A game for n players.
To begin a round, shuffle n cards, and deal them out one to each player. Say the player who receives card number i is "player i". The players arrange themselves in a circle, counterclockwise from player n down to player 1. Each player invents a pose or other static gesture, and adopts it. This symbolizes eir "faction", which may change during the game. Play begins with player n, and proceeds counterclockwise around the circle.
Suppose it is the turn of player i. E names another player, whose faction is different from eir own. Suppose it is player j. If the player to player j's left (i.e. previous to player j in turn order) is of the same faction as player i (who may in fact be player i) then player j is eliminated from the circle. Otherwise, player j is converted to player i's faction, and adopts the appropriate pose.
Whenever everyone in the circle is in the same faction, the round ends, and all remaining players score a number of points equal to the sum of the numbers of players that have been eliminated. Begin another round.
Whenever one player has more points than any other, E wins.
I'm not sure the system of incentives is perfectly balanced or anything, but this is the most apparently strategically subtle variant among all the ones I could think of during a brief post-lunch spate of daydreaming in Barco.
Things I like about it:
- Screwing with notions of identity and ownership, a feature I like very much about Tigris und Euphrat and El Grande for instance. Teams are in some part baked into the structure of the rules (unlike Diplomacy, where they are, apart from IIRC joint victory agreements, entirely informal) but diplomacy can still happen between teams, and strategic backstabs could still happen if bitter teammates make counterproductive choices.
- Tension between action-at-a-distance (the ability to exert some kind of influence over any player) and local effects (the ability to outright kill rivals only when they are "near" to you in an asymmetric sense).
- Pressure to gang up on winners across rounds.