I've just read through Elizabeth Shoemaker's Mist Robed Gate.
You've got to love a game where over a third of the text is a filmography of great martial arts movies, recipes for Asian cuisine to eat during play, and a quick guide to tea.
But those aren't mechanisms.
The game has at it's core, a sequence referred to as "the knife ritual". It's dramatic, evocative and a little dangerous...It uses a real knife.
The knife can be in a range of states, it begins sheathed and covered by a cloth when the tension is low. It becomes uncovered when things get a little tense. It becomes unsheathed when things are drawing to a head. It is stabbed into someone's character sheet when the edge of danger has been crossed and something nasty occurs. Character successes can increase or decrease the escalation of the knife, depending on their actions in game.
It's symbolic, but that symbolism is pretty clear and obvious.
I tried to do the same with Quincunx, using a series of scene types "vague", "unfocused", "focused" and "visceral". But my own effort to achieve this sort of tension lost something in the translation during my Gencon playtests.
A lot of people have raved about Mist Robed Gate, so I'm going to have to go back to re-reading it. There seems to be an elegance to the knife ritual that needs more exploration.