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Subject: Fifth Player Disadvantage and Variants rss

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Sterling Babcock
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I know first player advantage has been discussed before, but I would like to ask about it specifically in a five player game.

In a five player game, the first 3 or so players seem to have a lot of choices more than the later players:

- They get first choice of 6 different races to pick and choose what is best

- They get first choice of the open land for expansion and race ability, especially with the bigger map.

Specifically:

First choice of races means that they get to pick and choose amoung 6 race combos for best effect. The fifth player is left with races that have been picked over, and only get a few additional races that even if they are good, they are very expensive to get being at the top end. In the first set of 6 there might be roughly 3 races that are "better" than the other 3 of the six and the first 3 players can get them..

First choice of land means realistically easy access without being taken over. Typically, the first round you may take 4-5 spaces, and leave your regions with 2 or more tokens on them. This leaves the first 3 or so players relatively defended when the 4th and 5th player go on the board. There really is not much incentive for players 2 or 3 to compete with the 1st player when there is so much open space. Also the earlier players can easily choose open areas that benefit thier race special ability like caves, magic spaces, and what not.

I was trying to think of a possible variant to address these specifically in a 5 player game only, but so far my thoughts are coming up short.

Consider a set of starting races by order (This assumes the first race is always taken only for description below):

Player 1: 1 2 3 4 5 6 | (First choice of 6, further races unseen.)
Player 2: 2 3 4 5 6 | 7
Player 3: 3 4 5 6 | 7 8
Player 4: 4 5 6 | 7 8 9
Player 5: 5 6 | 7 8 9 10


For the choice of races I was thinking of:

Variant: In the first round only, new races are also available from the top down for players 4 and 5.

That is:
In the first round only, player 4 can buy the top race (9) for 0, the next race (8) for 1, and (7) for 2.
In the first round only, player 4 can buy the top race (10) for 0, the next race (9) for 1, and (8) for 2.

On the surface, this seems like a crazy idea, as they get access to races that were never available to the first 3 players. However, I contend that it gives them access to new races that the first players already got a chance to have
many fresh races. It also does not address the more limited expansion options that the later players have.

Deeper down, well, I am just not sure this variant would work. I would appreciate input into discussing alternatives
or improvements.

What other variants might help to boost the later players?

- Differences in the amount of $ at the beginning of the game?

- A bidding mechanism for who gets to go first?
 
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Walt
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How giving players other than the first phantom points usable only for their first race purchase?

First 0
Second 1
Third 2
Fourth 3
Fifth 4


Or, maybe they should be real points since the ability to get onto the map first, especially with a populous race, is quite an advantage.
 
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Dan Schaeffer
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This only makes sense if you assume that the top race is the best or preferable one for each player. That's not always true. It's often preferable to take the "free" race, but when you pick you have to calculate -- is that race there worth the 3 VP I need to spend to pick it up, or will I do better paying less with this cheaper race, which I think is less desirable in the long run? Going 4th or 5th sometimes means you are "stuck" with a race that nobody else wanted, sure, but it will come with some points attached, and with clever play, you may be able to parlay it into a good score. Maybe you decline early and have a quick shot at one of the "better" races now available for less.
 
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Walt
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Small World scores run near 100, so even spending 5 on a better race is cheap.

The first player gets the best race from 1-6.
The second player gets next best or, very expensively, 7.
And so on.

Here's a better solution. Lay out the race/power pairs--maybe add an extra one because at least one will disappear. Have a secret bid. You can bid zero to five for any race showing--all can be had free. Ties are broken in favor of the later player. Winners get their races, people shut out have to buy a race normally, but don't lose their bid.
 
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Geeky McGeekface
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I felt this was a problem with Vinci as well, Sterling, and came up with a variant to address it. The first question, though, is if the early players still have an advantage in Small World. One potential ameliorating factor is that on the last turn, the last player doesn't have to worry about leaving a good defensive position. However, based on the few games I've played, this doesn't seem to make up for the disadvantages you outline.

Anyway, my variant was to give the last player the first crack at the starting civs. Player 5 can choose his beginning civ, using the normal rules, or he can pass. If he passes, Player 4 now has the option. This continues until one player chooses a civ, in which case Player 5 again has the option to choose or pass, or until Player 1 is reached, in which case he must choose a civ. The idea here is that sometimes, the best civs are buried in the queue and it's better to go second or third than first. If you really want to illuminate the process, you can expose the first 10 civs at the beginning of the game, instead of the first 6, so that everyone knows what's coming (the players can still only choose from the first 6 in the queue).

With this variant, the late players get the advantage of choosing their civs at the optimal moment, while the first players continue to get the advantage of placing first. I think this is a good balance for the problem you describe.
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Sterling Babcock
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Tall_Walt wrote:
Lay out the race/power pairs--maybe add an extra one because at least one will disappear. Have a secret bid. You can bid zero to five for any race showing--all can be had free. Ties are broken in favor of the later player. Winners get their races, people shut out have to buy a race normally, but don't lose their bid.
I like that. It indicates which race people want most and are willing to bid for.

Larry Levy wrote:
Anyway, my variant was to give the last player the first crack at the starting civs. Player 5 can choose his beginning civ, using the normal rules, or he can pass. If he passes, Player 4 now has the option. This continues until one player chooses a civ, in which case Player 5 again has the option to choose or pass, or until Player 1 is reached, in which case he must choose a civ. The idea here is that sometimes, the best civs are buried in the queue and it's better to go second or third than first. If you really want to illuminate the process, you can expose the first 10 civs at the beginning of the game, instead of the first 6, so that everyone knows what's coming (the players can still only choose from the first 6 in the queue).

With this variant, the late players get the advantage of choosing their civs at the optimal moment, while the first players continue to get the advantage of placing first. I think this is a good balance for the problem you describe.
Very nice! I like that even better! If, as 5th player, you pick a really cool race, you are not at a distinct advantage since others can pick their race in light of that and it can relate to how they play in front of the 5th player.

Excellent suggestions! Thank you!
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Krzysiek
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Giving each player different amounts of gold/victory points to start is a simple solution, and the amounts suggested by Tall_Walt seem reasonable.

To level the ratio of free/occupied territories for all players I would suggest... filling the whole map with lost tribe tokens. That would slow down the first players (and the whole game, probably) without hindering the players last to go - when it's their turn everything is taken anyway!
 
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