Psychological Warfare: Fun Elimination Games
Mark Mistretta
United States
Lutz
Florida
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The purpose of this list to ignite a discussion on games that feature players getting eliminated until there is only 1 winner. While some people see player elimination as something to stay away from in game design, I am making the assertion that player elimination can be a good thing - in the right game.

Look at Poker for example. Texas Hold'em is a very popular game that features players getting eliminated. Werewolf (Mafia) is also extremely popular and the key mechanic is player elimination.

What makes an elimination game fun? I think it has to do with the tension that builds up, knowing that you could be out of the game at any moment and you have to watch the other players closely. It's the thrill of knocking out players instead of just playing until a victory condition is met.

So, what other games out there make player elimination fun?
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1. Board Game: Poker [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:893]
Mark Mistretta
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Love it or hate it, Poker has ingrained itself into American culture and is only getting more popular. Look at the multitude of online websites that have sprung up. It's appeal is in its simplicity and also (in my opinion), player elimination.

So how does the elimination aspect of the game rate?
Fun Factor:8 (out of 10) Knocking someone out is very satisfying especially if you catch them in a bluff or they think they have you beat.
Bluff:10 Poker is the consummate bluff game, many many opportunities to pull it off.
Control:8 There is also a great deal of control in determining your fate. The best players will know the card probabilities, know how to bluff, and know how to read other players.
Strategy:7 If you call reading other players strategy, then Poker has it in spades. Figuring out how much to bet, whether to call, fold, or raise are also strategic decisions.
 
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2. Board Game: Werewolf [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1273]
Mark Mistretta
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Lutz
Florida
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Werewolf (I knew it as Mafia) is nothing but a player elimination game. It basically comes down to how well you can lie about your identity and lay the blame on other players without sounding suspicious.

Fun Factor:9 For some reason this game is extremely fun (IF you don't get caught in an obvious lie). It is great fun to just start arguing for the sake of arguing and also is fun to watch other people try to lie after you are eliminated.
Bluff:3 There is outright lying and trying to cast blame on someone, but there is little in the way of bluff.
Control:2 This is where the game falls flat. The best players will likely get picked off at night by the mafia and have no control over this decision. Also, once you are targeted, it is very difficult to get out of the accusations. A variant that we played is that no one dies at night and all players are eliminated during the votes. This bumps the control up to a 6 (but does cause the game to drag on a bit long). Regardless, this game is very fun if you can stomach all of the lying.
Strategy:3 There are two strategies in werewolf - lay low and be quiet, or attempt to cast blame on other players before they suspect you. Otherwise it is all about being charming and the best lier.
 
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3. Board Game: BANG! [Average Rating:6.53 Overall Rank:1067]
Mark Mistretta
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Lutz
Florida
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Bang! is a newer card game that features player elimination and hidden roles.

Fun Factor:6-8 Bang's fun ratio can vary depending on what role, character, and seat position you end up with. Some combinations are deadly, and you will die quickly.
Bluff:2 It is very difficult to pull off a bluff, as players must reveal who they are when they die. If you are an outlaw you can survive by acting like a deputy for a while, but to what end? You will be shooting at your fellow outlaws. This is a wasted opportunity in my opinion as this game would be more fun if bluffing was more of a component.
Control:4 When it comes down to it, you don't have much control in Bang!, but this is masked well with the various card and character powers. Once someone knows your identity, you will likely die unless you are in a position of power. The volcanic card tends to have too much bearing on the outcome. I heard that Bang! High Noon might have fixed some of this problem, but it is OOP.
Strategy:4 True, you get to select which cards to play or steal and who to shoot, but it is all so random that their is little you can do strategically. Mostly this is a tactical game where you have to maximixe what you can do with the cards you are dealt.
 
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4. Board Game: Lifeboats [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1287]
 
Mark Mistretta
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Lutz
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This is an old game that I came across that has player elimination. I have never played it. Any comments to whether or not player elimination works here is appreciated.
 
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5. Board Game: Sitting Ducks Gallery [Average Rating:6.09 Overall Rank:3171]
Mark Mistretta
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Lutz
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This is a new game that I just found out about. Tom Vasel has a review out on it today www.tomvasel.com.

 
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6. Board Game: Spoons [Average Rating:5.24 Overall Rank:15903]
Suzan
Netherlands
Enschede
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Spoons is another fun reflex-type of player elimination game.

Fun Factor:8 This game is always a good time, if for a short period. The game is broken at 2 players, but we have come up with an ok solution.
Bluff:5 Bluffing consists of faking the move towards a spoon. However, it rarely pays off.
Control:6 If you play more of looking at the spoons then your cards, you actually have quite a bit of control as to how long you stay in the game. Quick reflexes and a strong grip don't hurt either.
Strategy:1 There is none. All reflexes, speed, and awareness.
 
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7. Board Game: Boom-O [Average Rating:5.30 Overall Rank:15738]
L Wyatt
United States
Unspecified
Delaware
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Games in which bombs blow up may not be politically correct, but this is a fun elimination game.
 
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8. Board Game: Liar's Dice [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:585]
Mark Mistretta
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Lutz
Florida
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Until only one person has dice left.
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9. Board Game: Risk [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:15615]
William Hostman
United States
Alsea
OR
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I can't believe no one else mentioned this one yet...

You win by being the only person left with pieces on the board.

THat is the sole victory condition.
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10. Board Game: Ikusa [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:714]
William Hostman
United States
Alsea
OR
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This game is so strongly themed that it's fun, even if you get whacked out of it. It's actually kind of fun to even sit and watch, especially since bad "Anime Accents" tend to creep out of even the more reserved players...

That, and fiddling with your initiative swords.
 
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11. Board Game: Titan [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:823]
Davido
United States
California
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Until there is only one Titan...
 
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12. Board Game: Nuclear War [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:2421] [Average Rating:6.21 Unranked]
Joe Neff
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Warrington
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The quintessential elimination game! Plus, a dying player can (and frequently does) take someone else with them, who takes down another.... Yes, luck is more important than skill here, but it's fun to play, win or lose.
 
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13. Board Game: Citadels [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:336]
Mark Mistretta
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Lutz
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I am adding another entry to my geeklist on elimination games concerning Citadels. Citadels is NOT an elimination game, but after playing a 3-hour, 7-player marathon session that had an unsatisfactory ending, I am starting to think that it should be (at least with 5 or more players).

So, I am proposing this variant (I will also post this under Citadels as well).

For 7-8 players:
At the end of the round in which the 1st player builds his 4th district - the player with the lowest score (counting coins and bonus for all 5 colors only)is eliminated from the game. The same happens when a player builds his 5th, 6th and 7th districts, leaving 3-4 players left at the end competing to win. (In the case of the Architect building more than 1 district in a round, more than 1 player could get eliminated at once).

For 6 players - start elimination at 5th district (3 eliminations)

For 5 players - start elimination at 6th district (2 eliminations)

What I think this variant will do:
- Up the Tension: Let's face it, the game is not very tense at the beginning. Furthermore, the game punishes a player for taking an early lead as other players play gang up on the leader with the Magician and Warlord. The winner of a 7-player game will be the player who stays in the middle of the pack, doesn't create waves, and avoids the ire of other players. With player elimination, each player now has to worry about not having the lowest number of points at all times and will focus more on staying alive than just bashing the leader. Later in the game, when the crowd has been dwindled down, the cream will rise to the top and the best players will be left to duke it out.
- Less Randomness: With 7-8 players there is a lot of chaos. You can be picked on for completely random reasons (player is sitting closest to you for example) This is not a bad thing in a 30 minute game, but in a game that takes 3 hours it can be very frustrating!
- Less Downtime: With fewer players, there is less wait to pick a character.
- Clear Winner: Trying to figure out the winner of a 7-8 player game in Citadels is a messy affair and makes the end anti-climatic as everyone takes forever to add up their points.
- Get people to buy cheap districts: In a large game, it is never beneficial to build 1 or 2 coin districts because they are an easy target for the Warlord. Furthermore, if you build too many of them - you will lose as other players can beat you with fewer higher coin districts. Therefore the best strategy is to hold on to your gold until you can build better districts. In a 7-8 player game you will only be the target of a thief 1 in 7 or 8 times and you can still prevent being stolen from by taking the assassin or thief, so there is not much danger in hoarding gold. With elimination - players who don't start building districts early may get eliminated. Furthermore you can knock some people out quickly by building smaller districts while they are hoarding gold.
- More Dynamic: The dynamics of the game are in flux as players get eliminated making for a more tense game a la poker. Just think how much less tense Poker would be if you played a certain number of hands and then everyone counted up their money at the end.

Changes you have to make:
When players drop out, you will have to adjust how the characters are drawn (because it is different based on the number of players), but I think this is easily overcome as long as you consult the rules.
- I am not sure how the game would work when it got down to 3 players, some other adjustments must be made.






 
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14. Board Game: Mall of Horror [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:1322]
Mark Mistretta
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Lutz
Florida
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Mall of Horror is a newer game that involves player elimination. Like Rette Sich Wer Kann and Sitting Ducks Gallery, players who are eliminated can still affect the outcome, they just can't win.

What other games out there have this mechanism?
 
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