The majority of modern board games have come along way in both its aesthetics and most importantly their game design. Board Game designers often try to balance out the powers that players have with intuitive, well-thoughtout game play that gives every player an equal chance of winning a board game that they play... or does it?
Does turn order matter and importantly does the first player have an advantage to winning a game. In games like Chess, it has been shown statistically that the player controlling white has a slight advantage over the player controlling black.
This advantage varies from game to game which obviously depends on the type of board game, structure of the turn order, determining the first player for each round mechanic and also how many players are engaging in the game at any one time.
During a casual board gaming session that I recently attended, one of the players at the table said out loud that the starting player has an advantage in the game. This got me pondering about which board games in my collection may have this first player advantage in it.
So I started with the classic.. Settlers of Catan.
To an extent, the beginning of the game does allow the first player the chance to place their first settlement in a prime resource producing location (due to the probability of dice rolls etc...) but disadvantages them by forcing them to place their second settlement last once all of the other prime spots have been taken up. The last player to place their first settlement also has the opportunity to place their second settlement immediately afterwards possibly settling up their chance of connecting their two settlements to vie for the longest road card. Ultimately the game comes down to chance & the trade agreements and deals that players have with each other... Still does this outweigh the value of picking a prime high dice rolling settlement junction first?
In Agricola, in a 4 player game the first player starts with 2 food and players 2-4 start with 3 food each. If player 1 chooses the best location first blocking the others out then followed by the 2nd 3rd and finally the fourth player. The last player has 3 less optimal spaces to choose from! They could go for the first player marker but that would mean spending a worker to do so but allowing them to play a minor improvement card. The second player gets the benefit of 3 food as well as a wider range of options compared to players 3 and 4. I guess the compensating factor in Agricola is that there is so many other things you need to do so finding an alternative route to scoring points may be a necessary choice or relying on the cards in your hands to help give you a boost at the start of the game is another option.
Examining these games made me reflect on just how powerful being first can actually be.
In Smallworld... The first player chooses the best out of the six race combos.. potentially leaving 5 suboptimal ones behind. The 2nd player then has to choose from the 'suboptimal' ones and possibly 1 new good one but has to pay at least 5 coins to get it. Being 3rd means choosing from 4 suboptimal ones and so forth creating an interesting first player advantage effect. Of course the game slowly rewards players for picking lesser effective combos by forcing players to put coins on them to access the better combos but is it worth the wait if the game only lasts 8 rounds... I guess it comes down to hoping the initial player can't see the combo potential or the idea that the first player can't conquer other players on their first turn... At the end of the game.. the first player (who doesn't chance hands throughout the game) conquers and scores at the end of their turn and not the game stopping any chance of other players from changing the first player's end score. I guess it comes down to player interaction. If players band together and work against the first player that could alleviate the effect but that would be just too mean. Does the reward of getting the coins outweigh the choice of a good combo. Possibly!
In a turning point, in some games going first is not so good.
In abstract games like photosynthesis, the first player isn't able to see how the other players are going to play. The first player's strategy is often exposed on their first few turns allowing the other players to mould and adapt their strategy to counter the first player's moves by blocking them out or forcing the first player to take a particular action (like upgrading their tree from small to medium). By the time the first player has seen what the other players are doing, it will possibly take them a turn or two if they want to change or perform counter actions.
Game designers have even changed how the first player is determined from round to round using a wakeup track in Viticulture, auctioning mechanism in Five Tribes, simultaneous action selection in Race For The Galaxy and compensating / rewarding players for going last in Above & Below & in Kemet allowing the player with the lowest number of Victory Points in the previous round to determine the turn order for the next round.
I think good game design involves understanding the players and the choices that they have. Having multiple avenues for reaching that victory or end game objective is crucial. Making it feel balanced as well as intuitive is so crucially important for fair play.
So most people will remember who won and who lost... but next time see if you can remember who went first. Did they win? Did they lose? Is there an advantage to going first?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
I love board games and I also love Magic The Gathering. It is a card game that I play alongside with my board gaming friends and one that has created many great and happy memories.
Two years I ago, my friend introduced me to Magic The Gathering where I went to my first prerelease.
There, I made a multitude of new friends and a whole new world opened its doors to some many great memories and times ahead.
I remember feeling quite anxious about constructing a deck at a prerelease event for the first time without too much knowledge as to how the game worked and now having a lot more experience I realised that it would have been cool if there were a few tips I could have gone into the prerelease with as a newbie.
The aim of this blog post is to reach out to any newbies out there that want to delve into the world of Magic , but may have experienced the same anxiousness that I felt when I went to my first prerelease.
Much like the board gaming community, the Magic community is such a friendly, welcoming place. One I'll never forget.
Fri Nov 10, 2017 11:04 pm
Two years ago I purchased my first board game, Mice & Mystics. After watching it played on Tabletop I just absolutely fell in love with the lore, minatures and gameplay. It was my first ever modern board game purchase that just spoke to me and drew me into the hobby. It was a nostalgic moment and memories of creating board games of my own as a kid. Instantly, I knew that board gaming was back bigger than ever.
Unfortunately, the copy of the game that I got had its corner crushed (possibly during shipping to the game store & it was the last one) and because it is a beloved game of mine, have always thought about game as being a box of fun memories waiting to be opened and explored again. (Think of the movie / book The Indian In The Cupboard). Also due to many plays, the cards are now worn, torn and look like they need replacing because they have been used so much for each campaign and due to being overplayed.
In reflection, if I had known, I would have been a bit more careful with the board game so that it would last long into the future. So since then every board game I have purchased I have tried to respect the creative process and time that went into creating it.
I have come to appreciate that modern board games are like pieces of expensive artworks. They need to be 'respected' 'loved' and 'cared' for. A lot of very talented game designers and illustrators have spent hours working tirelessly to produce and create a product that brings people so much joy. It certainly has provided me with some great family moments and long lasting gaming memories.
This thought inspired me to film a vlog about introducing others to ways they can look after their board games with care, love and respect.
7 Reasons Why Everyone Needs To Start Playing Modern Board Games
Board Gaming is such an inclusive, interesting and engaging medium which has distinctively stood out on its own and survived especially in a world driven by communication technology, console and computer gaming. Over the last ten years the number of board game ideas being produced and coming to fruition has increased exponentially. More and more people are being drawn towards the nostalgic and social value of board games.
I pondered the other day about why I love board gaming and how board games are a hobby that needs so much more attention. Here's a few reasons I came up with.
Top Benefits of Board Gaming
1. There are a plethora of alternative modern board games to the classic ones most of us played as kids.
2. Board games foster great social interaction and help strengthen our relationship with our family, friends and peers. Board game designers have used this social dynamic as a mechanism in many modern board games.
3. Board game design has improved significantly. With more play testing and better game mechanics, modern board games are much more intuitive.
4.Board games are more immersive. They are now being sold as unique experiences much like when you buy a ticket to see a concert, sports game or theatre show.
5. Board games have immense educational value.
6. Art in board games are now both collectable, functional and now inclusive towards particular gamers of different gender, cultures and backgrounds.
7. Quality Time with the ones you love. Enough Said.
Magic: The Gathering
Two years ago, my friend introduced me to Magic: The Gathering. It sounded scary at the time but sounded really fun. Til this day, I'm still loving the game, uncovering its secrets and most importantly it allowed me to make some life long friends.
Recently, my friend and I decided to make a video to give people who are new and really keen on playing Magic: The Gathering some tips on how to start building their first deck as it can be extremely daunting. The video addresses some of the questions I had 2 years ago as a beginning Magic Player.
What I discovered over the past 2 years was that Magic, board gaming and card gaming were simply just great ways to get to know people without having the awkwardness of thinking of things to talk about.
Its the memories of the experiences shared playing with friends is what makes it so much fun.
Magic the Gathering made me realise that there was a whole community out there of like minded people who were welcoming, fun and sociable.
Without great gaming communities, families and friends to share the gaming experience with, life would be very different... especially in the age of modern technology.
I couldn't imagine a life without it.