The First and Last Turns

In games there is always the problems of who goes first and who ends the game. For going first players might have an advantage over their competition simply by setting the paces while the last person may be able to decide the game in that final turn. Thus it is important to look at how some games have mitigated these issues in more depth and how they have been addressed.

First turn advantage is a common occurrence seen most starkly in games where there are only 2 players such as abstract games like Go, Chess, Tak, and Hearthstone. From a mechanical standpoint, in many games the player who goes first has pieces on the board or a slightly more advanced position (due to going first) over their opponents. There are a couple of ways games have worked to counter this problem, the first is to ignore it entirely since it is possible that the power difference is minimal. Chess for instance doesn’t really address the first turn discrepancy because the advantage is not too big to overcome. The second way to solve the first turn problem is to give a benefit to the other players. Go for instances gives some points to the second player to balance out the game while Hearthstone gives the second player an additional card in their hand and a special card that could give the second player an edge. Several other games like Splendor make sure that every player has the same number of turns meaning that even if the last player triggers the endgame, the game ends with the last player. The third option is to provide an alternative first turn. With Tak, there is an interesting mechanic that each player’s first move is with their opponent’s piece instead of theirs and then reverts back to normal play afterwards. This is intriguing since it takes the idea of the first turn being good and all of a sudden players must consider what would be worst for their opponents and then deal with what their opponents play.

The last turn in a game is also a potentially powerful position to be in a game and different games have done different things to address the potential problems that can arise. Contrary to the issues with the first turn, issues with the final turn can normally be seen in games with 3 or more people due to the number of people that can be dissatisfied with the result of the final turn/people who have to wait. Some of the problems that can be seen in a game that doesn’t address it is ca been seen with player dissatisfaction. It is not fun to watch as someone with the last turn steals the game away from the other players. Like with the first turn, games can either weaken the final turn by limiting options that can be done, power up the other turns by giving them additional power/options, or have unique rules to govern the endgame to mitigate the problem altogether.  In each of these cases the goal is to prevent most of the game being decided by who goes last.

This discussion also opens up questions about how do you start and end a game and will addressed another morning but for now as you play new games look at the options provided to the the first (and other) players and the options for the final player at the end of the game.
I hope you have a fantastic day and that you chew on these words this morning.