In several reviews and forum threads on Android, I've seen people commenting that it's somehow disadvantageous to be the first player. I've even seen comments like, "In an entire game, no one will ever visit the Scene of the Crime, because nobody wants to be first. We just laugh at the guy who got stuck with the first player marker and can't get rid of it!"
Now the advantages to being first player aren't huge, so I'm sure that for many players the time necessary to visit the Scene of the Crime won't be worth missing out on other opportunities. But in what way is being the first player a bad thing? Why wouldn't someone want to be the first player, and gain the small but potentially significant advantages it brings, if he could?
Admittedly I haven't player Android yet (I should be playing this Wednesday), so perhaps the answer will be obvious once I do; but from the reading the rules I can't find a single meaningful disadvantage to going first.
The player who goes first will:
- Have priority over everyone else when playing cards in response to some event. If two players want to play dark cards in response to an opponent's move, only the player closest to being first player will get to play his card.
- Have first crack at any opportunities presented by Event cards for the new day. Often Event cards will offer some significant opportunity to "the first (and only the first) player to do X". All other things being equal, the closer a player is to being first player, the better his chances of being the one and only player to benefit.
- Have first crack at any leads during the Climax. Once the final two days begin, only one player can follow up each lead before it is removed from the board. All other things being equal, the closer a player is to being first player, the better his chances of being the only player who can grab a given lead.
- And, although this benefit will mostly disappear by the second day, the first player will typically have the least trouble with dark cards during the first day of the game. When the first player takes his first turn, there will normally be only a single dark card that could possibly be played on him (held by the player to his right), since no one has yet taken a turn and had the chance to draw more dark cards. Whereas, the later in the turn order a player falls, the more chances there will have been for other players to draw more dark cards and hit him with more problems on his first turn.
The only disadvantages I can think of to being first player are, at best, minor and situation-relative:
- Placing the very first puzzle pieces is probably not very useful. It's probably better to place your pieces after some others have already been placed. However, any disadvantage this might mean for the first player will probably disappear by the second or third day since other players have likely placed pieces of their own. Plus, it's not as if the first player has to place anything on his first turn or two if he doesn't wish to do so.
- If you take the first player marker by visiting the Scene of the Crime, your next turn might be slightly hindered if you were previously late in the turn order; since you may have dark shifted on your previous turn by playing light cards yet, now going first, you won't have the normal number of opportunities to play dark cards in order to light shift back. This, however, is (1) a fairly small issue, (2) is unlikely to be an issue unless the player was previously late in the turn order, and (3) never applies to the player who begins the game as first player.
- And probably the biggest disadvantage (but still a small and situation-relative one), is that the earlier a player has to act during the final day or two, the less certain he can be when acting about the final scores of the other players. The later a player acts, however, the more scores he can see nearly-finalised before taking his own turn - making him better able to decide how he might squeeze out the last few points necessary for a win. However, even though this might be a disadvantage for the players acting earlier, I expect it is at least partly offset by the earlier players' ability to snag the remaining leads before they disappear during the climax. And regardless, this disadvantage, such as it is, is relevant only during the very last days of the game - it doesn't exist at all for the great bulk of the game.
So why wouldn't a player want to be first player? How does being first hurt him more than it helps him?