Who goes first? The age-old question in games. One of the reasons to actually reference the rules. Tabletop games have come a long way in the last few decades, and with that, the need to refine and improve mechanisms, including the one that determines start player, right??!

Gone are the days of “youngest first” because those gamers are now older, teaching new games. Making new games. So what are the most popular ways to do it these days?

I present a collection of start player mechanisms. (For purposes of categories, I’m assuming the same group and night of play). Pick your favorite and shout it out in the comments!



Ticket to Ride – most well travelled player begins
Dungeon Lords – nicest player begins
Gloom – the player who is having the worst day begins
Once Upon a time – player with the longest beard begins
Small World – player with the pointiest ears begins
Android – player who has read the most science fiction begins
Lift Off: Get Me Off This Planet – player with the best story about being stranded begins (or random dice roll)
Hanabi – player with most colorful clothing begins
Asking for Trobils – player most recently in space begins (or choose randomly)
Cartagena – player who looks most like a pirate begins
Mercante – last person to buy or sell something begins
Cthulhu Realms – player who has most recently gone insane begins
Lagoon – player who last visited a forest begins
K2 – the player to have most recently visited the mountains begins
Le Havre – player who lives closest to water begins
Harbour – player most recently on a boat begins
Queen’s Necklace – player with the nicest jewelry begins
Bomb Squad – player who has most recently played with a robot begins
Fearsome Floors – the player that looks most similar to the monster begins
Flip City – player who most recently flipped a table begins
Terra Mystica – the player who has mostly dug a planting bed in their garden begins
The Reef – player who can stay under water begins (If that cannot be determined now, the oldest player begins)
The Bridges of Shangri-La – Whoever has last reached the peak of Mount Everest using nothing but blue and white checkered stilts carved from the wood of a Mammoth tree begins (tie becomes wisest player begins)


Carcassonne – the youngest player chooses who begins
Fluxx – the boldest player begins
Forbidden Desert – thirstiest player begins
Mamma Mia! – hungriest player begins
Cards Against Humanity – player who most recently pooped begins
Kittens in a blender – the cattiest player begins
Terror in Meeple City – player who makes the best monster impression begins
Too Many Monkeys – player who makes the best monkey impression begins
Zerpang! – player who does the best impression of their starting class (Zombie, Elf, Robot, Pirate, Alien, Ninja or Gunslinger) begins



St. Petersburg – youngest player begins
Adventurers – youngest player begins
Citadels – oldest player begins with the crown
Nuclear War – the owner of the game begins
Pandemic – player most recently sick begins (this could change per game, but unlikely)
Stones of Fate – the player who most recently had a birthday begins
Lords of Waterdeep – player who has most recently visited another city begins
Love Letter – player most recently on a date begins (then youngest)
Smash Up – player who got up earliest in the morning begins
Blue Print – player who visited a construction site last begins
Aquarius – player with the longest hair begins
Trains – the player who most recently rode on a train begins
For Sale – the player who owns the largest house begins
Great Fire of London 1666 – the player who has most recently visited London begins
Corporate America – the player with the most money on their person begins
Sheriff of Nottingham – player to the Sheriff’s left begins (Sheriff determined by most money in their wallet)


Dominion – the player sitting to the left of the player that just won begins.
Chrononauts – whomever guesses the closest to the current time begins
Risk 2210 AD – blind bidding for start player, most bid begins
Gheos – the player who can go the longest without laughing begins
Animal Upon Animal – the player who can stand on one leg the longest begins
Jupiter Rescue – players cooperatively decide who should begin
Viticulture – oldest for game 1, but then fewest points in previous game begins
Chess – player with white pieces begins
Betrayal: The House on the Hill – character (not player) with the next listed birthday begins
Mahjong – the player sitting east most at the table begins (may not change, but it could)
Lanterns – the player receiving the red lantern (color of good fortune) due to position begins (hybrid with seating position and randomness)



Letter Tycoon – cut the deck, closest to Z begins
Scrabble – closest tile draw to A begins
Boomtown Bandits – spin the whiskey bottle – player it points to begins
What the Food?! – the person dealt the green relish target card begins
Hearts – whomever is dealt the 2 of clubs begins
Tichu – player dealt the “1” card begins
Evil Intent – highest roll of a die begins.
Eminent Domain – randomly deal out player aides, marked ‘start player’ begins
Imperial Settlers – randomly selected start player begins
Get Lucky – Lowest numbered character (out of 2 dealt per player) begins
Nevermore – players draw cards until a raven is revealed. That player begins
Mottanai – players flip cards over, card title closest to top of Alphabet begins
Aloha: Spirit of Hawaii – randomly selected start player begins
Skallywags – card draw, head or closest to ‘head’ body part drawn begins
BANG! – deal role cards, the player dealt the sheriff card begins
Caverna – randomly selected start player begins
Dominoes – highest double domino draw begins, or highest single point domino
Belfort – randomly selected start player begins
Through the Ages – randomly selected start player begins
Puerto Rico – randomly selected start player begins
The Settlers of Catan – highest roll on 2d6 begins
Powergrid – randomly selected start player begins
Wiz-War – randomly selected start player begins
Munchkin – players roll a die, (then argue about results and meaning of rules)


Shadow Throne – card drafting
Sushi Go – card drafting
Got It – puzzle solving – first to shout it
Amberden Affair – actions taken at same time per round
Twilight Struggle – USSR sets up first, but cards played simultaneously
Pit – trading cards
Diplomacy – negotiations
Set – puzzle solving – first to shout it

At Squirmy Beast, I’ve published three games, and all are “random and objective”, tied to a method that fits the game. Seems my preference is clear! Some other folks prefer silly, and others still just make house rules…


If you have a better idea than all of these, or if you have a method you use regardless of what the rules say, we want to hear it!


Jasmine pointed out this great article on Turn Order over at Games Precipice by Matt Pavlovich. It’s a good in depth look at early game structures, how turn order moves and if starting player matters.

Also, thanks to Nathan for rounding up some suggestions on Facebook in the Boardgame Group. I also found this geeklist by ‘Just call me Erik’ and this post on BG stack exchange that helped me grab some examples easily.