So I've been noticing that there's a vogue in gaming recently for the starting player to be chosen by some method other than simple lot. I'm wondering if this is a good fashion, or if it's just getting silly. Here's a representative list of some of the starting-player-choosing mechanism I can think of off the top of my head:
- Youngest player first (e.g. St Petersburg)
- Player with the longest beard first (Once Upon A Time)
- Player with the pointiest ears (Small World)
- Most well-travelled player (Ticket To Ride)
- Nicest player (Dungeon Lords)
- Player who lives closest to water (Le Havre)
Others can probably add a few examples of their own. My question is: are any of these actually superior, on a long-term basis, to just choosing at random?
I do like "youngest player first" in games where the first player has an advantage, on the assumption that if you're playing with children it's nice to give them a little help - but on the other hand, if the youngest player at your table is in their 30s and a boardgames fanatic, the rule may end up hurting more than it helps.
Likewise, in Ticket To Ride the "best travelled-player" is charming to start with, but can get annoying as the same person who spent 3 months seeing Europe by train goes first forever. And this is before we get onto largely subjective quantities like ear-pointiness and niceness (in all fairness to Dungeon Lords, I think that's a joke and really you're meant to end up choosing the start player randomly). Are these rules mostly just there to be cute - and quickly ignored - or should be follow them religiously?
As a corollary question, are there any games that vary the starting player by means other than pure randomness? (I suddenly remember Gloom, where the player who's having the worst day goes first; but again this is really subjective.) Also, are there any games that have rules for fairly assigning seating order - since in some games sitting "upstream" of the correct player can be even more important than who goes first?