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BoardGameGeek» Forums » Board Game Design » Design Theory

Subject: First Player Advantage rss

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William Russell
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Anybody know of any good articles on the various approaches to mitigating an advantage from going first in a game? I've got it pretty well controlled, but was curious about approaches I might not have considered.
 
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Cyrus the Great
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There's a nice chapter on balancing in New Rules for Classic Games.
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W. Eric Martin
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oathbros wrote:
Anybody know of any good articles on the various approaches to mitigating an advantage from going first in a game? I've got it pretty well controlled, but was curious about approaches I might not have considered.

Designer Kevin Nunn wrote a three-part series on player order advantage on his blog Mechanisms and Machinations. You'll find them in the May 2014 archive.
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Jeremy Lennert
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A simple one that Mr. Nunn seems to have missed is to give the first player a partial turn. For example, in a game with action points, he might have fewer action points on his first turn; or in a game where you make a die roll to see how successful your turn is, the first player might get a penalty on his first die roll.

Obviously, that's not applicable to all games, but it works in many.
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William Russell
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Thanks! Great stuff all around, particularly the Nunn article.

Currently I'm giving players a small starting hand. The uncertainty not only gave the initial player pause, but chilled the early aggression overall in a way that I think is positive.
 
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Gary Boyd
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I was listening to a podcast the other day and they were talking about the frustration of 2nd player advantage. In many games where 1st player can be taken away, the player to that players left has a distinct advantage over for doing absolutely nothing. I thought it was a particularly interesting.

So, in a game of Agricola where you have a player who aggressively pursues first player the player to his left has a distinct advantage for no reason except for table position.
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Jeremy Lennert
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debiant wrote:
I was listening to a podcast the other day and they were talking about the frustration of 2nd player advantage. In many games where 1st player can be taken away, the player to that players left has a distinct advantage over for doing absolutely nothing. I thought it was a particularly interesting.

So, in a game of Agricola where you have a player who aggressively pursues first player the player to his left has a distinct advantage for no reason except for table position.

The solution, of course, is obvious: choose the second player separately from the first player. If changing who goes first is important enough to have a game mechanic dedicated to it, why wouldn't changing who goes second be similarly important?

Lots of games resist that because it's more complicated (and you probably need extra game components to track turn order), but there's also lots of games that do it.

If you've already got a mechanic for changing first player, the simplest mod is to say that when you become first player, you move to the front of the line, but everyone else maintains their previous order.
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Todd Zircher
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I've got this mental picture of a wheel on a turn track. Every turn you advance the wheel, you also rotate it so that the turn order changes.
 
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Gary Boyd
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Antistone wrote:
debiant wrote:
I was listening to a podcast the other day and they were talking about the frustration of 2nd player advantage. In many games where 1st player can be taken away, the player to that players left has a distinct advantage over for doing absolutely nothing. I thought it was a particularly interesting.

So, in a game of Agricola where you have a player who aggressively pursues first player the player to his left has a distinct advantage for no reason except for table position.

The solution, of course, is obvious: choose the second player separately from the first player. If changing who goes first is important enough to have a game mechanic dedicated to it, why wouldn't changing who goes second be similarly important?

Lots of games resist that because it's more complicated (and you probably need extra game components to track turn order), but there's also lots of games that do it.

If you've already got a mechanic for changing first player, the simplest mod is to say that when you become first player, you move to the front of the line, but everyone else maintains their previous order.


The example where this type of system seems to work well is Dominant Species. But I do think that particular game is esoteric enough that only hardy souls tread there anyway. In a lighter game people may be less tolerant of this mucking about with turn order and the dogma of clockwise rotation.
 
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I have posted some ideas I'm trying in this thread.
 
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Anthony Simons
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zircher wrote:
I've got this mental picture of a wheel on a turn track. Every turn you advance the wheel, you also rotate it so that the turn order changes.

This is most easily achievable by passing a first player token around the table. The only other advantage of your proposed system is if you would want the turn order to be changeable, in addition to the first player being rotated.
 
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Paul Sztajer
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The other option is to turn the first player advantage into an asset for the game: if the first player has an advantage, re-order each turn based on who is winning, and now you have a catch-up mechanic. This only works if the first player advantage is fairly balanced throughout the game (if the first player of the first turn is super important, then you probably need to try and solve that separately).
 
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Oliver Kiley
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I have a more cynical perspective ...

If 1st player advantage is a significant worry in your design, why not change the game so that the advantage is less impactful AND/OR make the game so that turn order differences are balanced more organically by the players themselves.

Maybe that sounds like a non-response, but the trend I see in so many euro-ish games is to design and layer some entire system around governing or controlling turn order, which just adds a bunch of overhead and procedure to the game when it may not really need it. I'd say ignore the issue unless it is clearly a problem, and then look to fix the problem fundamentally in the design rather than trying to layer on another mechanical system just to mitigate the impact.
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