First Blood Part II

Posted: June 19, 2014 by The Master of the Adeptus Administratum in Hobby, Rules, Scenarios, Tactica, Uncategorized
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In the first part of this article I covered the more obvious points about the First Blood Secondary Objective in the Eternal War and the Maelstrom of War missions.



Some deeper topics I will cover here in Part II include the influences that First Blood has had on army design, scenario design, and competitive play.

Many tournaments have used the Eternal War missions as either a starting point for scenario design or verbatim. There are some advantages to this, as it gives players a familiar scenario to play and casual play in a non-tournament setting makes for good practice. For those that are not comfortable writing their own scenarios these can be seen as an easy option.

Those that opt to run with the Eternal War missions in the rulebook also must then be accepting of both the strengths and weaknesses of these missions.

The First Blood secondary objective is again magnified in importance in a competitive environment for all the reasons I covered in my previous article. In a competitive environment it can also influence army design and play styles.

With the arrival of sixth edition light vehicles increased in vulnerability due to the Hull Points mechanic. This was compounded further by First Blood. Transports like Rhinos were relatively easy kills and have up First Blood often as their ability to move units on the table made them prime targets to begin with. As a result drop pods became more common an option allowing players to still get to where they wanted to be and not risking giving up First Blood – and in other ways raising the chance that they themselves would score it.

Large units of horde infantry also became more common, making it more difficult to give up that First Blood victory point.

Fortifications like Aegis defense lines gave protection to units and also provided a viable anti-air choice for players early on in sixth edition and right up until today in seventh.

The Kill Points mechanic introduced in fifth edition and still used for some sixth edition missions combined with First Blood has seen some armies use a selection of large hard-to-kill units, sometimes called ‘Death Stars’.

At larger point value games all of these sorts of large units have become more and more attractive.

To think that this all has to do with the First Blood secondary objective is unrealistic, but I contend that it has played a factor in how armies are constructed.

It has been suggested that First Blood is there to offset the advantages of going second for claiming objectives.  This has some traction as the only real advantages of going second are to try and counter your opponent’s actions with your own aggressive counter-attack. Objectives in the Eternal War missions are claimed at the end of the game, and are usually worth more than a single point.  However when using the Maelstrom of War missions those objectives are claimed at the end of a player’s turn and generally cannot be contested – especially those objectives that are nearby your forces and distant from your opponent’s forces.  So, going second in Maelstrom of War missions isn’t really an advantage by and large.  In fact an aggressive player going first can gain a positional advantage by contesting objectives in the mid-field straight away.

First Blood does however inject an imbalance to the game, which some contend can be seen as a good thing for games.  Forcing players to try and earn Victory Points by playing more aggressively when they have lost First Blood.  For armies that are not designed for bold aggressive play, attempting to switch to this style mid-game tends to lead further down the path of defeat.  Given this, it is unsurprising to see more aggressive army builds to take this sort of thinking into account.  Big units that can take casualties and still be around after many turns to try and secure objectives are also gaining in popularity for similar reasons.

So, if you think that First Blood is a game mechanic that is messing up the game, what can you do about it?

One option is to write your own scenarios that do not use this as a secondary objective.   The fact that playing book missions is so ingrained in the player base is perhaps a bad thing.  There are plenty of exciting possibilities when you and your gaming group design your own missions, and open up possibilities of thematic games.   Playing the same missions in the book time and again gets boring and stagnates the game – and your own generalship and army designs.  The exciting thing about the Maelstrom of War missions and their Tactical Objectives is that they will start to give players new things to try and while a bit random, the Tactical Objectives will make players think long and hard about how they design armies and tactically maneuver on the battlefields of the 41st Millennium.

  1. Alex Yuen says:

    I just can’t agree with the conclusion and the analyze of FIRST BLOOD. I think this article arrive at the opposite of what FIRST BLOOD really is. I been place on top tier and won some tournament doing the opposite of what you suggested. My eldar army for sure is not design to be bold aggressive play and I give out FIRST BLOOD in most of my tournament game. yet, I won most of them. In LVO, I design my army to give out first blood and I end up on Table 4 on game 5 and won.

    First, going 2nd is not for counter-attack, far from it. The real advantage of going 2nd is control how the game going to end. In Maelstrom of War, going 2nd became even more important not less like you suggested and FIRST BLOOD must less important.

    The real difference here is play-style. I don’t focus on killing but disable or neutralize my opponent’s force. After I read both article, I feel like you still playing unit x can do this and so go and destroy unit y. That 4th ed is play-style.

    It will be unwise for anyone going into a competitive tournament following this article.

    • If a force is designed to go second and play for late game success that is certainly a way to mitigate the importance of First Blood. It is an alternate army design choice which you have had success with. The strategy and tactics you describe would work as well if there was no First Blood to be awarded.

      • Alex Yuen says:

        No, no and no, going 2nd will have a more of an advantage if First Blood was not awarded. In competitive tournament, playing for late game is not an alternate design. In a game without First Blood, at my level of play will come down to who won the first turn roll. The first blood is the balancing act for the advantage of going 2nd. By getting first blood, forcing your opponent to either capture more objectives than you or tie in objectives but capture all 2nd objectives. By going 2nd, that player controls what end up on those objectives without a response from his opponent. So by giving much more chances for going 1st to get first blood is the balance.

        The way this article describe how first blood works and the strategic and tactical values just not true. I do feel the article does not understand or miss the role of first blood plays in the mission design. 40k had became a very tactical game. lets meet in the middle and smash head 40k is not play at a competitive tournament for sometime now.

        I had won games where I did not kill a single model. First step to understand what I am really saying is to understand 40k is not about killing but play to the missions.

        this article is really an unwise advice for players that why I said something.

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