Monday, 25 January 2016

Go with the Faux

Human beings have this urge to remember things in their past much more fondly or worse than they actually were. Think back to your favorite christmas or your friends back in secondary school. Maybe your first heartbreak or your first car crash. How much of it was as bad or as good as you recall it being? How many of us miss our school days having a laugh with our mates and the stupid stuff we did in our youths? When really, at the time we were bored out of our minds in classrooms being taught things we haven't the foggiest recollection of or reason why it was imperative that we knew them before going into the "big wide world" by ourselves. Utter nonsense.

My generation, if you can even call it a generation, it's unclear, are absolutely sold on the idea that the 90's were the best ever awesomesauce where we all had the most fun. It was a colorful time full of original ideas and haircuts, lots of haircuts. Really though, our memories of it are the 1% highlights whilst we ignore the 99% shocking terrible-ness of it. Our minds are hardwired for survival despite the very real reality that the mass-majority of us are "basically" safe. We don't have to stand guard at our loved ones beds, we don't have to fear being killed by roaming gangs of aggressive gnomes, we are "basically" safe yet our minds are still hardwired to protect us. Thus our memories of things being gleaming bastions of the good ol' days or the worst thing to ever happen. That or we were bored. These are the three options with memories and science has even found out that every time we recall an event in the past, we start making stuff up and adding or subtracting things. It's all lies! They're not even square!

That amazing segment segways into the point of this post, how I came to love and enjoy my favorite tabletop game: Malifaux. It's a long road of highs and lows and a LOT of money. Or I was busy drawing with crayons and my mind is simply replacing pictures of clouds and farm animals with the Eldar Craftworlds of the 40k universe, it's hard to know for sure.

My earliest memories of gaming was Magic the Gathering. My mother for whatever reason tried to play it, failed spectacularly and handed me and my brother a selection of cards and said, very lovingly "you work it out". What I remember is a pure and honest butchering of the rules as myself and my younger brother attempted a game we had very little meta knowledge of. At some point we both got bored and returned to our mega drives and playstations.
Skip forward and I'm on holiday to America for the first time and, being a marvel fan I find Heroclix and buy a few. Again, no one else to play games with other than my brother so once again, a full on butchering of the rules and eventual boredom. Two for two so far.
Fast Forward to my late teens and I'm on holiday in Spain. I stumbled upon english Magic the Gathering, the Kamigawa block to be specific and fell in love with the world and the mechanics. This time I got my friends involved and even hit up local shops and entered a community. It was a good couple of years, games around the dining table and friday night Magic as well as the sunday casual tournaments my local shop. 

Good times.... Good expensive times. My stint in Magic created as it does with all MTG players, drawers and drawers full of cardboard that inexplicitly cost money. Sorting out cards like an obsessive compulsive squirrel. Seven books sorted into colour, type, cost and every new booster box or theme deck I bought to grab those few rares I told myself I needed resulted in having to reset the whole system and reorder everything. I spent 5 hours at a time doing this just to keep on top of a mountain of pictured flash cards. I don't know when I broke but I said to myself, instead of storing these precious cards in boxes and books to be hidden in drawers, surely it would be better to have a game where I could display what I had and create dioramas when I wasn't playing the game. Enter Warhammer 40,000.

40K brought with it more reasons to hate money as I was starting from scratch in miniature wargaming. Paints, brushes, models, more models, no wait you can only have a small game with those models, buy more to get the full game experience and then buy more models to combat that one dude who is kicking your behind up and down the store. Dice, you need dice and circles and measuring tapes and a large carry case because you've outgrown that tupper-ware with foam in it.

Something tells me if I had saved all this money, I would be living in a flying doom fortress in the shape of my face swimming in my own currency like Scrooge McDuck and renamed the internet "Joden" by now. Hindsight 20/20... 

I started out with Tyranids. The idea of swarming the board with a never-ending wave of H.R.Gigar ripoffs really sparked excitement in me and I built up a sizable collection. The problem now was finding players. Friends that were happy to play with MTG cards back in the day balked at the idea of spending a metric crap tonne of money on a product they had to paint and construct themselves, it didn't appeal to them. So I was left with a local club that met every weekend. The problem being that this club had myself, two guys in their late 30's and about 10 pre-teens with their bored parents in the background. The trouble with children that age in wargaming is they have no gaming etiquette. If it wasn't their turn, they would walk off to another table or get bored and start playing a whole other game whilst getting constantly called back to roll dice or move troops again. That kind of thing grates on me as a player, I can't stand facing someone who doesn't want to play, it wastes both of our times. 

Sadly, had to drop the game and hobbying altogether at this point. When I was met with the realization that I spent all this money, spent all this time learning rules and checking forums and getting invested in a game only to find no one plays it; it was disheartening and puts you down in the dumps on even bothering. Every game that looked awesome or had an interesting spin to it I had to ask the question "Who will actually play this game with me?" If I couldn't name 4 people who were as invested as I was, I didn't bother. Bad times.

One day much later on, after moving house across London, I was coming back from work and I spotted a local Games Workshop that I kept on passing. An idea lit in my head and a long forgotten passion reignited in me. I had the money now, I already had all the supplies making start-up a whole lot easier and it was on the way back from work so I wasn't even wasting time and finding a player base is hella easier when you're going to the store players are routinely meeting up for games in. I restarted 40K with Eldar and started enjoying games with players around my age bracket who more importantly, wanted to play the game. It was all going great, but then 7th Edition happened.

Rules change, I get this and a business like GW is going to change things up in order to obtain a fresh customer base and influence more sales from current players. It's a business, I get it but man, 7th killed all excitement I had for the game. Having a "Magic phase" meant that instead of tactical application of spells in movement then in combat, the player with the "Magic army" spent a turn rolling dice when 95% of the time, you could just simply declare that this spell was in effect with the sheer ease of casting. Then there was the army codex changes that fundamentally changed troop rules and how they were played, on top of options being taken away being replaced with sub-par ones. It sounds juvenile to say but I liked it back in my day when the rules were good.

Yet my joy of wargaming continued, alas it was no longer being sated by Warhammer 40K. I briefly attempted Warhammer Fantasy but every game I had turned into two armies running into each other and then both players throwing dice for an hour. I came to the conclusion that I needed more from a game than the goal of a table wipe every time.

I stumbled upon Infinity and loved the idea of both players being involved in each turn and the game being set up with missions and objectives rather than a slobberknocker of "kill the dudes dood" and the fact that a starter box and maybe one blister was all you needed to play a typical game helped out as well. I played a few games and got hooked.
...Then the honeymoon ended, the fog machine breathed it's last and the mixtape got chewed up and my eyes were open.

The thing is about Infinity, it's very easy to play a game where you either stay bolt in place in order not to get one-shotted or spend the whole game navigating alleyways in order to press the use button on a console or objective. Fire fights weren't these dramatic what ifs, they were more like coin flips and if you were in a range bracket that benefited you, but not your opponent.
Having every piece in the game die to 2 or less hits kills all the fun I tried to have with it and whilst customability exists, you picked the same this-or-that loadout and every model felt the same. This guy shoots. This guy shoots but with a template. This guy is a marker (that can shoot). I can't recall a single model from infinity other than the snipers and I couldn't tell you what their names were.

I was on the right track though, smaller skirmish games were better for me than large 60 model count games and I wanted the objective game play with models I actually gave a damn about who were different from each other. This is when I found Malifaux.

Now I noticed Malifaux when I first got into Infinity but due to the lack of youtube support for it (I was following an episodic Infinity batrep at the time) I brushed it off as a steam-punk try hard. How wrong I was.
After Infinity, I managed to get in contact with an organizer for Malifaux and got a demo game with him. I hit the books as I do with all games. I learned as much of the rules as possible and went about researching what crew box I should take. My love of Ice mages lead me to Rasputina so I checked out her guide and luckily, the fellow giving me the demo had the models and set me up with the starter box to demo with. Somehow I managed to win that game (The henchman not being a player who lets newbies win just because) and got hooked. The rest is history as they say. The community is the best I've known and having an organizer who puts his own time down to make sure players new and old have games every week is amazing and I've never looked back.

Will history repeat itself where a massive rules change comes into effect and "ruins" the game, I don't know but I'm riding this wave whilst it's here and damn is it a lot of fun. Being a wargamer nowadays is much more gratifying than it ever has been and it's all thanks to a great community and a solid game. Malifaux having such a diverse range of characterful models is a testament to how it should be done in this sort of game. This blog wouldn't even be here if I felt this game wasn't worth talking about. It revived my passion and is something I feel giddy planning and getting a game with every week.

But enough talking about the past, we loom ever closer to the future and what mysteries it might bring. Get the mode of transport of your choice up to 88mph and have fun out there!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Gaining Grounds 2016

Having just been released to the general public I thought I would include my thoughts on the new scheme pool Gaining grounds 2016 has offered us.

Gaining Grounds I have not had much experience playing, due to most players having the base rule book and the exceptionally helpful Schemes and Strategy deck Wyrd released not having including them, it was easier and simpler to play base strategies than keep a webpage open for the GG strats.
That being said, Gaining Grounds did indeed take the default strats and make them better. Extraction is better Turf War, Interference is better Reconnoiter, Headhunter and Collect the Bounty are better versions of Reckoning and Guard the Stash is basically what your doing in Squatters Rights but with more tactical application. I hope to play more of them in the future but alas the above reasons still exist.

What caught my eye the most though was the new scheme pool and by the holey britches of Zoraida, the base schemes needed re-tailoring and from what I've seen, GG16's look pretty damn good.
First things first, taking away the 5 common schemes and replacing them with Bizarro Protect Territtory (Convict Labor), Improved Distract (Exhust their forces), Non-Master Make Them Suffer (Hunting Party), Tactical Breakthrough (Leave your Mark) and my absolute favorite because it actually forces both players to build a list around it, Upgrade Utopia (Show of Force). None of these are auto-includes in my eyes which greatly interests me as whenever Breakthrough-Protect Terri were on the table, EVERYONE chooses and reveals them. All five are fun and have their own place as strong and weak for different factions and masters. It's not easy for Rasputina to place a marker down on the enemy half of the table every turn, but for Misaki or Collette, its so so easy. Cutting LITS completely means it's no longer there for the few masters who can actually do it or (by my own fault and admission) a trap scheme when you can't do 3 of the 4 others. Replacing it with Convict Labor means Recon/Interference bubble of no-score has a purpose and can make for some really exciting choices.

The other new feature is that all schemes now are un-revealed until you score from them which is fantastic. Voiding bonus points and actually making you work for Entourage or Breakthrough is magnificent and makes for a greater range of guessing and subterfuge that Malifaux was sold on but never really had because why gimp yourself on points doing a "hidden" breakthrough when it was obvious you were doing so and revealing it is and always has been the correct choice? Making it so "Johnny 3ap" turn 5 can't lay a scheme marker-move-lay a scheme marker anymore means having actual risk when trying for it. Yes some model choices will still score it amazingly easy as they always have but at least keeping them to 2 markers rather than 1 is doable.
Having the schemes hidden and some of them remarkably similar also continues the bluffing game. What the heck is the opponent trying having so many minions near your master? Are they there for Take Prisoner? Frame for Murder? Neutralize the Leader? Set Up? Mark for Death maybe? It has to be Public Demonstration then surely? or is is all a ruse so that MUCH EASIER OUTFLANK (Inspection) can be scored? Or, oh it might be Occupy their Turf?
Having so many schemes look sinister-ly like themselves might sound convoluted but to me, it looks to be magic. Something as pointless as placing a scheme marker down can now be seen as a threat in the right scheme pool.

So much hype. But is there a downside?

The negatives to an un-revealed scheme pool are small, the excitement of actually being able to bluff a scheme in order to ensure another is something I've been looking forward to but at the same time, it's easy to look at all the interact schemes and marker schemes always being together but sod's law will occasionally have the pool being very distinct and thus the element of surprise is lost. "Neutralize the Leader" in particular basically gives the middle finger to Leviticus who will simply give the opponent 3Vp if played in that scenario, making fixed master events plain silly if you are a Levi or Dreamer player and "Set Up" being the scheme of choice almost every time for Arcanist players. Also, whilst I see it as a good thing; with greater focus on the schemes affecting crew builds sometimes being too much for a single master, players with a range of masters they play well with are going to have a better scope of winning than new players who only have one or two, which has a slim chance of dividing the player base somewhat...

Time will tell, but overall I feel these new schemes will bring about a LOT more focus on building your crew for the schemes. So many games nowadays have players safely running an all-comers list that swap out Scheme-y Runner-y for Punch your Face-y because the main four are just too easy to do for every faction. The scheme pool now has a much greater hand in making smart crew choices and leaving some masters on the shelve for some games. This might mean players with more masters have the upper hand but that will have to be seen. As the game was always intended to be this way, it should come as no surprise that more masters means more avenues of victory.

Keep your models and masters fresh and have fun out there.

Monday, 18 January 2016

That's Numberwang

My local game shop late last year had a player enter who did what any new player does and chose their favourite looking master. Then that player went on to have a fantastic winning streak and became infamous from new and veteran players alike. He played Perdita Ortega.

Perdita is what some would say is a "beginners" master, looking at her card, you can understand why. Def7, Wp7, a "free" 8" push each turn and a pretty decent def trigger in Quick Draw, a near sniper level range with Sh7, an obey action, a mulligan and if there's nothing better to do, a condition that punishes charges and shoot actions in a 24" bubble.... and this is not to mention her upgrades.
Having a crew who have similar sky high stats who can further boost those stats within each other and incredibly cunning movement tricks makes for a hard game if you haven't memorized every single number, threat range and done a far share of theoretical number crunching. How many high cards have you seen? How many have came from that players hand compared to their deck? How many cards remaining and who's activated? A very hard skill to practice without a hellova lot of games under your belt.

I think about numbers in most games but without spending every game being perfectly silent, forcing my opponent to reveal all cards flipped and allowing me to note them down to "read their deck" is too much work right now and sort of kills the social mood in casual tabletop gaming.
I'm in it for fun not for crushing my enemies, see them driven before me and hear the lamentations of their women.

When a Ml6 goes up against a Def6 the defender still needs to flip or cheat a card that's value is +1 higher than the attacker to at stop being hit. Perdita with her Sh7 against say a Def5 means to avoid a shot in the T-Zone the defender needs to flip or cheat a card 3+ what Ms Otega flips or cheats. With the average defense being 5 in Malifaux, it means Perdita has a high if not very likely chance of always hitting, or at the very least shrugging off misses as the low margin that it is. With El Mayor in place as well, it is very intimidating as a player trying to prevent damage from her as well as even hit her back for any significant effect. With such base stats in place, you can see why she's seen as such a threat (at least from a casual viewpoint).

Wille is a model I've always wanted to use but never had much success with, this despite his Def 6 with average Wp and Sh6 that ignores armor peppered with Blast. 
It's a numbers game though. If an opponent wants Wille dead, they will punch through that defense and go through his 7 wounds dropping him. Someone with a single charge can put Wille on the ropes and face no fancy horror duel or armor or defense trigger guarding his life doing so. Then he drops like a sack of potatoes (which explode). 
The explosion is good don't get me wrong, 3 damage in the right spot can hurt but with his limited survival rate out in the open he usually goes 6ft under and plants moderate damage on his exterminator or, more likely,  a threatening patch of dirt. Not exactly world ending. My problem is this very weakness, his frail nature leads me to either jump out in the open and get ripped apart or stay in restrictive cover in fear and throw out Sh4 attacks. That said, if for instance I knew exactly what my opponent was using and their individual threat range and stats, Wille would stand a chance at laying down some real threat; 10" range is still outside of the average threat range of melee chargers after all. This will give my opponent a reason to send forces to rid them of annoyance rather than kill an easy target. Thus allowing me to either let him sleep with the worms in an advantageous position or plan to save cards over for his continued existence.

My most hated models and the ones that disrupt me the most right now are Rotten Belles/Performers. Why is this? It's purely because I haven't read their cards enough to know the number game. Off the top of my head I know they have a ranged Lure that targets Wp with a decent CA8... or is it CA6 for Performer? That's it. They could have Def3 or Def6; I don't know without looking and that gives me a massive disadvantage in planning a turn. If I'm facing down these Lurers, I don't know the ranges involved so I dread everytime they activate, they either pull my models to their deaths or transport team mates. Both options hindering my plans of Vp denial. If I knew these numbers, I would have at least a clue on how to proceed.
Other things hinder my game, such as the aforementioned Manipulative. I've been out-activating an opponent but it nearly cost me the game because instead of waiting for the Manipulative model to activate thus lowering it's shields, I've targeted it and had to cheat in order to do basic attacks. Other games where it's been more even, I have had no choice but to target a non-activated Manipulative model. Now again, if I knew the numbers, I would obviously choose the right model for the job rather than again, the closest or the strongest.
Can my lowly Fire Garmin get past Howard's Terrifying 12 to knock off that final wound or is it better to send in a higher Wp model just in case? What even is Howard's defense?!
If I knew the numbers, it would be an easy call.

On the flipside, I once faced a Mei Feng crew with Rasputina and used my full knowledge of my opponent's models to easily play at range and keep his killy models either dead or busy. It was also the first game I truly saw the power of the December Acolyte. Being able to read your opponent's models without having to ask for stat cards or be surprised by a particularly high stat can mean the difference between victory and defeat between players of similar skill.

Homework is required, if you want to be the very best like no one ever was then get to the books and remember every single thing every Malifaux model does. Why don't I do this? Well for one thing, again, I'm in it for the fun. It sometimes makes for better games if a model can surprise you.

That said, being a blind man dodging arrows only because my eyes are tightly shut is no way to improve my game. How will I ever deal with a summoned Hanged if I consistently ignore his page in the rule book? How many times has a lone upgrade been the reason why I couldn't grasp a draw game? Balance is needed obviously, I still want to have wonder and excitement when it comes to games but I also don't want to be slapped by a model I should have sent to the cleaners. That's Numberwang for ya. Have fun out there.

Monday, 11 January 2016

The Devil Makes Work of Idle Hands

Gunsmiths. Amazing aren't they? Using 3ap to cut through armor, prevent soulstone use and dealing blast damage all the while having double positive attack flips.

Johan. Amazing right? Ending all conditions and swinging a giant hammer, what's not to love?

Howard. Amazing. Decapitate on flurry? World-Ender.

Rail Golem. Has tons of burning and can locomotion for days with it's 5/6/8 damage track.

Oh how times have changed.

Once upon a time I would have agreed with everything said above, it's on the card, they can do all these things. You'll always have the suits you need in your hand... Right?...

These days I never rely on the actions of models who require suits unless they are henchmen or masters and I REALLY need a trigger to go off in order to achieve my goals. In my more recent games I've found that taking too many of these models which use non-built in triggers rapidly depletes my options if I'm taking them for those triggers. I remember taking Pathfinder back in my Ten Thunders days, assuming that a 6+ Tomes would be in my hand EVERY turn for summoning Traps. Some turns they weren't, most turns it was a high card which I needed to use for his trigger or for general cheating purposes. 
In some games I've NEEDED Johan to get rid of conditions but for some reason I didn't have 4+ Rams, a card one reasonably expects to have in their hand every turn but no, sometimes you have no Rams, sometimes you have the 2 of Rams...
Gunsmiths. I can't tell you how many times my Gunsmiths WEREN'T Fast and cutting through armor and instead had to "just shoot" because, unless you're stacking the deck, having a low or high Rams plus a low or high Tomes for every activation isn't a guarantee. Even if you have these cards, are you willing to give up half your hand for one models activation? As if you are, that model needs to win you the game! I no longer rely on them to always have fast and always have that trigger for anti-armor, what I can rely on is them to have Sh6 Rng:12".

Thing is, even when you have these cards in hand, most of the time your opponent is putting enough pressure on you to force you to use those very same high cards to prevent that very same model from kicking the bucket. It's a dilemma and one you will face many times during games of Malifaux. Yes Hank's Decapitate trigger is great but if cheat in that 11 of Rams and your opponent dumps that 5 and 3 that were basically blank to them, you've pretty much discarded a way to keep Mr Langston alive for another turn. On the flip side if your opponent is low on cards, forcing a discard-or-die decision can lead them to make a difficult choice but are you willing to save that one card in order to it? Is Howard going to be alive long enough for your opponent to have little to no hand left? It's a tough one.

Trigger distribution is something you learn from experience playing Malifaux, no one tells you about it in the start but sooner or later you ease into your personal style and find out how your lists are sometimes harder to manage than they should be. Back to Gunsmiths, great ranged threat but this myth that they will always have fast and always get the trigger they need in either a low discard or having that high card in hand is folly at best. Discarding for a suit doesn't automatically mean they hit nor does assuming you'll have that soulstone prevention trigger on the next turn to end that henchman. They are great triggers in the right scenarios but don't think for a moment that you'll always have the right one in hand, probability or no.

Lets take another view, lets say you do have that 12trigger-suit in hand, at some point during the turn you want to ensure that trigger goes off right? But then the target inexplicably dies or your model gets pushed out of range or is hit by a de-buff. Do you hold onto the card you can "no longer use" for next turn or do you use it for defense this turn? Is that trigger going to help the game move along next turn and is worth waiting that turn to use? Or does it's effect not affect the big picture as a whole. Are you hurting Lazurus because he's wiping out your guys or are you killing those Molemen who are about to lay down too many markers to prevent?

Personally (for the time being) I've been taking the practice of saving cards face down for certain models effects that NEED to go off. A life saving condition wipe, a defense breaking trigger, to guarantee that slow trigger hits that model with flurry, that high card to leap or to make absolutely sure Railwalker goes off once. You have to choose your battles though, saving more than two cards like this means that when that inevitable duel rears it's ugly head, you're too busy saving for that slow trigger when another model is getting sacrificed because of it. I've had bad flips in duels which forced my hand and made me use the card I was saving to ensure I won an important duel but at least I made myself aware that had it not been for that 13 against my 4, I would have made that original play I was saving a card for and ensured it happened. It sucks when you start an activation and realized only too late that that minion last activation really didn't need to prevent 4 damage on it's 6wds by using the card you actually needed now for your henchman/master.

In one game my opponent decided (a choice he later wondered why he made) to put a bunch of poison on a Fire Garmin of mine to ensure Expunge killed him in one shot. I let it happen.
Now I could have prevented it, very easily in fact I was blessed with a hand of 8+ at the time but I saw that the Garmin wasn't defending anything, I still had a sizable force on my side and my scheme runners were steadily making their way up the flanks. This Garmin standing around and not defending, preventing or gaining Vp from it's presence wasn't worth ending my hand for, so I let the cards flip as they may. Later on in the turn I ensured my runners were defended and made sure Mei Feng had what she needed in order to hunt down bodyguard targets. Yes it was a shame I had to sacrifice a good shooter and provider of blast burning but I made the right choice and (unfortunately for my opponent) took advantage of his bloodlust.

How many different suits does your crew require? Three? Two? Just the one? Who needs them? Minions, Enforcers? Henchman, your Master? How many Soul stones will you need for stoning for cards, damage prevention flips, the rare yet sometimes crucial initiative flip? Are you using them every turn? What triggers are absolutely necessary each turn vs those that are kinda nice to randomly flip into?
The Captain has burning on his pushes but it's not something I would ever save a card for.
Shadow Effigy on the other hand has a really useful "Remember the Mission" ability which basically requires you to save a 10 for it to accurately happen.

Rasputina is my most stone hungry master. She wants Masks every attack for the ever present Overpower and because I love a bit of Shatter action I need either Masks or Rams to get the most out of my (0). Due to this dependency on specific suits, the rest of my crew has to do without the aid of Soulstones or sometimes even high cards if I require a particularly devastating activation. So when building a crew with Ms 'Tina I have to keep in mind that she will be using every stone available, so I have little in the way of henchmen which rely on prevention flips to stay upright or have suit dependent models in her games.

Yan Lo on the other hand has no such suit requirements or even high cards really, his upgrades and Chi do everything so saving cards for other models becomes a whole lot easier and makes for lists that *can* have a high density of models that rely on stones or saving of cards to do what it needs to.

Start with your master and their upgrades and take it from there, what abilities do you NEED and which ones can you blind flip and not worry too much about? Then it's all up to the luck of the draw that affects what each turn brings you in terms of options. Don't let attachment to non-key models ruin your game plan, and ensure you have a plan when that bad flip happens or if you need that key card to be used for survival instead of death dealing. Keep that poker face and have fun out there.

Monday, 4 January 2016

First Things First

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.