Doomed Prophecy Article 8 – So, you won priority

Some of the most important decisions you’ll make in a game of MCP happen before the game even begins. Choosing which scenarios to select from and which threat level to play at can dramatically alter the outcome of the game, so let’s explore how to approach making those decisions.

If you win priority, you get to activate first and choose which pools of scenarios will be used (amusingly, this is not optional if you’d prefer to choose threat level or table side). When choosing scenarios, the first thing I look for is whether one of our sets of crises is identical, in which case I’ll force them to use that set and essentially get to choose both crisis cards to my liking. I’ll occasionally do the same if one of our sets has 2 out of 3 cards in common, since that will work out the same more than half the time, but obviously that’s more risky. Next, I try to identify which type of team my opponent’s scenario selection implies they are taking. If you see several low-scoring central scenarios (like Demons and Skrulls), then they’re probably an attrition based team and you should take the scenarios that give the most points in order to take advantage of that weakness. I also like to check to see if they’re taking flip secures – if you don’t see any and you’re taking several of them I always like to force them to play on flip secures. Many teams lack the power economy necessary to play on flip secures, and it’s a good way to mess up scenario-based teams like Web Warriors and Kingpin-led Criminal Syndicate. If none of the above cases are true, I tend to take the least bad option – as in, I’ll look at their 2 sets of crises and pick the one that has fewer scenarios I don’t like playing on.

Winning priority causes a slight disadvantage in deployment, since your opponent can see one of your deployments before theirs, but this is relatively minor. Priority also has a small advantage on the first turn (assuming you want to keep priority on the second turn), and definitely don’t forget to pass on the first turn if you have fewer characters since that can mitigate some of the information disadvantage without losing priority. However you definitely don’t want to pass on the first activation if there’s a central extract to grab.

Losing the priority roll comes with two mitigating advantages, though I would argue they’re lesser in magnitude than the bonus for winning priority. First, you get to choose the size of the game between the two options on the crises. The main benefit to this rule is that, unless you brought Senators, you’ll never be forced to play 14 threat Sword base (which is a nightmare for the unprepared) – since you can simply choose the extract threat value even if your opponent draws sword base. Figuring out which teams prefer low threat value games and which prefer high threat value is still an ongoing process for me, but I think a good heuristic is the cost of their core roster (see article and podcast). If the opponent has a 3 threat leader and/or a 2 threat affiliated character, they’re probably prepared to play at low points, but if they have a 6+ threat leader they’d probably prefer a higher threat. Notably, Malekith is an exception to this rule, since you really want to play a higher threat so that you can afford enough models to, well, threaten him. The other advantage you get is choice of board side – and you even get to make that choice after seeing how the scenarios are set up. Technically you can choose to play sideways, but please don’t. Between the two sides I look for: 

  1. Annoying terrain that will block movement out of your deployment zone
  2. Terrain that provides cover (or, ideally, blocks line of sight entirely) while standing on secure points
  3. Which side has more throwable terrain to use as ammunition (depending on what you’re capable of throwing)

Obviously, you want less of 1 and more of 2, but counterintuitively, I find that if I want to throw terrain I want more of it on my opponent’s side of the table, since that’s where most of the fighting tends to happen.

Those are the main factors to consider during the setup phase of the game. For such a brief and simple part of the game I find it surprising how much of an effect it has on the outcome, and consider it well worth the effort to carefully think through.

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