Monday, July 25, 2011

No!! I wanna go First!!-The Importance of Stealing the Initiative

The Armies are ready to go. Infiltrators have been placed, meat shields have been deployed, the wall of orks are ready, and the basilisks are prepared to unleash an onslought of firepower. BUT, just when your figuring out your first movement and target priority, your opponent rolls one last dice to see if he can steal the initiative. The dice bounces and rolls and finally lands. All six of those pips are staring at you, almost making the shape of a middle finger being held high right at your face. Just when you though you where gonna go first, you have to take the opening volly of fire. So what? Does it really matter if you go first or second? Is it gonna change that much of the game?

Losing the top of the turn, and having to go last can be potentially catastrophic depending on the armies playing. I always like to try and limit the amount an enemy can do if they do steal the initiative, but I also get cocky and forget that one must ALWAYS deploy with the intent of losing OR stealing the initiative. This one dice roll can change the whole game, as anyone who has lost Stormravens, land raiders, predators, and any other game changing units just becuase they placed the unit in such a horrible location thinking that they would be going first. There are several different things that must be taken into account when discussing stealing the inititive. The most important of course is deployment, both sides must deploy offensively or defensively, but still have some units in place to provide the opposite if things change. Tactically, we must always have a offensive and defensive plan for every unit on the board. Assess the other army and see if there are any infiltrators, long range weapons, or fast units that can make losing or stealing the initiative that much worse or beneficial, and dont forget about the psycholgical impact of losing the initiative, and how it may mess up your friend's whole game plan, or force you to adapt to going second.
Offensively defensive is what comes to mind when trying to prepare for stealing the initiative. If your deploying first, make sure that your army is geared towards going at the top of turn. Think about what units are effective at destroying other units and try and balance yourself throughout the board, or gear your deployment towards a specific objective or goal. If your goal is to capture an objective in the enemy table quarter, then your going to want to have enough troops near the area to take and hold the objective while still providing sufficient cover and protection for those units while still protecting your own battle line. Make sure that you account for long range effectiveness and try and balance it with close combat support. Maintaining a balance of long range support, close combat effectiveness, high stength weaponry, and massive wound causing ability across the board is vital to protecting your forces from getting swept in a specific location, and makes it harder for your opponent to exploit weaknesses, such as having a mob of boyz by themselves with only one power claw to take down the land raider and two dreadnoughts that are only two movements away. Focus on the task at hand and gear your deployment to accomplish that goal in the manner in which you want, BUT dont forget that an armored column of chimeras or rhinos can be devastating to your opponents if you get the top of turn, however if you lose the initiative, you might have left those units in the middle of some perfect firing lanes. A good example involves the deployment of a land raider and multiple rhinos. If you have top of turn, and your most important unit is the land raider, then think about placing the rhinos around the raider, as to provide cover and "bubble wrap" the raider from melta range or turn 1 assaults. While you may deploy them in a position where they can quickly move and obtain a vauluable strategic position, your still keeping in mind that the opponent has a dreadnought in a drop pod and would love to drop the dread right next to the land raider and blow it up if they steal the initiative.

Likewise, if you have had the opportunity to deploy second, you have gotten to see how your opponent has deployed. Being able to deploy in reaction to your opponent's deployment is a huge benefit, since you know where all of his models are and what they are best at destroying, thereby keeping certain units away from those particular models. ( Your not going to deploy a squad of gaunts right in front of a leman russ with a demolisher cannon with no cover around!) You can see the weaknesses in their deployment and eploit those weaknesses effectively, especially if you deploy defensively, but deploy with the intent to steal the initiative. A good eample of such philosophy involves a land raider and a rhino once again. If you know that there are multiple battle wagons on one side of the board, and you deploy your land raider on the same side, you may want to deploy the rhino in a way as to block line of site to the battle wagon's big gunscreating a cover save for the land raider. BUT, if you do steal the initiative, you canmove the rhino and have clear shots at the battlewagons with the twin linked lascannons. Creating your own cover that can be easily moved is a great way of thinking both defensively and offensively. If you are going second, you are creating a cover save for the vehicles behind the unit blocking clear line of sight, but if you steal the initiative, you can easily move it and fire at the opponent without giving them a cover save!
Always have a back up plan, cause if you deploy everything with the intent of going second, then you may leave yourself out of range or in a bad position to make great strategic advantages if you steal the initiative. You want to maximize the impact of stealing the initiative while eliminating the risks of losing the initiative, depending on whether your going first or second. I have had friends who deploy everything defensively, leaving everything in the back of the board or in positions that hinder mobility, thinking that they where going to go second. Upon stealing the initiative, they couldnt make any significant accomplishments that may have helped them win the game because they had left everything out of range or in a bad tactical spot, therefore wasting the potential impact of stealing the initiative. Dont forget that some people dont have the ability to adapt tactically in a quick manner, and stealing the initiative can hurt these players, especially in a psychological way. Some opponents have a particular game plan in mind, and dont like to deviate from that plan, if someone steals the initiative, and forces those kind of players to play defensively, they may not adapt very well. However, a player with no game plan or strategy may not fair any better. Sometimes it is good to have a plan, especially if you plan on stealing the initiative, and if you dont have any plan for acting or reacting to the potential changes in the game that are caused by stealing the initiative, then your not going to know how to react. The best advice is to have some sort of a plan if you steal the initiative or if someone does that to you. But, always find a way to be flexible as well. Deploy with both an offensive and defensive mindset, cause all it takes is one roll of the dice to change all of that. The best thing to do is to limit the impact that your opponent will have if they steal the initiative, while mazimizing your impact on your opponent if you end up taking the top of turn. Most importantly, remember that the whole point of stealing the initiative is to add some element of surprise and excitement to the deployment part of the game, forcing all involved to think tactically about their decisions even before the game starts. I will say that every time the initiative has been stolen, either by my opponent or by myself, it has always made for one exciting, surprising, and fun game.


  1. i stole the initiative in the final game of a tournament a few weeks ago. worst game ever. i was playing IG and he was playing meched Dark Eldar. i killed 10 transports on turn 1, at which point it was all over. pointless, boring, terrible game, in which both of us felt bad.

    but, he deployed stupidly, i didn't, and he got punished.

  2. I noticed that you had your Sunday Best on when you posted this article. I hope you don't mind that I gave you a shout out over at The Chaos Manifesto.

  3. I dont mind at all. Thanks HOTpanda!