Difference between revisions of "Last Man Standing"

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[[Category:Mechanical Patterns]]
[[Category:Mechanical Patterns]]
[[Category:Goal Patterns]]
[[Category:Needs revision]]
[[Category:Needs revision]]

Latest revision as of 08:50, 4 August 2022

Gameplay where players or teams are actively trying to eliminate each other to be the last survivor.

Many games, or parts of games, pitch players against each other. When the competition between them is resolved by eliminating the others, the games have a Last Man Standing pattern.


Chess, Go, Diplomacy, and King of Tokyo are all examples of Board Games with gameplay focused upon Last Man Standing. Likewise, the Card Games Magic: The Gathering and Hearthstone use the pattern.

Death-match instances in the Doom series provide a computer-based example. The Counter-Strike series is this also, but in addition an example of Team-based Last Man Standing situations, except that it is a weak example since teams can also win by detonating or defusing the bomb.

Using the pattern

Last Man Standing requires that players can Eliminate each other in game instances or particular phases of gameplay, i.e. that they have Symmetric Goals regarding this. Player Elimination or Multiplayer Games together with Lives is one design solution for the former while making nearly any type of goals for players into Incompatible Goals vis-à-vis all other players work for the latter. Last Man Standing is a simple structure for creating Tournaments.

Last Man Standing can be modulated by Surrendering, and game designer may want to support the Possibility of Graceful Surrender. While the elimination in Last Man Standing is typically focused upon individual players, it can also be applied to Teams, making it cause TvT gameplay.


The primary effects of Last Man Standing is to create Competition and Conflicts among players as they try to both Survive and Overcome the others. These goals are Symmetric and Interferable Goals since all players are trying to Eliminate each other and doing so affects each others' goals. Last Man Standing can cause players may create Temporary Alliances to get local benefits in the Competition between themselves, specifically including engaging in Beat the Leader actions. Players' efforts to Eliminate other players can be seen as they trying to create Collections of beaten opponents.

Last Man Standing provides a form of Winning by Ending Gameplay since at least the type of actions that remove other players from the Competition becomes irrelevant for that purpose when there is a sole player left. Since each player removed from the Competition clearly is a closure and points towards the next closure being more important, the pattern supports Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses. Since players are incrementally excluded from Last Man Standing struggles, the pattern causes Early Elimination among the players. This, and that the pattern causes Winning by Ending Gameplay tends to make gameplay phases with it into Endgame phases.


Can Instantiate

Beat the Leader, Collections, Competition, Conflicts, Early Elimination, Endgame, Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses, Interferable Goals, Overcome, Survive, Symmetric Goals, Temporary Alliances, Tournaments, Winning by Ending Gameplay

with Teams


Can Modulate


Can Be Instantiated By

Incompatible Goals, Player Elimination

Eliminate together with Symmetric Goals

Multiplayer Games together with Lives

Can Be Modulated By

Possibility of Graceful Surrender, Surrendering, Teams

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



An updated version of the pattern Last Man Standing that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[1].


  1. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.