A board game can provide a multitude of different experiences depending on the one you play. Theme, mechanics, weight, and length can all affect how your game night is going to shape up. One factor that enters into that equation is the competitive structure of the game.
A large percentage of the games out there are everyone for themselves battles, but that’s not the only option. More and more cooperative games are hitting the market, as well as games designed to be played in teams, or hidden identity games where you’re not really sure of who is playing what role in the game. One of the most unique competitive structures is the one-versus-many game. One player (usually the most experienced) will take on a singular role while everyone else works together to defeat them. It’s a touch isolating to be that ONE, but it’s oh so satisfying when you can defeat a group of your friends without any outside help.
Roleplaying games often have the feel of one-versus-many games, but they’re distinct. When an RPG utilizes a Game Master, their role is not that of a player (or at least, it shouldn’t be). A good GM realizes that they are there to guide players through an adventure, not to work at killing them all off. Now, that may end up happening, but for GMs, there’s no real winning or losing. Those distinctions belong to the actual players. The reward for a GM should be that a great story has been told. The absence of a victory incentive separates RPGs from one-versus-many games.
When you set out to play a one-versus-many game, you usually do want to pick someone with experience to take on the solo role. They will probably have to be a bit of an expert in that game to be able to fulfill their duties. It can also be a bit more challenging to be the player on their own, so it’s less fun to gang up on someone still getting their footing in the gaming world.
One great example of a one-versus-many game is the 1983 Spiel des Jahres winner, Scotland Yard. One player is the nefarious Mr. X, who travels around London using public transportation while trying to avoid capture by a team of detectives. Mr. X’s movement is hidden for the most part. At certain times, though, he has to reveal his position on the map, giving the detectives a chance to see how close they are to closing the net on him. Hidden movement games are a perfect fit for a one-versus-many scenario. As the detectives, you have to try and get inside the head of a criminal on the loose. As Mr. X, you get to be the only person who has all the information. Listening to the detectives discuss their next course of action is delightful if they’re considering a red herring, and stressful when they consider moving on to your spot.
One of the most recent games to take advantage of the one-versus-many structure is The Others, designed by Eric M. Lang. In The Others, the members of the Hell Club have succeeded in tearing the fabric between dimensions, allowing the Seven Deadly Sins to infiltrate our world. Their goal is to bring on the apocalypse. Each game, one player gets to take on the role of the Sin being used. The Sins come with a slew of minions to do their bidding and a special power that is related to the Sin itself. For example, Pride punishes players who go out on their own, and Sloth will slow players down, giving them less movement points. The rest of the team are members of F.A.I.T.H. (Federal Authority for the Interdiction of Transdimensional Horrors). The goals of the F.A.I.T.H. team change depending on the Story the players agree to play, but they will have to complete a number of different missions during each game session. The Sins player is working to kill off the team before they’re able to complete their missions. You might feel like a bit of jerk working to bring on the apocalypse, but sometimes it’s satisfying to be the bad guy.
If you want to experience the fun of a fantastic one-versus-many game, The Others has just hit FLGSs. What perfect timing to learn this horror masterpiece and invite your friends to an end of the world party on Halloween. Maybe they’ll be able to stop you from bringing on the apocalypse. Or maybe you’ll complete your nefarious plot. Either way, you’ll be in good company.