The Set Up
First Strike has a very unique start: not only do you place neutral territories all over the world, you get to choose your enemies' territories as well. This creates various strategies for the game set up. Of course, you will choose territories for your opponents that are low in value as well as weak strategically, such as a Mineral in Siberia. But where do you place the neutrals? You don't want any one player to get the upper hand, so, in the first few rounds, you would place neutrals on all the Technology squares and then the Uranium squares, taking the high-value product out of play. This "levels" the game and everyone will be poor at the beginning. Every round of the set up you will each pick a neutral, then each pick for an opponent, then a neutral, then the next opponent, then a neutral, etc. When you have picked a territory for all your opponents, you will finally get a chance to pick a territory for yourself. But beware! As soon as you choose your OWN territory, your opponents will surmise that this is where you want to call "home." They will place other opponents around your choice to create conflict later. This leads to another strategic use of neutrals: shutting your enemies out. In other words, you can place neutrals around yourself, or on territories you want to take later, to keep your enemies from having them now.
The First Turn
Everyone starts out extremely poor on the very first turn. You may be able to make only 2 armies and take only 4 territories, for example. Do you try to get position or get high-value product? It's great if you can do both. This is where the economics come into play. If you grab some high-value territories now, then on the next round you can out-build and out-maneuver those who took low-value squares. But be careful, some areas of the world are hard to defend and hold.
The rules of war are simple. He who attacks, wins the battle. Just like chess. If you want to win more than the battle, then you better back up your piece. If you attack an army that has a back-up, then the next turn the back-up army can take you. So you need to back up your attack. Wars are expensive (MFO) and every back up move costs an Oil, so these become wars of attrition. Wait until your opponent is low on cash before launching your attack if you can. If he runs low or out of cash product, he will be forced to sacrifice pieces or disengage from the front.
The face of war changes drastically when someone owns a tactical missile. By strategically placing an army or navy, you can target key pieces. Thus you can eliminate your opponent's back-up piece when you attack, advancing the front without a loss to your own forces. To combat this potential threat, your opponent will need two back-ups or a missile of his own. Tactical missiles are also vital in protection from marines. Because of their "L" flight pattern (like a chess knight) you may need to place armies or navies in odd places to act as "missile platforms" and defend against attack. Tactical missiles are given to a player as an immediate bonus for completing a country. This can therefore add a valuable weapon to your arsenal during a maneuver turn, and is immediately available for firing. The bonus missile rule also acts as a deterrent to those who are thinking of invading a country. Once you break up a country, you need to keep it broken because if your opponent takes it back, he will get another missile.
The strategic missile is the most expensive item you can build. It has a nuclear warhead that irradiates a territory for four years, destroying the army and making the land unusable. The missile normally has a range of 2 squares horizontally or vertically, but the range of the missile can be increased when built by adding Industry. (A range 3 comes in very handy) Properly placed, they can be used to shut down an overwhelming attack force, giving you time to regroup or build defences. On the offense, they can take out a back-up army and prevent other back-ups from getting into position. Be careful, though, because whenever you fire a strategic missile, your enemy (if he has a missile of any kind) is given the opportunity to retaliate at you, from anywhere in the world, out of turn, right then and there, even from the piece just destroyed! Strategic missiles can also be used at sea. They will not irradiate the square, as on land, but will certainly destroy a navy.