19 Quick and Fun Games to Decide Who Goes First

It may seem a bit counter-intuitive to play a game to decide who goes first in another game. Because who goes first in the game where you decide who goes first?!

Good question! The trick is to play a game where it doesn’t matter who goes first because the game is based on luck, bluffing or everyone plays simultaneously.


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pawns on a black box

Just think how many more games you could play each year if you could choose who goes first more quickly!

Games specifically made to decide who goes first

Yes, there are specific games to decide who goes first! Here are 3 of them.

1. Go First Dice

Number of players: 2-4
Time to play: 10 seconds

Are you tired of rolling regular dice to see who goes first but keep getting duplicates? Then you need a set of Go First Dice. They are a mathematically beautiful invention by Eric Harshbarger.

It’s a set of 4 dice where each player can roll a different dice. But this dice set is very special.

From Eric Harshbarger’s site:

There will never be ties.

Each possible ordering of the players (determined by highest result, next highest result, etc) has a mathematically equal chance of occurring.

The above conditions hold for every subset of the whole set.

www.Ericharshbarger.com

If you like rolling dice as a method of choosing who goes first, but don’t like the re-rolls, then check out Go First Dice at www.erichashbarger.org

2. Start Player

Number of players: Any
Time to play: 10 seconds – 5 minutes

If you just want some guidance on how to decide, but don’t really mind the criteria, then Start Player might be the game for you.

The game has a deck of 54 cards each with a fun way to decide who goes first. To decide who goes first, just choose a card and it will tell you who the Start Player is. Some card examples:

  • The player who has the most freckles is the Start Player
  • The player who has the coolest cell phone is the Start Player
  • The player who has most recently done yoga is the Start Player

With some of the cards the decision is instant, with others you may have a fun debate to decide who goes first. Or, you could just draw another card.

Check out Start Player on Amazon.

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If you like the fun ways to choose who goes first, such as, ‘Who looks most like a Goblin?’ and ‘Who most recently visited a castle?’ then check out my post on 180+ Fun Who Goes First Ideas From Board Games Rules.

3. Start Player Express

Number of players: Any
Time to play: 10 seconds – 5 minutes

Based on the same premise as Start Player, Start Player Express uses dice instead of cards to decide who goes first. The game includes four six-sided dice in different colours. All the dice are rolled together to give the criteria for deciding who goes first.

Some combinations which might come up are:

  • Lowest age
  • Largest ears
  • Most buttons

It comes down to preference, do you want to draw a card or roll a dice?

Play a short game to decide who goes first

Short games can be a good way to decide who goes first. So that you don’t get stuck in the, ‘But who goes first in the game to decide who goes first?’ never-ending spiral, then use a game where it doesn’t matter who goes first.

Use a game that’s either based on luck or bluffing instead of strategy, or a game where all the players start at the same time.

4. Liar’s Dice

Number of players: 2-6
Time to play: 15-30 minutes

Liar’s Dice is a very common game that anyone can play at home. It’s a famous game that’s in the public domain which is also known as Call My Bluff, Bluff, Doubter’s Dice, Deception Dice and lots of other names.

To play the Liar’s Dice variation, each player has 5 dice and a cup or a mug to hide them in.

Each player rolls their dice and keeps them hidden under the mug. Each player then declares what they think the results of everyone’s dice rolls were. For example, “There are five sixes.” Players keep making higher bids, “There are seven sixes”. Eventually, someone challenges a bid.

At that point, all the dice are shown and whoever was closest to the number of dice (bidder or caller) wins the round. The loser loses their dice. The game continues into more short rounds until only one person has dice left.

As a public domain game, there are many different rule variations. The second most common is that players only declare the dice values they have rolled, instead of the values for the whole group.

Take a look at how many variant’s of Liar’s Dice there are on Amazon!

4. Skull

Skull discs pink
The pink discs and play mat from Skull

Number of players: 3-6
Time to play: 15-45 minutes

Skull (also known as Skull and Roses) is a bluffing game with beautiful artwork. It’s a great game to decide who goes first.

Each player is given a play mat and a set of 4 discs – 3 discs contain a flower and 1 disc contains a skull. Each player takes it in turns to play a disc face down on their mat. When someone is ready, they announce how many flowers they can name. Other plays can choose to outbid them and call a higher number.

The highest bidder then has to flip over than many discs (including their own) to find the number of flowers they announced. If they hit a skull, however, they lose the round and one of their discs. The person who completes two successful challenges wins the game.

The box suggests up to 4 minutes for a game, but it has never taken that long with my group, even when there are 6 of us playing.

Skull is a fun, tense game of bluffing and poker faces. (even I enjoy it and I’m not a fan of bluffing games!).

See what other people are saying about Skull on Amazon.

5. Coup

Coup cards and chips
Coup cards and chips

Number of players: 2-6
Time to play: 15 minutes

Coup is a classic game among our gaming friends. It’s a bluffing game where each player is given two role cards at the beginning of the game. They keep these roles secret from the other players.

Each role can perform different actions in the game. For example, the duke can take 3 coins from the bank.

Each turn, players can either do the actions that are on their role cards or do the actions of another role and pretend they have that card.

At any point, a player can challenge the action of another player. When challenged, the player must prove they had the card with that role or they lose the challenge. Players might choose not to reveal that role (even if they have it) if they want to.

If at any point a player has 10 coins they must perform a coup on another player and force them to remove one of their role cards. When a player is out of cards, they are out of the game. The last player with cards wins the game.

Coup is an intense quick game to choose a first player. Because it only contains cards and some cardboard chips, it is pretty cheap to buy too.

Check out the current price of Coup on Amazon.

6. Sushi Go!

Sushi Go cards
The cards in Sushi Go!

Number of players: 2-5
Time to play: 15 minutes

In Sushi Go! Everyone starts simultaneously, so you don’t need to dice who goes first in this game! As a big fan of kawaii, I love how Sushi Go! looks. Every card has little sushi related pictures on them such as maki rolls, sashimi and chopsticks and they all have cute little faces.

Every player is given a starting set of cards which they must not show to other players. Everyone selects one card from the set and places it face down on the table in front of them. When everyone has selected their card, all the cards are flipped over and everyone passes their hand to the player on their left.

At the end of the round, points are added up, all cards except the pudding cards are put into the discard pile, and everyone is dealt new cards. 2 more rounds are players and scored. Puddings are scored at the end of the game. The person with the highest score wins.

I love Sushi Go! It is so light-hearted and happy that it puts everyone in a good mood for the next game.

Check out the awesome bento style tin Sushi Go! comes in on Amazon.

7. Cthulhu Dice

Recommended number of players: 2-6
Time to play: 5 minutes

A fun little Cthulhu Mythos-themed dice game.

There’s one 12 sided dice with the symbols you would expect from a Cthulhu game – Elder Signs, tentacles and the Eye of Horus. Each player is given a number of glass tokens to represent their sanity. If a player loses all their tokens (or marbles!) then they are out of the game.

Players roll the dice and hope for a good result – like making other players lose sanity or taking it from them for themselves. If the dice lands on Cthulhu then all players lose sanity!

The last person to stay sane wins. If everyone goes crazy, then Cthulhu wins!

Check out the price of Cthulhu Dice on Amazon.

8. Zombie Dice

zombie dice game

Number of players: 2-99 (but 2-8 works well!)
Time to play: 10 minutes

Zombie Dice is exactly as the name sounds. You play as a Zombie rolling dice! You want to roll as many lovely braaains as you can without getting hit!

On your turn, you roll 3 dice from the tumbler. The dice will land on one of three symbols. 

  • Brain – you’ve eaten the brains of that person and you get a point. 
  • Footsteps – the person ran away so you get to reroll.
  • Impact – you’ve been hit! Get hit three times and you lose all your points!

After you’ve rolled your three dice you can choose to push your luck and roll 3 more to get more brains! 

The person with the most brains wins the game!

Check the price of Zombie Dice on Amazon.

9. Ooga Booga

Number of players: 3-6
Time to play: 10 minutes

You remember that game where someone starts by saying: ‘I went to the shop and I bought…” Then player 2 goes and says, “I went to the shop and I bought (whatever player 1 bought) and (whatever player 2 decides)”. You keep going around the table, the list gets longer and longer until someone messes up the list and they are out of the game.

Well, Ooga Booga, works like that game but its more fun! It’s set in the caveman days and each player is given a hand of cards with sounds or actions on. Cards like, “Atrrr” for fire or “Buga” for moose.  

Players take it in turns to add a card to the centre of the table, but each time they do they must repeat all the actions and sounds on all the other cards in the order they were played – until they mess up or get through them all and shout “Ooga Booga!”. It’s a silly game to decide who goes first that’s over in 10 minutes.

Play a meeples game

many meeples
Meeples in assorted colours

I love meeples! They are so cute and fun to play with. It’s why I wrote this article all about meeples.

Anyway, there are plenty of games you can play with meeples to help you decide who goes first. The only limit to the number of players the meeple games work for, is how many different coloured meeples you have!

10. Choose a meeple

Collect a meeple from each player. Put them all in a bag and pick one out. That player goes first.

Variations on this – you could hold the meeples in your hands and have another player close their eyes and select one. Or turn around and select one with their hand behind their back.

11. Shake the meeples

Inspired by Wil Wheaton on Tabletop, you could put all the meeples in your hands and just shake your hands until a meeple drops out. Whoever’s meeple that is, goes first.

12. Flick the meeples

This one’s quite fun, but more skill based than luck. Each person gets their meeples and flicks it across the table. The meeple closest to the end of the table (but not on the floor!) is the winner.

You could have people flick their meeples towards something on the table instead and whoever is closest goes first.

This is good for determining turn order too from closest to furthest away.

13. Standing meeple

This one is fun and luck based too. Everyone takes a meeple and drops it onto the table. The first person to have a meeple land standing up is the winner.

If it’s taking a long time, then people could drop multiple meeples at once to speed it up. Or you could roll the meeples instead – they may have more chance of standing up!

14. Stack the meeples

blue meeple stack
Stacked blue meeples

Do what everyone loves to do with meeples – stack them! Who can stack their meeples the highest and the fastest? If everyone in your group is a very experienced meeple stacker, then make it so that the meeple stack can only have one meeple at the bottom!

15. Spin the meeple

A way cuter take on Spin the Bottle. Spin a meeple around and whoever its head points at goes first.

Hand games

No dice or meeples required for these next three games to decide who goes first!

16. The remainder game

A simple and quick game to decide who goes first. To play the remainder game:

  1. Starting at 0, give each player a number
  2. Count to three
  3. Each player holds out a number of fingers
  4. Add up the number of fingers held out
  5. Divide the total by the number of players
  6. The player with that number goes first

17. Rock, Paper, Scissors (Lizard, Spock)

A school playground classic, Rock, Paper, Scissors (Rochambeau) is a quick and fun game to decide who goes first.

On the count of 3, each player makes a shape with their hand.

  • Rock – A clenched fist
  • Paper – A flat hand
  • Scissors – Makes the shape of scissors by extending index and middle fingers and tucking other fingers in

In a two player game:

  • Paper covers rock
  • Scissors cut paper
  • Rock breaks scissors

In a group game, the player to hold out the most unique shape wins. If there are two players who choose the same thing, they stay on and play another round. For example, 3 rocks, 1 paper, 1 scissors. The players who chose paper and scissors would go on to play another round. The winner of that round starts the next game.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock

For a nerdy twist on Rock, Paper, Scissors you can add in the moves of Spock and lizard. Lizard and Spock mean there are a few more rules to remember, but in a larger group, having more choices can lead to more unique choices in the group. The modified rules are:

  • Scissors cut paper
  • Scissors cut lizard
  • Paper covers rock
  • Paper disproves Spock
  • Rock crushes lizard
  • Rock breaks scissors
  • Spock smashes scissors
  • Spock vaporizes rock
  • Lizard poisons Spock
  • Lizard eats paper

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock, was seen on an episode of The Big Bang Theory, where Sheldon and Raj play it to settle an argument about what to watch on TV.

18. Highest unique number

From starting player rules of Among Nobles comes the highest unique number game.

On the count of 3, every player holds out their hands with a number of fingers raised. The player who goes first is the person with the highest number of fingers not matched by anyone else. For example, if the number of fingers was 5,5,4,4,2, the player who held up 2 fingers would go first.

If you have more than 5 players then people can use both hands! If you have more than 10 players then use another game!

Classic dice roll

Rolling a dice is the classic short game to decide who goes first.

19. Keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’

dnd dice set
Dungeons and Dragons dice set with D20 in the centre

Everyone rolls the dice and the person who rolls the highest number goes first. Ideally, roll a twenty-sided dice or two six-sided dice to minimize the chance that two people will roll the same number.

Another method is that you each choose a number, then a roll dice closest to the number of players. For example, a six-sided dice for 5 players. Then whoever’s number it lands on, that person goes first. You may need to roll a couple of times if it lands on a number that doesn’t belong to anyone.

Let the games begin!

So there you have it, 19 games to decide who goes first in your next game.

You could also use a free app to decide who goes first. I found 8 great options and shared them in this article – 8 Free Apps To Choose Who Goes First – Fair and Random.

Have fun!

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Emily Sargeantson
Hi, I’m Emily, the tabletop gamer behind My Kind of Meeple. If this article helped you, I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.

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