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Cute start player mechanisms

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sedjtroll
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I have brought this topic up before, saying that 'cute' start player mechanisms, such as 'whoever can hold their breath the longest goes first' or 'owner of the game goes first' or 'the player who's travelled the most goes first' as well as the more common 'oldest/yougest player goes first'. It was brought to my attention last time that some games have an inherant advantage to playing first, or last, or whatever and that especially in Germany where many of these games come from they are played by families with young and old players alike. So a mechanic that makes the oldest player play first might indirectly give a young child a bit of an advantage to make up for the fact that the older player probably has more experience (in general if not in that particular game).

So in that case at least there's logic behind it, even if I don't necessarily agree with the logic. In other cases the consensus was that it's fun to use some unique method or some creative, arbitrary way to determine who plays first, especially if there's no advantage or disadvantage to it.

The reason I bring this up now is this: I realised another thing, maybe a manifestation of why I didn't like the unequitable start player mechanics to begin with...

I usually play games with more or less the same group of people. That being the case, without a randomly determined start player, the same guy would play first every single time we play. Unless someone plans on out-aging another player, or out-travelling, or practice holding their breath, then every time we play a given game the same guy will go first.

This of course means that if you are that guy, you ALWAYS are player 1 in that particular game. You'll never play second, or third. If there is an advantage to going first, you'll always have it, and if there's an advantage to being later in the turn order, you'll never see it.

Similarly, if you're NOT that guy, then you'll NEVER be player 1.

This is the beef I have with non-random start player determiners. I guess I just wanted to get that off my chest.

- Seth

Verseboy
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Cute start player mechanisms

Just this moment I was working on revamping the rules for a game I'm developing. With your words echoing in my brain, I decided to have the player who will have the next birthday go first. It's probably been done before, but I've never seen it in a game I've played. It answers your problem of playing with the same group and always having the same player start. There's still an inequity there. In my family, for example, my daughter would have a 3-day window for starting. I would have a 6-month window. Sounds fair to me!

In my game the privilege of starting is irrelevant, except that someone has to do it or everyone will just sit there and stare at each other until it's time to go home.

Steve

ensor
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Cute start player mechanisms

I think these start player mechanisms are meant to be humorous but flexible. When playing games with new people, they help break the ice, and get you to talk about your age, clothing, hair length, or do something silly like hold your breath. It's also a way for the designer to set a little of the mood for the game.

But with a regular gaming group, by all means mix it up; I would never take the start mechanic as set in stone.

Torrent
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Cute start player mechanisms

I was at Essen talking to one of the guys at EightFootLlama as he demoed Monkey's on the Moon to me and a friend of mine. That one has a start player mechanic of 'longest hair'. His anecdote was that it had originally started as 'most hairiest', asumably to match the monkey theme, but that had problems especially with having guys with shirts off who really shouldn't have shirts off, so they changed it.

At least in that case there is a vote for a humurous/theme-related choice.

In my groups, we tend to ignore the start-player mechanic, especially if it is truly an arbitrary one.

Andy

nosissies
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Cute start player mechanisms

My group tends to be pretty boring when it comes to selecting the start-player. We're usually content to draw or roll for the lead.

However, one of the selection techniques we use pretty often is to select the start player so that the least experienced player goes last so that they can get a better feel for the game before they are expected to actually do something. Or we're just generous and we place the new person in the most advantagous slot in the rotation.

peace,
Tom

Anonymous
Cute start player mechanisms

nosissies wrote:
However, one of the selection techniques we use pretty often is to select the start player so that the least experienced player goes last so that they can get a better feel for the game before they are expected to actually do something. Or we're just generous and we place the new person in the most advantagous slot in the rotation.

That's the mechanic my group uses frequently. Of course, if all players are experienced, we have to resort to a more random method. One favorite is giving the ol' Fickle Finger of Fate a spin!

Anonymous
Cute start player mechanisms

Interesting that this is brought up. I have been designing my games recently with mechanics that determine the "first" player by player made decisions in the first round or during set up. I like how it takes away a random factor from the game that many people take for granted and adds a few interesting choices.

sedjtroll
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Cute start player mechanisms

super wrote:
I have been designing my games recently with mechanics that determine the "first" player by player made decisions in the first round or during set up.

Note here that I am very much in favor of mechanics that determine start player from round to round based on game state. I'm only talking about the first round where there has been no player-made decisions as yet.

Even if you make these decisions during game setup as opposed to actually during the game, the question will arise as to how that is done and who makes the first decision.

- Seth

zaiga
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Cute start player mechanisms

Oh come on, Seth. All those silly start player mechanisms are meant to be humorous. Don't take them seriously, just roll a die.

- René Wiersma

sedjtroll
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Cute start player mechanisms

zaiga wrote:
Oh come on, Seth. All those silly start player mechanisms are meant to be humorous. Don't take them seriously, just roll a die.

- René Wiersma

Well, that's what I do. :)

Scurra
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Cute start player mechanisms

As a huge generalisation, games that have a "youngest player starts" mechanic very often have an advantage to being the starting player (albeit probably very slight.)
Whereas ones with silly start mechanics should be relatively equal.

It's a pretty fine line, and a good design probably shouldn't favour any position. But sometimes it's unavoidable.

Anonymous
Cute start player mechanisms

Quote:
the question will arise as to how that is done and who makes the first decision.

Not really. I have gotten around that by using hidden set up and secret bids. Normally if your game has an expendable resource or some type of player chosen advantage during set up you can find a good way to get rid of the random starting player. Even if players tie in a bid you can always have ties resolved by another bid.

sedjtroll
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Cute start player mechanisms

Scurra wrote:
As a huge generalisation, games that have a "youngest player starts" mechanic very often have an advantage to being the starting player (albeit probably very slight.)
Whereas ones with silly start mechanics should be relatively equal.

Right, and as I mentioned... in a lot of groups that means the same person gets that advantage each time. I suppose that might be ok for the German family playing with their small child. And obviously this is a small point because people can simply ignore that rule.

I guess what I'm saying is that I personally don't like rules like that, and maybe it's because I don't like 'ignoring rules' in general. Where does it end? What other rules should we ignore in our games?

I suppose if everyone agrees then players could ignopre the discarding of goods after shipping in Puerto Rico. That's obviously not in the same class as changing the arbitrary start player, but as long as we're changing/ignoring rules then is it really that far removed?

This is starting to bring up an entirely new topic... what rules do we play by and what rules do we change/ignore in a commercial game?

jwarrend
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Cute start player mechanisms

super wrote:
Quote:
the question will arise as to how that is done and who makes the first decision.

Not really. I have gotten around that by using hidden set up and secret bids. Normally if your game has an expendable resource or some type of player chosen advantage during set up you can find a good way to get rid of the random starting player. Even if players tie in a bid you can always have ties resolved by another bid.

I generally dislike "bid for start player" mechanics at the start of a game. Bids always introduce a learning curve, and I don't like to take out a new game for the first time and immediately, just as I'm learning, decide something long-term like "how much is it worth to go first?" I feel like it's in most cases sloppiness on the part of the designer to fail to balance the table positions properly. Note that I object more to "bidding VPs for start position" than bidding something else, but that doesn't change my main point.

What is the objection to just randomly deciding the start player? (assuming that the start player has neither an advantage nor a disadvantage, which is a given for any fully-developed game).

sedjtroll
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Cute start player mechanisms

jwarrend wrote:
What is the objection to just randomly deciding the start player? (assuming that the start player has neither an advantage nor a disadvantage, which is a given for any fully-developed game).

I think perhaps the point is that it's NOT a given in some games... as Scurra mentioned above.

jwarrend
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Cute start player mechanisms

sedjtroll wrote:

I think perhaps the point is that it's NOT a given in some games... as Scurra mentioned above.

Of course it's a given (but only because I'm including "fair to all players" in my definition of "fully developed"...)

It depends on what games you're talking about. Scurra almost certainly has to be wrong that "youngest player starts" reflects an imbalance. Otherwise, in a group of people aged 32, 33, 38, and 43, the 32 year old will start but is not necessarily likely to actually need this little helping hand.

If a game gives a significant advantage to any of the players in the table position, then this is a pretty serious problem. But, if we're talking about our own games, games in development, it's solvable, either by balancing the game better, by tweaking the starting configurations of the different table positions, by bidding for start player, etc.

I guess my point is that in a "fair" game, all players should have an equal chance of winning at the start (at least theoretically -- obviously some players are stronger, etc), and this should have no correlation to which one happens to be the first to play.

Which games are you thinking of that are imbalanced in table position? I'm drawing a blank, although I'm sure there are some I'm not thinking of...

-Jeff

Anonymous
Cute start player mechanisms

Diplomacy...
The only random element in the game is the selection of nations at the beginning of the game. In a seven player game, i hate to be either Italy or Austria-Hungary. Obviously any player *can* win at this game... but there are a couple of countries that seem to me to very disadvantaged. (I'm not bashing this game, it will always be dear to my heart! *grin*)

Scurra
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Cute start player mechanisms

sedjtroll wrote:
jwarrend wrote:
What is the objection to just randomly deciding the start player? (assuming that the start player has neither an advantage nor a disadvantage, which is a given for any fully-developed game).

I think perhaps the point is that it's NOT a given in some games... as Scurra mentioned above.

Because in a gaming group you evolve other methods for choosing starting players. We usually still pick randomly, but sometimes it's the loser of the previous game, or the last person to buy a round etc. This tends to be the case if we know there is an issue about going first.

Determining the start player cannot be considered in the same category of rules as, say, discarding excess goods in PR. Every game has to have a Start Player determinant mechanism, whereas only PR needs a discarding goods rules :)

Scurra
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Cute start player mechanisms

jwarrend wrote:

It depends on what games you're talking about. Scurra almost certainly has to be wrong that "youngest player starts" reflects an imbalance. Otherwise, in a group of people aged 32, 33, 38, and 43, the 32 year old will start but is not necessarily likely to actually need this little helping hand.

I think you're (deliberately? ;)) misreading me there. If the group is of that age structure then no-one is going to use that method of establishing the start player. But in family games, "youngest first" is a traditional method, and a lot of light/middle-weight strategy board games are pitched at that market, even if other groups enjoy them just as much.

SVan
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Cute start player mechanisms

I think sometimes there's too much random who goes first mechanics being used. If you are the first person in Settlers of Catan, you usually are hurt worst than the other players, even though you get to choose the first location. (I guess good players can make due with it, but everyone I play with hates going first.)

If the game has an auction/bidding theme or mechanic in it already, then I don't think a bid to go first is big deal and it probably should be that way.
But if someone's adding it in just to put it in (which I admit, I've done it before) then it probably doesn't need to be there.

I think it would be good to have some interesting new mechanics for choosing the start players, as long as they are easy to understand and do not take more than a few minutes to do.

Anonymous
Cute start player mechanisms

In my next GDW I will post a nice abstract game I came up with that uses a hidden deployment mechanism to choose the starting player.

Anonymous
Cute start player mechanisms

My favorite start mechanism is something like Acquire*, it's random but it gets the game started and doesn't feel like something you just do to see who goes first. Favorite silly start mechanism: "Player with the longest beard" from Once Upon a Time.

Bidding for order is usually presented as an optional rule from what I've seen, Tikal and Pueblo being examples. Youngest player is usually the first to play, if I recall correctly. I know I've seen at least one game that says: "Youngest player goes first (or whatever means you'd like to use to determine the first player)." It was an American company, I remember that.

PS How does El Grande determine the first player to bid? I've forgotten.

*Acquire's start mechanism: draw a tile, place it on the board where it goes, and whomever is closest to 1A starts the game.

DavemanUK
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Re: Cute start player mechanisms

sedjtroll wrote:
I usually play games with more or less the same group of people. That being the case, without a randomly determined start player, the same guy would play first every single time we play.

Hi Seth,

Yup, it is tough but given you generally play with the same group of people, have you considered keeping a running score for all previous games? In this way, the player who has the most accumulated points (from winning the most games/high finishes) would have the least favourable start position in your next game.

(If applied to Formula 1 motor racing, Michael Schumacher should start at the back of the grid ;) )

Dave W.

Anonymous
Cute start player mechanisms

I think the underlying question here is what should be spelled out in the rules and what should be left out. My opinion: "youngest player goes first" or similar mechanisms are fine. Casual gamers will use it and it won't matter and serious gamers are going to do whatever they want anyways. Adding extra verbage to the rules will do more harm to the clarity than the start rule will harm the game's play.

If it's between "Determine the starting player randomly" and "Youngest player goes first" in a game with no dice, I'd go with YPGF every time. It's easy.

Anonymous
Cute start player mechanisms

Verseboy wrote:
Just this moment I was working on revamping the rules for a game I'm developing. With your words echoing in my brain, I decided to have the player who will have the next birthday go first. It's probably been done before, but I've never seen it in a game I've played. It answers your problem of playing with the same group and always having the same player start. There's still an inequity there. In my family, for example, my daughter would have a 3-day window for starting. I would have a 6-month window. Sounds fair to me!

In my game the privilege of starting is irrelevant, except that someone has to do it or everyone will just sit there and stare at each other until it's time to go home.

Steve

Our first game, Seasons: The Calendar Rummy Game, the player with the lowest score in each round goes first. If the score is tied (like it will be at the start of every game) the player who's birthday is next goes first.

We chose it so that the same person would not always go first.

Well, actually, the original rule was the person who's birthday is closest to Aug 28th goes first, but my wife made me change it. :cry:

At least I usually get to go first every GenCon. :wink:

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