Game Designer’s Notes #1: Elimination

Courtesy of Amos Kwok

Elimination. The mechanic where players are knocked out of the game by a host of misfortunes. The classics show it all: Monopoly. Risk. Either you’re bankrupted, or your army is bulldozed. Some love it, some hate it.

Why? Well, some despise elimination because it means doing nothing until the next round. Which, with games like Risk, takes ages. On the other hand, some love the viciousness it adds to games.

The great thing is that gaming has only one rule of design: is it fun?

With that in mind, while I’m generally against elimination games, I have found that can be fun. Looking at these, I’ve highlighted several elements I think are key to a good elimination games.

Keep it short. It’s okay to have a complete elimination game, provided that the losers aren’t out for too long. I find that Coup, a game where players try to bluff and coup their way to victory, is a great game in this category. Sure, sometimes you’re killed by the third turn, but in minutes, you can rejoin the game.

Have several ways to win. That is to say, give players another path to victory aside from total annihilation. This makes players less vicious and adds more complexity to the game. King of Tokyo, a game where one can either win by accumulating 20 victory points first or being the last surviving player, does this well.

Make it a team game. It sucks when you lose. But if your allies still win, that feels good right? Bang!, a game where players play cowboys, allows players to “win” per se if their allies won in the end, even if they themselves are dead.

Those are the main things I found that made elimination games fun. What other things do you think make them fun?

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