It's the new year, new tournament calendar and new Malifaux prospects for your humble and sensationally attractive writer but before all that, I want to muse on the aspect of the first turn. Many say it's the most important turn after deployment, some say "nothing happens" or it's the movement turn, others use it to set up their game: IE Ramos' Scrap, Nicodem's Corpse pile, Yan Lo's Chi, Ironside's "You looking at me" drag, Vik's turn 1 Blitzkrieg etc etc. The first turn is a lot of things but never is it worthless, otherwise more players would play close deployment as their default to speed things along...
Before the game even starts, you will scatter some terrain and ensure at least a third of the board is covered in dense, blocking, severe, possibly hazardous or soft/hard cover terrain of various heights and sizes. If you've ever played with or against a ranged master on an open field you know just how important terrain is to a fair but all the more important: Fun and Interesting game. If you believe two melee masters could have no trouble on an empty field then you've never seen the Gravity Mosh pit of Ironsides or a Misaki cutting down dead every key model you possess whilst you magikarp spash in defiance.
Terrain is key but it's also the table edge you choose as well. Do you favour lots of blocking terrain or do you prefer hard cover pieces you can step over? Most organised events be them national or casual tournaments will have uneven tables especially for this reason. A bad match-up or staggering difference in ability can be improved just a little by determining what table edge gives you the most advantage or maybe you get screwed and get left with a table edge not so good, which brings me to my next point.
Deployment. It's safe bet that everybody is in agreement with is that it was the first reason for losing a game or simply that you as a player were wasting turns moving models diagonally because you found out too late it was a better idea to have that key model slightly more to the left...
Are you up against an opponent who you would make life so much easier for if you were bunched up into a cluster? Sonnia? Rasputina? Vik's? To some extent Yan Lo or Ironsides? Don't give them a free shot to obliterate your crew by lining everyone up shoulder to shoulder in direct LOS of them. All of the above examples are fully able to get into range of your table edge with surprising efficiency. Once I had a game using Ms Toni Ironsides and my opponent didn't realize that with help from the Captain, Toni can reach their deployment zone turn one. Setting off her (0) action Come get some and my opponent's crew is having to take Tn13 Wp duels to attempt to get away from her. Yes Toni died, of course she did; even Ms Troubleshooter will drop to a whole crews worth of attacks but my opponent was still very close to their deployment line at the end of turn 2, all because I was given the opportunity to take advantage of a cluster.
When clustering isn't a problem, you then have to factor in heavy hitters, firing lanes, flank availability then, if deploying second, where your opponent's key models are in relation to your own. Do their scheme runners have free range of the board or can you put a ranged threat in their way? Is that "From the shadows" model close enough to first-turn-kill without leaving yourself open? Do your lurers have good LOS to the models you want out of position? Lots and lots of questions and some I fail to ask myself in so many games.
Most of the time, the first turn is spent double walking or pot-shotting enemies in range, if anything drops, it's normally because you double-walked out in the open of a couple of ranged attackers or you're facing the Viktorias with La Terrain de Inadequacy. My most recent game against Mollusq proves what first turns can go like if you tell yourself you're untouchable and out of range. My Fire Garmin thought he could stroll out in the open awaiting Feng to leap-pad from him only to get lured out by a performer and nuked off the face of the earth by a crew in full knowledge nothing else was getting near them that turn, resulting in dropping scrap to be used for the Effigy flood I couldn't weather later on, all because of one Garmin.
Many a time, I've from the shadow'd a December Acolyte closer than I should have and my opponent has taken the advantage I've given them turn 1 and flat out murdered 14% of my list.
Another example, I had a match between Rasputina and Neverborn Lucius, my opponent had Mr Graves show the door to Candy and then walked both of them forward. Using the Captain to bring my forces forward, Raspy with help from Essence of Power and Ice Garmin damage buff ended those 18ss worth of models turn one. 36% of your crew gone before you even start scoring strategy victory points is hard to come back from.
One more just because it was pure genius on her part, I was facing my girlfriend's Misaki with my Mei Feng, she double walked up a Torakage so I railwalked and DESTROYED this poor ninja (with a smug look on my face no less)... only to get told it was her Frame for Murder and I just gave her 3Vp. On the first turn.....
What should you do first turn? Well that's up to each individual player, what are your plans for the next turn, even the next two turns? Do you need Hoffman in a certain position on the board to fully benefit from power-loop second turn? Make it happen. Really so long as you aren't stretching your neck out and taking damage un-necessarily, you're in good hands. If your scheme runners are in place to either do their runs or take up your opponents valuable ap to attempt to stop them then it's not a bad play. The sheer amount of times I've been baited by a well placed Crooligan and having one model leave the fight to go play Tag with them is un-believable, most of the time I've managed to stop them, but it took 10% of my crew and 4 turns to sort out the little ragamuffin.
Reaction and anticipation are the corporate buzz words to take away from this, react when necessary but anticipate that you might get screwed if suddenly your costly beater is out in the open covered in the viscera of your opponent's fallen cheap minion. Take heed of terrain then plan out a course of action. Keep your war table dust free and have fun out there.