“Do you want to go first or choose sides?”

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This is a guest post from Owen at farfaraway.org.

Every game of Warmachine/Hordes starts with each player rolling a single d6. With the starting roll come some key decisions (win or lose). Here’s the relevant bit of text from SR2013 that governs the starting roll of a game…

Both players roll a d6 for the starting roll. The player with the higher result can choose to be the first or second player. The second player chooses his table edge. The first player deploys first and takes the first turn.

So, you’ve just won the starting roll… now what? The roll of a single die doesn’t determine the winner of any game of Warmachine/Hordes, but the starting roll can certainly set the tone for the game. In this article I’ll describe the relative merits of being the first or second player.

The terrain on a battlefield is a big variable in any wargame and the setup can advantage one side of the board over another. Second player gets to choose the side of the board they want to deploy on. A canny player will look to see if there are terrain advantages before choosing a table side. To that end discuss the terrain on the board with your opponent before choosing a side. Ideally terrain should be discussed before the starting roll is made to avoid disputes – “Oh, you thought that hedge was a linear obstacle that confers a cover bonus?!”.

When choosing a table side look at the complete picture. If you’re intending to challenge the scenario can you reach the zones/flags with the units who you think will be contesting/scoring? Is there a good defensive position (i.e. a wall!) for your ‘caster? Is there any terrain you’d like to deny your opponent?

If you win the starting roll and the terrain on one side of the board could seriously compromise your game plan, you should probably go second!

If you are the first player you must deploy your force first in each category – you place pre-deployment models (i.e. huge-based models), regular deployment and advance deployment respectively before your opponent. As the first player your only opportunity to react to models your opponent places is in subsequent deployment categories (assuming you don’t have a theme force that trumps that). This is definitely a disadvantage as your opponent can decide what targets on your side he wants to deploy opposite and also what models/units he wants to protect on his side.

As first player your deployment zone (7″ deep) is also further from the scoring elements of the scenario than your opponent’s (10″ deep). Depending on the speed of your force this can be a bit of a disadvantage. Okay, so far there only seem to be disadvantages to going first, so why would you want to?!

Going First
Here’s the advantage for the first player – you get to push your army out there first. This give your the opportunity, if not on turn one then probably on turn two, to start clogging/jamming key parts of the battlefield with your units. This can be a problem for some opponents are you are presenting more threats than they can effectively deal with. By pushing across the battlefield before your opponent you’re more likely to determine who get’s the first charges in (preferably you!). You are also potentially denying the other army a round of shooting. This is not as big a deal as it used to be, but it is something to think about when facing a gun line.

As an example, let’s consider everyones favourite semi-naked pirate chicks – the Satyxis Raiders. The unit is SPD 7, so if they fo first they’ll be 27″ (13″ advanced deploy and 14″ run) across the battlefield (assuming no buffs/bonuses). That’s pretty impressive. Not as impressive as turn two when they are potentially able to charge enemy models still in their 10″ deployment zone! For the second player this presents a big problem as fast units can prevent his units getting close to the scoring elements in the scenario.

Scenario Scoring
That said, going second has its own advantage when it comes to manoeuvring and the potential to be the first to score on the scenario is it. In all SR2013 scenarios the scoring kicks off on the second player’s second turn. If you can clear that zone or dominate that flag before your opponent can react then you are in a strong position.

So let’s recap –

Going First has the potential to…

  • jam the board
  • get the first charges

While going second has the opportunity to…

  • choose the best terrain
  • react to your opponent’s deployment choices
  • start closer to the scenario scoring elements
  • start scoring first

Wow! It looks like going second is the way to go, right? Well, of course the answer is more complicated than that and the decision comes down to balancing the capabilities (specifically SPD) of your force against your opponent’s. With my Legion armies I generally always go first if I win the starting roll. They are fast enough to react to the opponent’s deployment decisions, are pretty agnostic to terrain and if I’m playing shooting elements I can draw the opponent forward while I back-up and shoot! With Khador I often go first as well, but for a different reason. My army is (on average) slower than my opponent and if I have the chance I need to get near the scoring elements as quickly as possible. Then again my army can often absorb a charge, so going second isn’t so bad and the 3″ wider deployment zone is nice.

So, there you go… a definitive answer on whether going first or second is better!?!

Until next time,


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