thumbs to do it!
Speaking of damage circles, let’s take a closer look at the damage circles on one of the Kick Off! model cards.
Veteran coaches are sure to immediately notice one massive difference to Hooper’s damage circles. While he still has 17 damage circles (don’t worry!), he no longer has a  on the sixth circle and a  on the twelfth circle. Instead, he’s got a new symbol—the Icy Sponge icon—on the ninth circle. This will be a common icon found on every player’s damage tracker, and that’s because the Icy Sponge rules in Season 3 have been tweaked to get your players back onto the field and back into action as soon as possible.
After two seasons of gathering data and listening to your feedback, we learned that coaches rarely waited an additional turn to bring their players back onto the Pitch. Sure, they could restore a few more damage circles by waiting, but it turns out those few health points were rarely worth losing the model’s influence and activation for a full turn. It became clear that this tactical choice wasn’t living up to be much of a choice at all. The immediate short term gains were just too good resist.
But not anymore!
Now there is a single Icy Sponge icon on a player’s damage circles, and that icon is higher up on the damage track than it was before. For most models, including our buddy Hooper here, it’s positioned about midway between where the  and  were before.
Coaches are sure to see an immediate impact on their games of Guild Ball in Season 3. They will now always be able to count on a player’s influence resource being available to their team. The few extra boxes of health on a returning player should also make it more difficult to take out a player who was previously taken out during the match. There are also fewer opportunities for a “power play,” those tragically unfun moments where one team is significantly behind on players because a fragile player is stuck on the bench trying to heal up. Overall, the changes brought about by the updated Icy Sponge rules should create a more enjoyable play experience for coaches on both sides of the Pitch.
These Icy Sponge changes introduce another very important change for Season 3 . . . but we’ll save that for next week. For now, be sure to check back later today when we’ll take a closer look at two more models in Kick Off!.