Wednesday, 6 April 2016

On Guild Ball and the Death of the Tape Measure

Let's see if I still have an editorial-style post in me, shall we?

Mount up, buckle you seat belts, and keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times. The pilot hasn't done this (without being angry) for a long time, and we might experience some turbulence.

Barf bags in hand? Expectations set to low?

Off we go.

For everyone who hasn't noticed (meaning everyone except the poor sods who take their hobby time within shouting distance from my corporeal form), I've picked up Guild Ball. You know, as in actual Fantasy Football. As in, in a Fantasy setting. None of that real-sports in my wargaming, thank you very much!

No not that game of Fantasy Football (which is, anyway, Fantasy Handegg).

This will be one of those posts where it' safe to assume none of the pictures are actually mine...
The one that actually has a company actively supporting it. The one that is an actual miniatures game, and not a glorified (if very enjoyable) boardgame.

Yes, Guild Ball.

If you've not been introduced, here you go. It's worth your time.

From here on in, I'll assume everyone has at least a fleeting familiarity with Guild Ball, though the lessons learned are quite transferable.

Guild Ball has meant a lot of firsts for me. It's the first game for which I've bought multiple models with no hopes of ever playing the game - though I've since dragged my clubmates with me into the abyss, I was originally simply smitten enough by some of the minis to want to paint them first, and figure out what to do with them second. It's the first time I've finished entire factions - even though I've tried before, I've never quite been able to keep up. It's the first game I've played on a rollable mat since my friends and I used to roll out one of GW's awful paper-with-static-grass mats on living room floors for games of Warhammer or Warhammer 40k.

And it's the first time I've played a miniatures game for which I don't want to use a tape measure.

Now, another first is what prompted me to this realization. Since I've picked up the actual game of Guild Ball, as opposed to just the minis, I've also started watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts about it. And one of the best podcasts - definitely the funniest - on the subject is Who Cares Who Wins (what? You want a link to that, too? Too bad. It has adult - by which I mean coarse and inappropriate - content, so if you're not capable of Googling it, you're not mature enough to listen to it).

And a recurring... thing, I guess? I'll go with thing. A recurring thing on that podcast is a deep-seated hatred for tape measures. I'll admit I was a bit confused by this to begin with, but being a good little lemming, I found a company in the UK that makes so-called widgets and tried it out.

Hadn't thought about this little fella for years...

It feels like a game changer.

Now, I get it, widgets (little measuring devices cut to be specific lengths - Privateer Press make a couple sizes that have different sides that are different lengths, for example) are impractical when making long measurements for many models. I wouldn't try to resolve an Ork mob's movement using them, or even the shooting attacks of a Long Gunner unit. But over relatively short distances - maybe up to ten inches - for one or a couple of models, they work well.

Pink dude aside, this is what I mean by widgets, though mine aren't as wide, and instead come in a pack of six, of varying lengths. 
The primary benefit is simple: precision. Since you can lay the widget down on the table, touching your model, and then mark whatever the other end marks before doing what it is you're measuring for, there is very little room for error. No longer do you need to hold the tape measure extended three inches above everything, leaning forward to get an acceptable angle, and still move your guy half an inch too far because your perspective is off. No, you decide what you're checking, you put the widget(s) down, and you either see whether that other thing is in range, or you do the widget-twist (planting the lower edge in that mat while standing the whole thing up, and then moving your model up to it), and Robert's you father's brother. There's simply no room to fudge things more than a small fraction of an inch.

There are drawbacks, of course. The risk of accidentally moving stuff by poking it with your widget is probably foremost among them. And for those of you bringing that up, I offer you the accidental tape retraction as counter-point. Picture it:

There's a big something, with a metaphorical target painted on it, just on the edge of your shooting range. You and your opponent are scratching your beards (or suitable substitutes thereof, if you're of the beard-less persuasion) trying to figure it out. Your tape measure is extended, its dangerous end close to the prospective victim, when suddenly, your finger slips and the fact that the locking button has been broken since day two becomes painfully obvious. The metal hook at the implement's furthest point starts it's faster-than-the-speed-of-light journey home, and on the way, it just so happens to grab onto the target model. In the best of world's, it would slip harmlessly off, leaving everyone with nothing but a start and a fright.

I Googled 'close call'... My collection of weird pictures related to this blog is now quite extensive.
But in the real world, one of three things will happen.

It could hold on to the model, sliding it gently across the table, or flipping it over - or both - irretrievably changing its position relative to the rest of the universe.

It could snap closed on your innocent finger, leading, at best to a distracting howl of pain, and at worst to a chunk of carpentry paraphernalia hitting the table, sending shockwaves billowing out in every direction, toppling everything from model trees to model trolls. Or, you know, just smashing someone's beautifully (or uglily, who am I to judge?) model to bits.

Or it could rip the paint of that one centrepiece model of your opponent's, leading to a family feud that won't be resolved until your great-great-great grandchildren elope and teach everybody a valuable lesson about the amount of F's youngsters give about their elders' vendettas. Or the value of letting go of grudges. Whichever, really.

'Surely,' I hear one of you shout in disbelief, 'that has never happened? Who could possibly be so unforgivably clumsy as to do any of that?'. Well, me, for starters. My record of models moved is seven (at once, though I did have the help of a miniature wall). My most specacular death-by-falling-tape-measure was a Land Speeder (so, long ago) that never really recovered from being split into five parts. And while I've yet to start any blood feuds, I do believe this is more to do with the amount of work that would have to go into one of those, than a lack of flayed models.

So, for the sake of precision and the well-being of miniatures everywhere (or at least in the Trollcave), my matches of Guild Ball will henceforth be played sans tape measure. Quite probably, this will also extend to Malifaux, and possibly Frostgrave, as well. Those games might, however, favour the hold-measuring-device-a-foot-above-table-level approach, because of the much higher density of terrain - which could, conceivably, hinder the ground-level placement of even the most well-devised of widgets.

And that, little ones, brings another rambling walk through Incariasland to an end.

Ta, and DFTBA.

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