Activation Order: A Guide
Updated: Aug 22, 2020
Activation order is a crucial element of Godtear. Knowing what to activate next is as fundamental a decision as what to do with that activation once it has begun. Much has rightly been made of how much Godtear is a positioning game, but it is also very much a sequencing game.
This element of the game is a major challenge, especially for new players. Many new players tell me that they are struggling to overcome the feeling that there are SO MANY potential choices to make, especially at the start of a clash phase.
The focus of this article is, therefore, the how to approach activation order decisions in the clash phase. Plot phase activation order is important, but considerably less difficult since you have an uninterrupted phase. Usually opponents are cool with you re-doing the order of operations in the plot phase since they would have had no opportunity to counter-play anyway.
Clash phase activation order decisions, by contrast, are under a lot of pressure and can often determine the outcome of a turn.
One of the great things about Godtear is that it is not really solvable. This is due in part to the vast, vast array of different game states which might occur. I recently saw someone comment that they did not find that the game was variable enough to have re-playability. Lolz. I suspect that this comment came from someone who had not actually played more than one three-champion game.
Anyhow, the dizzying array of different potential board states means that any attempt to impose hard and fast rules on how to do activation order would be foolish. There are numerous exceptions to almost any rule one would care to state.
With that caveat, I have attempted to outline for you the thought process that I use when determining what to activate next in a clash phase. This is a rough outline of a thought process, not an airtight set of rules. You will no doubt think of many challenges and exceptions as you read it (I know I do), and that’s kind of what I am after. My hope is that this will stimulate you to think about what ideas guide your own thought process about activation order. If you don’t like my decision sequence, I encourage you to try to write out your own. It’s a useful clarifying exercise.
When deciding what to activate in a clash phase, I generally ask myself the following sequence of questions:
1. Is there a some possibility that I can win the turn?
Notice that I did not ask if it was likely that I will win the turn. While it is important to recognize when a turn is lost, I think more mistakes are made by giving up on a turn too early than by giving up on one too late. If it’s obvious that I am no longer trying to win a turn, then my opponent can also shift to thinking about the turn to come. Unless the possibility of winning the turn is so remote as to be negligible, I say keep fighting for those VPs. Flukes my happen in my favor if I give them a chance to happen. At the very least, I can hope to keep my opponent honest.
If the answer to #1 is NO, proceed to question 8
If the answer to #1 is YES, proceed to #2
2. Do I have a champ who is about to be KOd?
If so, I probably want to activate this champion next. Even if I can’t prevent the KO, I can at least make sure my champion has an impact before it goes down. The major exception would be if this champion is not in a position to contribute meaningfully from its present position. If my champion’s activation is not potentially valuable, a savvy opponent will probably wait to KO it anyway.
If the answer to #2 is NO, proceed to #3
3. Do I have a champ who can KO an un-activated enemy champ?
If so, I probably want to take the activation which will achieve this. Where I am on the Battle Ladder affects this calculation, of course. If I have less than 4-5 steps of room on the ladder, banners probably come first. Still, champion KOs are a high priority when they harm the opponent’s action economy because, in addition to the steps, I am also protecting other interests by re-positioning them and forcing them to rally.
If the answer to #3 is NO, proceed to #4
4. Do I have a champ who has a conditional opportunity to squish a banner?
If so, I probably want to go ahead and do that before my path is somehow blocked or my champ is somehow re-positioned. Banner squishing is essentially a diceless 4-5 ladder steps. Very nice. If my opponent can’t stop me from squishing the banner, then this is not really a priority, but if they can, I want to get that banner before they can stop me.
If the answer to #4 is NO, proceed to #5
5. Can I deny my opponent the chance to squish a banner?
If so, I’ll likely take the activation which accomplishes this next. The only reason it’s not a higher priority is that it only scores steps. That’s a big deal, of course, but a champion KO scores steps AND has other major benefits. Protecting banners becomes a much higher priority, however, if I am already at max or close to max on the Battle Ladder.
If the answer to #5 is NO, proceed to #6
6. Can I kill some followers?
This can be a higher priority for Maelstroms, of course. This can be less important if you are maxed out on the Battle Ladder. Follower kills are good even when you have maxed out, though, because they force your opponent to use recruit actions or allow their overall board presence to be diminished through attrition.
If the answer to #6 is NO, proceed to #7
7. Is there anything else that can help me win the turn?
This includes squishing banners that were doomed all along, KOing already activated champions, etc. This is where you cash in your “pocket points.”
If the answer to #7 is NO or the answer to #1 is NO, proceed to #8
8. How can I set myself up for next turn?
Put wounds on champions when you are unlikely to KO them. Position your champs near objective hexes so that they can claim and use an actual skill action (as opposed to an advance) in the plot phase. If the scenario allows the loser of a turn to re-position hexes, adjust your position to account for that. Recruit followers back. Distribute boons and blights.
Obviously, that’s a lot to consider. Despite my attempt to make this into a linear decision sequence, it is really a simultaneous consideration of numerous factors at play in the board state you are considering. Learning to recognize and process a board state is a skill that can only come with table time. My hope, though, is that this article helps folks get their feet on the ground and organize their thinking a bit.
Thanks for reading!