Smoke | Season 4 | Guild Ball

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Hey there Guild Ball fans! Last time on the blog we took a look at Axe Throw Boiler (to give him his full title). Today we’re looking at a model (and Guild!) who we know has been highly anticipated. She’s wafting this way as we speak, but before we jump into looking at this model’s card, let’s take some time and go over the overall changes we’ve made to the Alchemists and why we made them.

The Breakthrough

As we mentioned on yesterday’s blog, one of the first things we did when we started the development of Season 4 was to take a look at the intended playstyle for every Guild as a whole, and then each model individually. This process helped us to identify not only which models needed to change, but also by how much and with what purpose in mind. These objectives were in addition to overall aims such as reducing complexity and tweaking game balance.

So the Alchemists are a funny one. Back in the era of Midas at the start of S3, they were one of the most popular Guilds. We made some adjustments to Midas, and the number of people playing the Alchemists dropped quite a bit. Despite them still having a respectable win rate, their popularity started to decline. The playstyle which seemed to dominate was that of Smoke sitting back and drifting AOEs across the enemy team, before eventually launching Veteran Katalyst at the opposing team for a 4 VP takeout.

This defensive, super stand off playstyle was one we knew we really wanted to strip away from the game in general in Season 4, but also the Alchemists in particular. The Alchemists were always intended to play closer to how Midas teams played at the start of Season 3, aggressive and goalscorey, with the option for a couple of take outs if the opportunity arose. As well as, of course, having strong and thematic uses for conditions like burning and poison.

More than that, however, the Alchemists have never really felt like a super coherent team. Their core design has always been a bit confused, and so we looked at Season 4 as a wonderful opportunity to redesign the Guild and make them feel like a coherent concoction. To this end, its certainly fair to say that the Alchemist’s Guild have the most in-depth changes of any Guild in Season 4.

One of the key things we’ve done across the Guild (and indeed, the game) is reduce the number of AOE plays and traits. AOEs are a great way of representing effects on the pitch, but multiple AOEs start getting clunky and difficult to manoeuvre around, particularly when it comes to moving them out from under models at the end of the turn. Heavy AOE playstyles are also often among the most standoffish and least interactive games Guild Ball has. As a result, we’ve stripped out the parts of the game which overused AOEs and replaced many of those abilities with similar effects that don’t rely on using AOEs.

As part of this, we also refocused the Alchemists around spending conditions to gain benefits, as you saw with Veteran Calculus. This is some really cool design space we opened up, and it’s something we’ve explored heavily with the Alchemists new direction. The Alchemists are one of the Guilds who’ve changed the most dramatically as a result, and we’re super happy with where they’ve ended up. They’re now much more interactive; they put out more conditions than ever (as they should!) but now they have to get up close and personal to do so.

So, enough teasing you, let’s let the cat out the bag and show off the Smoke card!

Smoke and Mirrors

Well, quite a few changes there, eh? In terms of stat line, Smoke is largely unchanged, keeping her 1” melee zone, and all of her stats except her TAC, which has increased by one to aid her ability to actually make attacks (something she wasn’t super fond of in Season 3).

Her playbook has also remained unchanged, barring the addition of a non-momentous knockdown in a new fifth column, since she gained a TAC. This won’t come up all that often, but it’s an option that might prove useful on occasion, and is at least threatening on parting blows. Her increased TAC also makes her much more likely to hit her second column for her momentous Push or Tackle result.

You’ll notice that in general, the amount of text on S4 cards has decreased, and Smoke’s character plays are a pretty darn good example of that. Smoke Bomb is still the same as ever, barring Season 4 global changes to wording, but her other plays are different. We took the effects of Chemical Breeze and Alchemy Mix, and distilled them down into S4 style for the new Chemical Breeze. This ability really sums up everything we talked about above. Gone is the reliance on AOE character plays, and non-interactivity. This ability lets her put out a whole darned lot of the poison and burning condition, but relies on friendly players being close to enemy players in order to do so. Do note this character play can target herself, so she can sprint into a scrum, poison and burn everyone, then swiftly exit the area using Cloud Jumper (which, spoiler alert: she kept).

It’s also not once per turn, so if you have a single model within 3” of say three enemy models, you can set them all on fire and poison them all for the low, low cost of 2 influence!

Next up is Infuse. This is a super simple character play that causes 3 condition damage to an enemy model that’s suffering poison or burning. Easy enough! Do note that condition damage ignores Tough Hide, so this is really useful for getting round those pesky Brewer players who bring whole teams of Tough Hide models! This play isn’t once per turn, so if she starts close enough to an enemy model she she can do up to 9 damage from 6” away!

Finally, Smoke’s HP is unchanged.

Some Women Just Want to Watch the World Burn

Let’s do the easy bits first, Cloud Jumper and Unpredictable Movement are completely unchanged in their effects. Some bits of wording have changed in accordance with S4 global changes, but that’s it. 

Smoke has lost Momentous Inspiration in favour of a new trait called Watch the World Burn. We’ve been talking about it rather a lot this article, but we really did want to reduce how uninteractive Smoke’s playstyle was. As a result, WtWB can do much the same as Momentous Inspiration used to, i.e. put conditions on enemy models = get momentum, but it does it in a very different way. Rather than encouraging Smoke to sit back, it encourages her to get close to the enemy team and live on that razor’s edge. If she gets the most use of this, she’s getting reeeeeal close to the enemy team. Of course you CAN save her to last and jump her right into the middle of the enemy team to get 3-4 momentum and guarantee initiative next turn. That’s a great use of this, but of course leaves her potentially very exposed unless you activate her first.

Finally, her Legendary Play, Chemical Shower, has changed too. Rather than putting down AOEs, it just causes 3 condition damage (so again, ignoring Tough Hide) to all enemy models within a 6” pulse that are suffering burning or poison (or both!). This can really catch a huge chunk of the enemy team and stick damage on them. And it’s not like Smoke struggles to put out burning or poison!

We’re super happy with how we kept the parts of Smoke that we liked, the Cloud Jumping goal scoring parts, and really switched up the parts we didn’t, making her overall a much more interesting model. We also managed to remove a lot of text from her card, making her much simpler to use. Win-win, we reckon.

So, we were going to end the blog here, but it wouldn’t be fair to end the blog with just one reveal right? Especially since Alchemist fans have waited the longest for their reveal blog and their Guild is having the most in-depth changes of any Guild. So here’s our changes to Vitriol to feast your eyes on:

That’s all for today folks. We hope you enjoyed today’s reveal of Smoke. We’re incredibly excited to see what you all think of the new Alchemist’s Guild playstyle in Season 4, and it’s so close now we can feel it! Join us again this Friday for the reveal of how we plan to spoil the ENTIRE of Season 4 between now and SteamCon US!