There has always been rules for assigning Starting Player.
When I was little the rules said you randomly decided by rolling dice, or in rare occasions it said the person who owned the game took the first round. Which made some sort of sense when you were 10 years old, since, hey… it’s my game! I go first!
These methods still exist, but the last five-or-so years there’s been a virtual explosion of alternative methods. These days you decide who will go first by referencing some fact or other about the players around the table
The question is A) are they really all that different and original? B) what impact does it have on our games? and C) what the hell is going on?
I’d argue that they are all more or less the same. You find out some fact about the players to get at who is going first. This could be anything from comparing physical attributes to personal details about origin, habits, health, work, living place e.t.c.
The arguments against these methods could be that not everyone wants to be scrutinized to see if they have more almond-shaped eyes than everyone else. The game might cross a line and become too personal if the starting player is the one who last visited a doctor.
Some of the geographical criteria easily falls flat: Who was the last player to visit an island if the game is actually played on Manhattan… or in our case Hisingen? Or who last was underground, when we’re always playing in my basement…
Another reason not to like these methods might be that there is an in game advantage to go first or last in a game. And if the same group plays the game multiple times normally the same person will go first. The meta-game will then be to remember this, and have a seat at the table accordingly, if you happen to know that it’s better to go last for instance. This way lies madness.
Why then? Why do this instead of rolling dice?
I believe that the sole purpose of this, silly humour and all, is that the rule ask the players to chit-chat / interact to come up with a “winner”, instead of blindly throwing dice. This is warm up. The banter can start straight away and if you belong to a group that know each-other well, you’ll probably start the name calling right around the time someone goes; “I visited another town this morning!” And if you are playing with strangers you might actually get to know them better if the player born in the smallest town should start the game.
In short it prompts table talk and social interaction.
So do we like it? Do we hate it? Is it silly? Do we ignore these rules and roll a die anyway? Or do we just run a “roshambo“? Let us know in the comments.
What game uses the following trait/fact to determine first player? (these are all real examples with at least one game using this rule)
- The person who has been the deepest below the surface of the ocean.
- The person with the pointiest ears.
- The last person who was ill.
- The last person who visited an Island.
- The person born in the smallest town.
- The last person who visited a different town.
- The last person who was underground.
- The person with the most almond shaped eyes.
- The most aggressive person.
- The person with the most facial hair.