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Subject: Countering the first player advantage rss

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Gergely Orsó
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This rather simple idea came to me while playing starcraft the other day.

In Small World, the first player has two advantages:
- he is the first to chose from the available races
- he enters the board first

Each of these two sound big, so why have the same player have them both?
Here's the deal:

- the first player gets to chose his race first, then, the second player, etc...
- after the selection is complete, the player who selected his race last, gets to enter the board first, then the second to last player, and so on...

This would mean that if you have chosen your race first, you would be the last to take your turn, and vice versa.

What do you think? My only concern is that some state that entering the board as the first player is more of a disadvantage, since you can be attacked, but in my experience, players are reluctant to do that. And this variant would enable to make counter strategies against overpowered easy-to-pick races ("so you took swamp giants? Let's get some fortified trolls up in the mountauins!")
 
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Jacob Fulwiler
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I don't like that. When I pick my race/ability, I need to know what kind of situation I'm going to be coming in on. Also, I don't think the first player has an advantage. Yes, he has first pick of the races, but they're so well balanced this doesn't seem to be much of an issue. Besides, with this game as well as Vinci, my experience is that the second or third player usually has the advantage when it comes to choosing the race.
 
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B C Z
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Please prove there is a first player advantage before trying to fix it.
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Guido Gloor
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The first player can choose the race first, true - but when he has chosen one, others might become more attractive, because while you'd have had to pay 4 VPs for those awesome flying Orcs at first, when you're the third to choose you only have to pay 2 VP for them. And if another player took them at the higher price, he has to make them perform better to get back the VPs he spent on them before he can make real profit.

Entering the board can be an advantage, but often different races have entirely different requirements and thus they don't even want to enter in the same spot. And then there's also flying races, and seafaring races (that can enter through sea spaces), and underworld races, and Halflings.

I disagree with the races being altogether well-balanced overall, there definitely are stronger and weaker combinations (like, unchecked plundering Skeletons can dominate a game), and combinations that are stronger in the early game (Amazons), midgame (Ghouls) or the later game (wealthy). But the fact that coins pile up on less wanted races makes them worth it after a turn or two anyway. A splendid mechanic, IMHO.
 
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Gergely Orsó
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I admit that there are times when picking your race first is not much of an advantage, but what if the starting selecton looks like this:

pillaging amazons
merchant dwarfs
alchemist ghouls
seafaring humans
wealthy elves

Tell me that you'd like to pick your race as the second player from this stack.

I'm not saying that "OMG this game is broken fix it ASAP!!!", just trying to come up with some alternative to a seemingly not-so-balanced situation.
 
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Blorb Plorbst
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Lord Vetinari wrote:
I admit that there are times when picking your race first is not much of an advantage, but what if the starting selecton looks like this:

pillaging amazons
merchant dwarfs
alchemist ghouls
seafaring humans
wealthy elves

Tell me that you'd like to pick your race as the second player from this stack.

Maybe I'm a simpleton, but I don't see any particular advantage here to going first vs second (or 3rd or 4th).
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Mark Johnson
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People keep thinking that there is a first turn advantage. Maybe if there is one very powerful combo then there is a possible advantage, however I don't think there is a first player advantage throughout the game. Consider that in the first turn the first player has their pieces on the board first and is most likely to be attacked and get less VP in subsequent rounds. The last player gets to go on the board and not be interfered with until round two. Now the reverse is mostly true for the last round: the first player can finish up their round without being interfered with and the last player is the one who's prone to be attacked. I'm not always saying it's best to attack the first person on the board but sometimes it's necessary. You always need to balance helping yourself and harming others.

If you really dislike a perceived first turn advantage you could try my variant:

Everyone starts the game with 10 VP and does a blind bidding for turn order. Similar to the blind bidding in A Game of Thrones. Everyone puts an amount of VP in their hand that they want to bid and then closes their fist and holds it out in front of them. When everyone is ready the bids are revealed and turn order is determined from highest bids going first and lowest goes last. Use the Reinforcement Die (or normal 1d6) to break ties. Any VP's used for bidding are discarded. An alternative suggestion was that the winner of the bid chooses the first player and play proceeds clockwise.

I personally like bidding for turn order at the beginning of every round, but it's not for everyone.
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Ben Bateson
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I like Mark's variant; my personal twist on it is to bid blind for the first race. Any ties are resolved by VP 'donations' - either to the bank or the other player. All players that are able must take their bid race before the re-draw.

Quote:
pillaging amazons
merchant dwarfs
alchemist ghouls
seafaring humans
wealthy elves


I would actually like to pick second from that. I could counter Elves with the defensive Humans on the opposite side of the board. If P1 took Ghouls, I would try to wipe him out with Amazons before the inevitable second-round decline. Plus there's the possibility of something more juicy coming out of the stack.
 
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Dan Schaeffer
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Lord Vetinari wrote:
I admit that there are times when picking your race first is not much of an advantage, but what if the starting selecton looks like this:

pillaging amazons
merchant dwarfs
alchemist ghouls
seafaring humans
wealthy elves

Tell me that you'd like to pick your race as the second player from this stack.

I'm not saying that "OMG this game is broken fix it ASAP!!!", just trying to come up with some alternative to a seemingly not-so-balanced situation.


The second player will have another fifth option, the third player will have yet another, etc. Plus, the odds of a clearly best race/ability combo being top of the list are relatively small. Most race/ability combos are pretty well-balanced, and even where there are differences, the better one is as likely as not (or more likely) to be down the list and cost points to take.

The first player is prone to multiple attacks as the first one on the board. Depending on his race/ability combo, he may not be the first to decline, meaning he could end up a turn behind other players on getting his second race on the board. The only really solid advantage that the first player has is that he scores all his points first in the last round, and that is certainly something that can (and in fact must) be mitigated by the other players.
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Steve Bauer
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There is another advantage I have seen for first player.

In the last round it always make sense to attack subsequent players without regard for your own position. These means the player going last or toward the end can get hammered in the last round. The reverse could be said of the first round but it doesn't usually work out as you are too strong to attack with a new race but in the last round it is often a pick of single units to attack from all the players.

Not saying it needs to be fixed, just something I have observed.
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Chester
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I don't believe there is a significant 1st player advantage. I"d have to see some statistical support for that notion. Why isn't there a last player advantage? They get to pick the weakest spots on the board and know who is most advantageous to attack going into the last turn.
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Alex Rockwell
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In 2 player I believe the first player to be at a significant DISadvantage.
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Chad Carter
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I'm still not sure if there is a consistent first player advantage, but we were talking about trying a variant for 2 player that keeps the luck factor of the races to a minimum.

Draw the starting races as normal, but the second player gets to put them in any order before the first player selects. I'm not sure if it needs it, but it would certainly make it feel more fair.

The scoring thing I've noticed too. When you're going last you don't get the benefit of hurting the other player(s) in your last turn and you do tend to draw a lot of attention from the previous players (as you're still waiting to score).

 
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Mike Summers
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sbauer9 wrote:
There is another advantage I have seen for first player.

In the last round it always make sense to attack subsequent players without regard for your own position. These means the player going last or toward the end can get hammered in the last round...


As I was reading through this post I was going to bring up this exact same observation, but since you said it I can simply agree with you Yeah, I agree with this and have seen it too.

I have played enough games to concur with the first player advantage as well. I don't have a technological explanation, but from my experience I feel this is indeed the case.

So, if I were personally tasked with the job of offsetting this, I would go with something simpler than some of the suggestions made here, and simply offset the starting money given to each player by one coin. Player one gets 5, then 6, then 7... etc.. It's just a small advantage, but does something. Just a thought.
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Dave G
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charredcat wrote:
I'm still not sure if there is a consistent first player advantage, but we were talking about trying a variant for 2 player that keeps the luck factor of the races to a minimum.

Draw the starting races as normal, but the second player gets to put them in any order before the first player selects. I'm not sure if it needs it, but it would certainly make it feel more fair.

The scoring thing I've noticed too. When you're going last you don't get the benefit of hurting the other player(s) in your last turn and you do tend to draw a lot of attention from the previous players (as you're still waiting to score).



Why would all the players attack the last player rather than the player directly behind them? It doesn't make any sense for the last player to be targeted specifically by anyone but the second-to-last player.
 
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Philip Thomas
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djgutierrez77 wrote:
charredcat wrote:
I'm still not sure if there is a consistent first player advantage, but we were talking about trying a variant for 2 player that keeps the luck factor of the races to a minimum.

Draw the starting races as normal, but the second player gets to put them in any order before the first player selects. I'm not sure if it needs it, but it would certainly make it feel more fair.

The scoring thing I've noticed too. When you're going last you don't get the benefit of hurting the other player(s) in your last turn and you do tend to draw a lot of attention from the previous players (as you're still waiting to score).



Why would all the players attack the last player rather than the player directly behind them? It doesn't make any sense for the last player to be targeted specifically by anyone but the second-to-last player.


Misunderstanding: "last player" here means last player in the turn order not the score (which is hidden anyway). In the final turn, attacking players who have already moved doesn't do them any harm, because they will never score again. The person who is last in the turn order is always a fair target however, because he is going to score again.
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B C Z
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Let me point out a first player disadvantage

In turn n-1 (the second to last turn), you have a choice: Press or Decline.

If you Press, you are telegraphing exactly how many troops of yours are on the board for the final round, and everyone can dogpile on you if they perceive that you have the best score. Should your race be decimated, you have no options.

If you Decline, you have only one defenseless declined race on the board, and the same situation occurs. Now people can destroy your declined tiles at minimal cost, again, if they perceive you are in the lead.

So here's my recommendation for 'fixing the start player advantage':
Keep decent track of who is winning and stomp on their head.
Understand the timing of the game and utilize it.
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Dave G
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Philip Thomas wrote:
djgutierrez77 wrote:
charredcat wrote:
I'm still not sure if there is a consistent first player advantage, but we were talking about trying a variant for 2 player that keeps the luck factor of the races to a minimum.

Draw the starting races as normal, but the second player gets to put them in any order before the first player selects. I'm not sure if it needs it, but it would certainly make it feel more fair.

The scoring thing I've noticed too. When you're going last you don't get the benefit of hurting the other player(s) in your last turn and you do tend to draw a lot of attention from the previous players (as you're still waiting to score).



Why would all the players attack the last player rather than the player directly behind them? It doesn't make any sense for the last player to be targeted specifically by anyone but the second-to-last player.


Misunderstanding: "last player" here means last player in the turn order not the score (which is hidden anyway). In the final turn, attacking players who have already moved doesn't do them any harm, because they will never score again. The person who is last in the turn order is always a fair target however, because he is going to score again.


Uh, yeah. I didn't misunderstand you. Say we have a five player game, players named A, B, C, D, and Humberto. They're playing in that order, A first and Humberto last. On the final turn of the game, Player A can attack B, C, D, or Humberto--but he should attack the person who is winning. Player B can attack C, D, or Humberto--he should attack whomever is winning out of those three. Etc., etc., etc. The only reason Humberto should be a target of everyone's attack is because they all believe him to be in the lead or because he's somehow had the misfortune to position himself to be everyone's best target of opportunity, either of which makes it a correct play. Otherwise, the only player who should definitely attack him is Player D. If the other players go after Humberto instead of each other, they're essentially giving points away to the players acting behind them.
 
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Dave G
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byronczimmer wrote:
Let me point out a first player disadvantage

In turn n-1 (the second to last turn), you have a choice: Press or Decline.

If you Press, you are telegraphing exactly how many troops of yours are on the board for the final round, and everyone can dogpile on you if they perceive that you have the best score. Should your race be decimated, you have no options.

If you Decline, you have only one defenseless declined race on the board, and the same situation occurs. Now people can destroy your declined tiles at minimal cost, again, if they perceive you are in the lead.

So here's my recommendation for 'fixing the start player advantage':
Keep decent track of who is winning and stomp on their head.
Understand the timing of the game and utilize it.


Amen to that....I can't believe how many people don't understand this. I'm glad I'm not in one of those groups where going last means everyone else attacks me because of some bizzare groupthink issue.

Also, if you're going last in the game and you don't decline on your second to last turn, you're asking for it.
 
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Steve Bauer
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byronczimmer wrote:
Let me point out a first player disadvantage

In turn n-1 (the second to last turn), you have a choice: Press or Decline.

If you Press, you are telegraphing exactly how many troops of yours are on the board for the final round, and everyone can dogpile on you if they perceive that you have the best score. Should your race be decimated, you have no options.


I am not clear how this is different from any other round?
It is always true that if you overextend your present race you risk players weakening it and giving you a very low scoring round. It seems less painful at the last round to me as you are not going to have to continue with this disadvantaged scoring for several more rounds.

byronczimmer wrote:

If you Decline, you have only one defenseless declined race on the board, and the same situation occurs. Now people can destroy your declined tiles at minimal cost, again, if they perceive you are in the lead.


I still don't see how this would be a disadvantage. As player 2 every declined token I take away from player 1 is going to be -1 point to them. If I can tell player three is not going to decline, not usually a hard analysis, then every point I take away from them is -2 points.

Every player has the same number of turns that there tokens are ate risk. The first player spends the entire first round exposed to everyone, but this is always at his strongest with a fresh new race that almost never gets attacked. The last player spends the entire first round not a risk and the entire last round at risk when he is very likely to have vulnerable declined tokens and maybe an overstretch active race.

byronczimmer wrote:

So here's my recommendation for 'fixing the start player advantage':
Keep decent track of who is winning and stomp on their head.
Understand the timing of the game and utilize it.


I agree the games balance mechanism is attack the leader. This advantage as I perceive it is small and easily overcome by observant players. I also think it is smaller than a good opening race.
 
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Steve Bauer
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djgutierrez77 wrote:

Amen to that....I can't believe how many people don't understand this. I'm glad I'm not in one of those groups where going last means everyone else attacks me because of some bizzare groupthink issue.


I will refrain from insulting your friends in family if you will refrain from insulting mine.

Please reread my post as I don't believe you understood it.
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sbauer wrote:

In the last round it always make sense to attack subsequent players without regard for your own position. These means the player going last or toward the end can get hammered in the last round. The reverse could be said of the first round but it doesn't usually work out as you are too strong to attack with a new race but in the last round it is often a pick of single units to attack from all the players.


djgutierrez77 wrote:

Also, if you're going last in the game and you don't decline on your second to last turn, you're asking for it.


Doesn't this imply a disadvantage to the last player?
 
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Dave G
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sbauer9 wrote:

djgutierrez77 wrote:

Also, if you're going last in the game and you don't decline on your second to last turn, you're asking for it.


Doesn't this imply a disadvantage to the last player?


I don't think so. It implies a strategic difference based on where you sit in turn order, but that's true throughout the game and for all the possible positions. It's also true of almost every game I've ever played. There's a difference between not recognizing your strategic position and being at a disadvantage.

This is a game all about maximizing your scoring opportunities, right? The reason you decline on your second to last turn if you're going last has less to do with worrying about getting pummelled than figuring out what the best way to expand through all your over-extended opponents. Being able to come blasting on to the board from wherever you want after all your opponents have spread to their maximum is one of the advantages of being last to act in the game.

Also, you've yet to answer my question in my first post--why would all the players ahead of you attack the last person instead of the leader or the person directly behind them? If it's not groupthink and there's some tactical advantage, please elaborate?
 
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Steve Bauer
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djgutierrez77 wrote:
sbauer9 wrote:

Doesn't this imply a disadvantage to the last player?


I don't think so. ...


I don't disagree with any of your analyze but I still see your assertion that you have no choice but to decline on the second to the last round as a disadvantage. A race that comes in on the last round is not going to be able to be used to it's full effect and if you are forced to decline on the second to last round may mean you have to give up a good position with your current active and declined race. Some of this is in your control but not all of it.

djgutierrez77 wrote:

Also, you've yet to answer my question in my first post--why would all the players ahead of you attack the last person instead of the leader or the person directly behind them? If it's not groupthink and there's some tactical advantage, please elaborate?


I didn't answer the question because I never said everyone would attack the last player, so I have no answer. I said In the last round it always make sense to attack subsequent players. As the last player is always a subsequent player it could work out that he got hammered. It will not always, but I don't see a corresponding disadvantage to the early players.

The first game I noticed this effect in I was the first player and the second player was in the lead but the last player was close behind. I had to break through some declines trolls to get to the second players merchant amazons and was only able to take out one. The merchant amazons expanded to there full size and scored a bunch of points. Now the third and fourth player were able to attack the fifth player without giving up any points of there own, he had a strong board position with declined skeletons all over the board. The final score was 68, 86, 70, 62, 78. I am not sure the last player could have won even if the other players had left him alone but it would have been a lot closer.
 
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Dave G
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The corresponding disadvantage to the early player is getting pounded on turns 1 & 2. The first person on the board should get jumped on right away (especially if they have the "best" race combo available.) They may survive turn 1, but on turn 2 they're the first person spread out thinly on the board, and they get popped.

Also, I didn't say you have "no choice but to decline" on the second to last turn, but you have to figure you're going to lose some regions before you act again. It's your last chance to decline, so if you feel confident you can score more points by declining and coming back on the board, you should. If not, you don't have to, but if you expected to be left alone you were, in fact, asking for it.
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Anthony Martins
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byronczimmer wrote:
Please prove there is a first player advantage before trying to fix it.


I kind of assumed it was obvious myself. I started another thread just to discuss this.

Just a friendly note. Of course, not talking about anybody here (just other people ). Sometimes, people rush to defend games they like. So, using Small World as an example, if you think there's no first turn benefit, ask yourself, "If this game came with a rule intended to offset a 1st turn benefit, for instance, player 2 gets one more coin, player 3 two more, etc... would I think that was an imbalanced rule that should be done away with?" It's good for people to ask themselves questions to check objectivity.
 
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