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Board to Death

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Harold Saxon's first day as Prime Minister.

The villain has formulated an Evil Plan so dastardly and Machiavellian that the audience is unlikely to pick up on it on their own. Naturally, the villain wants to keep the details from the heroes, but it is important that the audience know what's going on. In this case, the villain will discuss his plan with a group of subordinates, a group of business partners (or partners-in-crime), hostages, his family, or some other group. He will gleefully lay out every last detail of his plot with an evil glee.

Then he kills each and every member of his audience off in some pre-arranged fashion (usually a deathtrap of some sort). That way, the audience knows of the villain's plan, but there's no one who can betray the villain by talking to the hero.

It must be noted that the villain doesn't necessarily need to kill every meeting-attendant. If he is the more pragmatic sort, he will spare some select members, usually the ones he still needs for his plan. Or he might even kill just one person, usually the one who is having second thoughts and/or is most outspoken against his plan/leadership. Either way, such cases serves not only as exposition, but also as a way for the villain to display a clear message to his partners/subordinates: "Do as I say, and You Will Be Spared. Cross me and you're next on the chopping block." If it hasn't happened earlier, this will usually be the moment that cements the villain as a Bad Boss.

Related to You Have Failed Me, You Have Outlived Your Usefulness, He Knows Too Much, and Thrown from the Zeppelin. Sometimes includes Lured into a Trap and/or Nasty Party. In part, it plays to the fantasies of anyone who's been in an annoying or boring meeting, and the desire to kill their clueless bosses. Especially note confusion with Thrown from the Zeppelin, of which some examples on this very page are. This is only for when ALL of the audience dies. Thrown from the Zeppelin is when traitors are killed.

If you were thinking the trope was about using a wooden board as a weapon, you're probably looking for 2xFore

As this is a Betrayal Trope and a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Death Note:
    • When Light realizes he's being tailed, he comes up with a convoluted plan of going on a fake date, manipulating a criminal with the Death Note into hijacking the bus and eventually dying, just so the FBI agent, Raye Penber, has to reveal his name and face to Light. Whom he then immediately manipulates into effectively killing the other FBI agents as well as Raye himself.
    • Much later on, Light makes sure to manipulate Takada into doing his bidding and having her stay on guard, in case she gets kidnapped by one of his opponents. When she does, it's revealed she has been hiding a piece of the Death Note on her person and kills the opponent by writing his name down. Immediately after giving him the good news, Light forces Takada to commit suicide by writing her name in the Death Note.
  • In Fairy Tail, the Magic Council gets bombed by Jackal right when the chairman decides that he and his fellow councilmen need to take action against Tartaros.
  • Pulled off twice by Utsuro in Gintama.
  • Set up, then subverted at the start of Vexille. The Dragon gives a very broad outline of a plan (which isn't even the real one), then the board dies from poisoned drinks.
  • During the Dark Tournament arc of YuYu Hakusho, Sakyo reveals his plan to open a gateway to the Spirit World to the rest of the Black Book Club and then has Toguro kill them when they object.

    Comic Books 
  • Block 109: After disposing of Heydrich, Zytek gathers the other major Nazi leaders in the Third Reich's command room so he can kill them all in one fell swoop for their endless crimes against humanity.
  • Subverted in Hellboy when Landis Pope has a board meeting. Everyone comes in to find Pope wearing a bizarre battle suit surrounded with black flames and flanked by his demonic frog minions. One starts to demand what on earth he's been up to, and instead of killing them he just announces that he now controls 51% of the company's shares, and they are all fired. They leave and play no further role in the story.
  • Preacher: Herr Starr gives up on the Grail's plan for global domination and devotes all his energy to killing Jesse Custer. He arranges a video conference with the high council and tells them all about his plan to undermine the Grail from within. Then he lists off all the indignities he's suffered in pursuit of his goals, culminating in him dropping his pants and revealing the tube where his penis used to be. Having (literally) revealed everything, Starr gasses the council and readies his troops for a final showdown with Jesse by the Alamo.
    Council Member: (choking on chlorine gas) Starr — No — Don't — You kill the Grail, you damn the world — this is about mankind's salvation...
    Starr: This is about my genitals. Go on to extinction, holy men.
  • Superman: Parodied in an issue of Action Comics, in which Lex Luthor, whose building (along with the rest of Metropolis) was recently replaced by a 64th century version of itself by Brainiac 13, is being shown what all the buttons on the control pad next to his seat in the LexCorp board room do:
    Luthor: Splendid. And this?
    Minion: WAIT! Uh— heh— that switch apparently causes the chairs around the conference table to flip backwards, dumping its occupants through a floor panel down through a chute into a vat of acid, sir.
    Luthor: This is a joke?
    Minion: No, sir. We lost two men today before we restudied the schematics.
    Luthor: Hmm. Just when I thought the Luthors couldn't stoop any lower, my successor installs Death Traps into the board room. I love the future.
  • Ozymandias does this with his lab assistants in Watchmen. In a subversion of the trope, his speech reveals nothing about the plan itself (which is saved for The Reveal to the heroes themselves) and is merely a partial retracing of how they've come to this stage and a praise to his subordinates for the integral part they played in it — after which they are killed off painlessly because they knew too much and not because Ozymandias felt the need to tell them what they already knew. Furthermore Ozymandias clearly considers the deed Dirty Business and explains (to their drugged and soon to be frozen to death bodies) that he feels ashamed at having to reward his faithful retainers with "such an inadequate reward".

    Comic Strips 
  • Modesty Blaise: The Big Bad in "Children of Lucifer" plans to do this to a group of Mafiosi who have been his partners in crime. He seals them in the board room, and forces them to watch a Happier Home Movie while he delivers a Motive Rant about why he is going to kill them. However, his treacherous lieutenant chooses this moment to literally knife him in the back and announce that he is taking over the operation.

    Films — Animation 
  • Robots: Ratchet, after taking over Bigweld Industries, tends to eliminate those who miss the old boss and his focus on helping others over profit.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery: Dr. Evil's underground lair is designed with these sorts of boardroom chairs for disposing of freakin' idiots. But they don't always get the job done quickly, as shown when he literally fires Mustafa. Mustafa's fate is a fire pit, which fails to kill him, only leaving him very badly burnt. After listening to his screams of agony for a minute, Dr. Evil does what he should've done from the start and just has him shot.
  • Played for Laughs in the Russian comedy Balls Of Fate. The Big Bad of the movie is an oligarch in possession of the eponymous artefact that allows him to warp reality in his favor. Of course, he can't resist showing off such an asset to his guests, but at the same time can't allow anybody to know. The solution? He invites some people, brags about his Balls to them, and then has his Dragon kill them all.
  • In Batman (1989), The Joker kills one of the crime bosses, Antoine, with a trick joy buzzer that fries the guy until he's a charred husk, and has his gang herd the others out with tommy guns. He then later kills Vinnie in public with a quill pen to the throat (presumably poisoned). As for the rest of the board, it's implied that Joker ultimately decides to "grease 'em now" offscreen... that's just how he rolls. The original script called for one goon to take out another with a flamethrower disguised as a helium container.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Wonder Woman (2017): General Ludendorff barges in on a meeting of the German High Command, who are preparing to accept an armistice with the Allies, and exposes them all to the new toxic gas developed by Doctor Poison, wiping them out.
      • To twist the knife further, he tosses in a gas mask that's useless against the new toxin to watch them fight over it.
    • SHAZAM! (2019): A mystically empowered Dr. Sivana enters the Sivana board room where he kills his brother, his father, and the entire board room by summoning the Seven Deadly Sins.
  • In Dogma, Bartleby lists off the various sins of Mooby Inc.'s board of directors, right before Loki goes about executing them in general for idolatry — with the exception of one woman, who is declared to be an innocent and is left unharmed. Bartleby does have to stop Loki from killing her, too, because she didn't say "God bless you" when he sneezed. Loki might have been joking about that. Granting the supposition that the sneeze wasn't the least convincing acting Damon's done in his entire career, Loki probably faked the sneeze so he could do that, and the otherwise nice lady just assumed (rightly) that it was fake and didn't warrant a blessing.
  • The Godfather Part III: At a meeting of the mafia Commission, Michael pays off the other dons in order to get them to stay away from his business deal with the Immobiliare corporation, but excludes his rival Joey Zasa, who storms out in a rage. Minutes later, a helicopter flies in and opens fire on the meeting, with most of the dons being gunned down.
    • Although Michael himself reasons immediately after that Zasa doesn't have the ambition or ability to pull off an attack like that, and is simply an accomplice - he is right, a Sicilian Don called Lucchese arranged it.
  • James Bond:
    • Goldfinger has the eponymous Auric Goldfinger use a Deadly Gas to kill all of the gangsters who financially backed him up after explaining his plans to them, in a scene apparently staged for the sole purpose of allowing Bond to sneak in and overhear it all through a hole inside his model of Fort Knox. The original novel invoked Thrown from the Zeppelin during this scene instead.
    • A View to a Kill does the Thrown from the Zeppelin variant. Zorin wants his investors to put up $100 million each into his company, which will wipe out Silicon Valley. One of them refuses to pay Zorin that much, so Zorin has May Day drop the guy out of the zeppelin.
    • Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Trope Namer of Blofeld Ploy, which is used in such situations) does this to a few of his Mooks in Thunderball (one of the henchmen was stealing money, and he gets zapped to death) and Spectre (a henchman who was supposed to kill Mr. White gets his eyes gouged out by Mr. Hinx, then his skull bashed, and finally, his neck broken). In both cases, the other henchmen can only watch in horror as the guy gets killed.
    • In No Time to Die, Bond is lured at a Spectre party in Cuba, which was organized for Blofeld's birthday from Blofeld's own high security prison cell in the UK. Bond gets spotted and showered with a gas... that ends up killing all the present Spectre agents around him instead of him. It turns out the bio-technological weapon Heracles that was used here was reprogrammed by the other villains of the film to destroy Spectre instead of Bond, to Blofeld's total surprise.
  • Spider-Man: When Norman Osborn gets expelled from the company he built in preparation for a merger with a rival, Osborn (as the Green Goblin) makes sure to repay the board of directors...with a pumpkin bomb that disintegrates them.
    Green Goblin: Out, am I?
  • Star Trek Into Darkness has Khan pull a Godfather III on the Starfleet High Command.
  • The assassination of the Romulan Senate after they refuse Shinzon's proposal in the beginning of Star Trek: Nemesis.
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith: Darth Sidious ends the Clone Wars by calling a meeting of the Separatist Council on Mustafar and then sending in the newly minted Darth Vader to make sure they are "taken care of."

  • Played with in one of the Alex Rider novels. The board needs a villain for Alex to investigate, so they kill one of their own and set him up somewhere MI6 will know to look.
  • In the Dirk Pitt Adventures spinoff Blue Gold the Big Bad has a meeting describing her plans to monopolize the water ways. Congressman Jeremy Kinkaid angrily protests this as moral and vows to fight it in court, while a scientist named Dearborn also questions the ethics of it. They are told that their opinions are respected but after the meeting the Kradizak's (who were watching) are asked who they think they should kill, and name Kinkaid (who is later confirmed to have died in an "accident") and Dearborn.
  • In the short story "Nemesis" by Arthur C. Clarke, the Master has been defeated in his quest of world domination, and his army is being destroyed. He gathers his cabinet at their underground boardroom for the last meeting, even though they all know that the war is lost, and surrender is unthinkable (and wouldn't work anyway), so they'll have to die here. However, he reveals that he plans to put himself into suspended animation for a hundred years, then begin his plans again. He then leaves, welds the metal door closed, and blocks all tunnels behind him with cave-ins.
  • Star Wars Legends: In Darksaber, Admiral Daala gets all the Imperial warlords together for a conference and then gasses them so she can assume control over all their forces. She does make an honest effort to tell them her plan and get them to sign on willingly; since Imperial leaders strongly tend to be short-sighted egomaniacs, it rapidly becomes clear that it'd be easier just to kill them all and do it herself. When she did and then failed miserably in her campaign against the New Republic, she fled in a huff and left the Empire to Vice Admiral Pellaeon, the shining exception to the rule, who only killed board members if they attacked him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: In Season 4, the new Centauri Emperor, Carthagia allows the Shadows to set up a base on the Centauri homeworld. The bill passed in the Centaurum but several of the Ministers/Senators tried to downvote it. What happened to these dissenters? They were beheaded, and their heads displayed inside Carthagia's secret room where he talks to them at night.
  • Daredevil (2015): In Season 3 Episode 9, Wilson Fisk has the crooked FBI agents on his payroll round up a bunch of crime bosses and bring them all to a round table at a restaurant. Once they're all assembled, Fisk makes his appearance and announces that he'll sell them his protection from federal prosecution in exchange for a 20% tax on all of their profits. One of the bosses, Everett Starr, takes offense at the proposal, and refuses to buy in. Fisk promptly has him killed on the spot by Dex, and raises the tax to 25%, which makes the remaining gangsters quickly cave and agree to pay.
    Everett Starr: I don't know how you keep that suit white with all the bullshit you pack into it. I know what this. We all know what this is! You want us to confess to something that buys you another month in that hotel suite you conned yourself into! No. You can count me out!
    [On cue, Dex enters the room, dressed in his Daredevil costume note , and lobs a baton that hits Starr right in his forehead. Starr pitches face forward, dead, and a pool of blood spreads out across the table. Fisk calmly stares at the pool of blood and clears his throat]
    Wilson Fisk: ...The tax is now 25%.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Game of Thrones really likes this trope:
    • Xaro Xhoan Daxos names himself King of Qarth by calling a meeting of the ruling merchants in the city and having Pyat Pree slice all their throats.
    • In Season 6, Daenerys is brought before the assembled Khals, where they discuss what to do with her after her disobedient streak. They decide to rape her and then toss her as punishment... except Dany has other plans. She has them trapped in a hut made of wood and thatch, barred from the outside, with braziers not secured to the floor, and she's immune to heat injury.
    • In Season 7, Arya Stark impersonates Walder Frey after having assassinated him in Season 6. She summons all the male members of House Frey to the Twins for a feast, and poisons them all while giving them a stealth "Reason You Suck" Speech disguised as praise from their lord.
  • The Gifted (2017): Season 2 opens with Reeva Payge and the Frost Sisters attending a meeting of the Hellfire Club's Inner Circle, who call them out on the former's approval of the latter's extremist actions in the previous season. Deciding that the others are no longer useful to her plans, Reeva proceeds to paralyze them with her powers, allowing the Frosts to execute them. This paves the way for Reeva to assume supreme leadership of the organization.
  • Luke Cage (2016): In Season 1 Episode 9, an instance happens that's similar to the Daredevil example. In this case, with her murder of her cousin Cottonmouth, Mariah Dillard needs to keep his business going. She has Cottonmouth's longtime business partner Domingo Colon agree to set up a meeting with Harlem's other gang bosses at his boxing gym so Mariah can sell off Cottonmouth's assets to them. Diamondback crashes the meeting and, after killing their guards outside, proceeds to kill all of the bosses assembled around the table except for Mariah and Shades (who he needs as business partners to help him get his Judas bullets sold on the streets), and Domingo (because the meeting is on his turf, and also so he can pass word to others as to what happens when you double cross him).
  • In RoboCop: Prime Directives, Damian Lowe spearheads the project for developing a fully-functional AI. However, the OCP board decides fire Damian for defying the CEO and ordering a team of mercs after Murphy. Furious, Damian goes to the AI control console and orders the prototype AI to gas the board room. He later gets his comeuppance when the AI turns on him and cuts him in half with Slow Lasers.
  • Stargate SG-1: Ba'al did this to all (or is it?) his clones in the second-to-last episode. They had all been cooperating surprisingly well until that point.
  • Played with on That Mitchell and Webb Look when Leslie, the resident Bond supervillain, reveals the evil purpose of his organization and offers to let his board members leave in case they have moral qualms. Unfortunately, the one who does isn't easily dropped down a trapdoor because the contractor who installed it insisted on a warning light, safety barriers, and a klaxon announcing "TRAPDOOR 3 ABOUT TO OPEN," giving the victim ample time to simply stand up and leave the table.

    Video Games 
  • Batman: The Telltale Series: in chapter 5 of the second season (The Enemy Within), this can happen if playing the Villain Joker path. Bruce arrives to a board meeting of Wayne Entreprises, only for The Joker himself to also arrive with Harley Quinn and murder everyone in the board with a weaponized version of the Lotus Virus (while also releasing it across the Wayne Tower), with Bruce being spared(by forcing a gas mask on him) because he wants to see him suffer and be seen as "his ultimate enemy".
  • Command & Conquer: Generals as a backstory, has almost all the world's politicians and diplomats killed by the GLA during a Peace Conference, which leaves the Generals and other military figures in charge.
    • In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun Firestorm, Nods Inner Circle's meet via transmission. When they meet again to question CABAL's actions, CABAL has his cyborg army murder the council members in their respective offices, Slavik only escaping due to his "office" being a vehicle.
  • In El Matador the police are eavesdropping on a meeting of Cartel members from an apartment across the street, the guy in charge tells the others that he's always a step ahead of the police. When one of the cops understandably shows scepticism the leader says he knows the police is listening to them right now, orders his men to fire a missle launcher at the apartment and continues without missing a beat.
  • Dead by Daylight has one of these in the backstory of one of it's killers. Ji-Woon Hak (aka The Trickster), after being denied the ability to produce his music (which worked in the screams of the people he murdered as a serial killer) by the executives at his label, was set to perform a private show for the board. He had the board paralyzed with nitrous oxide, then dragged them onto the stage, where he tortured the executives to death.
  • Saints Row 2: As the Saints-Ultor conflict escalates, the Ultor board of directors puts increasing pressure on the CEO Dane Vogel to resolve it ASAP. Rather than go after the Saints, however, Vogel decides to off the board instead, giving him complete control over the MegaCorp, and leaks the location of the board's next meeting (an offshore yacht) to the Saints. This results in the Boss boarding the yacht and gunning everyone on it down, just as Vogel had expected.

    Web Animation 
  • Lampshaded in episode 4 of Mastermind.
    "You always start off with some contrived question, like asking why you brought us all here. And then you kill the first person who answers, for 'failing you for the last time' or something. And you push the button, and the shark tank opens, and- you know this already!"/
It turns out he's physically incapable of starting the meeting until one of the attendees dies.

    Western Animation 
  • Downplayed example in the Codename: Kids Next Door movie Operation: Z.E.R.O., where during a massive gathering of the KND's Rogues Gallery, Grandfather returns and announces his plan to defeat the Kids Next Door with an army of Senior Citizombies to roaring applause. They continue to applause when he states he'll start with everyone that used to be a kid... until they realize that includes all of them.
  • The Venture Brothers: Baron Underbeit discusses with his minions (Cataclops, Girl Hitler and Manic Eight-Ball) his plans to run the country (which are being implemented) rather than his plans to kill Venture, before revealing he knows about them betraying him (or perhaps he was being paranoid), and unleashing Tigers strapped with bombs on the board room. All show up alive later though.
    • In All This And Gargantua 2, the Sovereign carries out The Purge of the Council of Thirteen by assassinating most of its members and then summoning the rest to an emergency meeting, where he lays out his scheme to destroy the space station Gargantua 2 before sealing the teleconference booths and pumping in poison gas.


Video Example(s):


Harold Saxon's Cabinet

The Master, under his Harold Saxon alias, gasses his cabinet to death

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / BoardToDeath

Media sources: