Why Limited Player Elimination is a Good Thing
by: Ted Alspach
One of the main mechanics in Ultimate Werewolf is player elimination. This particular element of the game has caused a number of players (and many people who have never played the game) to dismiss it outright. “Player elimination is an inferior gaming experience,” say these people, and on the surface, it’s hard to dispute that. After all, you’re a gamer, you want to play, not sit by and wait for another game to get started after being eliminated early.
Risk and Monopoly
The two most popular games (besides Ultimate Werewolf) that feature player elimination are Risk and Monopoly. However, in both of those games, the player elimination is a typically fairly long, drawn out process. Risk in particular, you know you’re going to lose and be eliminated, even if you’re holed up in Australia, as it’s just a matter of time. Monopoly is a little different, as there’s tension as to when it will suddenly happen to you (but usually you know it’s inevitable as well). I don’t like the feeling in either game that there’s really no hope, and your best play is to stay on life support as long as possible. There were a few early commercial werewolf games that eliminated players the very first night of the game, which resulted in 1 player seeing their role, and then being instantly ejected from the game. If that was your only experience with social deduction, you were bound to despise it for good reason.
However, in Ultimate Werewolf, player elimination is pretty much never drawn out and doesn’t happen until players have had a chance to start to figure things out. In the rare circumstances when you know you’re going to be eliminated (like when a Werewolf has been outed by the Seer, or when the Seer has outed themselves), you can actually have a positive impact on the game on your way out, providing help for your team, which has a reason for not eliminating you.
With Ultimate Werewolf, you’re typically on either the villager team or the werewolf team, and when you are eliminated it’s a bad thing for the team, so they’re looking out for you. Even as a plain vanilla villager, knowing that your fellow village team members are about to eliminate you stirs up a lot of emotion, and adds to the environment of the game. The possibility of elimination is never far away and not only are you interested in keeping yourself around, but also your other teammates. Even if you aren’t sure who they are yet…
The Threat of Elimination
The looming specter of being eliminated is what ramps up the tension in Ultimate Werewolf. There’s a disquieting feeling when you’ve been nominated to be eliminated. Regardless of your role, you don’t want to be eliminated. If you happen to have a special role, then things get even more tense. As a werewolf, there’s a scrambling kind of paranoia going on inside your head, made even worse by the fact that you’re trying to hide that paranoia. When you’re a helpful special role that isn’t quite ready to help the village yet and you can’t tell anyone what your role is, it just eats at you that the village wants to eliminate you.
The threat of player elimination governs what you do in the game. Everything you say and your actions towards other players (nominating or voting for them, or even using a special power at night) is a result of keeping yourself in the game.
Ultimate Werewolf Extreme and the Ivory Tower
One of the ways that Ultimate Werewolf Extreme addresses this issue is by including an Ivory Tower player token, which is given to the first player eliminated in any game. The player with the Ivory Tower cannot be eliminated first in the subsequent game of Ultimate Werewolf, which causes them to stick around to wait until the game is finished. The fact that there is an Ivory Tower takes a bit of the sting of elimination early in the game away. It also adds a new mechanic to each subsequent game, because the player with that token can do pretty much anything that first day because they simply cannot be eliminated!