|To go first or second. That is the question.|
One hot topic to come up a lot lately is the importance of the initiative bid. I talked about initiative and objectives in a post I made a while back, but I think it's important to bring it up again now that the Vassal tournament is underway. After all, there are a lot of players participating in it and a lot of them have huge initiative bids because they really want to be selective in who goes first or second.
Now that you've read the original article, let's talk about what is a good bid to have. Generally, I see it like this:
Below 390 - Huge bid, you got this
390-393 - Big bid, almost guaranteed
394-396 - Average bid, most of the time you will roll off
397+ - Poor bid, just give up
Most lists that I tend to build these days hover around the big bid and average bid category because I want to have maximum control over what happens on the battlefield. When the ships are out and you can see what your opponent is fielding across the table, being able to choose who goes first and second can be decisive over the course of the game. For example, my list typically runs 3 ships; the MC80, MKII and CR90/MC30c. I have a max activation count of 3 and some of my ships absolutely need to go first in some cases to take advantage of their strengths. That's why it's really important that you study your playstyle and how each molds to your game plan before starting the game. In the case of the MC30c, not being able to go first while you're stuck in close range of an ISD is just suicide. You need to be able to activate first for the boom and zoom with that ship.
So what other kind of lists typically want to have the initiative bid? Well, I think it all depends on the strategy and the make of the list itself. I don't want to generalize too hard, but most of the lists that want initiative are the ones that have greater activations, wants aggressive play, a heavy reliance on non-rogue squadrons, and ships that require greater dexterity on the battlefield. Lists that typically want to go second are lists with less activations, wants to play more reactionary, wants to play the objectives, and typically have the hull points to compensate for it. For example, a squadron-heavy Rebel build with multiple B-Wings will want first player for that increased alpha damage. The Motti player with 3x ISDs might not give a damn who goes first because he has 42 hull points to throw in your face and say deal with it. Another example for players looking to go first might be my MC80 with Engine Techs. I really want to shoot and re-position before I'm cornered or blocked; so activating first might allow me to Engine Techs to safety or setup a better firing solution next turn.
Now let's talk about what happens if you're going for that initiative bid but your opponent shows up with a higher bid than you. What happens when you're planning to go first but now you're in the backseat? It's time to dramatically change the way you play or else you're going to lose. There's no way you can fly your MC30c aggressively if you know he's going to activate first next round, you're just going to get blown away. Instead, you treat yourself as having +1 ship activations and see what he's going to do first. Change the mindset that you need to squeeze in damage and instead, maybe slow down and find a better position before you go in and engage. Sure, it might slow down your typically aggressive strategy, but delaying your approach for a turn is better than a dead ship. For the MC80 and Engine Techs, you might need to delay a little more and play the long-range game a little longer. Maybe hang on to more tokens in the beginning and plan for the longer game, treating the first turn as an observational phase rather than going for the damage setup. Overall, I would say that the best way to treat the initiative being taken away from you is prepare for earlier damage. Banking a Engineering token while observing what your opponent is doing first turn can help you dramatically in the long run as the game goes on.
The best advice I can give for players looking for the initiative bid is that make sure it fits under your gameplan. If you lose the bid, the world is not over. It's only over if you didn't plan for it in the first place.