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Highlander Rock-Paper-Scissors

Everyone throws rock, paper, or scissors.

First and foremost all duplicates destroy each other. There can be only one. Then, paper beats rock, scissors beats paper, and rock beats scissors.

If everyone gets eliminated in a round (if everyone throws the same symbol or if there’s a loop), no-one gets eliminated that round. (People eliminated previous rounds do not come back.)

Keep doing it until there’s only one winner.

Design history

People tying and reshooting is part of the fun of RPS and I wanted to keep that but a little goes a long way. The traditional way of playing group RPS (everyone keeps throwing until there are exactly two different symbols present among the hands show, the losing symbol gets eliminated) gets pretty extreme compared to Highlander RPS.

Election RPS

I also came up with “election RPS” where instead of duplicates being eliminated, it’s an election:

If all three symbols are represented, everyone who voted for the biggest team gets to stay. If two teams are tied for the majority, then paper beats rock and so on. If all three teams are tied, redo the “election”.

Otherwise, if only two symbols are represented, then scissors beat paper and so on (even if there are more papers than scissors).

Redo until there’s exactly one winner.

Why Highlander RPS is still the best

Election RPS is faster than the traditional group RPS, but I prefer Highlander RPS, which is even faster and with simpler rules. Some might find the flavor of Highlander RPS weird (why would a single rock beat twelve papers?) which doesn’t happen in the “election” variant, so really hammer home the flavor of the duplicate papers beating each other.

Call it Clone Wars if that makes more sense.

RPS is all about picking the unexpected and Highlander RPS embraces that.

Similar games

I love rock paper scissors but I wanna make it more fun to play in bigger groups, to quickly find a starting player for a game, for example.

I know about the odds and evens game and how it eliminates ties and is a much better game but RPS is more fun!

There’s also the “modulo” game, where everyone holds up a number of fingers and then you count that sum around the table to find a winner. That was popular here in Stockholm for a while (“fingrarna”, they called it), but there are a couple of misconceptions. Turns out it only works fairly if the only allowed numbers are zero through one less than the number of players. So trying to trot the modulo out in a twelve player group is just a scam unless everyone has eleven fingers.

“Ready Aim Fire” which is an everyone-pointing-at-each-other game can also be fun but mostly I wanna play good old rock paper scissors!

I’ve heard about the “big rock” variant where there’s a fourth gesture, a “big rock” (I don’t know how to make the “big rock” gesture, I just read about the game variant) which defeats everything, but if more than one player picks it all “big rock” players are gone. Highlander RPS came out of that (it’s just a minor tweak on the Big Rock game), and then I came up with Election RPS which made more flavor sense (if there are plenty of rocks out, no way are scissors safe!) but I prefer Highlander RPS, where papers beats other papers before they can start hunting for rocks.