First Player Advantages

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The advantageous effect of being the first player to do actions.

In games where players take turn making moves it is often advantageous to be the first to move. These First Player Advantages can be acknowledged parts of games or be mitigated by providing other players with other types of advantages.


Chess and Go are traditional Board Games with perfect information where the presence of First Player Advantages are well-recognized and compensated for by letting players play multiple matches and switch sides - Go has the komi rule to mitigate the advantage but does nonetheless let players play both sides when meeting other players in tournaments. For the game Hex it has been proved that the first player always has a winning strategy although an efficient way of finding this strategy has not yet been developed[1].

More modern Board Games, e.g. Puerto Rico and Dominant Species, do have First Player Advantages when it comes to choosing actions but balance these by providing other advantages to the players that do not start. Egizia and Ursuppe modulate the effect of the advantages by changing who goes first each turn depending on their scores; Agricola, Caylus, and Dominant Species let players change this by choosing explicit actions.

Using the pattern

First Player Advantages is a natural consequence of Turn Taking but may be an unwanted one since it disrupts Player Balance. For this reason, games may wish to counter these advantages with various Balancing Effects. Two specific Balancing Effects are worth mentioning since they relate more directly to turn order sequences. The first is having Varying Turn Orders since this distributes the advantages over the players. The second is Back-to-Back Game Sessions since this removes the advantages by having games be played several times with different starting players (this assumes that no other advantages such as knowing about Surprises are gained by playing the games several times and that learning effect are equal).

If any, the modifications done to adjust First Player Advantages may need to be applied recursively since second players in a turn order may have advantages on following players in similar fashions as first players, etc.

While Turn Taking is the main cause of First Player Advantages, a more specific cause for it includes Drafting Spreads.

Interface Aspects

First Player Tokens may be useful as Game State Indicators in games with Varying Turn Orders but that still have First Player Advantages. This since keeping track of who is the current starting player is more complex while still being important.


Not too surprising, First Player Advantages affects Startgame phases. As mentioned above, First Player Advantages disrupts Player Balance unless countered since it introduces Asymmetric Starting Conditions.


Can Instantiate

Asymmetric Starting Conditions

Can Modulate


Can Be Instantiated By

Drafting Spreads, Turn Taking

Can Be Modulated By

Balancing Effects, First Player Tokens, Varying Turn Orders

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Back-to-Back Game Sessions, Player Balance


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Wikipedia entry for the game Hex, including a general proof that the first player has a winning strategy.