Today on the Steamforged Games Blog we're joined by Jamie Perkins, Senior Game Developer, and he has been itching to talk about the new Hunter's Guild Models, the Heralds of the Winter's Moon. I'm not gonna delay him any longer, let's get into it...

Guild Ball is a game about meaningful choices. That means your path to victory should have many tough decisions, and the same goes for each of the goals and take-downs you score along the way. So whenever we get the chance to tinker with rules or roll out new characters, this focus on meaningful player decisions is always at the core of our ideas. In fact, it was the driving force behind the Hunter’s expansion, The Heralds of the Winter’s Moon. We saw these four new characters as our chance to add more layers of tactical choices for Hunter coaches to chew on.

If you’re familiar with the Hunter’s Guild, then you know their strength was controlling enemy players in Season 2. Specifically, by herding opponents directly into danger using Traps and powerful Character Plays, such as Pinned and Boombox. They also had several stealthy ways to create additional movement. And thanks to Character Traits like Back to the Shadows and Nature’s Blessing, evading and sneaking up on aggressive enemies came naturally to this feral crew. Put it together, and you have the Hunter’s signature playstyle: stalking your prey while calculating when to strike vulnerable opposition.

Theron, the first Captain of the Hunters Guild, best symbolizes that playstyle. Not a blunt instrument like the primitive Captains of the Butcher’s Guild, Theron is at home in the center of the Pitch. He controls the whole game through the loose of a single arrow. Under his watch, a charging enemy can run head-first into a spontaneous eruption of forest. A striker with hopes of getting a clean shot on goal can have them dashed by a deft Arrow to the Knee. He snares his enemies with a single stroke of his blade, leaving them vulnerable to the raw might of the Great Bear or the Midnight Devil. As a Captain devoted to getting the most out of his whole team, Theron has it all.

The Hunter’s Guild clearly needed a Captain who goes for the throat with cold-hearted precision. A Captain who takes goal scoring into her own hands. A Captain who, rather than preventing enemies from controlling the game, empowers her fellow Hunters to outmaneuver enemies on their own! A Captain who… likes to throw snowballs!

Skatha, Champion of the Moon Goddess

Because Theron excels at brutal take-outs, we knew quite early on that we wanted Skatha to be more of a skilled goal scorer. Being a Hunter, we wanted Skatha to be elusive with plenty of options for escaping a melee. Oh, and a capacity to turn on some real speed! As developers, we have several tools at our disposal to start laying down the basics, such as a model’s Attributes, or stat line. Until now, Hunters have only ever had a kicking skill of [3] or less. To stand out and really show how clever Skatha is with the ball, we gave her a [4/6”] KICK stat, which means she’ll normally be rolling at least 4 dice when making a kick! There wasn’t really a need to give Skatha an enormous kicking range because we decided that she was going to be hypermobile instead. You don’t need to blast a shot in from range when you can just tap it in from point blank! We know what you’re thinking. Hypermobile and great KICK stats? How does this make Skatha a Hunter rather than a Fisherman? Just take a closer look and all will be revealed!

On the surface, it’s not immediately obvious where her blistering pace comes from. Her MOV stat is [5”/7”]. Well, when you add in Nature’s Chill things start to get interesting. This Character Trait lets Skatha freeze the pitch, creating a [3”] area of effect (AOE) of fast-ground. And when any model moves over fast-ground during an Advance, it gains [+2”/+2”] MOV for the remainder of that Advance. This means that even though Skatha only has a [5”/7”] MOV stat, she can bump this up to [7”/9”] MOV every turn of a game. And it gets better. Any other model can use the fast-ground to speed up too! Comparing this to Theron’s forest AOE (which slows down the enemy and blocks their path), Skatha is clearly the polar opposite (pun intended).

This new Captain also gave us the opportunity to do something truly unique: give a captain a way to use their ball skills without always having the ball. Why? Well, when we design a Guild Ball player to be a beast with a ball, we inevitably face the question of “what about when they don’t have the ball?” Having the ball and successfully doing stuff with it (like passing) lets you do more awesome stuff. Not having the ball means none of that. So what if a baller could always ball? What if a player could access momentous teamwork actions like Give’N’Go AT WILL? That would mean she could always have the potential to shift herself or friendly models using Dodge movements!

Hello, Snowball! This new Character Play gives Skatha a literal snow ball (were snowballs ever figurative?) she can use to pass, generate Momentum (MP), and make those all-important Momentous Teamwork actions. Before you all lose your minds, No, Skatha cannot score a goal with Snowball—that would be too crazy! (We hope this leaves you up all night on the brink of an existential crisis asking yourself when a ball is truly a ball. If it can be passed but cannot be scored, can it truly be a ball?)

Now it was just time to give the Hunters a well-deserved Legendary Play. We toyed around with several different ideas for Skatha, including a few that were snowman related. In the end, we knew that we wanted this Legendary Play to push the boundaries of maneuverability, specifically the capacity to enter and exit enemy melee zones without having to worry about Parting Blows from enemy players. We eventually settled on Winters Night.

Winters Night places a Frost Token on each enemy model within [6”] of Skatha. When Attacking an enemy model with a Frost Token on it, any friendly model can remove the Frost Token to add a Push-Dodge Playbook result in addition to any other Playbook results generated by the Attack. Frost Tokens have a variety of uses. A player can Tackle the ball and ensure they’re out of range of a Counter Attack,  move enemy players out of the way for a friendly player about to take a shot, or just gain extra Dodge movement to guarantee a friendly player ends up in range to shoot for a goal.

Put it all together and you have a Captain who not only excels at generating extra movement for herself but also her entire team. To make it even better, most of this extra movement is Dodge movement, one of the most treasured movements of them all! Why? It’s super useful when moving in and out of enemy melee zones (#Can’tTouchThis), making a Skatha-led team good at retrieving the ball and scoring goals.

Snow, Spirit Hound

Snow is the yin to Fahad’s yang. As the first Mascot for the Hunters, Fahad was designed to deal damage. To give Hunter coaches more versatility, we knew this new Mascot had to focus on team support, which we doled out in spades. Not only can this wild wolf pup increase melee effectiveness and boost player survivability but he can even fetch the ball!

We wanted to boost the Hunter’s melee effectiveness in a way that embodied their playstyle and theme. Instead of giving them a raw damage bump, we introduced a brand-new Character Play: Feral Instincts. It grants a friendly model, or Snow himself, Anatomical Precision. This allows the affected model to ignore [1] point of enemy armor (ARM) each time they make a melee Attack. Feral Instincts is a great tool for unlocking Playbook results, making it advantageous for almost any Hunter’s Guild model.

Player survivability with the Hunters is different than most Guilds. Particularly those that tend to rely on high ARM stats or more conventional Character Traits like Tough Hide. Survivability in the Hunter’s Guild is often linked to maneuverability. Because Hunters use Counter-attacks and additional movements to avoid enemy melee zones, we gave Snow the Pack Mentality Character Trait. While within the Pack Mentality [4”] aura, friendly models can make a [1”] Dodge toward Snow every time they suffer damage from an enemy model if they aren’t knocked-down. Combine Pack Mentality with a well-timed Counter-attack into a Push or Dodge Playbook result and BAM! You have Hunter players escaping enemy melee zones all over the place! The enemy won’t be able to engage your players long enough to take them down.

Ulfr, Blessed of the Hunt

Ulfr was designed to be a pure-bred striker with one thing in mind: scoring goals like an absolute wild man. He’s the guy who’s maybe spent a bit too long secluded in wild, and now he’s talking to the trees and screaming while he slathers his face in blood. A terrifying opponent, he specializes in working alone to track and corner his prey. Unlike most strikers, he has access to a Momentous [2] or even [3] damage Playbook result, which means he isn’t content to just steal the ball and dance away. Ulfr is out for blood.

To capture Ulfr’s bloodlust, we came up with the Character Trait Blood Scent. What does it do? Well, after he damages an enemy model (and gets a taste of that tangy crimson goodness) the thrill of the hunt pushes him to supernatural levels of prowess. His KICK stat jumps up to [4/8”]—higher than your average Hunter player.

After giving Ulfr Blood Scent, we looked toward helping him trigger it. The Lone Hunter Character Trait grants him an extra [+2] TAC as long as he is more than [4”] away from any friendly players. This boosts his TAC up to [6] with a Playbook that’s only five columns long. This gives the wildman a better chance of wrapping his Playbook for multiple results and a much-improved chance of unlocking the exact Playbook result he needs.

We also wanted enemy models to be a little fearful and cautious around this forest nut, so we decided to make it cost a little extra to use Defensive stance. Thanks to Ambush, Ulfr gets the drop on his opponents, forcing enemy players to spend an extra MP to use Defensive stance. Unsuspecting enemies had best watch their backs… Ulfr’s gunning for them.

Finally, we wanted to make him FAST, even for a Hunter. Ulfr has the Where’d They Go? Character Play, which lets him escape enemy melee zones without a Parting Blow (behold the power of the [4”] Dodge!). This play can also be used to extend Ulfr’s goal scoring range by dodging him [4”] closer to that goal. Now, let’s crunch those numbers. After a [7”] Sprint, a [4”] Where’d They Go? movement into triggeringBlood Scent for a boosted [4/8”] KICK… Ulfr can be in scoring range from a [19”] distance to the enemy goal! *Whistle noise* That’s one speedy little mountain mongrel.

Add in Playbook Dodge results or one of Skatha’s movement enhancers, and Ulfr climbs into insane goal-scoring distances. Top it off with the Hunter’s classic Character Trait—Light Footed—and it’s almost like nothing can slow this wild man down!

Veteran Hearne, Oracle of the Moon Goddess

Veteran Hearne is a no longer the scion of the Sun Father. Gone is the man who could teleport to anywhere the Sun Father’s light touched. What remains is but a shadow. Like the fading light, it darts around the Pitch, propelling itself off obstacles, head-first into the thickest melee.

For all our Veteran and Seasoned players, our goal is to show how these characters evolve and change during their Guild Ball careers. The gruesome murders and almost-murders and back door scheming does take a toll and change a person. For the design team, that means altering their traits and skills to reflect how they’ve changed without obliterating all traces of who they were. For Veteran Hearne, we wanted to stay true to skill as a Hunter but also capture his transition from Sun to Moon.

Veteran Hearne still favors long-handled and throwing weapons—he is a Hunter after all. So, he kept the [2”] melee zone and continues to hurl his weapons at wary opponents. Thrown weapons can create vulnerabilities to Attack with his Skewered Character Play, which causes [3] damage and inflicts the snared condition. With Hearne’s brute force and deadly aim, we figured the sheer force of being impaled by one of his ranged attacks would probably rattle your head and stop you in your tracks.

Despite his newfound faith in the Moon Goddess, a dying flame of the Sun Father sill flickers within Veteran Hearne. To capture this fading flame, we introduced the Last Light Character Play. Without costing influence, it lets a friendly model spend Momentum (MP) instead of Influence to pay the COST of a Character Play. That includes himself! So he can even use Last Light to sneak in Skewered, paying MP instead of Influence! That can let coaches load up Veteran Hearne for some real savage brutality.

Veteran Hearne has Light Footed because he can always spot the swiftest path through a patch of rough-ground. But that got us thinking. Why not take something that’s typically a nuisance *cough* rough-ground *cough*, and turn it into a blessing? Well, would you look at that. Turns out we gave Veteran Hearne a Character Trait called Winter’s Blessing, which just so happens to let the rugged rapscallion treat rough-ground as fast-ground. This turns him into a versatile tool for his entire guild since he’ll benefit equally from either Hunter Captain: both Skatha’s slick ice (Nature’s Chill) and Theron’s thick forests (Nature’s Growth) will speed him up!

Old Hearne’s capacity to teleport and take enemies by surprise was another ability we wanted to revisit. With the Lunar Eclipse Character Trait, Veteran Hearne can teleport to anywhere within [1”] of any model that he damages with a melee Attack, as long as they are suffering the snared condition. Veteran Hearne can engage a snared enemy with his [2”] melee zone, damage them to trigger Lunar Eclipse, and then disappear from the table only to reappear on the other side of the enemy before they even know what’s happening! If Veteran Hearne is in possession of the ball, this is a very stealthy way to open goal scoring opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist! Very few players have such sneaky teleporting chops…

This concludes our introduction to the Heralds of the Winter’s Moon. Make sure to check back in a few days to catch part two of our Hunter’s Guild article series, Tactics of the Moon Goddess. We’ll reveal full stat cards for the Heralds of the Winter’s Moon and discuss in-game tips & tricks for the new Hunter’s playstyle! Let us know what you think over on our Forums, Facebook and Twitter!