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Sunday, January 23, 2011

And Knowing is Half the Battle: To go first or second?

I was asked this a few weeks back when someone won the roll off  if it was better to go first or second. The mission was spearhead and kill points. His IG vs my Orks.....

This was not an easy answer for me to give because not every game and situation is the same. There is always factors to take into account when your making the fateful choice to go first or second.

It breaks down like this:


This can apply to any game such as chess. To take black is to accept your going second and will have to react to the actions of the player that is using white.

To control the game is to set the tone. For example, in a kill point or VP based game you put the other player into a spot where they have to try to make up for any losses you have inflicted. A well built army that can "alpha strike" can cripple another army making it harder for the other player to react in any efficient way and forcing them to salvage anything they can perhaps even forcing them to do things that could lead to mistakes you can take advantage of. In an objective game, taking an objective either early on or about mid-game allows you to force the other player to make efforts now to either remove you or at least contest the objectives for a draw or perhaps a win with enough luck. This can again put the other player into a spot that can cause them to make mistakes that one can take advantage of.

When it comes to reacting, there is also some luxury to this depending on several factors such as luck of the dice, what the other player does and how can you exploit their actions. By going second, you see what their intent is and can counter/deny him his goals if needed. Also, by going second you can wrap up a game and in situations where it can be a close call as to who wins, often the player going second usually ends up the winner in the right situations. Imagine this, if your playing a kill point mission, your tied, you can focus your fire on weaker units for the win or in an objective based game, you could contest or knock an opponent off enough objectives to turn the tide of the game in your favor.

So, what is better for you? To go first or second? There is other things to consider....


Take a moment to look at your opponent's list and his army. Try to pick up key elements and units that could be a problem to the game and look at how their play style intent is. If you see that they are all in drop pods and loaded up with melta guns and power weapons you can see they want to get their army in your face quickly while an IG list with tons of tanks and heavy weapons teams are going to hammer you with heavy firepower and armor to win the day and avoid getting into contact with you until they can no longer avoid it.

Next, look at your own build and concept. Everyone that builds a half decent list has some sort of plan to its design. If your list has scouts, infiltrate or some means to outflank then your going for the element of surprise and to keep your opponent off guard. A drop pod heavy lists says, I am going to get in your face quickly and inflict as much damage forcing you to react to my actions. The scout/infiltrate/flanking list is a reactive list and the drop pod list is a good example of a control list. Some lists like mechanized and foot slogging can be setup for either depending on your build.

This leads us to...


This deserves a mention on its own as every game table is always different. Some may have tons of scenery, others may be just a few scraps. It could be clusters of small things, some really large stuff or a balanced mix.

You  have to look at your deployment zone and the table  layout to also be the last element to factor into if you want to go first or second. By going first, you can deny the other player of prime locations on the table giving the best cover and LOS blocking. When you go second,  you could end up with table scraps for cover which could be bad. On the other hand,  depending on the above lists now factors into the table. A drop pod list won't care what side they get, they are going to be in yours! A flanking list will not  need a deployment zone either as they will be slipping in from the sides (or perhaps the other players long edge in some cases like Snikrot's Commandos and Wolf Scouts).

Would you rather like to go first or second? Post your thoughts!

To recap:
1) Look at the mission and the goals. Do you want to control the game by taking the first turn or go second and be the one to react ?

2) Lists, study your opponents list, see what the elements are in the list and how it is going to be used in the game. And knowing is half the battle!

3) The table, by going first you can deny the other player cover and you can obtain the choice real estate on the table for yourself. Perhaps going second is better as your list does not rely on cover but rather some other aspect like deep striking, flanking or other means of deployment that your opponent may not anticipate.

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