Who gets the first turn in a Tabletop Game is often an important question, since the first player to move usually has an advantage (or, in some cases, a disadvantage) over others. In most games, the starting player is determined randomly (e.g. with a dice roll) or based on some in-game criterion (such as white always going first in chessnote ), and card games often have a dealer, with play starting with the player on the dealer's left and continuing clockwisenote but some instead base this decision on a criterion extrinsic to the game itself: the characteristics of the participating players, the circumstances the game is played under, who owns it, etc.
Interestingly, after the first player is somehow decided upon, the second player is rarely given much thought, with the turns usually just going (counter-)clockwise around the table. Contrast Action Initiative, where an in-game stat determines the turn order.
A subtrope of Paradiegetic Gameplay.
Examples of actual game rules:
Ownership of the game
- Munchkin rules seem to suggest that the players roll dice and have a heated argument about what the roll results mean and who should go first now, with the owner of the game having the final word.
- In the card game Nuclear War and the expansion Nuclear Escalation, the owner of the game goes first.
- In Story War, each battle is refereed by a different player in turn, and the owner of the game referees the first battle.
- In the board game The Downfall of Pompeii (Pompeii for short), the dealer is the person who owns the game—and the game starts with the player to the dealer's left.
- A lot of games, particularly ones for children, let the youngest player go first.
- Attacktix, a set of action figures from Star Wars, the Transformers and Marvel Comics, has this rule.
- In Flash Point: Fire Rescue, being a cooperative game, lets the players determine who goes first arbitrarily but suggests that the youngest player opens the game in absence of better options.
- In Shadows over Camelot, the first turn always belongs to King Arthur, but if he is not in play, the youngest player opens the game.
- Inverted in Kingdom Builder, where the oldest player at the table goes first.
- Shadow Hunters lets the youngest player go first too.
- The board game Tsuro also inverts it, as the oldest player goes first in a "respect your elders" sort of gesture.
- In Fiasco, the first scene belongs to the player who grew up in the smallest town.
- The board game Cranium has the player whose birthday is coming up next go first.
- The Harry Potter CCG has the person whose birthday is closest to July 31stnote go first.
- The Norse mythology miniatures area-control game Bloodrage optionally suggests having the player born most northward geographically go first.
- In Ticket to Ride, the most-travelled player goes first, though what this means is open to interpretation.
- Gone To Hell, Penguin King Games's under-development DOOM (2016)-inspired tabletop RPG, suggests that the first player to spend some time being the Slayer could be decided based on who owns the most metal albums.
Players' physical appearance
- In Takenoko, the tallest player goes first.
- In the storytelling card game Once Upon a Time, the rule for starting is that the dealer draws and immediately discards a single card, and whichever player most resembles the character depicted on the card goes first.
- Some versions of the game instead leave it to the owner of the game to decide which method to use, but suggest oldest, youngest, or "as is traditionalat least among bearded game designers" the player with the longest beard. Another suggested method is for everyone to draw a card, and the player with the card closest to the start of the alphabet (ignoring "A" and "The") goes first.
- In Small World, the player with the pointiest ears goes first.
- In Aquarius, the player with the longest hair goes first.
- ...and in Q-Turn, by the same designers, the baldest player goes first.
- In the French card game The Grizzled, the first Mission Leader is the "hairiest" player. This is because the game's original title is Les Poilus, which more literally translates as "The Hairies" and was a slang term for French infantrymen in World War I.
- In Hanabi, the player currently wearing the most colorful clothing goes first.
- Tapeworm suggests the player who looks most like a worm go first. It may just be having fun with itself, since it then says failing that, choose randomly.
The player who most recently...
- The junior version of Clue has the player who ate cake most recently go first. Since in this version the murder is replaced by a cake theft, it is at least somewhat related to the game.
- Portal has the player who ate cake most recently go first, relating to the theme of "the cake is a lie" from the video game.
- In some versions of Pandemic, the player who was most recently sick begins the game (in others, it's the player who has in-game access to the city with the highest population, which is not this trope).
- Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu has the player who most recently read a scary story go first.
- Cards Against Humanity: The player who most recently went to the toilet is the first Card Czar, who draws the first question card and judges the other player's responses during the first round.
- In Smallworld: Underground, the player who most recently visited a cave or went into a cellar goes first.
- In Sailing to India, the player who has most recently sailed on a ship goes first.
- The rules of Lords of Waterdeep state that the player who most recently visited another city should go first.
- In the card game Metagame, the player who most recently finished reading a book is the first critic.
- In Forbidden Desert, the player who is thirstiest goes first.
- In Council of Verona, the first turn belongs to the player who most recently stood on a balcony of any sort.
- In Love Letter, the player who most recently went on a date starts the game. If two players are tied (e.g. because they went out with each other), though, the younger one goes first.
- Smash Up: In the original rules, the player who woke up earliest that morning goes first. The Bigger Geekier Box rulebooknote parodies the trope by stating that player who was most recently abducted by an alien, or failing that the player who was most recently shanghaied by a pirate, or failing that the player who was most recently bitten by a vampire, or... (several more improbable circumstances) goes first. If nobody meets any of the listed criteria, the rules say you'll just have to figure out who goes first on your own.
- Catbirynth has the player who has most recently seen a black cat go first. Leads to problems if the family's black cat decides to check out what's happening and jumps onto the table.
- In Sagrada the player who most recently visited a cathedral goes first.
- Red Dragon Inn starts with the player who most recently drank. Cue discussions of if "that sample of wine at Olive Garden" counted.
- The First Auctioneer token in QE goes to the player who most recently visited a bank. (It doesn't say if a credit union counts.)
- The rules of the viking-themed boardgame Champions of Midgard state that the player who most recently won glory on the battlefield goes first. What constitutes glory is left up to the players to decide.
- In Harbour, the player who most recently travelled by boat goes first.
- In Castlevania: Nocturne of the Tabletop, the rules say to have the first player be the, player who has most recently been bitten by a vampire bat, mosquito, or other blood-sucking creature. (Or agree on a slightly less stupid way of deciding the first player, your call.)
- Regicide parodies this by having the player who most recently committed regicide go first.
Circumstances the game is played under
- In Betrayal at House on the Hill, each of the playable characters has a birthday, and the player whose character's birthday would be next in real time goes first.
- In Chrononauts, everyone guesses the current time, and whoever guessed closest goes first.
- The player with the most real-life tangible cash on hand goes first in Sheriff of Nottingham.
- In Gloom, the player who has had the most miserable day takes the first turn. Ownership is used as a tie breaker if all players are equally miserable.
- Dominion: whoever scored lowest in the previous game gets to go first; otherwise order is determined randomly.
- In the asdfmovie-themed card game Muffin Time, the player who suggested playing the game goes first (since they're probably a Control Freak).
- Solving this problem is the entire point of the card game Start Player, which is played by drawing one card from its deck and following its directions. The "winner" goes first in the actual game being played. Most every conceivable rule is covered in the deck, and if there is a tie (or a dispute) the card is discarded and a new one is drawn.
- Here Kitty Kitty starts with the player who owns the most cats.
- An edition of Monopoly based on The Avengers - not the one to coincide with Avengers: Endgame, but an earlier one with a round board, not the conventional square one - starts with the player who is most like The Incredible Hulk. The instruction leaflet gives no details on how to determine this.
- Trogdor!! The Board Game gives a few different suggestions for how to decide who goes first. The rulebook itself suggests doing so randomly, while Strong Bad's written additions suggest deciding by "longest nose hair, brownest shoes, or coolest consonant cluster in their name".
- As James of Loading Ready Run discovered in an episode of their AFK stream, Mechs Vs Minions states in its rules that the "first player goes first".
- The player with the most cavities goes first in Sugar Heist.
Creative House Rules featured in other media:
- Table Top:
- The page quote comes from the King of Tokyo episode (starring Wil Wheaton, TotalBiscuit, Wheezy Waiter and Greg Zeschuk), where the players agree to scrap the mechanic of using dice rolls to determine the first player, in favor of letting Greg go first on the grounds that out of the four of them, he has the most impressive beard.
- In the Pandemic episode, they modified the default rule to start with the player who fell prey to the worst disease, not the most recent.
- In the Tiny Epic Galaxies episode, Wil scraps the rule that the youngest player goes first (since all the players are roughly the same age), and instead asks the players who was most recently pretending they were in outer space.
- Inverted in an episode where Wil throws out one game's rule of the person who makes the most money goes first, finding the rule distasteful.
- In the King of Tokyo episode of Table Flip, Suzie proposes that the player who can make the cutest Kaiju roar goes first. The other players agree, and ProJared's roar is deemed cutest.
- Parodied by the website Don't Go First, which compiles terrible ways of determining the first player, such as "whoever most recently peed in a pool goes first". However, clicking the word "worst" switches the site to a more wholesome one with suggestions like "whoever brought the best snacks goes first".