First is the Worst -- Mitigating the Advantage of the Starting Player
T. Rosen
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As the timeless childhood adage (and one of the best examples of sour grapes) tells us: First is the worst, Second is the best. However, this rarely holds true in the world of board games.

Eurogames provide us with an amazing array of methods for choosing the starting players, from youngest, to oldest, to the person who went swimming most recently, to the upcoming person who can refrain from laughing the longest (and no this is not going to be yet another list about ways to choose the starting player, for that go to http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/2097). But whatever the method for choosing the starting player, no one ever likes having to go last (usually). Most games throw up their hands and say c'est la vie, but there are a few games out there that actually mitigate the effects of going later in turn order by giving those players a special bonus or penalizing the starting player, depends on whether your glass is half empty or half full. Here is a list dedicated to those games that attempt to balance the advantages of going first.

This list was inspired by a recent GeekList by Peter Marchlewitz (Palpatine) called "Games with a catch up mechanism" (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/16330), in which he specifically excluded games "that simply change the start components for the players based on the position that they begin play" (e.g., Reef Encounter).

In the spirit of Mr. Little (ynnen) and his 131 geeklists and record 43 golden thumbs (I'm just assuming this is a record because it seems like it probably is):
What do you think?
>>Do you like when games provide special rules to mitigate the advantage of going first?
>>Which game implements this concept best, and which does it ineffectively?
>>Which game that doesn't already do this would be greatly improved by adding this mechanic in?


N.B. I fully expect someone to promptly post links to all prior incarnations of this list
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1. Board Game: Through the Desert [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:446]
T. Rosen
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Arlington
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Through the Desert mitigates the luck of getting to go first by having the starting player only place one camel, instead of the normal two, on their first turn. I primarily play this game two-player so that is the extent of the rule in my experience, but I recall that if you were to play this with 3-5 players then more people would also play only a single camel on their first turn.

This is a good special rule, and a great example of what this GeekList is about, because it effectively nullifies any advantage of going first, but without introducing any extra complexity or confusion into the game. This is a simple and elegant way to eliminate the luck of going first.
 
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2. Board Game: Caylus [Average Rating:7.81 Overall Rank:48]
T. Rosen
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Caylus mitigates the luck of getting to go first by doling out a different amount of money depending on where you are in the player order. This is a probably the most common way to mitigate the advantage of going first because it is particularly easy to implement, and merely requires adjusting the conditions during the setup phase. However, I'm not sure this is particularly effective in Caylus because, despite the smaller amount of money that the starting player and second player receive, they are still the only ones who can get cloth and stone, depending on the arrangement of neutral buildings, which means they are the only one who can build in the castle on the first turn. What do you think?
 
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3. Board Game: Reef Encounter [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:555]
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Reef Encounter mitigates the luck of getting to go first by varying the number of polyp tiles that players start the game with. This seems like a very effective implementation of this mechanic, although it may be the harshest of all the implemenations listed. Unlike the other games listed, in which the penalty for going first doesn't seem to outweigh the advantage of going first but merely balance that advantage out, this rule seems like it might so far as to make it worse for the starting player. Since there are enough good spots for everyone at the beginning of the game generally, and everyone will get one of the free bonus squares, it might be an excessive penalty to give the starting player so many fewer polyp tiles. But then again, the starting player will generally have one more turn by the end of the game, which is particularly important if someone plays with a blitz strategy (which will thankfully be eliminated in part with the upcoming expansion).
 
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4. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:126]
T. Rosen
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Goa mitigates the luck of getting to go first by giving the player with the flag only 7 gold instead of the normal 10. Unlike Caylus and Reef Encounter, which both vary the starting resources between first/second player and second/third player, Goa only varies the starting resources between the first player and everyone else. I'm not sure why Goa doesn't give somewhere between 7 and 10 gold to the second player, and more than 10 gold to the third player, but perhaps it proved unnecessary in the playtests. What do you think about this implementation? Is the flag better than the three gold deprived to the starting player? Is it particularly bad to go third or fourth in this game since you get no more money than the second player?
 
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5. Board Game: Catan [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:321] [Average Rating:7.19 Unranked]
T. Rosen
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And of course where would we be without the granddaddy of them all, Settlers of Catan. This was my first introduction not only to eurogames, but to the entire concept of mitigating the luck of the starting player. Settlers of Catan uses an ingenious method that I think of as "first in, last out." As I'm sure you all already know, the player who places the first settlement, also places the last settlement, so it goes 1-2-3-4-4-3-2-1. After many, many plays of this game (very few of which are recorded here because I played a ton between 1996 and 2004, before discovering BoardGameGeek), I'm convinced it's actually best to play last (i.e., be to the right of the person who rolls highest to go first) so that you can place both settlements simultaneously, which is especially important if you tend to go for Longest Road, which I often do. What has been your experience with this implementation of the mechanic?
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6. Board Game: Nexus Ops [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:372]
Scott Lewis
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Thornton
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Nexus Ops mitigates this by starting Rubium. The first player starts with 8. The second player gets 11, third gets 14, and the fourth gets 17.

This seems to work well, as the first player tends to get one advantage by being able to claim things first, and allowing the fourth player to build more keeps him from always playing "Catch up"
 
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7. Board Game: Hex [Average Rating:6.79 Overall Rank:2796]
Richard Irving
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The pie rule is a common technique that can used in a great many abstract games:

The first player places a stone on the boad. The second player chooses whether to a) take that color and use the palced stone as the first move of the game or b) take the opposite color and then makes a move anywhere as the second move of the game.
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8. Board Game: Go [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:134]
 
Jim Cote
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Maine
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In an even game of Go, the player who goes 2nd (White) gets extra points called komi. A common komi is 6.5. This gives an approximately equal number of wins to both sides.
 
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9. Board Game: Monopoly [Average Rating:4.38 Overall Rank:17009]
Richard Irving
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Harrisburg
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R. Wayne Schmittgergers "New Rules for Classic Games" suggests two options--which may be applied to other games:

- Stagger the starts: Start one player at Go, the next a Just Visiting, the Next at Free Parking, the next at the Go to Jail Space. This spreads out the opening properties that are landed upon--which is the main disdvantage for moving later in the turn order.
- Bid for turn order. This is similar to other give the first player less cash system, but puts it in the player's hands.
 
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10. Board Game: Railway Rivals [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:3583]
Richard Irving
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Harrisburg
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In this game, each round the player who goes first is rotated so everyone gets the advantage of building first.
 
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11. Board Game: Empire Builder [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:1054]
Richard Irving
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In the Mayfair Rails series of games not only Switchback Start used, but entire round is completed once someone has enough to declare victory.

This eliminates the first player(s) getting an extra turn.
 
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12. Board Game: Manifest Destiny [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:3146]
Steve Bachman
United States
Colonie
New York
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In Manifest Destiny, each turn the first player can only buy up to 3 tokens, the second 5, the third 7, the fourth 9 and the last player can buy up to 7.
 
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13. Board Game: Maharaja: The Game of Palace Building in India [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:573]
Philip Johnson
United States
Indianapolis
Indiana
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In Maharaja, the player order is determined by the character cards. Each character gives a different ability, so the players who go first get a weak ability (just the ability to win a tie, 1 gold on their turn), while the players who go last get strong abilities (free house placement/movement, 3 gold cost reduction to build palace).
 
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14. Board Game: Attika [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:631]
Jesse Smith
United States
Medford
Massachusetts
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In Attika the players get an increasing number of resource cards the later they are to begin. IE: Player one 4 cards, player 2 gets 5 cards and so on.
 
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15. Board Game: Waterloo [Average Rating:5.80 Overall Rank:8763]
David Bush
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Radiant
Virginia
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Many wargames exhibit an imbalance for one side or the other, which may be the result of many factors, not just the advantage of moving first. But regardless of why the imbalance is there, many grognards use a bidding system to even out the chances. This bidding protocol might not be in the box rules, but is adopted nonetheless for tournament play. For an example, here is a quote from the 2006 preview page for Waterloo at the www.boardgamers.org website:

"First, the players must secretly choose sides. ... If they choose the same side, the process will continue by bidding. Each player will secretly bid the side he wants to play and the integer number of factors that he is willing to give up to play that side. If players bid opposite sides, they will play those sides with no loss of factors. If both players bid the same side, the higher bid plays that side. He must remove factors from his INITIAL FORCES equaling his bid."

This method could be applied to many games. For example, "Komi bidding" has been suggested for Go, although it seems unlikely that any governing body for Go will adopt it soon.
 
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16. Board Game: RoboRally [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:367]
David Bush
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Radiant
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This is probably the most popular example of the simultaneous movement mechanic. No one gets an advantage to moving first, because everyone reveals their intended move at the same time.
 
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