i just got my 100 games played trophy .. with only 53 wins, but that is enough to be in the top 65.
first player can definitely be advantageous if there are a couple of masters in the starting labour pool, and an efficient building for them to build with only 2 actions. however, player 2 (in a 2p game) has the advantage of ending the game immediately if they get to 17 on their turn.
in my opinion, what players need to do is to pay attention to the areas of strength of your opponent. if they have picked up 2 masters and a quad craftsman on their first turn, you are definitely behind. but if you can pick off the 3 highest coin / vp buildings from the pool (and if you are lucky with the building draw), you can force them to waste actions gathering up lower coin / vp buildings where the masters would be pricey to assign. of course, you could also end up never getting any worker combos that will allow you to build the buildings yourself .. so it's a gamble.
in games with more than 2 players .. you can't really block everyone, so you should mostly just be focused on denying the easiest vps to the person playing immediately after you. it is pretty challenging being the 4th player in a 4p game - you definitely need a bit of luck to win from that position.
a variant that might work ? each player on their first turn only gets 1 action. that would allow subsequent players to block the master + corresponding master combo that is currently heavily overpowered for p1.
another thing the BGA devs could do is track the player number of the winners of each game, and see if there is a consistent pattern, the way they did with Noir: Inspector v Killer.