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Head of Household Mechanic

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Joined: 07/25/2010

I'm a huge fan of the American version of Big Brother. I really like the mechanic of the Head of Household (HoH) and I want to try to incorporate it into a game. For those of you unfamiliar with Big Brother (specifically, the American version) I'll give a brief synopsis of how the show works:

Each week the houseguests compete to become HoH.
The HoH nominates two other houseguests for eviction.
The remaining houseguests vote for one of the nominees. The nominee with the most votes is removed from the game (evicted). Once a houseguest is evicted, another HoH competition takes place and a new HoH is crowned (no one can be HoH back to back).

I'd like to design a game where one player somehow gains this type of power and has to choose two other people who are playing the game. The two chosen players then face off head to head and the losing player gets some sort of major penalty (I think it would be too harsh if they were eliminated, although maybe that could be an alternate mode of play if you have enough players). The game would be played over several rounds until some sort of end-game condition is met (e.g. once a player loses 3 face-offs).

I have a lot of little tiny mechanics floating in my head but my major hangup is coming up with a good theme for the game. I want a really strong theme to help tie it all together and give the same kind of frustration that show creates due to the political element. Can anyone think of a theme where someone would be in charge (so to speak) and would be forced to select two other players? Does this type of mechanic sound like something that people would be interested in for a board game? Any comments and questions are greatly appreciated!

MarkKreitler's picture
Joined: 11/12/2008
HOH Mechanic

Hi Nolisquomi,

Interesting idea.

Instead of sticking too closely to the Big Brother rules, I thought about your more general goal of creating political tension and using the HOH mechanic. The following "system" came to mind:

1) Players elect a new King each turn (that is, the same player can't be elected back to back).
2) The King has a unique Power that affects other players.
3) The King has a unique Limitation from which other players are free.

Here's a concrete example:
-- Each turn, players use action points to perform their in-game tasks.
-- There is a fixed pool of points from which all players draw.
-- The King's "power" allows him to distribute action points amongst the players.
-- The King's "limitation" requires that he always take an even share of action points for himself (that is, 1 / (number of players) * total action points available).

This should create political tension as players try to limit the leader "just enough" without making anyone angry enough to ensure retaliation. That said, I can see where any such mechanic could produce strings of vendettas. Some players love that, others hate it. It brings Diplomacy to mind...

I'd love to see what you finally come up with.


I see I didn't address your actual question. :|

As you've already identified, this mechanic meshes well with political situations. So:

Solar Federation: players control alien races in an uneasy alliance, trying to expand their empires without triggering all-out war. Instead of a King, as above, a different player assumes the role of President each turn, distributing action points players use to grow.

Ringleader: players take turns acting as the head of a band of thieves. The ringleader doles out missions and gets a cut of all the booty, but doesn't get to go on the missions themselves.

Fairy Tale: players trade off being the "author," who doles out "challenge" and "reward" cards to everyone else. This one feels weak, but it provides an alternative to the obvious political solutions.

Good luck -- interesting problem!

Joined: 01/17/2009
Corporate Takeover

For a theme, consider what happens when one huge corporation absorbs another. There's only so many seats in the boardroom! Perhaps the players could take on the roles of rival executives competing for a place at the table. "Eliminated" players becomes free agents, eligible to fill the HoH role for a round but losing their vote until and the related scoring opportunity until they somehow maneuver themselves back into relevance.

Another idea that just popped into my head is some sort of mega meeting where the heads of "families" (travelers? mafioso? rogue states?) get together to decide who from among their underlings gets to rise in the ranks. You get around the player elimination problem by having the players represent bosses, not the person targeted for elimination.

Here's a caution. There are quite a few games that use the "King gets nothing" or "King gets nothing but points" mechanic, cf Tammany Hall and Chicken Caesar. Nothing wrong with it, just don't go into the design process thinking that this particular mechanic has never been done.

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