I’ve GMed over ~5 crews from their starts, and I’ve found creating a starting situation to be the hardest part of running Blades. The game is so good at keeping momentum once it gets going, but giving the players the right sort of push up front is challenging!
I think the book’s sentiment of starting the players out in the midst of an established conflict is a good one, but I’ve had far more success with it when I find a personal connection for the players. My Charterhall University sorority sister hawkers had a not great starting situation where I chucked them into a turf war between the Lampblacks and a home-brewed gang around campus. There wasn’t quite enough going on; the PCs allied with one side, and things went easy for them.
Had another game where some shadows were stuck in a brewing war between the Gray Cloaks and the Bluecoats in Six Towers. But that game went great, because one of the players was the exiled-because-he-killed-the-wrong-noble’s-son-in-a-duel scion of Lord Strangford. Because the PCs had a personal stake in the GC vs Bluecoats conflict, the game felt personal from the jump. I really liked this one.
Ran the War In Crow’s Foot once. That game was my most successful campaign, but it also ignored the war after the first session. PCs were a cult who decided to claim an orphanage in Crow’s Foot that was controlled by the Crows, and suddenly all that mattered were the orphans, the Crows, and Bluecoats. The starting situation was a helpful push to get us started, but we built momentum in a very different direction.
For my most recent game, I picked two factions at random that the PCs had positive status with (Billhooks and Gray Cloaks), pitted those factions against each other, and then gave the PCs a job that could help or hurt either side (Billhooks are about to do a train robbery, but word is they need a crew of smugglers like yours to get the goods back into the city - GCs might also be interested in the loot). The faction statuses made the stakes immediately personal, starting with a clear score felt really good, and everything was open ended enough that it immediately put the PCs in a position where they needed to make choices about who they supported. This isn’t even that far off the War In Crow’s Foot starter, but those personal relationships to each side made it juicy.
Also, everyone loves a train heist. Why wouldn’t you start with a train heist?