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Instant-Win Condition

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Harry: (on being shown the Golden Snitch) I like this ball.
Oliver Wood: Ah, you like it now. Just wait. It's wicked fast, and damn near impossible to see.
Harry: What do I do with it?
Oliver Wood: You catch it, before the other team's seeker. You catch this, the game's over. You catch this, Potter, and we win.

No matter how bleak the situation, as long as you have enough Hit Points and enough time to stumble through the Level Goal, hit the superweapon's tiny Weak Spot, or set off some arcane victory condition, most video games will happily let all your troubles melt away with the victory screen. As the saying goes, he who loses with the most toys still loses.

A form of No Ontological Inertia. Variations and related tropes include:

Compare Critical Existence Failure.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball:
    • It is possible to instantly win a match in the Tenkaichi Budokai if the opponent pulls out a weapon or touches the ground outside of the arena. The former rule was only enforced twice, to no avail, while the latter is commonly invoked throughout the series. For example, two of Goku's wins in the 23rd tournament (the Ma Junior Saga) were ring-outs: Chi-Chi, and Piccolo.
    • For a more indirect example, Arc Villain Frieza has a certain advantage over the heroes with which he clashes (well, aside from his other, massively unfair advantage of being one of the most powerful beings in the universe thanks to a mutation): he can survive in a vacuum. This ability gives him an easy out to any losing fight: why slug it out with a Saiyan who's achieved legendary power when you can just blow up the planet under your feet and starve your foe of oxygen?
    • Eventually subverted during the Cell Games. At first Cell has a ring and the standard Ring Out rule applies, and he even claims victories over Mr. Satan and his entourage this way because he just can't be bothered to waste his time with them. However not long into the fights he decides this instant win rule is too restrictive and blows his own ring up, now forcing them to fight to the death.
  • Girls und Panzer: The rule of standard matches. Your side can be hopelessly outnumbered and in a hopeless tactical position, if you can knock out the enemy flag-tank then you automatically win. This was apparently put in in the name of fairness, so that teams who can't afford many or very good tanks (such as the protagonist's) can theoretically be able to win against wealthy teams with large numbers of powerful tanks if they can find and neutralize the flag-tank. The Movie changes the rules when the heroes are matched against the national college team to an annihilation format where all tanks on one side must be eliminated for victory. Ostensibly, this is because that's the standard university ruleset, but in reality it's just one of the many ways the MEXT official attempts to stack the deck in an already lopsided (against the protagonists) match.
  • High School D×D, having Chess Motifs for the Ratings Games, does exactly what you'd expect - no matter the other rules of the format, taking the King results in an instant victory. It does come with a few caveats though; a devil King has to be pretty badass to get that position, some formats keeps Kings off the field unless they volunteer, and it's demonstrated that a side that loses nearly all their pieces before managing to bag the enemy King can still lose points overall.
  • My Hero Academia has this very early on as part of a bomb threat scenario. A pair of students have to locate a (fibreglass) bomb guarded by two more students as the villains. The heroes win if they detain both villains or one touches the bomb. Izuku Midoriya and Ochaco Uraraka win when the latter manages to hug the bomb. However, this is completely Deconstructed by classmate Momo Yayoruzu afterwards, who correctly points out that the heroes plan while successful, was running off this trope for it to work. Because neither of the villains were actually detained when Uraraka claimed the bomb, had they been real-life villains, the one in the same room as her would've just ran straight at her and knocked her away again.
  • In Sword Art Online, the titular VRMMO Deadly Game would be beaten, and all surviving players liberated, once the Final Boss was defeated. After Kirito manages to deduce that a key player in a raid group was actually the programmer responsible for trapping them in the game, said programmer offers Kirito the chance to fight him right away, since he was planning to set himself up as the final boss. Kirito defeats him and, true to the programmer's word, the game ends.

    Board Games  
  • In 7 Wonders Duel, a two-person spinoff of 7 Wonders, the game normally ends when the players progress through 3 ages, and the winner is decided by total number of Victory Points accumulated in multiple ways. However, two win conditions instantly end the game: Military Supremacy (Conflict token reaches opponent's capital, signalling conquest) or Scientific Supremacy (attaining 6 of the 7 possible scientific masteries). Note that partial credit is awarded and progressing both yields immediate benefits, so it's not all-or-nothing. The Agora expansion adds another instant-win condition with the Senate — take control of the majority its chambers, and you win.
  • In the H. P. Lovecraft themed board game Arkham Horror, there are tons of instant fail conditions (Doom Track fills up, Too many gates are open at once, all three acts of The King in Yellow are performed...), and the normal ways to win are to either seal gates or kill the Ancient One after he awakens, which is difficult for most (and impossible for Azathoth, since his attack is Destroy the Universe). If you manage to use all six elder signs on the board, even if the Ancient One would awaken the next turn, you win instantly.
    • The first big expansion Dunwich Horror added two missions (consisting of board location lists, where the player will have to make special sacrifices) which allowed an instant win, 'For the Greater Good' and 'Joining the Winning Team'. While usually the players win or lose together, the later card also allows the player making the sacrifice to win alone, with everybody else losing.
  • Chess: You win by putting your opponent in checkmate, which is when the opponent's king cannot escape a threat. This wins the game even if you have two pieces left against your opponent's sixteen (though pulling that off would require a truly Epic Fail from your opponent). And of course, there's the Fool's Mate: 1. f3 or f4 e6 or e5 2. g4 Qh4#. That's about as instant as chess gets!
  • In the Discworld board game, Ankh-Morpork, each player has a secret identity with instant win conditions depending on factors such as the property they own, how much Trouble is being caused, etc. If you are Commander Vimes, all you have to concentrate on is stopping these conditions happening, as if you reach the end of the draw pile with no one else winning, you've won!
  • The board game End of the Triumvirate is designed around this trope. With three players and three completely different victory conditions, the winner is usually the one who can keep all three fronts up in the early game, then suddenly throw two of them away for the third when he knows he can win.
  • In the original versions of (The Game of) Life, if you reached the Poor House with "little or no money", you could pick a number from 1 to 10 and spin the wheel, and if it landed on your number, you became a "Millionaire Tycoon" and won the game instantly.
  • In the Star Wars game The Queen's Gambit, if the Naboo side gets Anakin to the Droid Control Ship, all the droids (which is almost everything the Trade Federation player has) instantly deactivate. As long as Naboo still has 3 pieces in the palace, they win.
  • Risk:
    • Versions of the game with Mission cards allow someone to win if they accomplish all 4 of theirs, regardless of how much they're losing or someone else is winning at the "conquer the world" objective.
    • In Castle Risk, a rather less well-known variant, each player has a capital territory ("castle"), and if you lose that, you're eliminated from the game. Doesn't matter whether or not you're actually stronger.
  • Twilight Struggle. Although you can crawl toward victory by being 20 points ahead of your opponent at any time, or being in the lead at the end of turn 10, there are several instant victory conditions in this Cold War board game. The first is to have total control of Europe when the Europe Scoring card is played (usually being in control of a region just gives a bundle of points - Europe is the only one with this property). Second, if DEFCON 1 (Nuclear War) is triggered on your opponent's turn, you win the game - this leads to possible 'DEFCON trap' plays which leave the opponent with no choice but lower the DEFCON from 2 to 1. The final is a single card called 'War Games', which appears during the last few turns. The player who has this card may immediately end the game, but must first give their opponent 6 points. In other words, you must be at least 7 points ahead to win with this card.
  • In Werewolf (1997), some interpretations of the Serial Killer role say it wins as soon as no other players are alive, even if the Serial Killer died on the same turn it killed its only remaining enemy (or it killed one enemy who killed another in the same turn).
  • In Zombie Plague, the humans win by barricading every window and door, with no zombies in the house. 4 zombies can break down any barricade. Human victory often comes with the sealing of an unimportant window somewhere, while a fourth zombie joins the group of 3 about to break down the front door.

    Comic Books 
  • Supergirl: In the "Red Daughter of Krypton" storyline, the Diasporan aliens are being commanded to raid planets by their mind-controlled leader. Once Supergirl destroys the mind-controlling entity, the whole army surrenders.
  • In Superman story arc "Brainiac: Rebirth", the key to defeat Brainiac's slave army is simply ignoring them and going after Brainiac. When Brainiac teleports away, his troops are released from his mind-control and stop fighting.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, the cast takes advantage of an Instant Win Condition present in most racing games to save Sugar Rush — namely, once the player in first place crosses the finish line, it's over. The plan was, the game would detect that Vanellope didn't have a valid racer ID and crash, resetting itself and restoring everything damaged by Turbo and the Cy-Bugs to normal. Both of those were gone by the time this happened, but it does leave one wondering what would have happened if Turbo was still alive...

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Jousting in A Knight's Tale has this. Knights score 1 point for breaking a lance on their opponent's torso, or 2 for the head. The knight with the most points after three lances wins. But if a knight can knock his opponent off his horse, then the knight wins immediately, regardless of the points.
  • Pixels: The aliens agree to stop destroying Earth if the Earthlings can beat them at a video game.

    Game Shows 
  • The Series 12 premiere of Taskmaster had Pop The Balloon, where contestants could buy various implements like darts, slingshots and ammo, forks, and the like by adding time to their total. The less effective they were the less time they cost, and the most expensive implement (save for the Joke Item "bucket of forks" which cost a whole hour) was the set of portcullis scissors which cost a full 8 minutes but was guaranteed to pop the balloon by cutting a string which suspended a sharp object above it. Most contestants tried to get shorter times and ended up effectively going into time debt by buying tons of darts and slingshots: Desiree totaled three hours, Morgana 56 minutes, Guz 37 minutes, and Victoria 25 minutes. Alan however immediately went for the instant-win scissors right out the gate and, even using them as leisurely as possible, took only 9 minutes.

  • In the Artemis Fowl short story "LEPrecon", Holly plays a game of Paintball with the commander about her promotion, where the commander promised her she would win if she managed to land a single hit on him. The game gets interrupted by the main conflict of the story, and both the reader and Root forget about it... but Holly doesn't. Once she's established that the threat is over and Root is safe, she pulls out her marker and shoots him in the chest, reminding him that the game technically never ended and he did promise.
  • In Ender's Game:
    • Ender realizes (or remembers from his time at Salamander) that he doesn't have to disable all of the opposing soldiers in order to win the Battle Room situations, like everyone had assumed — he just had to get five of his to the gate. The rules are promptly changed, but it does allow him to win a battle against a double-size army in entrenched defensive positions.
    • This comes up again in the final training level at Command School. Ender rightfully figures that the entire enemy fleet, outnumbering his own by hundreds to one, is worthless compared to the planet they defend and instead launches a suicidal attack to destroy that planet. Snagging the fleet is just a bonus. Just as his teachers planned, as it wasn't actually a training level.
  • Downplayed with Quidditch in the Harry Potter series. The Golden Snitch is worth so many points that 99% of the time, the team that catches it wins the match, making the other players a bit irrelevant except for the purpose of racking up the highest possible score. However, there are phenomenally rare occasions where a team is so badly outmatched that even the massive amount of points from a caught Golden Snitch is not enough to secure a victory, in which case catching the Snitch becomes an Instant Loss Condition for the weaker team (the match ends, and the opposing team proceeds to win because they scored more points in goals than the Snitch is worth).note 
  • In The Hunger Games, you win if you're the last tribute alive (and if you are you're likely to stay alive, since victors are given immediate medical treatment). Haymitch managed to win his game despite basically being disemboweled when he was able to trick his opponent into throwing an axe at the force field surrounding the arena, which bounces back anything that hits it. She took an axe to the head, giving Haymitch the victory.
  • The Golden Snitch winning condition is parodied in Porry Hatter and the Stone Philosopher, where Porry is being explained the rules for the even more ridiculous "footbich" by the snitch equivalent "swinch" (yes, this one can talk). Finally, when told that the team, whose Persuader can catch the "swinch", is the victor, the boy asks about the purpose of the rest of the team. The ball tells him that it's a team sport, so there have to be others. Besides, no one would go see a game about two players and a single ball.
  • Russian Harry Potter knock-off Tanya Grotter with "dragonball" (not that one) involves throwing various types of balls into the mouths of dragons. One of the balls is filled with a sedative, resulting in the dragon becoming useless and the team winning. There's a flimsy explanation, pointing out that the sedative ball is extremely difficult to throw. So, naturally, this extremely rare occurrence happens quite a lot in the series.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In one episode of The Golden Girls, Rose, Blanche, and Dorothy play Rose's favorite board game - a Cloneopoly game set in her hometown of St. Olaf, Minnesota. Rose makes a lucky dice roll, purchases a single property, and joyfully announces that she's won the game - because she has.
    Dorothy: What do you mean, you won? You bought one street in St. Olaf!
    Rose: I bought the only street in St. Olaf!
  • The Joker's Wild: If a player spun three jokers in one turn and correctly answered a question in a category of their choice, they immediately won the game and either $500 or all the money they'd racked up to that point, whichever was higher. Early episodes gave the win to a player just for getting three jokers, without having to answer a question. If a champ spun three of the same value in the bonus round, they immediately won the prizes at stake, plus either $1,000 or the money in the pot plus the value of the triple, whichever was more.
  • Lingo: Scoring the maximum possible 10 words in Bonus Lingo guarantees a win, as each correct word results in a randomly-drawn Lingo ball used to cover up a partially filled-in bingo-style board. Getting all 10 words means that enough balls will be drawn to get at least one "Lingo" (5 in a row) and win a cash jackpot. (However, winning the top prize requires completing the Lingo on the first draw, which is entirely up to chance.)
  • In Robot Wars you can be battered, smashed, running on the last bit of engineering, and if you can put your opponent in the pit of oblivion, you automatically win (this most famously happened in the all-time classic battle between Bigger Brother and Hypno-Disc). The same applies to your opponent becoming immobilised, either by a mechanical malfunction or through its own actions (e.g. the early Razer defeat when it pinned itself to the floor with its wheels in mid-air), although it would require 30 seconds of them not moving. And when Chaos 2 brought the first high-powered flipper to the arena, any match would end instantly if one competitor could hurl their opponent over the arena wall.
  • In Run For Money: Tousouchuu (the original Japanese version of Cha$e), all you have to do to win the grand prize is avoid getting tagged by a Hunter until the time limit runs out. Even if you're running as fast as you can with a Hunter right behind you and gaining, you still win as long as the countdown hits zero before you get tagged (and at least one player has won this way on the show).
  • Wheel of Fortune subverts this: even if the puzzle is filled in completely, the contestant must successfully read it off in order to solve. This has backfired on multiple occasions, as contestants have been penalized for mispronouncing or misreading a puzzle that has been completely revealed.

  • High Roller Casino allows the player to collect "Cheats" by fulfilling certain conditions. If you start a casino game, you have at least 1 Cheat, and you would normally lose the game, one Cheat will be deducted from your total to turn it into a win.
  • Done literally in Gottlieb's Rocky pinball, where the player can press an "Instant Win" button to immediately win the current round of the boxing match.
  • In WHO dunnit (1995), if the three-reel Slot Machine has two matching symbols, the player has a limited amount of time to shoot a "Pull Slot" target. Successfully doing so makes the third reel match and awards the result.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • While some gimmick matches have Instant-Win Conditions, capitalizing on an Easily-Distracted or Glass Jaw Referee can keep a match going.
    • The typical steel cage match ends when one participant exits the cage (either through the door or over the top).note  The Punjabi Prison variant ends the same way, except there are two concentric bamboo cages.
    • A ladder match ends when one participant retrieves the object suspended above the ring.
    • A first blood match ends when one participant visibly bleeds in front of the ref.
    • An inferno match ends when one participant is set on fire.
    • A tables match ends when one participant goes through a table.
    • A bra-and-panties / tuxedo / evening gown match ends when one participant is stripped down to his/her underwear.
    • An ambulance / casket / stretcher / buried alive match ends when one participant is put in/on the stipulated container.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Getting a rabbit to the back rank (or finishing the last of your opponent's) in Arimaa does this.
  • Dwarfstar's Barbarian Prince solo programmed adventure. The main victory condition is to acquire 500 gold pieces in 70 turns. However, the game provides a number of possible ways to achieve instant victory, such as (for example) getting across a certain river or gaining control of a particular castle.
  • Blackjack: You win the game if your cards score 21 points.
  • Blood On The Clock Tower: Very common in the social deduction game Blood on the Clocktower, both for the good and evil team. It's complicated by the fact that winning in such a way will often require careful planning/good bluffing. Starting from Trouble Brewing:
    • The Good Mayor: If only 3 players live (including you) & no execution occurs, your team wins.
    • The Good Saint: If you die by execution, your team loses.
    • The Evil Mastermind: If the Demon dies by execution, play for 1 more day. If a player is then executed, their team loses.
    • The Good Klutz: When you learn that you died, publicly choose 1 alive player: if they are evil, your team loses.
    • The Evil Twin: You & an opposing player know each other. If the good player is executed, evil wins. Good can't win if you both live.
    • If nobody is executed during the day while a Vortox is in play, the good team immediately loses
  • Chrononauts has three separate ways to win: alter the timeline in the right ways, fulfill your mission by collecting a certain combination of three artifacts, or have ten cards in your hand at the end of your turn.
  • There are several alien powers in Cosmic Encounter that allow for new win conditions. Notable are the Masochist (win by having all your ships die), Sadist (win by destroying enough of your opponents' ships), Tick-Tock (win by having enough time pass) and Genius (win by having 20 cards in your hand). All of them can win by the standard method also, but they generally have no useful ability in game.
  • In the DC Comics Deck-Building Game, playing Kyle Rayner from the Crisis 2 Expansion Pack on the same turn as 3 different Power Rings (original, Green, White, Black, and the Villain of the same name) yields an instant victory. In the Naruto Shippuden DBG, having Zabuza and letting the Main Deck run out instead of someone defeating Tobi also results in an instant win.
  • Dominion can have a version of this depending on the cards currently in use. If you can manage to draw two King’s Courts and three Bridges in one hand, you can pick up all eight Provinces (in a two-player match), more than likely earning you enough points to win outright.
  • Pops up in official Dungeons & Dragons adventures from time to time; any group of adventurers worth their salt that ends up in a Bolivian Army Ending situation should immediately begin looking for the leader of a group (without which they'll break and run); the source of power; or the secret compartment leading to their goal. Of course this is usually up to GM discretion: the rules might *say* that an enemy force will break and run if more than 50% of their troops are killed, but if that number only gets to 51% because the pacifist cleric broke his vow and scored a critical hit while having 5 HP and defending the fallen bodies of his comrades, well, even kobolds aren't that dumb.
  • Milling is inverted in the Epic (Card Game) - if the player runs out of cards to draw, they win the game. To prevent this from becoming too easy, the game can return cards to the bottom of the deck.
  • The Eye of Judgment has this built into the core rules. First person to get 5 creatures onto the field wins, period. So theoretically, you can win just by summoning weak weenie monsters onto the field, who can't even fight, as long as your opponent can't get rid of them fast enough. Or your opponent can have some super high cost death machine on the field and be ready to destroy your mons, but if you slam a 5th mon on the field, you win, period. Of course, there are numerous ways to prevent such a strategy built into the rules. Monsters can't attack the turn they're summoned, and only deal damage first with a specific ability when attacked (if they're attacked first and wiped out, they don't get to counterattack, obviously), so summoning a weak monster in an indefensible position will get them killed. In addition, it costs mana to summon, attack and turn monsters (they can only attack in specific directions), and if you turn, you can't attack. The layers of strategy that go into a three-by-three board where the only requirement is getting five monsters on the board is immense.
  • The Final Fantasy Trading Card Game has two standard win conditions: either deal your opponent seven damage or deplete your opponent's deck. Right now, there is one alternate win condition. Sin has a Special Ability called Giga-Graviton. Discarding a Sin card in your hand and paying 9 Crystal Points activates the ability: if Sin is still on the board at the end of your next turn, your opponent loses. Since this is a 1v1 game, the player who activates it and is able to keep Sin on the board at the end of their next turn instantly wins. It's also a nice reference since in the source game, if Sin fires it off, you're loading up your most recent save.
  • Fluxx can have up to two victory conditions, depending on the cards in play, and they may or may not be mutually exclusive. Sold separately are packs of blank cards that allow people to make up cards which could do this. The most common way to win is actually to play a victory condition which you currently meet.
  • The Flag in Game of the Generals. Even if you've only got a handful of weak pieces left while your opponent still has most of their army, if you capture the Flag, or if you bring your flag to their side of the board (and they can't challenge it on their next turn), you win.
  • In Highlander: The Trading Card Game, since decapitation is required to kill Immortals, cards that are "Head Shots" are included. If play a Head Shot and your opponent has (or can exert for) no defense to block or dodge it, they lose their head and the game. While this is easiest if you've whittled down your opponent a bit (or set up one of the rare and generally difficult unblockable/undodgeable head shot combos), it's entirely possible, if your opponent got very unlucky with their shuffle, to take their head with your first attack.
  • In the game Hostage Negotiator, one of the base Abductors, Edward, has taken patients at a hospital hostage because he cannot afford care for his ill son. Unlike other Abductors, Edward only has one possible Major Demand - "Medical Care". Conceding this demand requires twelve Conversation Points, which (as per the Conversation Point rules) must be built up in a single Conversation Phase, but if you successfully concede it, you immediately win the game, as Edward releases his hostages and surrenders once he has it.
  • The Legend of the Five Rings CCG was made of this trope. There were three default victory conditions: Military (wipe out your opponent's, either by destroying their 4 provinces or reducing them to -20 Honor), Honor (reach 40 Honor points), or Enlightenment (play all 5 elemental rings). Some VERY successful decks were designed around making a suicidal dash for max honor or enlightenment while paying just enough attention to the opponent's attacks to not be completely wiped out before winning. Not all of these were instant win conditions (Honor, for example, would only resolve if you had 40 Honor at the start of your turn, giving your opponent a last chance to respond, unless you used the Naga personality Dashmar to win by Honor immediately) but they would bypass the usual "kill all opponents" condition which is the usual default for CCGs. L5R would also often add new gimmicky victory conditions in expansions, such as opening enough of the 12 Black Scrolls either before (7) or after (12) the event The Darkest Magics comes up to revive the Dark God Fu Leng, or seizing control of (playing) all 4 Walls of Otosan Uchi before the event The 38th Hantei Falls comes up to effect a coup. The most notorious was Master of Five, a victory condition so nauseatingly easy to accomplish (after the event in question resolves all you had to do was generate one elemental effect of each of the five elements on the same turn to win at the start of your next one) that it was generally considered a mistake that should never be repeated (the gimmick victory conditions were not meant to be seriously competitively viable).
    Zen Faulkes: But look at the easiest way to earn a Master of Five victory. It's a showmanlike production of useless and downright self-destructive effects. It requires no interaction with another player, other than keeping them off your back while you set your trick up. It necessarily takes a turn longer than Enlightenment does, and fears the Dharma most of all. The Master of Five is certainly a fun, challenging, and competitive deck type to play. But in terms of the story, I can't help but think that this approach to the Elements can lead nowhere good...
  • The original The Lord of the Rings collectible card game, Middle Earth. You win by having the most points after a certain amount of time - but if you manage to destroy The One Ring, you win immediately, regardless of score. In the games based on the films, as long as your ringbearer survives all skirmishes at site 9, you win, even if he's an inch from death and the rest of the fellowship died turns ago.
  • In Love Letter: Premium Edition, if you have played the Constable card, then any play that eliminates you from that round (like playing the Princess card) immediately gives you a Token of Affection.
  • Magic: The Gathering has several flavors of this:
    • The concept of "racing" is when each player just attacks with their creatures and doesn't block for any number of reasons. This is usually invoked when a player has a numeric advantage over their opponent: they can do more damage per turn to their opponent than the opponent can do to them. As a result, a lot of the strategy from Magic comes from interrupting the race, with sorcery cards that change the battle conditions, instant spells that do damage outside of what's showing on the table, and enchantments that change the numbers. Racing is exceedingly rare, as the only time you're likely to be in a race is at the beginning of the game, when you and your opponent have a large number of cards in hand (and thus responses that can interrupt the race), and late in the game, when the race is likely to be short-lived (1-2 turns).
    • Magic has cards that change the victory condition, allowing you to do this. There is one card that lets you win if it is the only card you have in play and you have no cards in your hand. Play it at the last second and a curb-stomp victory for the other guy can be snatched away by non-linear planning.
    • Other conditions from other cards include but are not limited to: Having 50 or more life, having 200 or more cards in your library, winning 10 coin flips, controlling 20 or more creatures, having 20 or more cards in your graveyard, having a land of each basic land type and a creature of each color, having exactly 1 life remaining, or keeping a card on the board long enough to put 5 filibuster counters on it.
    • Then there's the flip side, cards that instantly cause someone to lose the game. Door to Nothingness is an example, in that it will (if you're able to satisfy its very high mana cost) instantly cause someone to lose the game. Phage the Untouchable is another example, in that if she deals combat damage to a player, they lose. There are also the creatures that give players poison counters, and if a player has 10 poison counters, they lose. Finally, a planeswalker introduced in Return to Ravnica: Vraska the Unseen's ultimate ability creates three 1/1 assassins that, if they hit a player for damage, that player loses the game.
    • Many infinite combo decks win by sacrificing large amounts of life, cards in deck, cards in hand, or cards on the board in order to set up a winning game state. The first famous (as in, dominating a full season of tournaments) combo deck, Pros-Bloom, went so far as to go down to a negative life total before fatally draining the opponent. This was only possible with the rules at the time.
    • One of the early combos, the ChannelBall, is also a Disc-One Nuke. If you have the following cards in your starting hand, you can win the game in your first turn: Mountain, Black Lotus, Channel and Fireball. When performed successfully, you're left with one hitpoint.
    • Another combo involved spells that you had to pay for next turn; if you didn't, you'd lose the game. The deck would play more of these than they could hope to pay for, then use the benefits of those spells to win before the next turn ever started. Similar decks would play the same spells and force the opponent to cast them somehow. Depending on the deck and spell, it would often be impossible for your opponent to pay the cost for even one of them, let alone many.
    • Cards have actually been designed around this trope, the most explicit being Final Fortune. The card's effect: "Take an extra turn after this one. At the end of that turn, you lose the game." The nearly identical card Last Chance has the helpful reminder text "You don't lose if you've already won".
    • "Decking", the original alternate win condition: If you're told to draw from an empty library, you lose. This is harder to do than getting your life to 0, though, so it's rarer to end a game by decking. Unless you've deliberately set up your deck to "mill" the opponent into submission. Cards such as Millstone, Halimar Excavator, Rise of the Eldrazi's Keening Stone, and any other Ally card are all useful unless your opponent has a card that allows them to shuffle their graveyard back into their hand. (Even if they do, the original Feldon's Cane has to be exiled from the game after use, and the fancy mythic rare Eldrazi that can do this for free are, well, mythic rare.)
    • There's a card from Innistrad, Laboratory Maniac, that turns the instant lose condition into an instant win condition. If you would lose the game by being "decked" with the Maniac out, you win instead.
    • A rather hilarious combo uses Ashnod's Coupon, a joke card that says "Target player gets you target drink. You pay any costs for the drink." to force your opponent to either surrender or give you an obscene amount of Real Life money. First you use a card to switch Ashnod's Coupon to being under your opponent's control. Then you play a card that allows you to take their turn for them. Force them to activate Ashnod's Coupon, targeting a drink you brought with you. Since it's your drink, you can name your own price for it. All you have to do is make it a price your opponent wouldn't pay.
  • In many CCG, you can cause a player to lose by fixing it so that they run out of cards in their deck before you do; if it's their turn to draw, and they can't draw any cards due to there being none left, they lose, no matter how far ahead they were at the time. This is referred to as "milling" in card game parlance (after a Magic: The Gathering card that reduced the enemy's library, Millstone). An exception to these is Magi-Nation, where, due to the nature of the game, games can last a very long time indeed, the rules indicate that when you run out of cards in your deck, you shuffle your discard pile, and set it as your deck. The only way to win is to have the opposing Magi hit 0 energy without any creatures on the field, so it's entirely possible for both players to lose if they aren't careful.
  • Muffin Time, befitting the chaos of its inspiration ASDF Movie has a few cards that let players win the game instantly but either at risk of another player stealing the victory or if it's your birthday. So if the birthday boy/girl suggests the game, watch out.
  • Pokémon Trading Card Game:
    • Milling was used to great effect with Durant, who has one very inexpensive move that forces the opponent to discard cards equal to the number of Durant on the player's side. It became enough of a problem that the card designers created a card designed specifically to get rid of Durant.
    • Lost World provides a victory if the opponent has 6 or more Pokémon in the Lost Zone (a super-discard area used in the Pokémon Diamond and Pearl era). This is not as difficult as it sounds: Gengar's "Catastrophe" effect sent knocked out Pokémon to the Lost Zone instead of the normal discard pile, and an evolved Pokémon sent there will also send all of its previous evolutionary forms there too. This meant that the player only needed as few as 2 knockouts to win the game using Gengar and Lost World.
    • An early form of milling in the Pokémon Trading Card Game involved abusing the original Mewtwo, which could become completely invincible for a turn by discarding a Psychic Energy. Thus, people made decks out of a Mewtwo, a trainer card that reshuffles their discard pile into the library, and 58 energies, and then simply waited for the other player to run out of cards. Under the original rules, if you mulliganed because you didn't draw any Basic Pokémon, your opponent was forced to draw another card, inevitably giving the deck a head start (and, on rare occasions, the win!) before the game even started. Which is why the draw is now optional.
    • The Generation VII set Lost Thunder has three cards depicting Unown, all of them allowing the player to win the game if some difficult condition was met: The group spelling out "MISSING" will win you the game if your opponent's Lost Zone contains 12 or more Supporter cards, the group spelling out "DAMAGE" will win you the game if your Pokémon collectively have 660 or more HP of damage sustained at a time (including the group itself), and the group spelling out "HAND" will win you the game if you have 35 or more cards in your hand. Despite the incredibly high numbers needed for all of these conditions to be met, both the DAMAGE variant and the HAND variant were banned from tournament play due to the discovery of combos that allowed them to be met much quicker than the designers anticipated—within the first two turns in the case of DAMAGE.
    • The BREAKpoint set's Slowbro has an attack for three Energy that if used when you have only one Prize card left, you win the game (the attack does nothing otherwise).
  • Sea Salt & Paper is a card game that revolves around collecting and playing card combinations in order to score points, the objective being to score enough points over a number of rounds to reach a certain goal. The deck also contains four Mermaid cards; they usually give you bonus points for having a lot of cards of a single color, but if a player is lucky enough to collect all four Mermaids in their hand in the same round, they win the game automatically.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse has the usual Hit Points-related Critical Existence Failure version, but two of the villains stand out:
    • Wager Master is notorious for this trope. Plenty of his cards are "conditions", which will end the game instantly if fulfilled (in your favor or his, but the latter's another trope). For example, one card states the Heroes win if they all have an even number of HP that isn't their maximum at the end of the Villain turn; if this gets played during Wager Master's setup and his other cards strike the heroes just right, the game can be over before a single player acts. And this is just one way battles with Wager Master can be over in a hurry.
    • Kaargra Warfang isn't as bad, but her favor pool mechanics, cards like "Fickle Fans", and a "The heroes cannot win" rider on her flip side mean a dire situation can result in Hero victory, or dominant play from the Heroes can be stalled out into a sudden defeat, with only so much that can be done about it. Notoriously, her rules only state that you need 20 favor to win, not that you need more than the other side. If she's flipped, the Heroes could have 50 favor and still lose on the spot when she hits 20.
    • A more straightforward example is Gloomweaver. In-story, he's trapped in the Realm of Discord, and his cultists are trying to release him. If all three of his Relics are in play at the same time, the summoning ritual succeeds and he flips. But if all three Relics are in his trash at the same time before he flips, the heroes have successfully stopped the ritual and the game is immediately won.
  • The card game Space Base has a ship whose power is to give the owner an instant win. However, activating this power requires accumulating three to five (depending on the number of players) charges, each of which is gained on a roll of 12 on two six-sided dice.
  • The Star Trek Customizable Card Game by Decipher has a card called Writ of Accountability, which, if activated, forces an instant lose condition on any opponent who pursued any number of broken strategies. Since nearly all games (including all official tournament formats) are between two players, this is an instant win for the player who activates it.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Ther are missions where the objective is to hold more strategic locations than the enemy. You only need one troop to hold the location, so often the game ends up being determined by some small squad holding an objective far from the main battle.
    • Although this is more of just a win condition, not an Instant Win Condition. Completely tabling your opponent means that you win, regardless of whether the game was supposed to be about capturing objectives. If you both manage to do this to each other it's a draw.
    • Also, a popular tactic in objective games is to have your most mobile units charge forward at the last second to contest enemy-held objectives. Since contesting an objective denies your opponent an extra point, it is possible for you to win, even if what's left of your army is about to be wiped off the table.
    • Since objectives can only be held by certain types of units, another viable tactic is to simply kill off your opponent's scoring units while keeping at least one of yours alive.
    • 6th Edition has introduced the Absent Forces rule — if one player has no models on the board at the end of the Game turn (rather than their own personal part of the turn), they instantly lose. Against an army that makes heavy use of Deep Striking, Outflanking or Reserves, where a random number of units will appear in the first turn, it's possible that only a small number turn up and are quickly exterminated, or — as in one very famous example — are prevented from entering play at all. 6th edition also now awards players bonus victory points for killing the enemy warlord, having a unit in the opponent's deployment zone, or being the first to completely destroy an enemy unit, all of which can easily tip the balance of a game.
    • This is generally downplayed in the Kill Team format, as the winner is determined by the number of Victory Points a team secures, regardless of casualties. The rules explicitly point out that getting tabled is not an automatic victory, and the remaining side should play out the remaining turn limit to see how many points they can acquire, particularly in tournament and narrative play (where the exact number of victory points gained matters beyond that one match).
  • Warhammer Fantasy can have this too, in regard to the Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings. Being undead, the army is held together by the will of its general (or Hierophant with Tomb Kings). As a result, if the general is killed, the army begins to fall apart at that exact instant and at the beginning of each turn after. As a result, if you can kill the (usually heavily guarded and well protected) general, you can gain such an absurdly huge advantage that, even if your opponent is in an amazing position, you can still win. And if the Vampire Counts or Tomb Kings player is in a poor position when the general falls, they usually just surrender.
  • It doesn't matter what the scenario is, or how far behind you are, if you can kill your opponent's warcaster/warlock in Warmachine you win immediately.
  • We Didn't Playtest This At All. Here are a few ways you can win by playing a single card: Being the only girl, being the only one without points, having an even number of players in the game, having five or more cards, owning a pony... The game works by stint of it being possible for anyone to win at any time, and all players accepting that the game will, probably, only take a few minutes to play.
  • In Weiss Schwarz, you must deal 7 damage to your opponent while they are at Level 3 to win. There is also the card "Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange" from the Marvel set, where, if you control at least two other Characters with the "MARVEL" attribute on your Stage, allows you to reveal the top 8 cards of your deck when played. If all 8 cards are Climax Cards, you win the duel.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG loves this.
    • The Cyber Dragon era of the card game consisted of gambling that your one attack would go through, and win the duel. Of course, more advanced players would only do that after getting rid of potential traps with the card Heavy Storm.
    • An interesting twist are a series of illegal cards that state that, when used to end the duel, you win not only the duel but the entire match. (typically best 2 out of 3) One of these cards was once actually legal to play; Victory Dragon, which quickly ended up being banned to the forbidden list, not because it was a Game-Breaker, mind you; because it caused nothing but ruling headaches and arguments when the opposing player would immediately surrender as soon as it hit the field to try and avoid the match loss.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh's also has cards that allow you to instantly win a game:
      • Summoning "Exodia the Forbidden One" is an instant win for the player doing so, but requires five subsequent cards to be in the player's hand: "Left Arm of the Forbidden One", "Right Arm of the Forbidden One", "Left Leg of the Forbidden One", "Right Leg of the Forbidden One" and "Exodia the Forbidden One" (head/torso).
      • Activating "Final Countdown" will cause the player who activated it to win after twenty turns.
      • "Destiny Board" puts one Spirit Message onto the field at the end of your opponent's turn, and you win if you have Destiny Board and the four different Spirit Messages on the field at once.
      • "Vennominaga the Deity of Poisonous Snakes" wins you the game if it inflicts damage to your opponent three times.
      • "Last Turn", which requires you to have 1000 or fewer Life Points to activate, allows you to pick a monster on your side of the field, wipes both players' fields and hands, then allows your opponent to Special Summon any monster from their deck to battle yours; the player who has a monster on their field at the end of the battle wins the duel.
      • Sending all five pieces of Exodia to the Graveyard with the effect of "Exodius the Ultimate Forbidden Lord" wins you the game.
      • Successfully summoning "Holactie the Creator of Light", which requires you to tribute cards whose original names are "Slifer the Sky Dragon", "Obelisk the Tormentor" and "The Winged Dragon of Ra", will instantly win you the duel. Its summoning also cannot be negated.
      • Placing three Destiny Counters on Number 88: Gimmick Puppet of Leo, (by detaching one Xyz material, having no spells or traps in your spell/trap zone, and skipping your Battle Phase) wins you the game. Leo's Chaos Number Counterpart has an easier version. If Disaster Leo has no Xyz materials and your opponent's life points are less than 2000, you win.
      • If three copies of "Jackpot 7" are banished by being sent to the Graveyard by an opponent's card effect, you win the duel.
      • If "Ghostrick Angel of Mischief" has ten or more Xyz Materials, you win the duel.
      • If a "Phantasm Spiral Dragon" targeted by "Phantasm Spiral Assault" and equipped with three different Equip Spells destroys three of your opponent's Effect Monsters, you win the duel.
      • "Flying Elephant" can prevent its destruction by a card effect once per turn, and if inflicts damage with a direct attack the turn after activating its effect, you win the duel.
      • If you banish three F.A. Field Spells with the effect of "F.A. Winners", you win the duel.
      • If you Tribute Summon "Exodia, the Legendary Defender" using five monsters, and then have it destroy an opponent's Dark Fiend monster, you win the duel.
      • If you control "Number iC1000: Numerounius Numerounia" and your opponent doesn't battle it at all during their turn, you win the Duel. Notably, it has 100,000 ATK, and an effect that lets it detach a material to negate an attack if your opponent can somehow get a monster above that.
      • "Musical Sumo Dice Games" probably has the most bizarre instant win condition of them all: When your opponent begins their Battle Phase, you can roll a die and move the card clockwise across both players' Main Monster Zones equal to the number on the die. If it lands in a Main Monster Zone that is already occupied by a monster, it attaches that monster as Xyz Material, then if it has 6 or more Xyz Materials after resolving this effect, the player who controlled it at the time of effect activation wins the duel.
    • Two cards give the opponent a win condition.
      • "Relay Soul" allows you to Special Summon any monster from your hand or deck and protecting you from damage while it's on the field, but making your opponent win the game if they manage to remove that monster.
      • "True Exodia", a joke card, makes it so that if it and the 4 Normal "Forbidden One" pieces are out on the field, the opponent of its controller wins the Duel. Naturally, you want to give this card to your opponent to apply this win condition.
    • There are also many decks based on stalling until the right cards are available in your hand for a sudden and usually completely unexpected turnaround win in one turn. An example of this is the "Armed Samurai Ben Kei" deck based on amassing field clearers like "Heavy Storm", "Giant Trunade", and "Dark Hole" as well as enough equip cards to reduce the opponent's life points by at least 8000 in one turn while exposed. Variations with other cards capable of this damage exist.
    • There are many cards in the game that give you benefits at the cost of letting your opponent draw cards. This is normally a bad thing but some players, knowing that if your deck runs dry and at any point you are unable to draw you instantly lose the duel, build decks stacked with these cards and use the intended benefits to merely hold off and restrict their opponent until his resources run dry. Such things are now known officially as "Mill Decks" and now have cards deliberately made for this specific purpose that simply let your opponent draw cards with no benefit to you at all and would be entirely useless in any other kind of deck like The Gift of Greed.


  • In the El Goonish Shive Magickal Cards tournament in "Squirrel Prophet", Sarah manages to "deck" Sam (aka make him run out of cards) by accident. (They're stalemated, but Sarah has a couple more cards, simply because she couldn't decide between them.) She offers Sam a draw, since she's only going to win by luck, but he refuses, saying she won fair and square.
  • In Erfworld, the death of a side's leader will cause that side's entire population to Disband, provided they are out of heirs.
  • In the "Torg Potter" parodies of Sluggy Freelance, Torg accidentally invokes this twice, once by picking up the Golden Snitch before the game started and once by picking up the Goblet of Flameyness right as the Vertical Maze event started.
  • Tower of God: This element pops up at several occasions:
    • The Crown Game: If you take the Crown and sit on the Throne in less than five minutes, your teams wins the round.
    • Hide-And-Seek: Tap the Seeker's badge and you auto pass into the final examination. Also, your team wins.
    • Trustworthy Room: When Viole captures Yeon's room, he instawins.

    Web Original 
  • In Achievement Hunter's Let's Play Minecraft, the crew agrees that whoever finds a supercharged creeper automatically wins that given Let's Play after the "I Spy" competitions.
  • CJ DaChamp: In the second part of CJ's Tokyo Revengers recap, Mikey roundhouse kicks his opponent in the face while another combatant was holding onto Mikey's leg. CJ declares "I've seen enough" and adds Mikey to the Round Table of Black Air Force Activity on the spot, since he's proven himself to be a menace.
  • When Dream explains at the start of the video that beating the Ender Dragon means he wins, he's not kidding. Even if Dream dies a split second later, so long as he gets the "Free the End" achievement beforehand he wins. He doesn't even need to enter the portal to the Overworld.
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, the battle between the Inquisition and a daemon army (for which the creators played an actual game of Warhammer 40,000) had the Inquisition's victory condition being surviving a certain number of rounds. Sure, they lost most of their characters in doing so, but once the time limit was reached, they were able to break through Khaine's Gate and have the Starchild possess Fyodor Karamazov and escape into the Webway.

    Western Animation 
  • Blernsball stadiums in Futurama have a panel on the side of the stadium with a tiny hole in it marked "Hit ball here to win game." Getting the tethered ball in the hole requires hitting it so hard that it breaks off its tether.
  • In The Legend of Korra, a Pro-Bending team wins if all the opposing benders are knocked out of the arena, regardless of how many rounds they've lost.
  • The Owl House episode "Wing It Like Witches" hangs one giant lampshade on this trope (And thoroughly mocks Harry Potter) when Luz and friends' hard-fought Grudgby victory is undone because Boscha caught the "Rusty Smidge", granting them 999 points. Apparently, all Witch sports have such an element. Luz is not happy.
    Luz: That just invalidates all our efforts! If catching that thing is so important, why do anything else!? There's no reason to watch any of the other players! That's such a stupid rule!

    Real Life 
  • Most fighting sports are like this. If you knock out/pin your opponent or make him submit to you, you win right then and there and don't have to sweat out the judge's score cards. Though generally, the fighter who gets more points is doing a better job in the fight and more likely to KO/pin his opponent.
  • This philosophy was taken to its logical extreme during a particular wrestling match in ancient Greece, where one participant pinned down his opponent with an attack which killed him instantly. The referee didn't notice that he'd died until after he'd declared him the victor, making him probably the only person to be declared the winner of a wrestling match posthumously. In the brutal sport of Pankration (Ancient Greek Wrestling), one of the insta-win conditions is to die in the ring (i.e. if you kill your opponent, your opponent automatically wins). It serves as an incentive for the fighters to go easier on each other.
  • Pool has a couple versions. In Nine-ball pool, if you pocket the 9 ball on any legal shot, you win regardless of how many other balls remain on the table. In Eight-ball if your opponent pockets the 8 ball before all of their other balls or makes a foul while trying to pocket the 8, you win.
  • In the ancient (and unnamed) Mesoamerican Ball Game, you scored points by bouncing the ball against the opposing team's side of the stadium, but you could automatically win by knocking it into a tiny circle situated high up on the wall just barely large enough to fit the ball through. This would be humiliating enough if it weren't for the fact that their entire team was sacrificed for losing the game.note 
  • In actual warfare, many often forget that the point of a war is not necessarily to just annihilate the other side but to achieve some objective. Sometimes this objective is so important that if one side manages to achieve it, there's no point in continuing to fight.
    • In the 19th and 20th centuries, this objective was often the capture of the enemy's capital, since that was a deathblow to morale and eliminated the enemy's command and control ability; see the fall of France in 1940, the fall of Germany in 1945, the Franco-Prussian war in 1871. This usually depends on how your enemy is structured - capturing capitals (if they even had one) of less centralized adversaries (e.g., the Americans during the American Revolution, the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War) would generally prove to be a less devastating defeat.
    • It may also be the capture or destruction of a critical resource or person that cripples the enemy's ability to wage war or negates his reasons for fighting. For example, the Kuwaiti oil fields in the first Gulf War, or the capture of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.
    • Modern warfare rarely has any way of winning instantly (hence guerilla warfare). However, a single tactical battle can be enough to win the strategic war, even if fighting continues. This usually happens when your opponent's main force is sufficiently bloodied, crippled or damaged enough that, while they can continue to fight, their effectiveness is severely reduced and the best they can hope for is a Pyrrhic Victory. Guerilla warfare depends on this outcome: with the guerillas being massively outnumbered, they can only hope to inflict enough casualties on their opponents to force them to consider an objective as "not worth it".
  • Sudden Death overtime in sports, although the specifics on how it works varies by sport.
    • In baseball extra innings, the game is over when one team has the lead at the end of an inning. The visiting team always bats first in each inning, so if they take a lead, the home team has the bottom half of the inning to respond, but if the home team takes a lead the game is immediately over. In addition, if the home team is winning at the end of the first half of the ninth inning, they immediately win (since the visiting team has no more opportunities to score).
    • In American football overtime, scoring a touchdown (6 points) at any time ends the game. If the team that receives the kickoff only scores a field goal (3 points) on their first possession, the other team gets one possession to respond, and if they score a field goal of their own, the next team to score in any way wins. If the receiving team doesn't score on their first possession, the next score wins. Any defensive score (a safety or an interception/fumble returned for a touchdown) immediately ends the game. The other instant win condition is if the team that is winning has or takes control of the ball with (approximately) 1 minute left on the game clock: they can easily run "quarterback kneel" plays that stop play but keep the clock going until the match is over, and the defense can do nothing about it.
    • Ice hockey overtime is pure sudden death...if somebody scores, the game is over. In the regular season, only a short OT period is generally played with reduced manpower (4-on-4 or 3-on-3 instead of 5-on-5) and is followed by a shootout (3 rounds of penalty shots, then continuing with additional rounds if needed) if nobody scores. In the playoffs, regular 20-minute periods will be played until the game is decided.
    • One (much more esoteric) instant win condition in sports is nearly universal: if you cannot field a full team, then you forfeit and your opponent wins. While this normally never happens, it is possible for a team in a full-contact sport to have enough people injured to not have enough players to continue, resulting in a forfeit.
  • An anecdote printed in an early Magic: the Gathering tournament rule-book related the story of a play-tester who was inexplicably winning almost every game. Upon investigation, it was discovered that one of the player's cards (Time Walk, which is still a massive Game-Breaker and one of the Power Nine, but isn't an instant win on its own) read, 'When this card is played, opponent loses next turn' (as in, 'the opponent skips his next turn'), but the player interpreted the text to mean 'the opponent loses the match next turn' and had been using that inadvertent loophole as an instant-win condition. The card's text was quickly re-written to state that the person who played the card took an extra turn.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Enemy Gate Is Down


Instant Kill

The Guilty Gear series is well-known for its Instant Kill techniques. In the first game, successfully executing an Instant Kill wins not just the round, but the match outright.

How well does it match the trope?

4.5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / InstantWinCondition

Media sources: