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Gameplay situations where a player cannot win but can decide which other player should.

Games provide players with possibilities to do actions that can influence their own and other players' positions in the game state. While players typically try to improve their own situations — otherwise they are arguable not gaming — this is not always possible. Something players can perform actions but only positively affect the situations of other players. Taken to the extreme, this can allow, or force, a player to make an action that determines who will win a game as long as it isn't the player itself. Such players are Kingmakers.

Wikipedia has a page on the same concept under the name Kingmaker Scenario.


Kingmaker is very rarely intentionally designed to be present in most game instances of a game, but can occur in many games anyway. Wikipedia lists the television series Survivor as an example where Kingmaker situations are explicitly designed for.

Using the pattern

The possibility of Kingmaker situation in games are in many cases unwanted so it is usually a Negative Pattern. Kingmaker typically occurs in the Endgame of a game since this is when positions are more or less established. The typical causes for it to occur are Dominant Strategies, Early Elimination, Early Leaving Players, Predictable Consequences, Predictable Winner, Possibility of Graceful Surrender, and Unwinnable Game States so one strategy to avoid Kingmaker possibilities is to avoid those patterns.

If the presence of Kingmaker situations have been observed in a game, there are some design features that can work against it occurring. Balancing Effects, Randomness, and Uncertainty of Outcome works against Predictable Consequences or a Predictable Winner making a Kingmaker emerge. Imperfect Information and Uncertainty of Information can make players not realize that there actually exists a Kingmaker situation; Board Games with Scores often do this by having at least some of the Scores be hidden (see for example Lords of Waterdeep, Ticket to Ride, and Village).

Kingmaker can also be mitigated by Exaggerated Perception of Influence (which can trick players into believing they have a chance to win and thereby not engage in kingmaking. It can also be mitigated by giving players Value of Effort for their gameplay so they don't end or unbalance game instances just because they themselves cannot win. Revoke Rules can offer a less bad option in Kingmaker situations by letting players suffer a penalty for a violation of the rules but without necessarily losing the game.


Kingmaker typically occurs in the Endgame when players' positions tend to rather clearly established. This makes the number of candidates for winning narrower and in this sense Kingmaker can help players perceive a Predictable Winner. Just as Balancing Effects can work against Kingmaker situations occurring, the presence of Kingmaker possibilities work against Player Balance and therefore against Balancing Effects as well.


Can Instantiate

Predictable Winner

Can Modulate


Can Be Instantiated By

Dominant Strategies, Early Elimination, Early Leaving Players, Predictable Consequences, Predictable Winner, Possibility of Graceful Surrender, Unwinnable Game States

Can Be Modulated By

Revoke Rules

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Balancing Effects, Exaggerated Perception of Influence, Imperfect Information, Player Balance, Randomness, Uncertainty of Information, Uncertainty of Outcome, Value of Effort


New pattern created in this wiki.