Player Elimination - When is it good/bad?

Player elimination is fairly uncommon in most games I have played, I thought I would share a few thoughts with you all to see what you think:

Most games that I have played with player elimination mechanics tend to be on the shorter end of things: #Coup or #Love Letter being a prime examples, they can be over in 10 minutes so no one is ever out for long and usually gives players the chance to go grab a drink as it is generally a filler game. This makes a lot of sense as sitting around a table with nothing to do for the last 30 minutes of a game is no fun at all. This is a real problem in a game like #Werewolf especially at higher player counts, as someone is usually killed in the first round, possibly before they even get to do anything and then has to sit and spectate for the remainder of the game, unable to even comment on the proceedings. 

This is why I think most medium-heavy games don't include it. However, I do think there is something deeply tense in knowing that if you make too many misteps in a game that you might end up 'dying' in some way that is hard to capture otherwise: it gives pretty real consequences to what is generally pretty consequence-free hobby. In games with combat especially, going up against a monster or opponent and knowing that if you mess-up youll be reduced to stain on the floor gives so much more excitement to the proceedings, especially for the other players around the table as they cheer and groan along with you.

Likewise I think a lot of games have something that could be seen as almost equally problematic is that a player can effectively be 'out' of a game fairly early on, but be required to continue playing without a hope of having a meaningful impact on the game or certainly being in contention for victory. This is often the case in euro-games, where an early miscalculation or another player throwing a spanner in the works can put you behind on the curve of the game with no opportunity to catch up. While I personally don't mind this too much I have seen players become increasingly unhappy around a table as the game drags on for another hour. 

So what is the potential solution? Well, I think there are potentially a couple:

  • Give the eliminated player something else to do that feels meaningful - #War on Terror does this in a wonderful way: at any point, even well before you are wiped out by a superior nation, you can give up that dream and instead take over control of the terrorist side of the game. Not only can you win as the terrorists, meaning that player (or players as multiple players can join as the terrorists and win together, ironically) still has sometihng to strive for, it makes the game more interesting for the other players. This is similar in #Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game where there is a variant where a dead player becomes an alien and then tries to kill the players they were previously helping.
  • Make it happen later in the game and feel 'earned' - By this I mean make it almost impossible for a player to die in the first half/two thirds of a game but instead have players who consistently play recklessly or follow a very attritional play-style (which might give great rewards) run the risk of dying later in the game. It would be important to make sure players felt like they had options as they got closer to dying to back away from that (again, at the cost to their score/success at particular objectives) so that if they chose to keep taking that risk and died it felt like it was their own doing.
  • In co-op games making player elimination a lose condition - this is often the case in cooperative games for good reason, it encourages players to protect each other and work as a team. This means that a single player being eliminated ends the game so no one has to sit around. While this is maybe not true 'player elimination' it does keep some of that tensions and encourages players to look after their characters.

So what do you think? Are their games that you like with player elimination (especially longer games)? How do you think it can be best implemented into a game?



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3 months ago

I've found that the group I play with usually refrains from eliminating players in longer games like (surprise surprise) twilight imperium. It's simply less fun for everyone if you take your friend out so he has to sit and twiddle his thumbs for the next 2 hours and you feel guilty about it. Obviously games like Love Letter where player elimination is the name of the game you can be more cutthroat with no real repercussion, but that's just my experience.

3 months ago

Absolutely, leaving someone with nothing to do is wold be rubbish. How do feel about games that give 'eliminated' players another role?

3 months ago

To be honest, I can't think of a game I've played that really does this - think I'd have to experience it before I talk too much about it. But having something (anything) to do in the game once you're eliminated must be better than nothing so I like the idea.

3 months ago

Nice, also, when you say you refrain from eliminating a player, how far does that restraint extend? For example, in twilight imperium, if you were to eliminate most a a players fleets and take the majority of their planets they will then presumably struggle to have too much of an influence on the game.(especially if that happens quite early) so do you also hold back from permenantly crippling a player even if it makes sense for your own interests?

3 months ago

Well, generally, nobody goes into anyone else's home system until very late on (e.g a couple of points away from the win). Trespassing into the systems bordering a home system is also rare. We haven't discussed this in the group - almost an unspoken rule / act of politeness.

3 months ago

Nice, I like that, keeps everyone in the game

Supporter3 months ago

I wonder if there are co-op games out there that utilize a dodgeball kind of mechanic, where the eliminated player can help out the teammates in some ways?

I'm fine with player elimination as long as it's a short game and if it goes with the theme (e.g. #King of Tokyo). Along this line, I'm very hesitant to get any games where players don't go at the same pace. For example, a player could potentially end 5-10 minutes earlier in Tapestry.

3 months ago

That's a good question, I think the only coop games I know where you can die without ending the game are #Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game where you get to become an alien and #Eldritch Horror where you just get a new character (but lose all your upgrades and equipment).

How do you feel about games where a player can effectively be eliminated by falling so far behind or have there options be limited to the point where they aren't making any real decisions?

3 months ago

Generally I'd say including player elimination is only appropriate if the game is short. King of Tokyo, for example.

3 months ago

I think that tends to be the consensus, what do you feel about games that give you something completely different to do upon being 'eliminated'?

3 months ago

Don't know that I've tried one, but it sounds like a good alternative.

Supporter3 months ago

First of all, let me just say that I find War on Terror's satire to be quite amusing. I've only played it 2 or 3 times, and it's probably been at least 10 years.... But I did think it was funny when I played it.

Secondly, I think player elimination is just fine, but it HAS to be a deliberate decision that furthers the game in some meaningful way. 

3 months ago

Yeah, I have only played it a couple of times, but thought that the implied commentary on imperialisim was pretty on the mark. Obviously it's worth being sensitive to who you introduce it to but from my perspective it is much less troubling than so many games that have you unironically playing empire. I also, think it has some pretty clever mechanics. Not a game I think I will play many times in my life but if some suggested #Risk I would probably recommend this as a more interesting version of that kind of game.

When you say 'deliberate' do you mean on the part of the designer or the players?

 

Supporter3 months ago

I suppose it could be easier, but I was specifically speaking in regards to the designer.

3 months ago

Gotcha, thanks

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