For a holiday week, this is a ton of articles, but once I've got momentum I can't quit or none of it will ever be completed. Plus, the Blacksmiths are up and going and this is stuff I'm curious about too. A lot of people have said that Steamforged is on other side of the seesaw this go around. The Hunters flopped on release and failed to sell (Surprise Mystery Box!), whereas the last two releases are going strong and are very well received. I love my Farmers, and I think I'd be ok with playing Blacksmiths too. The argument though is that they went too far on the seesaw and we have two top tier Guilds now that are dominating the tournament scene.
So in these two articles (Farmers and Blacksmiths), I want to see the numbers and where these guys shine and where they don't. This is a direct result of watching Moneyball (The Baseball movie with Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and a surprise Chris Pratt). Not even going to lie. I love Baseball, and Baseball loves numbers. They don't tell the whole story though and the Farmers are the worst offenders with Character Plays and Traits that just sideline you out of nowhere. Blacksmiths, on the other hand, kinda play by the numbers rules a bit more, but only if you break Guild in half and look at them in two groups of players as they're intended to be played. The Masters and the Apprentices.
Sidenote: I can't offer you the same tactical advice as another Midwest Wargaming Blog contributor who's got some actual experience to bring to the table. All I can really give you is the numbers and what I see from them. As far as numbers go, this sheet is going to be unique because of the way Blacksmiths are constructed. There are more statistics for starters, because I feel the story isn't told by a simple Guild Wide analysis. I haven't left that out, mind you, but I've also added the same charts for both Masters, and Apprentices because while there's 10 KDs in the playbooks, 7 of them are on the Masters. There is 36 Damage options in the Guild playbooks, but only one master has any Momentous damage, and the Apprentices have 11. Also, all guilds have 12-14 players, but two of them are mascots so don't factor into the intial Statline averages because they're universally outliers. The Blacksmiths do not have this problem. So let's look.
For my caffeine fueled late night ranting, continue scrolling.
Right off the bat, the averages look ok. MOV, TAC, KICK2, DEF, and INF are all low. KICK, ARM and MELEE are higher, and ARM is the best stat in the game, go figure. However, you break them into individual groups and we start seeing differences.
Masters are considerably slower than Apprentices. They just barely come in above the Brewers on SPD. Their TAC is also average, actually slightly below. DEF is low, Lowest In Game actually by a full half point. ARM, on the other hand, is Highest In Game by a full 1.11, with Masons in second at 1.22 compared to 2.33. INF1 is very high, but INF2 sucks. I even put one Master at 5 INF max instead of 3 since one Master will always have that stat. So it's clear, the Masters are Slow, Defensive contributors to the game.
Apprentices bring up the MOV a bit, with an ok, but still lower Jog speed. Overall, this team is slow. They jog faster than the Brewers only marginally, but the Brewers outsprint them. TAC is still low. KICK1 and 2 are comparable and DEF spikes noticeably, almost a full point. The seesaw effect is completed by a full 1.26 drop in ARM average from the Masters. However, at 1.17 ARM, they are still only .05 below the Masons. If we were to separate the Apprentices and Masters into a full sorting sheet, the Blacksmiths would take 1st and 3rd, bracketing the Masons at 2nd. INF is miserable, Lowest In Game, on the low end, and only bottom 3 on the high end. Melee perfectly average at 1.33.
So we've got some pretty solid blockhouse players. You're always down a few dice on the attack against them, but it's obvious that the Apprentices really are the weak ones The Masters are slower, harder to kill, and donate the INF but it's the Apprentices who have to deliver the product, making them the obvious weak link. It's like bringing six bags of nails, but no hammer (Or Sledge) to drive them home.
Now we look at Playbook results.
This doesn't seem to out of the ordinary. High Momentous GB results but they only have 6. Dodges and Pushes have some momentum, and a combined 30 options for them puts them far ahead of the Farmers as far as positioning by Attack. Damage is low momentum, while KDs are high but neither of these tell the whole story. Lets look at the two groups specifically.
Here, we see that every GB is momentous, and that like, 85% of KD is momentous. In fact, on the pie chart, you see that there are 7 KD compared to the 10 available to the whole Guild. This leaves the Apprentices with only 3 KD options, and they are high on the playbook. The next one is Damage with a paltry 1 momentous Damage (Momentous 1 on Furnace). They also top out at 3 damage before Tooled Up (Also from Furnace). These guys are not your killers. Momentous Tackles are prevalent at least. There's only 2 dodges in the Masters, so don't let that 50% momentous stat fool you. There's exactly one momentous dodge in the Masters, and both dodges are on Ferrite, the momentous one being a Push Dodge. Pushes, on the other hand, are everywhere. Everybody thinks they're Harry the Hat with momentous single and double pushes. Almost every master has a momentous Single and Double Push. Between the Momentous GB, KD, Tackles and Pushes, these are your setup guys. You're encouraged to run them that way with their stats, their playbook, their character plays. If you look at the Master Character plays, you start seeing Singled Out, Tooled Up, Weak Point. Things to set up other models for the Apprentice to end them easily. The only Master who doesn't know his role is Flamethrower Chaska, Burnish. That guy's confused.
Last, but not least, the Apprentices. Some non-momentous pushes, a lot more dodges, here and there on tackles. At 21 Damage opportunities though, 11 of them are Momentous. These are the murderers right here. There's only 3 KD options, 1 on Iron and 2 on Sledge. Sledge's are on columns 4 and 6, and at TAC5, he needs the charge or some setup to get there. It's the Damage these guys are wanting to do. A couple of them think they're strikers, and have some momentous dodges to support, but all of them have relatively high momentous damage that other guilds top out at. Spigot in Brewers kind of runs similar to an Apprentice in my opinion. He's a bit of a glass cannon, but he's got Momentous 3 on Column 4, and it's not uncommon for him to be at +2 or +3 damage, and TAC10 by the time he's set up with Commanding Aura, Dirty Knives, and going in on a KD model (So Floored for +2 TAC now too) with two or three Crowdouts. Spigot1 just starts murdering things and will one-round serious models like Brick. I feel like the Blacksmiths come to the party with 6 Spigot1s, but they're even moreso glass cannons. Low health and out front.
Character Plays are the next one. We're back to viewing the Guild as a whole again.
There's only a handful of character plays. 8 of them can be applied by Guildball, 4 of them by range. Some of those plays are both, so it's not like there's 12 plays. There might be like, 9 and around half have both options. Shield Throw and Dirty Knives are good examples. However, it's not about the quantity of players with access to ranged plays if you're curious bout the viability of a Gunline. It's about how many times they can do this. Dirty Knives and Flame Belch are not once per turn while Shield Throw is. Dirty Knives and Flame Belch could be done together for a total of 6 times, or 7 if Alloy triggers Dirty Knives by Guildball. That's 2-4 times from Alloy and 3 times from Burnish if he's a Captain. Predictable, but an option. Watch out for the GIC card that lets Blacksmiths swap Captains for a turn. On the plus side, nothing in Blacksmiths give the ability to accrue Momentum through ranged Character plays so while it's dangerous, it INF/MOM inefficient if that's important to you or your opponent.
Actual buff plays though, they've got a good number of them. 18 different Character Play buffs from 12 players is very, very good. Comparatively, the Brewers were known as the buffing team, and they had 15 over their S1 and S2 players, and most of them were Defensive buffs. Only a handful of Attack or Speed buffs. And almost no debuffs. Blacksmiths have it all. The Character Plays and access to Momentous Guildballs is a solid thing to be aware of or keep in mind.
Character Traits! The stuff on the back of the card.
No random damage from Heroics or Legendaries, and surprisingly few Debuffs. I think Hobble from Ferrite is the only one. Next to no conditions. Mostly Speed, Attack and Defensive buffs. Also not a lot of Influence buffs, which in contrast, the Farmers had the second most of.
A high number of Heroic/Legendaries comparatively, but you're talking about the Masters who each have one, and then Iron has a Heroic.
Character Traits are rarely Offensive but there are a few. Again, this is Hobble from Ferrite I believe. Offensive vs. Defensive is kind of an odd metric in character traits, but there are a few out there like Katalyst and Mercury causing fire. Not really so much here though.
So where does this leave us?
Well, I don't know. I've got a few games in against them but they're really only just now hitting the scene. In fact, I really can't tell you how to play them. I'm not even sure what the gameplan is. Many Guilds are obviously Kickers, Fighters or Control. There's bits of overlap, but always a core. A couple can kick better than fighters, and fight better than kickers and it's in that adaptability they find their strength (Brewers and Masons). Blacksmiths... seem more fighters but there's some strong strikers in there. The guy in a suit of armor will surprise you. But more or less, they're going to fall back on fighting when the chips are down. With playbooks holding Momentous 6 and 7s, they've got to. Their high damage average is 4.17, but that's over the whole guild. The Apprentices have 5.33 for an average, which is insane. Their playbooks are long though, averaging 6.00 compared to the Masters at 4.67. This is further reduced by an average TAC of 5.17.
The Apprentices are the lynchpin. The weakpoint. Their overall health is low and their DEF is no higher than 4, with an average of 3.33. They do have ARM, and they'll likely have ARM 2 near the Masters (Any Master with Sentinel, which is either Anvil or Furnace). Your hits are still more likely though, unlike a 5/0 or 6/0 with defensive stance, and once you start getting KDs and debuffs involved (And not many), the Apprentices go down quickly. Anatomical Precision is worth it's weight in gold here, and any control elements. The trick is identifying the Apprentice that's coming, or even easier, identify the target. If you can prevent them from getting there by either goading them somewhere else, debuffing their MOV stats or just luring them off to other sides of the field, you really neuter the power of the Blacksmiths. This is further compounded by the fact that they really want the Masters to go first, to get the Singled Out, or the Weak Point, or the KD or push positioning. This gives you an activation to pull that guy out, or clear him off, or worst case scenario, stand him up. Again, only 2 apprentices had KD, and they're not low in the playbook.
My first game into Blacksmiths was in a tournament where it surprised me they were there. On the plus side, the player that had them was new to them as well. I was playing Brisket3, and I dropped Gutter and Decimate both into them. This allowed me to ignore some ARM and handle the game a bit, but what really killed them was Brisket3 is nearly impossible to button down, and what's worse is that when you get a model really singled out and isolated, Brisket3 uses her legendary to dodge that player out of there while she dances around and runs away. Rage is still probably a better choice because of his ability to remove 1-2 Apprentices every turn, but my point stands. Deter the obvious plans, and be ready to do so after they've activated the Master and before they've activated the Apprentice, and you can wreck their plans.
I can't tell you how to play the Blacksmiths though. No idea. I need to get some tabletime in with them and they look fun. I hope this article helps you though, hope it gives you an idea of what's going on, both for you playing them, and you playing against them.
Enjoy the holidays folks!