Most games are decided from the starting picks, yes! I take all the time available (2 days & 20 hours) to make these. I try to make sure I am pleased with all 11 combinations of picks I can get. To keep things simple, I analyze the following when choosing my territories:
- Coverage: the placement of random wastelands can create one or several "zones" rich with income compared to the rest of the map. You usually want to have a spot in each one of them because you don't want to let your opponent grab them for free!
- Safety: while coverage is good, you may want to have bonuses that are isolated (in zones that are not rich) so they cannot be contested, which makes it easier for you to fight your opponent in the contested zones...
- Expansion possibilities for each starting territory: while safety is good, having too many "safe" picks will get you cornered and unable to gain income while your opponent does so. Here's a very good example:https://www.warlight.net/MultiPlayer?GameID=11255731
When the only bonus you can expand into is South Africa, you know you're cornered! Meanwhile, I had the opportunity to invade Asia (rich zone!) after repelling Tac(ky)tical from Western Russia.
It's important to adapt what kind of picks you want depending on the map.
So yeah, hopefully this proves my point: picks can make or break a game.