Well, here’s a shocker.
The market disruptor that was Guild Ball is no longer going to be supported, and the entire range will be up for sale on the Steamforged Games website from 1st September. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good!
Fantasy Football, British Style
Anyone who knows Bloodbowl, knows that fantasy sports games are a thing and in 2015, after a strong Kickstarter campaign, Guild Ball utterly exploded onto the tabletop market with sell-out appearances on both sides of the Atlantic. Their raw, soccer-style medieval fantasy sports game was always more of a miniatures wargame than a boardgame, using tape measures and a larger, square pitch compared to similar games, like Mantic’s Dreadball or Corvus Belli’s Aristeia! The digitally-sculpted miniatures were cutting edge, four years ago, and oozed with character and fantasy flavour.
The range also stood out for its remarkable diversity, with a wide range of ages, body shapes, gender and racial origin visible in the line, which made it not only unusual, but gave the game a pathway to markets previously ignored by other manufacturers, drawing in more female, POC and generally anyone able to roll a dice with their inclusive, dynamic setting.
Who is Steamforged Games?
Founded in the UK in 2014, Steamforged was the creation of a group of talented enthusiasts and relative newcomers to the world of tabletop design but with the skills to put their vision into action. And that vision was Guild Ball.
But since Guild Ball took off, Steamforged has doubled-down on its commitment to Kickstarter, launching campaign after campaign to produce a range of licensed board games inspired by hit video games, like Dark Souls and Horizon Zero Dawn, as well as new, independent card and board games.
In other words, despite having a hit miniatures game on their hands, Steamforged decided that the money was in the wider world of tabletop. And looking at the results of their Kickstarter campaigns, it would look like they were right.
Why Has Guild Ball Failed?
Well, truth is, it probably hasn’t. It seems that the plan from the start was that Guild Ball would have a limited shelf life, with the feeling being that there was only so far that a sports-themed skirmish game could go before being overwhelmed with “new stuff”. The plan had been to have five “seasons” and then call it. The latest announcement is mainly that Season Five has been cancelled by – like pretty much everything else in life – COVID-19.
But it is worth acknowledging Steamforged’s own assessment that the competitive play market was the hammer that built Guild Ball’s demise. It’s a tale not dissimilar to what led Corvus Belli to Code One for Infinity: a growing stock list, unwieldy rules across multiple books and a competitive play scene with the whip hand over future development.
Steamforged could have followed the same route with a “re-boot” of the game’s rules. But, with the Kickstarter dollars pouring in from board games, it sounds like they’ve simply decided to follow the money.
Over the last few years we’ve seen a few games change hands. Firestorm, Dystopian Wars and Wild West Exodus went to Wayland Games’s subsidiary, Warcradle Studios. And TTCombat picked up Dropzone Commander from Hawk Wargames and Carnevale from Vesper-On Games.
So could we see someone else step in to pick up the property from Steamforged?
Well, although it’s not impossible, my guess is that we won’t. If Steamforged had a buyer – or the inclination to sell – they would have withheld this announcement until it was a sealed deal. And by announcing that the game is, essentially, dead in the water from September onwards they have, for all intents and purposes, destroyed the value it might have being sold as a going concern.
This is both good news and bad news. The bad news is that Guild Ball most likely won’t see new minis and old minis will gradually hit ludicrous prices on eBay for enthusiasts. The good news, though, is that there will be room for the community to develop the game independently. And for new manufacturers to find a niche selling new and alternate designs for the Guild Ball characters. So we may not have entirely seen the end of Guild Ball.
For the full announcement and comments by both the Directors of Steamforged and from the Guild Ball design team, check here!