Is the “snake” turn order for Blokus fairer than the traditional turn order?

My friends and I play pretty much everyday. I was wondering if a snake order is actually more fair than the traditional 1-4 with the last person being at a disadvantage.

Snake turn order would have players go in the order 1,2,3,4,4,3,2,1,1,2,3,4...

• Please provide more details, maybe "snake order" is common terminology, but I don't know what it means. – GendoIkari Aug 26 '14 at 18:27
• @GendoIkari Short version: rather than taking turns 123412341234 etc., the turn order goes 123443211234 etc. The idea is to even out positions so that moving first isn't the permanent advantage that it often is. (Snake isn't perfect either, but trying to use something like a Thue-Morse sequence to determine play order is going awfully deep.) – Steven Stadnicki Aug 26 '14 at 18:57
• Hi Steven - can you please elaborate on the Thue-Morse sequence? We have the debate all of the time on how to best determine the fair order. Also, do you think the Snake is better than just taking turns? Is there an inherent advantage for the people that get to go twice? Thanks! – Zach Aug 26 '14 at 21:12
• @Zach Unfortunately, I don't have a good enough feel for Blokus to understand the specific implications of snaking in the context of this game specifically, which is why I haven't answered. :-) As for Thue-Morse, have a look at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thue–Morse_sequence#Equitable_sequencing for some explanation of why it's considered to make for a 'fair' turn order. – Steven Stadnicki Aug 27 '14 at 15:00

I would say not. The advantage to those on the ends of being able to place multiple pieces consecutively is far greater than the disadvantage of going last in this game, IME.

First, the single most successful opening strategy is to get across the board as fast as you can, so you don't end up boxed in to your corner of the board. It's been my experience that even with perfect play by the players immediately to the left and right of any one player, it is impossible to effectively "corral" a knowledgeable player attempting to do this, because even if all three other players reach the center first, they will be unable to stop a concerted effort by the player they're attempting to corral to "squeeze out" through one of the gaps left by the other players in their mad dash to the center. A player typically ends up corralled when they focus on building a compact arrangement of pieces in their own quadrant, and that's such a basic strategic mistake that the game designers saw fit to advise against it in the one-page instruction manual.

Second, the snake arrangement is typically most equitable when the style of the game is such that any player could make exactly the same move, and would want to make that move about as much as any other player, and so an arbitrary decision of who can make the most desirable move in the round or game is perceived as unjustly biased. "Draft"-style decisions, such as worker-placement games, are an obvious example that typically benefit most from a variable player order of some kind. Catan's another common example; the last player to place their first settlement is the first player to place their second, allowing them to choose a pair of locations that work well together, compensating for the disadvantage of having the worst first pick.

Blokus is not that type of game; the number of situations in which two players can make exactly the same move, and the move would be equally advantageous to either player, are sharply limited overall, despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary. Even in those cases, it's very rare that the two players would see equal advantage from the move, as while the piece to be played might be exactly the same, the places the player could go based on that move are likely different.

Given these two points, the advantage conferred on the last player (and eventually the first player) in a snake turn order is enormous; in this game, being able to play two pieces consecutively is like being able to move two pieces on the same turn in chess. You get the opportunity to make a coordinated sequence of moves, and in this game that often creates a far larger advantage than the disadvantage you would have by going last.

• I'll add that in a snake order, the first player will also get two consecutive moves, so the relative advantage of the 1st or 4th player is going to be hugely dependent on the odd/even parity of moves to get to the middle and start blocking people off by placing two pieces simultaneously. – Hao Ye Aug 27 '14 at 21:37

"Snake Order" isn't that common in games, because getting 2 turns in a row is often a massive advantage. Usually the first player advantage is dealt with by rotating the starting player, so I'd suggest you try that.

Player order would be 1,2,3,4,2,3,4,1,3,4,1,2,4,1,2,3 then back to 1,2,3,4.