First Blood

Posted: June 19, 2014 by The Master of the Adeptus Administratum in Rules, Scenarios, Tactica
Tags: , , , ,

First Blood was first introduced as a secondary objective for the Eternal War missions in sixth edition and remains a staple in seventh edition book missions.

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first blood
n
1. (Military) the first killing or wounding in a fight or war.

On initial inspection the awarding of a Victory Point (VP) for achieving this objective seems like a reasonable objective. However it has some issues with game balance which most players have experienced over the past couple of years…

In a game where one player’s forces perform all of their actions before the other player’s forces can take their turn gives the player that goes first a lot of advantages. They have the initiative which can be turned into a positional advantage and maybe more importantly, a material advantage if they can destroy vulnerable units or stake a claim on key objectives or both.  A psychological advantage in getting an early lead can also be a factor.

Make no mistake, going first is a big deal on the 40k table and when the privilege of going first is decided on by something as random as a dice roll adding a VP for being the first to destroy a unit compounds the importance of getting the first turn.

Many armies even base their entire strategy about performing an early ‘Alpha Strike’ to turn the early initiative into both a positional and material advantage. A good example of this would be a drop pod heavy space marine force which attacks the opponent before they can even get out of their deployment zone.

So the awarding of a VP for First Blood becomes a pivotal objective which the player going first has a huge advantage of achieving.

The player expected to be going second of course knows that the odds of scoring First Blood are against them, but they have ways of mitigating or even beating those odds.

Stealing the Initiative is always a possibility in the Eternal War missions and some armies can further increase their chances of stealing the initiative by way of special characters, wargear, or Warlord Traits which give bonuses to the roll for stealing the initiative. Armies that are selected this way attempt to wrong-foot opponents that win the roll-off to go first before the battle even begins. When going first is less of a guarantee than the regular 5 times out of 6, players may adopt a less aggressive deployment and as a result perhaps reduce their chances of achieving First Blood should the opponent fail to seize the initiative.

Another option is for the player expected to be going second to adopt a more defensive posture. Leaving vulnerable units in reserve, deploying units in cover or out of line of sight, or using fortifications to add cover to an armies deployment are all options. These sorts of tactics concede much in the way of position but with the intent of saving units from the brunt of an opponent’s opening volley. With a bit of good luck, First Blood may not be given up and provide the opportunity to win it for the player that goes second.

Another issue with First Blood is that it can usually only be awarded to one player. Barring a situation where two units are destroyed simultaneously – in an assault for example – the Victory Points are lost to the other player. The advantage of getting the VP associated with First Blood mean that one player has an advantage that the opponent cannot get back.

I will have more to say on this subject in the next article: First Blood Part II.

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Comments
  1. alex yuen says:

    First Blood is to balance the huge advantage that going 2nd has on capturing objectives. Destroying enemy’s army is not longer the only option to win a game or even a prefer option. I will agree with you that going first is a huge deal but as a huge dis-advantage. Since 5/6 games are objectives base.

    • In my experience late game objective grabbing is difficult when at a material disadvantage, and when the end of the game is uncertain.

      In the new Maelstrom of War missions the advantage you describe is even less of a factor.

      • alex yuen says:

        A lot of players ask the same question or have the same issue. I tell them why engage the game at turn 2? What is the rush to exchange fire?

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