Anyone first

From IcehouseOrg
Jump to: navigation, search

In many games, it's not important who goes first. In that case, any mutually agreeable method can be used to determine the first player, or the order of play. Because pyramids don't readily offer the kind of randomness that dice, coins, and cards can easily provide, and because pyramid games tend to be a little more quirky than most, some games use unusual rules to decide.

Here are some suggested ways to decide, with their advantages and shortcomings.

Rock, Paper, Scissors (RPS)

The relevant wikipedia page also discusses variants with greater numbers of weapons, such as Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock. These reduce the chance of a tie, since ties are not desirable in simply determining who goes first (as opposed to the game use of ties in Pyramid Shambo).

  • Requires no special equipment
  • Can be improved upon with practice
  • Impractical for more than two players


Like RPS, nivinivinack is a quasi-random method for determining priority that works best for two-player games. It is also helpful for simultaneously deciding who will play with a given color or piece set, and it has traditionally been used that way for chess.

Random chance

This refers to using dice, coin-flipping, cutting a deck for the high card, drawing names from a hat, or whatever.

  • Generally fast and impartial
  • May be more trouble than it's worth for simple games, especially games which don't already use dice, coins, cards, or something similar.
  • With up to 5 players and a Treehouse set, you can use the pyramids:
    • Set aside a number of small pyramids equal to the number of players.
    • Designate one of the colors you set aside as the "start" color.
    • Without looking, mix the pyramids you set aside and give one to each player.
    • Whoever gets the designated color is the start player.


  • Martian Backgammon uses this method, with dice.
  • The starting player is chosen randomly in Homeworlds, in an unspecified manner.
  • The player to make the highest die roll starts a game of Blockade.

Arbitrary ranking

This is choosing playing order by an arbitrary factor, such as the player with the longest hair, most-recent birthday, greatest age, or lowest accumulated score.

  • Various short-term and long-term favoritism
  • Some discussion or calculation may be needed
  • Can be used with relatively large groups


  • In Volcano, the player who has been the closest to actual lava goes first (according to Andy).
  • The tallest player goes first in Pikemen.
  • The master of a Zendo game chooses the starting player.

Other Methods

  • Turnless games do not require a starting player to be chosen.
  • Gnostica uses a bidding system.
  • The 'caveman' player always starts the game in Ice Age.
  • The player to the left of the dealer starts a game of Pantopia.
  • The player with only two small stacks goes first in RGB.