Gamer Janken, or How to Pick a First Player

This post is part of a collection on Games.

Gamer Janken (rock-paper-scissors) is a method of picking the first player that's often used at board game events in Japan.

by Irasutoya

At board game events you often go from table to table and play single games with strangers. Asking everyone's age gets tedious even if nobody gets upset at it, so there's a need for a means of determining first player quickly without equipment. In my experience this is a popular one.

It works like this:

  1. Everyone does rock-paper-scissors at once
  2. Everyone who picked the least popular answer wins
  3. If there is a tie for least popular, resolve using normal rules
  4. Repeat until only one person remains

This eliminates players very quickly, often finishing after two rounds in my experience.

To give some examples of resolution, using RPS as shorthand for the various options played by each player:

  1. RR PPP S → the S player wins because they're the minority
  2. RR PP SSS → R and P tie, so P players win and have a show off
  3. RR PP SS → it's a three way tie so everyone goes again

Similar janken variations have a history in Japan (known as 多い勝ち or 少ない勝ち depending on whether the minority or majority wins), though without the tiebreaker mechanic. One blog post from 2008 traces the name "gamer janken" and exact rules to 水曜日の会 "The Wednesday Club", an apparently defunct game group that met in Akihabara.

Next time you need to determine first player, it's a decent alternative to picking the youngest. Ψ