King of the Hill (game)

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Detail from Pieter Brueghel the Elder's Children's Games

King of the Hill (also known as King of the Mountain or King of the Castle) is a children's game, the object of which is to stay on top of a large hill or pile (or any other designated area) as the "King of the Hill". Other players attempt to knock the current King off the pile and take their place, thus becoming the new King of the Hill.

The way the "king" can be removed from the hill depends largely on the rules determined by the players before the game starts. Ordinarily pushing is the most common way of removing the king from the hill, and punching and kicking are not allowed.[1] The potential for rougher versions of the game have led to it often being banned from schools.[citation needed]

King of the Hill is a method of play in airsoft and the "woodsball" variant of paintball, as well as in various first-person shooter videogames.[citation needed]


There are many versions of the game.

Classic version[edit]

  1. The first to get on the hill at the start becomes the king
  2. To become a king, you need to go up the hill and push the king off
  3. At the end, the king wins

Team version[edit]

In this version, there are two or more opponent teams

  1. King is the leader of the first team to get up the hill at the start
  2. To become the king, the leader of a team (opponent) must get on the hill and push the king off
  3. Allies of the king (his team) can push opponents and enemies off and allies of the opponents (enemies) can push off allies but not the king
  4. At the end, the king and his allies win

"Royal family" version[edit]

In this version there is not just the king but also his family, making up teams of 4

  1. The king, queen, prince and princess are the members of the team that gets on the hill first
  2. Other team's people can push off their respective counterpart on the hill and become the "royal" role
  3. The king or queen has the ability to "kick" an opponent team's person from the hill and send that person back to their own team in exchange for the person with the same role from the king's or queen's family

Use as a metaphor[edit]

The name of the game has become a common metaphor for any sort of competitive zero-sum game or social activity in which a single winner is chosen from among multiple competitors, and a hierarchy is devised by the heights the competitors achieve on the hill (what Howard Bloom called "the pecking order" in his book The Lucifer Principle), and where winning can only be achieved at the cost of displacing the previous winner.[2]

In sports[edit]

In tennis, a variation of this concept manifests in the recreational game alternately titled King of the Court. In this game, one player is designated as the "king/queen" and occupies one side of the court. The other players line up single file on the other side. One challenger steps up and plays out a single point against the “king.” The point can be started with either a serve or a drop hit. If the challenger wins, they replace the “king” on the other side of the court and become the new king. Variations of this game include the challenger having to win two or three points in a row. This game practices playing a singles point.

In video gaming[edit]

The concept of "King of the Hill" in video gaming was introduced by Core War players who would pit their warriors against each other's in a fight for survival. King of the Hill tournaments have existed for Core War since the 1980s.

King of the Hill has been featured as a game variant in many video games, especially first-person shooters like Halo: Combat Evolved and the more traditional Perfect Dark and more recently Gears of War 2. One of the games that made this mode very popular is Team Fortress 2. Overwatch has a mode called Control which takes the King of the Hill mechanics. It's also an option in some top-down games, such as many of those in the Army Men series. In these versions of the game, a player or team of players must keep control of a specific area or object (not necessarily a literal hill) for a predetermined amount of time. When that amount of time is reached, the round either ends or a new area is designated on the map. In the virtual variant, players are generally removed from the hill by killing them.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rules for Playing King of the Hill. Headquarters, Department of the Army. 1983.
  2. ^ See, for example, a sermon delivered by Rev. Richard Fairchild, 2003 (accessed October 28, 2006) Rev. Fairchild defined "king of the hill" as "the game where the strongest pushes everyone else off the hill".