Yes, You Should Try To Win Turn 1
Updated: Aug 21, 2020
This is counter-intuitive to me, but a surprising number of people think it’s bad to win turn 1. Somewhat more understandably, a popular opinion seems to be that winning turn 1 is nice, but not really important.
In my humble opinion, this is wrong.
Turn one is not that important because it is only worth one victory point. Since you need five to win, winning turn one won’t make the difference between needing to win 2 or 3 turns overall. Even if you win turn three, that’s still only 4 VP’s, so you need a third turn to win. Meanwhile, the scenario rules will give the player who loses turn 1 a chance to set up for turn 2, which is more valuable. The turn 1 loser gets to choose to go first or second and usually change objective hexes somehow, meaning they get an edge in tempo and positioning which applies to a more valuable turn.
Why It’s Wrong:
Setting aside the obvious (but still true) notion that victory points are a good thing to have, let’s examine the situation a bit more closely.
Godtear has an excellent rubber band mechanic built into its turn structure; the person who loses the turn gets to control scenario and activation order in the following turn. There's an outstanding article from Fishy Wargaming about why this makes the game awesome. This mechanic essentially makes it difficult to win back to back turns in Godtear. If we imagine a game between two players of exactly equal skill and dice luck running the same list, we would expect that the player who loses each turn will win the next turn because of this rubber band effect. In this scenario, the player who wins turn 1 will win the game. The turn 1 winner would win 1, 3, and 5.
Essentially, the rubber band advantage is more valuable on Turn 3 than it is on Turn 2.
Imagine a scenario wherein you have lost turns 1 and 3, but won turn 2. You must now win back to back turns in order to win the game. This means that you will have to go all in on turn 4, while your opponent can afford to take fewer risks and wait you out.
What This Means on the Board:
I’m not saying that you should sell out to win turn 1. Don’t blow your ultimates or anything. I AM saying that you should at least contest turn 1, though.
I have seen players not only failing to contest turn 1, but actively trying to lose it. This seems bad. I imagine their aim is to position themselves for success in Turn 2, but there are at least two problems with this.
First of all, if I can tell that you are not seriously contesting Turn 1, I will do the bare minimum necessary to win the turn while positioning myself for turn 2 also. Against an observant player, you are not likely to get much of a maneuvering advantage by ignoring that VP’s are on the table. At least keep your opponent honest by putting some pressure on the Battle Ladder.
Second, the things you do in attempting to win Turn 1 can also help you win turn 2. Killing followers, for example, helps you do both because it diminishes the opponent’s board presence and action economy.
I know it sounds silly, but you should try to win each turn, including turn 1. Don’t put yourself in a terrible position or expend all your resources to do it, but at least put banners down and attack when you can. Turn 1 is not bad to win, and it is also not insignificant to win. It’s worth a bit of effort. There is very little upside in ignoring the first victory point and a potentially meaningful downside.