5 Jan 2007

My thoughts on how to decide the starting player

I remember listening to an episode of The Dice Tower, that had a top 10 of the best ways to decide the starting player. After listening to that episode I realise that is a problem that our group faces when playing a game. Usually we roll a d20. But why we don't follow what the rules say. My opinion is that some methods to decide the starting player are very weak, and I just tend to ignore them.

But are are the methods that I consider weak and strong? In my opinion, the method is weak if it doesn't have a good connection with the game and another method could be used instead. For example, youngest player goes first. I'm still struggling to understand why that is even considered a starting player method. Every time the game is played in our group, the same person will start the game. I also consider weak methods that involve luck, like the roll of a die. Again, they have little connection with the game itself and other methods, like the youngest player could be applied.

A little stronger than that are methods that use game components to decide the starting player. Rolling a d20 when the game actually comes with a d20 is an example of that. While suffering from the same problems as the previous methods, the game itself provides the material, so there is no need to find the dungeons and dragons box where all the dices are stored.

The stronger methods are those that really make sense in the game and there are some good strong mechanics out there. Two of my favourite are: the starting player is based on the character and the blind bid. In the first one, the starting player is the one controlling a certain character/nation/etc. For example, in Bang the starting player is the sheriff; Fury of Dracula, the starting player is Dracula; Lord of the Rings, the starting player is the ring bearer. The blind bid mechanic is my favourite to decide the starting player. An example of this is Lord of the Rings CCG. Initially each player secretly selects 0-9 initial burdens on Frodo. When Frodo has 10 burdens, the game is lost, so the more you bid, the closer you are from loosing the game.

As a conclusion, if the game doesn't have a strong starting player mechanic, we simply ignore it, randomly decide who starts then we rotate the starting players clockwise. Since we all play to have fun, this system works perfectly.

To end my thoughts on this subject I would like to mention a method described on that episode of The Dice Tower. The method uses a game: “Start Player: A Kind Of Collectable Card Game”.The idea of this is to have a deck of cards, each describing a the method to decide the starting player. For example, the youngest player goes first; the person with the most facial hair; the last person that took a shower; the player that can name the most spiel des jahres winners; the player with the most 7's on their phone number; etc. I haven't tried this, but it sounds more interesting that the weak methods, because each time a new card will describe the method, and from what Tom Vasel some of the cards are very funny.


Blogger hmocc said...

This is particularly true "chez moi" where the younger player always goes first.

I agree with you on the bidding mechanisms. Raylroad Tycoon or Shogun are examples of games where you bid more to get the privileges associated with going first.

But to get these privileges, you always end up spending more than your opponents.

We either go for "pick a card" (biggest card wins) or do it in turns, if (and only if) the game doesn't come with a satisfactory rule to choose the first player.

11:13 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home