After two “practical” posts, it’s time for another “theory” post. This time I’m going to be having a think about activations. This is something I’ve seen mentioned around twitter and in various podcasts, and only realised how much thought I actually put into it recently.
I don’t mean the actions which are performed during an activation, I mean the act of activating itself. One of the fascinating aspects of the game is the “you go, I go” thing (taking turns to activate a model at a time). This almost breaks down the “turn” into a series of 1 (or 2) model turns. Obviously the more of these 2 model turns you have in which the opponent doesn’t have a counter-activation, the better off you are. Because of this set up, I tend to find that a crew which can “out activate” an opponent has a distinct advantage in being able to see the opponent’s moves before they have to allocate their best models to a particular purpose.
Having more activations than your opponent is as good as (or even better than) having more cards in your hand, or more soulstones in your pool. It gives you a level of control over the game (or at least the turn). You can save that vulnerable model until all of the models which could threaten it have already activated, so you KNOW that it can achieve whatever it needs to. In the same way as winning the initiative gives you the first activation, and therefore a great advantage in being able to put in the first attack (or “attacks” if you have companion/accomplice), having more activations gives you the last attack, where you’re free from retaliation, and know exactly what danger/advantage your model(s) will have next turn.
Similarly, activating last can give you major benefits in achieving points for the scheme or the strategy. The most obvious example of this is in Reconnoiter. The strategy requires you to have more non-peon models in table quarters than your opponent. If you have the last activation, you know which table quarters your opponent controls (and that’s not going to change), and so you can position your final model(s) in such a way to gain the VP for the turn, or to deny your opponent their VP for that turn.
I especially find that in smaller games (25-30ss) activation advantage is a HUGE benefit. It seems like when one crew has 1 or 2 fewer models than their opponent, it’s very difficult for them to get back into the game.
Manipulating activation advantage
Of course some masters/factions are better at out-activating than others. However there are a few ways to swing activation advantage in your favour.
The first and, I suppose, most obvious method (though it wasn’t the first I thought of) is to hire lots of models. Most masters have access to cheap minions (4ss or so) with which they can fill out the ranks. In Marcus’ case, this is usually the lowly moleman, though canine remains also fit the bill nicely (I still haven’t tried out the canine!). More models at the start means more activations. The downside to this method comes into the second method for gaining activation advantage.
Kill stuff. Yep, true to the heritage of this blog, the first method which came to my mind was “My opponent has more models than me… I’ll just kill them to get activation advantage”. Generally this works best if you aim for the squishy cheap models early so that they aren’t trotting around grabbing objectives later on, and you don’t have to spend too much effort killing them. This is fine in principal, but each of your models (most of them at least) only has 2 ap to spend. If they’re spending that AP killing stuff, they’re not spending it on achieving schemes. As I said before, aim for the squishy cheap stuff, but what about things like molemen? They tick the cheap box, but squishy? With armour 2 and a trigger to allow that armour to reduce damage to 0, they can take a lot of effort to take down (unless you have something which ignores armour), and they bounce around like nobody’s business, so even if you hit them once or twice, you’ll have to go and catch them again before you can hit them again. So make sure you aim for the stuff you can take down the most easily.
The next option is summoning. This is off the cards (literally) for a lot of masters, as they just can’t summon. However Sommer, Ramos, and the ressurectionists (and probably some others) can create new models during the game. This can heavily tip the balance of a game if your opponent thinks they have activation advantage, and then another model or two pops up mid-way through the turn. In the case of Ramos, when you kill a model, at the very least, you can expect an arachnid to pop up in its place, if not 2… if not 3! (this reminds me that I own Ramos and a lot of arachnids… maybe I should give them some table time).
Finally we have tricksy methods to get more activations. This includes things like reactivate, which gives a model 2 activations in a turn, so for activation advantage purposes, they basically count as 2 models. Again, Ramos excels here, as his totem can dish out reactivate, and his henchman (Joss) gets reactivate when he’s reduced to 1 wound. In here I’ll also put everyone’s favourite rodent, the Jackalope. When friendly beasts die, the jackalope pops back up from the grave, giving you back the advantage. There are undoubtedly other tricksy methods for gaining activation advantage, but my feverish brain has forgotten them for the time being.
So there you go, activations in a nut shell. I like to have 8-10 models in a 50ss game to try and start out with a possible activation advantage, generally achieved by taking the jackalope and some molemen simply to be activations, if nothing else.
I hope this post has inspired a bit of thought on activations. I’ll apologise now, it’s felt a bit lacklustre compared with the other posts (due to me being distracted by silly work), but the next one will be much more energetic… promise.
Until next time