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Monday, June 13, 2011

To Go First or Second?


I’ve noticed that many players seem to always prefer to go first, no matter what the circumstances. The standard reasoning is that whoever goes first gets to open fire first, taking out enemy units before they ever get to act. This reasoning applies well to armies with lots of shooting but little mobility, but not to many other armies.

In general, armies capable of avoiding enemy fire and shooting to full effect benefit from going second. This mostly applies to armies composed of fast vehicles and armies that arrive entirely from reserve. These armies are able to simultaneously benefit from all the advantages of going first and second. Their mobility enables them to open fire before the enemy, the main advantage of going first. At the same time, there are many benefits to going second.


The first benefit to going second is that you get to see your opponent’s deployment before deploying your own units. This is particularly important if you are deploying any units on the table, such as Predators or Devastators. You can see where the enemy deploys and set up your units to have line of sight to important targets, as well as limit the enemy’s ability to fire at them.

Second, it means your opponent will waste two shooting phases before your reserves begin to arrive. When there are only seven possible shooting phases in a game, losing two is a severe blow to an army that relies on shooting. With twice as many assault phases as shooting phases, losing game turns is much less damaging to an assault based army.

Third, it means that your reserves arrive after your opponent’s reserves. Blood Angels often deep strike into the enemy deployment zone, so enemy reserves are an excellent way to counter them. By going second, you ensure that half of the enemy reserves are already committed before you show up. This limits their flexibility and allows you to take their position into account as you deep strike.

Finally, going second allows you the last actions of the game. This is particularly useful in objective based games, as you can move to contest objectives and the opponent might have no chance to respond. This is the main way Eldar still win games in 5th Edition, and it can be incredibly useful for any army with the speed to pull it off.

All of these factors mean that it is almost always best for deep striking heavy armies to arrive second. It robs your opponent of opportunities to shoot at you and allows you to drop your forces into the best positions. If you get to choose whether to go first or second, pick second. If your opponent gets to choose, you can hope that he falls for internet hype and decides to go first without thinking about it.

As a final note, once you are going second, do not attempt to seize the initiative. Most people always try to do so, as it feels like an advantage if you manage to. However, you can damage your own plans if you succeed.

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