On this day of January - I want to talk about something that won't always make people happy around the gaming table, which is player elimination!
This topic has many nuances to how and what is implemented it the games, but there are few opinions about it I believe, in general you can either live with player elimination or you can't.
Fear not - this post won't be about my personal opinion towards player elimination or the psychological effect behind them ;)
I want to talk about how you can decide whether or not it should be in your game - and how you can avoid and/or implement it in different ways...
In short - player elimination refers to the fact that you might get eliminated from the game, before the game is finished. E.g. you are starting out 4 players, and while 2 of you might get eliminated sooner or later, the game doesn't end before the last 2 players have battled it out.
There are also games out there - presenting players with indirect elimination. This meaning that they might not be "out of the game", but they can no longer "affect the game or win by any means". It can lead to the same feeling as being removed from the game - though here you have to sit and be reminded of your defeat every time it's your turn.
The first question you should ask yourself is... should I have player elimination in my board game?
Though many people doesn't like this factor - it is part of some games, and if implemented for the right reasons together with the right determinations / mechanics it may very well work.
Ask yourself some of these questions
- Does it make sense that you can't kill off a player? (e.g. in a war game)
- How will a player feel if eliminated like "this or that"?
- Does it make sense that a player has to stay around - if he/she has lost everything?
- Can I implement a rule where the game stops when first player leaves? (and how does this affect the game play?)
- Will the game automatically end when the first player is down?
- Do I want the players to go for victory or for elimination of each other?
You might think it doesn't take a genius to implement elimination in a game, and you would be quite right about it. Nevertheless it does take some thought to actually implement it in a way - so that players accept it as a natural outcome of the game.
A player decision
One way to implement it is to create a visible barrier of which you as a player will have to cross in order to be able to be eliminated from the game. Here's some examples
- When you reach a certain tech level in a civilization game (allowing you for a build up without risk of destruction).
- If you switch to the use of atomic bombs in a war game (chances of severely damaging both opponent and yourself).
- If you declare "all out war / total war" (increasing your strength, but with a possible fatal consequence).
- If you gain a certain amount of points, value etc. (making it possible to become hostile towards you).
Giving people a choice of "gain vs. risk" can create an acceptance towards the ultimate failure. Or like some of the examples illustrate - if you as a player knows that when you enter the final stages of the game (reaching a certain level of points) you now have a risk of being annihilated from the game.
Boosting your last efforts
While it's always a question about balance when it comes to the possibilities of players to catch up with the leader. It may be a good idea to include a somewhat "last stand chance" for players about to be eliminated from the game. Meaning that player might get boosted when in dire need of it.
I'm sure many of you would agree that if you have to go down - an epic last stand is the way to go. Making the ending memorable, and maybe you might even survive to take an enemy haft way with you in your fall ;)
And at last... make sure you take into consideration how long a player might be out of your game, if eliminated.
Now that I have touched the aspects of implementing player elimination - I want to talk a bit about how to avoid it.
I've put together some examples on how you can achieve this.
- Getting victory points rather than ground (players gain victory points as the main factor, instead of gaining ground from an opponent).
- Making some places/cities/bases so easily defended that opponents will avoid these.
- Creating a rule, stating that the game ends as the first player gets eliminated (victory then goes to the person with the most money, VP or similar).
- Make common goals / missions, that shifts the focus from crushing an opponent to completing objectives.
- Make it possible for a defeated player to become a "vassal state" - coexisting with the dominating player (here I must stress that not all would like that nor commit to the ruler's orders, which might jam the whole game from there).
While it might seem easy to avoid "total player elimination" by stating something in the rules. It doesn't really ease the pain - if your game consist of heavy indirect player elimination.
By indirect player elimination I'm referring to the possibilities of a player to hinter, lockup or block another player off completely, in other terms eliminating that player from the game.
A few examples on how you might avoid an indirect elimination
- Make room for maneuvers, meaning you can't effectively block off a player.
- Look at possible "catch up mechanics" for players getting beaten down several times in a row.
- Establish rules that makes it hard for players to gang up on each other.
- Try to emphasize skirmish / light engagement, instead of one all or nothing engagement.
You can find many reasons why you shouldn't have player elimination in your game... but on the other hand, there's no denying a game might be more interesting if the risk is there. You wouldn't play paint ball if it didn't hurt when you got hit ;)
In the end - it's all about implementation...
Happy gaming to all of you - and check out my newest game project Burning Suns, remember to sign up :)