First Turn Advantage
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First Turn Advantage (or FTA for short) is the concept that the first player to perform an action receives an innate advantage, and is often used to denote player imbalances in skirmish maps. Under almost all circumstances, if a map is made symmetrical, Player 1 will be able to receive additional Gold, units, deal more damage, or gain favourable positions.
The terminology of FTA and its problem sees frequent discussion within the community and by WarGroove's developers. It stems from First Mover Advantage, a concept in game theory regarding the asymmetries of turn order.
- 1 Advantages
- 2 Mitigating Methods
- 3 Second Turn Advantage
- 4 FTA in Free-For-Alls
- 5 Trivia
- 6 References
The type of advantages a player receives as a result of the map's innate FTA depends heavily on the terrain, buildings, and units on the map. Below is a list of all ways a map may measurably benefit the first player.
Note: For simplicity, these are explained through 1v1 skirmishes.
Combat and Positioning
Assuming at any point two players have units within range of each other, the first to initiate will win in an isolated battle, by doing the most damage first, and receiving less damage in the counter-attack. This can cause the enemy to spend more on Reinforcement, or lose a unit entirely in what was otherwise an even fight.
This concept extends to Groove and Health regeration, where the the first to perform a Groove or receive health regeneration has an innate advantage for their turn which their opponent may not be able to safely replicate.
This advantage can result in a positional one. If the threat of the first initiation is unacceptable, the second to move may intentionally never move into range of the danger, therefore losing movement opportunities and giving up valuable territory. This can oftentimes be an optimal decision by the second player, as failure to do so would result in them losing immediately, therefore giving them no option to stay on a level playing field.
Gold and Income
In a match with exactly equal gold and income, the first player to move is able to be the first to spend their gold for useful purposes that directly restrain the opponent's ability to spend gold for the same uses, including:
- Sky Rider's Hex spell to reduce enemy health; potentially neutralising the enemy's own sources of Hex spells.
- Mage's Heal spell to heal your own units, allowing additional damage and defeats of weakened enemy units before they can be healed.
Assuming a building can be reached by multiple players on the same turn, the first player to act is able to Capture the building, therefore making it impossible for the enemy to capture it without first neutralising it. This can lead to providing one player additional income or recruitments and can often lead to a defense being too strong to neutralise.
In maps with buildings that are likely to be neutralised by the enemy early (especially pre-owned buildings), the first player to move can receive value from the building before the next player can remove it from them, while the first player neutralises the building before the next player's turn. In the case of villages this will grant them +100 gold relative to their opponent, and for recruitment buildings it allows an opportunity to purchase one extra unit before it's lost, potentially defending the building in the process.
If during a turn the player can use the Thief's Ransack ability, they can reduce the next player's gold by 300 (or 1000 if on a Stronghold). Before their opponent's turn, they still have an opportunity to spend gold to recruit useful units, while their opponent will have less gold to use a recruitment with. While this has no net outcome for gold, this can have major consequences if it denies the second player a vital unit such as a Mage for capturing villages faster.
Weather changes on the start of Player 1's turn. This means Player 1 is the first to react in response to the weather. When the weather is Random, it will randomly shift between improving or worsening.
When Weather improves, this can provide Player 1 an abnormally large reach for initiating an attack, while Player 2's Air units are more vulnerable. This can allow aggressive strikes to be far more damaging, to the point of being safe from the counter on Player 2's turn. Alternatively, other players might back off slightly further to compensate in advance, therefore losing a position for no gain. This can allow Player 1 to slowly inch across the map even if they don't have a stronger army.
When Weather worsens, this favours Player 2, by giving them the last range advantage before Player 1's turn where they may struggle to counter any movements. This is usually much weaker, however, as the only way for Player 2 to exploit this is by moving forward. Player 1 will be safe on their next turn (as Player 2's army will also lose range next turn) and so can choose to simply not give up ground, knowing it will eventually improve (resulting in the aforementioned benefits), meaning it poses no immediate threat to Player 1.
Overall, Random Weather favours Player 1, but can randomly shift to either player's favour depending on timing.
When trying to rebalance a map to be fair to both players, various tactics are employed to provide disadvantaged players a bonus quality to compensate. The most popular strategy, and one recommended by Chucklefish, is to ensure any interactions on the map remain as symmetrical as possible, and often is quantifiable as a 'Half Turn Advantage', such that the player is given ½ the value of the FTA, so on their respective turns the active player is half a turn ahead (and thus being equally powerful on average).
Army front lead
This is usually applied to Barracks and/or the lead village-capturing unit (usually Commander). The second player is provided one side to their army as being a full turn ahead, given the optimal movement route and all actions measured according to having perform the action. E.g. if their Turn 1 would capture a village, move them to standing next to the village with it pre-captured at 50% the unit's health. The result, when applied correctly, is the two halves of the army will engagem on identical footings, usually with a 'strong' and a 'weak' side for each player.
This strategy is most effective in maps with an even number of lanes, with less need to stand in the centre.
As previously covered, some forms of FTA can result in a direct gold offset for the second player. This can be offset by giving Player 2 the exact amount of income they'd be disadvantaged by as part of their starting gold, so by the end of the initial phase.
This strategy works best where the early recruits are expensive (e.g. requiring Amphibians from a Port) and 100 or 200 gold will not open up new strategies by buying a more expensive unit early on. This should not be applied if there is no gold imbalances to be expected.
Starting Groove and Health
Second Turn Advantage
Second Turn Advantage (or STA for short) is a byproduct of methods to reduce FTA. It is virtually impossible to make a truly symmetrical environment, so occasionally the second (or third or fourth in 3-player and 4-player maps) player receives signifcant advantages as to be in a better position than the first player.
Opening Route Advantage
One of the most common forms of STA is based on opening routes. The first few turns of a match can decide the environment for the whole match. By offsetting some key factors of the second player, they may have a new optimal way to play which opens up a far stronger strategy. This can often emerge from better Tempo (e.g. a soldier capturing a village one turn earlier, allowing the Commander to Reinforce off it), or substantially superior resources (e.g. additional gold), or more complex interactions of systems and timings (e.g. additional +100 gold allows an earlier Balloon purchase to reach areas of the map faster with a different build order entirely).
The end result of this effect is that the second player receives a better layout for the map very early on, to a much greater value than one the first player has access to from natural FTA.
FTA in Free-For-Alls
- WarGroove is a case where it is possible for a player to nullify their turn by not acting (or doing trivially irrelevant actions), as a result, without unique Scenario conditions, it is practically impossible to make Player 1 be disadvantaged from a symmetrical board state.
- There is a theoretical way to create a symmetrical layout wherein Player 2 will be advantaged, by allowing health regeneration to be a problem, i.e. abusing health regeneration to allow a unit to defeat itself against a Commander or Stronghold, dealing significantly more damage and setting them up to be defeated by additional attacks. This, however, is incredibly precise and likely subject to random outcomes through the damage calculation.