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Who’s Going First?

Who’s Going First?

Submitted by Willard Watts

When you’re about to get your game on the most important question is, “What game are we gonna play?” However, I would like to talk about the second most important question, “Who’s going first?”

Many gamers don’t give this much thought and many game instructions say to “pick first player randomly,” so players just roll some dice, highest goes first. This is usually fine since just about all multi-player board games have no advantage to who goes first. Some games have a thematic approach to picking the first player.


In “Zombie Dice” the first player is the one who can say “braaaaaiiinnnnsss” with the most feeling. In “Ticket to Ride” the most experienced traveler goes first. The Steve Jackson game “Nanuk,” is about Inuit hunters in the arctic so the first player is whoever has been the furthest north. Sometimes the player’s skill at the game can determine who gets the first turn. In race games like “Formula De” and “PitchCar” where going first may have an advantage they suggest players run the track in a series of qualifying heats to determine position of play. Good play is also rewarded in “Ninja Burger” where the person with the most honor points gets to start each new phase. In “Dixit” you have to come up with a word or phrase to describe one of the picture cards in your hand, so the first to do so gets to play first. The oldest player gets to play first in “Return of the Heroes” and the youngest gets to play first in “Samurai”, which are only thematic by some kind of creative reasoning. (Let’s see, uh, old heroes have survived a lot and young samurai need to learn a lot.)


[Image source Flickr]

Often I’ve seen the person who knows the game or is teaching the game take the first turn to show others more graphically how it’s played, if there’s no first player advantage. If you haven’t any dice (no dice? really, what kinda gamer are you?) you can do the old “pick a number between one and whatever.” To be fair and give the player setting the number a chance to win you can add the rule, “if no player gets within two of the number chosen then the number chooser goes first.” Of course you must make the range of numbers just right so that everybody gets a somewhat even chance. I’ve found that four times the number of people involved works pretty good.

…and of course there is always “rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock.”

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