The plot phase/clash phase dynamic is one of the most fascinating innovations in Godtear. The switch between conintuous activations and alternating activations is mind-bending in a good way and captures some of the best aspects of both activation structures. SFG developers have stated that they liked the feel of continuous activations for setting up combinations and the feel of alternating activations for the back and forth of actual combat. The phases of the game and the types of skill actions available in each really capture this beautifully.
I’ve previously written a bit about activation order for the clash phase, but this article is focused on the concerns which arise in the plot phase. I hope to outline a few general principles to help players clarify their thoughts on this crucial phase of the game.
1. Recognize When It Actually Starts
The plot phase literally starts after the end phase of the previous turn. It actually starts as soon as you know who is going to win the previous turn. Sometimes, a turn is decided in the final activations of the clash phase and sometimes it isn’t. Once you know that one player has a turn sewed up, it’s time to start thinking about the plot phase of the next turn.
Granted, you won’t know how the scenario rules will affect the board state in the end phase, but you will know whether or not you or your opponent will be making those alterations. For example, if you know you have won a turn on Life, consider positioning some followers in hexes where you don’t want your opponent to be able to grow hexes. Conversely, if you know that you’ll be losing the turn, try to use your remaining activations to position models such that they can exploit the positions the objective hexes will be in rather than the positions they occupy at that time. In other words, don’t go for the ball, go for the spot where the ball is heading.
2. Stop and Make A Plan
Think of the start of your plot phase as a big puzzle to solve. You need time to solve puzzles, so don’t start moving models right away. Instead, take a breath, consider the board and make a plan. Do not put pressure on yourself (or opponents) to play fast at this point in the game. This is when players usually should take a beat and process what they see.
I tend to start by looking at the objective hexes where I would like to place banners and working backwards from there. Since you get to take all of your activations consecutively, you can really make a big Rube Goldberg machine without concern for counter play. The only potential complications can arise when dice are involved. I generally try to mitigate this by putting dice-dependent actions early in the sequence so that if the dice fail me, I have that information early and can adjust the plan. Remember also to consider using ultimates; the plot phase is often a great time for them. In any case, work through each step in your head, and don’t feel the need to start activating models until you see the whole thing.
3. Use Plot Phase Card Actions
Sometimes it is tough to use plot phase actions printed on your cards. All too often, plot phases are a lot of moving, recruiting, and claiming. There is nothing wrong with moving, recruiting, or (especially) claiming, but sometimes the actions printed on plot phase cards are very good also. Plot phase card actions are the source of many wonderful movement tricks as well as the bulk of the boon and blight game. Getting to use them in the first place usually means planning ahead.
You definitely want to make claim actions most of the time. Claiming is good both because of the immediate scoring it offers and because it compels opponents to move to particular places, constraining their choices and making them more predictable. The only circumstances where it’s worthwhile to pass on making a claim, in my view, are circumstances in which you are not playing a shaper, there is a tangible upside to a different plot phase action, and the opponent can trivially crush your banner without going out of their way. Other than that, you want to be claiming.
If we want champions to claim, but also be able to use actions printed on their cards, that essentially means that we don’t want them moving. This is why your goal should be to position your champions such that they will activate adjacent to empty objective hexes in the plot phase. This way, Keera can claim AND put one of her dragons back in position, Rodhri can claim AND boost his armor, etc etc. In addition to forethought, you can achieve this with skills that move champions outside of their activations (hello Roar of Battle) or move objective hexes (hello Undertow).
As for followers getting these actions off, the key once again is foresight. If I want to make sure that my Glory Seekers can use Roar of Battle on Keera and recruit, then I need to move at least one of them into range during the Clash phase. This requires you to have deeply memorized your models’ options in each phase and to be thinking ahead once the turn is sewn up. It’s usually good to recruit followers back, but sometimes it can be worthwhile (or even desirable) to operate with a unit at less than its full numerical strength. It only takes one model to pass out a boon, and in some situations that might be more valuable than what a full stack of units might achieve in the clash phase.
To help you visualize some of these things, consider this board state:
Keera can simply advance and claim. No problem. The thing is, though, that Shayle is relatively far away from Keera's only dragon. It would be very nice if he were adjacent to one of them so that Keera could potentially unleash both of her clash phase attacks without having to move. Of course, the dragons can simply recruit and move into position, but they would lose the opportunity to debuff Shayle's dodge or to give themselves a damage boon.
Thankfully, that Glory Seeker is handy.
The Glory Seeker can put Keera adjacent to a hex before she activates by moving her with Roar of Battle. Keera is now free to claim and use her Royal Summons to recruit a second Young Dragon. The dragons can now move into attack position and tap into their boon and blight game. Keera's banner is vulnerable to being squished by Shayle, but the fragile wizard's clash phase destination is now very predictable. Shayle would probably rather not rush headlong into the waiting arms of a slayer.
4. Prevent and Contest Claims
If it’s important to efficiently make claim actions, then of course it is important to prevent your opponent from doing so. This is particularly true when going first in the plot phase, but even if you are going second, you can get some of this done in the late activations of a clash phase if the turn has been decided.
Using followers and other resources to protect your own banners is very important, but sometimes a unit is better positioned to protect empty hexes from an enemy champion which might wish to claim on them. The Froglodytes and Retchlings are probably the best at this, but any model can block a space. Even if you cannot prevent the opponent from claiming, if you can make it less efficient for them to do so, then you have denied them the opportunity to use the plot phase actions on their card. If a speed 2 enemy is adjacent to a hex, Landslide’s earthquake can’t stop them from claiming, but it can stop them from doing so and doing anything else also.
Mastering Godtear is, in part, about mastering the interconnectedness between its two primary phases. It’s intuitive that the plot phase sets up the clash phase, but it’s important to also recognize the ways in which the clash and end phases set up the plot phase. To a considerable extent, this is something that comes with experience and pattern recognition. My hope is that reading this speeds that process along, particularly for newer players.
As always, thanks for reading!