In an interview, Ben Brode (former Hearthstone game director) revealed that Hearthstone has very close to 50% win rate for both sides due to the coin and the extra card given to the person going second.

What techniques employed in other turn based games to try and even the probability of winning for the players?

  • 2
    The question solicits an open-ended list of answers, and is thus not a good fit for this site.
    – ikegami
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 20:11
  • @ikegami I feel that this question is in line with several other questions we have dealing with game design, such as this one
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 20:14
  • @GendoIkari So that leaves me the option of editing your question with one you missed (and I do have one in mind), or post a copy of yours with my addition. This is why recommendations and other open-ended lists are not allowed.
    – ikegami
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 20:15
  • @ikegami I agree that it can be difficult to decide those sort of things. This question seems to have done well with 1 reason per answer, with the "best" reason being accepted. While my first-linked question did well with having multiple items in 1 answer.
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 20:17
  • 1
    Perhaps the question can be re-worded to be more about game design, from the perspective of "what can I do in my game to eliminate or reduce first player advantage?"
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 20:23

1 Answer 1


There are many different options:

  • Hex uses the "swap rule", which states that after the start player makes his first move, the other player can decide to switch colors and play as if he were the start player and had made that move. This means that the start player must choose a move that's not obviously great (like going directly in the center).

  • Magic the Gathering has the player who takes the first turn skip his initial draw, so he starts with one less card. Certain types of decks prefer to still take the first turn, while others prefer to draw the extra card. Similarly, Innovation has the first player only take a half-turn on the first turn. Or the first 2 players in a 4 player game.

  • Dominion has the loser of a game go first in the next game. This only works when playing multiple games in a row with the same people; but it's designed to be played that way. Dominion also has the second player win tie games if the first player got an extra turn (if he was also the player who ended the game).

  • Many games give extra starting resources to players in later turn orders. Temporum, Castles of Burgundy, Agricola, and many others do this. Sometimes it is as simple as the start player receiving fewer than the rest, other times it is each player getting 1 more of something than the previous player. (So players will get 2, 3, 4, and 5 workers respectively in Castles of Burgundy).

    • Some games give later players a victory point bonus. Go and Castles of Mad King Ludwig do this. This can also overlap with the starting resources handicap in games where resources are directly converted to victory points at game end.
  • Many games only end when all players have had the same number of turns. Whether due to having a specific number of rounds, or having the game continue until the last player has a turn after the game-end has been triggered. Even in games like this, there may be a first player advantage, though there can also be a last-player advantages instead.

  • Catan evens out the setup by reversing the placement order in the second round of setup. In theory, this gives the initial player a great location and a poor location, while the last player gets two average locations. In this arrangement, the second last player might be in the worse position, because the last player has the advantage of placing twice in a row.

    • Some games don't try and balance first player advantage at all and instead rely on player politics to do so. These tend to be high luck games such as Munchkin or Fluxx.
  • There are also games where you do turns simultaneously. And in some games second player gets advantage in case of a tie or just straight up points bonus, like in Go. Oh, and there is Five Tribes and the like, where players bid for turn order.
    – Deo
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 21:19
  • Dungeon Twister sets limit on number of actions first player can do on first turn. It's not the same as having shortened turn, because in DT a player have a set of action cards he/she cycles through, so eventually both players get equal number of actions, first player just has to start with smallest one.
    – Deo
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 21:28
  • Also, there are asymmetrical games like Netrunner or Stronghold. In those balancing first turn becomes just a part of balancing sides in general.
    – Deo
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 21:30
  • Magic the Gathering is a poor example for this question, because the player who goes first still has a significant advantage over players who go second, to the point that it is correct in almost all scenarios to go first, aside from a handful of niche decks in older formats.
    – nick012000
    Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 5:06

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