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Extrinsic Go-First Rule

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"When you find yourself at a gaming table with three other men in possession of magnificent beards, one must determine by 'beard-off' who goes first."

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.

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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.
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Players' backgrounds

  • 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, 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.
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  • The Harry Potter CCG has the person whose birthday is closest to July 31stnote  go first.
  • The miniatures area-control game Bloodrage suggests deciding first player by who was born the most northward geographically. Since the theme is straight-up Norse mythology, this makes a degree of sense.

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 traditional—at 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.

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 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.

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.

Other Means

  • 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.

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.
    • 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.

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