Here at Steamforged it’s been fantastic watching the forum & social media reactions to the first wave of the Blacksmiths Guild, Forged from Steel, that we pre-released at GenCon 2017. If you missed all the excitement of seeing the Blacksmiths cards for the first time, you can download the digital cards HERE. Today, it’s time for some reinforcements as we proudly present to you the fourth Master Blacksmith, Hearth!
*Pssst* Do You Want to Buy Some Swords?
From the outset of the development of the Blacksmiths Guild, we wanted each of the Master & Apprentice pairs to represent a particular aspect of what it means to be a Blacksmith in the Empire of the Free Cities. So far we’ve seen Anvil & Sledge, who represent the concept of ‘striking’ where the Master will direct each of the Apprentice’s mighty hammer blows. We’ve also seen Furnace and Cinder, who demonstrate the importance of working with superheated steel, and the devastation that can be wrought when it’s used correctly. Finally, we’ve seen Ferrite & Iron, who represent the idea that knowing how to break weapons and armour can be just as important as knowing how to construct and improve them.
Hearth is a dedicated weapon smith, and as such she knows that just about any defence can be torn down provided you use the right tool for the job! In many ways Hearth represents the opposite of Anvil. Anvil focusses on ensuring his creations provide him with the thickest armour and the toughest defence that anyone could imagine. Hearth on the other hand, is hellbent on arming herself with as many different weapons as possible. When Hearth is on the Pitch the Blacksmiths Guild Ball team need only look to her when their own weapons prove insufficient. Hearth will have already hurled a more appropriate one through the air towards her team mate. Indeed, catching weapons thrown at you mid-game is an occupational hazard of working with someone like Hearth!
Hey! I Axed You a Question!
Well then, there’s some pretty great stuff to dig into. Let’s start with the basics. Hearth isn’t quick by any stretch of the word, a [4”/6”] MOV puts her at the same speed as Anvil and Iron. That said, Hearth does have a [2”] melee zone meaning she can reach out and Attack enemies from further away than either Anvil or Iron. A [2”] melee zone is also fantastic for just engaging enemy players to provide Ganging Up (+1 TAC) bonuses and Crowding Out (-1 TAC) penalties. Hearth also has a fairly typical Master Blacksmith’s Playbook with plenty of Momentous Push results and a super useful Momentous Knockdown Playbook result on the first column. Combined with a [2”] melee zone, Hearth gives Anvil a serious run for his money when it comes to efficiently knocking down enemy players. Defensively, Hearth has the highest HP of any Blacksmith so far at  as well as DEF [2+] and ARM . Hearth can take a lot of hits before being taken-out which is a quality we have come to expect from every Master Blacksmith.
Things start to get really interesting when we move on to look at Hearth’s Character Plays. Firstly, we have Instruction which is quite similar to Piledriver on Sledge in that it adds an amount of guaranteed net hits to an Attack. Instruction only affects the next Attack that a player makes but unlike Piledriver, Instruction can be used on any friendly Apprentice to give them [+2] net hits on their next Attack. Under the effects of Instruction, players that don’t have access to Piledriver have a greater chance of hitting the devastating super high damage results at the ends of their Playbooks. Players like Iron find themselves that much more likely to make use of that immensely destructive Momentous  damage Playbook result. When used on Sledge, the effects of Instruction can stack with Piledriver, meaning that Sledge would get an incredible [+5] net hits to his next Attack! Instruction can also be used multiple times per turn meaning that Hearth could use it on more than one Apprentice. Remember though, that effects of the same named source cannot stack, so using Instruction on the same player more than once will do nothing other than waste your Influence!
Hearth’s second Character play is Use This!. Use This! is another first for Guild Ball as it allows you to change the melee zone of any player on your team to [2”]! Was Iron not quite close enough to Attack the enemy player that you wanted? Or was Anvil unable to engage as many enemy players as you need him to? No problem! Just have Heath toss them a brand-new weapon and problem solved! There are a huge number of ways to make use of a [2”] melee zone from increasing the range at which your players can make Attacks, to standing outside of Counter Attack range of enemy players which have a [1”] melee zone. Additionally, having more [2”] melee zones in your team means that you can apply the Ganging Up bonus and Crowding Out penalty far more often.
Through Instruction and Use This! it becomes easier to see the type of Master Blacksmith that Hearth is. Her ability to re-arm players on your team at a moment’s notice is incredibly useful. She also retains her skill as a Master Blacksmith in knowing how to spot the weaknesses in an enemy player’s armour and directing nearby Apprentices to aim for it. Once again, this emulates the concept of ‘striking’ in a similar way to Anvil & Sledge.
Age is the Price of Wisdom
Where the front of Heath’s card is largely focused on her role as a weapon smith, the reverse of her card is a solid representation of Hearth’s experience gained over many years as a Master Blacksmith.
The Match Experience Character Trait represents the skills in Guild Ball that Hearth has built up over time to help her and her team combat their slower speed. Hearth has learned how to read the movements of her teammates to predict when they are about to launch into a burst of speed. Hearth uses this to bellow at her teammates so that the Blacksmiths can press forward as a unified force. Making a [4”] Dodge from Give’n’Go is useful for just about any player, and having more access to [4”] Dodge moves without having to spend additional resources can be very useful. If over the course of a turn, enemy players that were engaged by Hearth or another Blacksmith have managed to break free, the Blacksmith coach can use Match Experience to move the friendly player back into melee without needing to activate them. Alternatively, a Match Experience Dodge could be used to move Blacksmith players out of melee since a player making a Dodge will not suffer a Parting Blow.
The second Character Trait on Hearth’s card is one we have seen before, Sturdy. To hold as many weapons as Hearth does and still have the strength to lift a shield and fight, Hearth has had to learn how to be steady on her feet. Ignoring the first knocked down condition each turn is a particularly useful ability on a player like Hearth, who is at her best when engaging multiple enemy players to provide Ganging Up bonuses and Crowding Out penalties.
Finally, we have Hearth’s Legendary Play, Armoury. As with all Master Blacksmith Legendary Plays Armoury has two parts, one that will always happen and one that will only happen if Hearth is chosen as the Captain for the team. The first part, the one that will always happen, grants Hearth a [3”] melee zone for the remainder of the turn. Unlike Extended Reach, Hearth’s [3”] melee zone will remain even when her activation has ended! A [3”] melee zone is an incredible ability to have for any player within Guild Ball; it brings all the benefits of that we discussed earlier, and has the added benefit of allowing Heath to Attack almost any other player without being engaged by them.
The second part of Hearth’s Legendary Play has Hearth throwing her entire stash of weapons to her teammates and granting them all a [2”] melee zone! All those benefits for having a [2”] melee zone that we discussed when talking about the Use This! Character Play? Apply that to the entire team at once and think about how that changes how a Blacksmith team functions for a turn. Players embattled in melee can suddenly receive [+1] or more TAC from nearby friendlies Ganging Up on enemies. At the same time, enemy players wanting to make Attacks against the Blacksmiths are highly likely to be losing dice due to the Crowding Out penalty. Blacksmith players will be able to make Attacks against enemies that only have a [1”] melee zone without having to worry about Counter Attacks. Finally, everyone having a [2”] melee zone means that Blacksmith players will be able to make more Counter Attacks themselves. All in all, Armoury has quite a lot of different uses!
Join us again in our next article as we discuss Hearth’s Apprentice! Tell us what you think of the Blacksmith’s Guild so far on our forums, as well as Facebook and Twitter!