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Assassination games are an exercise in stalking your friends and offing them with faux weaponry. Though physically harmless, assassination games have a number of wonderful psychological side-effects. Insomnia, distrust, bona-fide paranoia, and even the occasional locking of oneself in a closet for a moment's peace are not uncommon.

Assassination games have existed since at least the 1960's, in various forms and places. They have a marked tendency to spring up in colleges and universities, and have even received some media attention.

  • Gotcha!, the movie had a small cult following.
  • KAOS runs rampant in even civil places like Kiwi-land.
  • Killer is perhaps the best-known "official" set of assassination rules.

The consummate assassination player shows no signs of paranoia. To anyone unawares, she doesn't appear to be part of anything odd. Her hand is not crammed in her coat pocket, clutching at a "gun". She doesn't look nervously over her shoulder and stare down other players until they leave sight. Assassination games are not about war -- they are about stalking and discretion. The consummate assassin excuses herself momentarily to powder her nose, and comes back with a tight-lipped smile. Somewhere in the ladies' restroom is another player swearing to herself and heading for a phone to report herself dead.

The Goal:

Eliminate as many legitimate targets as possible. Avoid being eliminated. A legitimate target target is:
  • Anyone you have been assigned to kill.
  • Anyone who has been assigned to kill you.
  • Anyone you catch brandishing a weapon or performing an assassination of their own.

The Limitations:

Violating these generic rules (and maybe a few others) will generally get you thrown out of the game. Sometimes they will also get you physically beaten.
  • Do not use a "weapon" on a bystander (an individual who is not in the game).
  • Do not attack a player who is not a "legitimate target".
  • Do not inflict bodily harm on players or bystanders.
  • Do not do anything stupid enough to get the authorities involved.
  • Do not damage property. If you're going to spoil someone's dinner, be prepared to pay for it.
  • When you are dead, you are DEAD. Dead men tell no tales, especially about the circumstances of their death.

The Tools:

Assassination weapons can be classified into four handy groups that often tell you something about the wielder. Most players adopt a preferred weapon by the end of the first game, though almost everyone keeps a "gun" or a "knife" for self-defense.
  • "Knives"
    A blunt wooden ruler, a collapsible stage knife, and those oversized plastic meat cleavers you can buy at Halloween all make good "knives". The knife is the most personal of kills -- it brings out the Ted Bundy in all of us. You follow your prey from a distance, biding your time until your victim makes the mistake of separating himself from the herd. With quiet-but-quick footsteps, you sweep up from behind. With a blood-curdling scream, you poke them in the back with your "knife". The tension dissolves into maniacal laughter as you realize how entirely insane you must appear.
  • "Guns"
    This variety of weapon requires more manual dexterity and grace under fire than any other. Your gun might be a squirt gun, a rubber-band shooter, or any Nerf projectile weapon small enough to conceal in your jacket. If you spend an hour in training, you just might be able to nail your victim from across the room. Of course, if you miss, your target suddenly has a legitimate reason to shoot back.
  • "Poison"
    Poisonings embrace the essence of subtlety. The veteran poisoner never acts suspicious and never gives you a reason to be paranoid. You, a few other players, and a few innocent bystanders are having lunch at the same restaurant you do every week. The waiter asks you what you'd like to drink, and returns shortly with your beverage. When you finally empty your glass, you notice a small note taped to its underside bearing the word 'POISON'. You're dead. You have no idea if your assassin bribed the waiter, or poisoned her own drink and pulled a switcheroo when you turned to check the clock.
  • "Traps & Bombs"
    Bombers are a mad hybrid of MacGyver and Grim-tooth. Some crazy neo-engineer will "borrow" the book you're reading, hollow it out, and replace the innards with a motley assortment of electronic components that let out an ear-piercing shriek when exposed to light. The more classic "booby-trap" killers will arrange for a rain of little plastic spiders to fall upon your head as you open your bedroom door. A booby trap might not go off for days, if untriggered. Did you really think you were safe just because no one else was in the house?

Scenarios:

A full scenario description is issued to all players at the beginning of the game. A scenario description includes useful things like:
  • The times and dates on which the game starts and ends.
  • What places, if any, are out-of-bounds. (Bathrooms designated for the opposite sex, managers' offices, and swimming pools are all possibilities.)
  • Contact information for the designated game arbiter. The arbiter generally resolves rule disputes, maintains a list or web page of death records, and assigns each player her target(s) in private.
  • Any odd rules that one might not have figured out on their own.

Assignment of Targets:

  • In the classic Circle of Death, the arbiter takes each player and assigns them a number. Player One is assigned to kill Player Two. Player Two is assigned to kill player Three. This continues until the last player is assigned to kill Player One.

    When Player One succeeds in killing Player Two, he takes Player Two's place and now stalks Player Three. This madness continues until only two people remain, each stalking the other. The last person alive wins.

  • In the Undead scenario, one player is secretly chosen to be the first vampire, and all the other players are humans. A vampire's goal is to convert all of the humans into vampires by biting them (in a friendly way). Those bitten become vampires the next evening, and the plague of Vampirism spreads. Meanwhile, all the humans try to determine who among them has joined the ranks of the undead. With a handy (blunt) wooden "stake", the humans kill the vampires.

    Unfortunately, a stake through the heart will kill a human too. Those are the breaks. The game ends when everyone is a vampire, or all the vampires are dead.

    In some Undead games, a vampire is forced to obey legendary vampire rules, such as:

    • Never entering a house uninvited. (This leads to some long standoffs.)
    • Never crossing running water. ("Hey, everyone, let's go for a walk down to the park! Come on, I mean everyone!")
    • Never setting foot on hallowed ground. ("I ... err.. can't show up for mass,I've got an earache.")
    • Having to wear shades during the day when outdoors. ("Don't mind me. I'm just stoned.")

Playing It Up:

  • A very brief dying scream is encouraged. These tend to draw attention towards your location, and may enable people to catch your assassin with a weapon still drawn. A posthumous vengeance is better than none at all.
  • Avid players have been known to photocopy a personal symbol and leave it as a "calling card" on every corpse.
  • The truly industrious arbiter might sets up a web page where mock "obituaries" are written for others to enjoy from the privacy of their own homes.
  • Humorous phone pranks at three in the morning can be amusing now and then. A sleep-deprived victim has slower reflexes.
  • If you don't regard every single person who passes you as someone who might be after your hide, you just aren't in the spirit of the game.

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