Spy Games

I recently ran a game with friends in school. 8 participating members all received a briefing about a secret mission they had to embark on. The premise was as follows:

  • One agent has a secret message ('The Source Agent')
  • This must be delivered to 'The Extraction Agent'.
  • Blue team's goal was to handle the delivery of this message.
  • Red team's goal was to intercept the message and replace it with a fake.
  • Each member knew only their role, but not those on their team.
  • Everyone also had three codewords, which loosely correlated with their team mates and gave some idea of who source and extraction were.

This worked well, and lead to some interesting results, and a fun challenge to play and watch. I am now being begged to do a second round.

I plan to create a revised version 2, which I plan to release once it's finished.

However, there were a few critical flaws, which I will discuss here:

Simple rules can lead to complex phenomena. At least in theory.

This was an exercise in building a well running system that could be distributed and easily interpreted. As such it had to have simple rules, which would lead to interesting results.

The game could have lead to many interesting outcomes, dependent on which stage the red team retrieved the true letter. If they got to it first, blue team would have to pose as extraction and steal it back. If blue team got it first red team would have to do the same. Or red team could have posed as the source and given blue team the fake letter, setting a big trap.

All of these depended on the fact that you couldn't be sure of who was who. The issue here was that once one person figured out the correlation in the codewords, they gained a massive advantage. Another issue arose since your letter served as proof of your team, letting blue team convince the extraction they were legit.

As happened in the game amongst my friends, this can allow blue team a rapid advantage.

The nature of my school's timetabling means my friend group is split into two groups, (more or less). This led to the issue of one group (which I'm with more often) taking a bigger interest in the game and thus putting more thought into it. They also were able to gain further clarification from me because of this.

Red team was at a disadvantage since their success relied on them coming together as a group, while one member of blue team was essentially solely responsible for his team's win.

Blue team should also have to come together as a group to win.

On a similar note, it may be a fun alteration to also give bystanders letters, or have agents with completely separate motives, increasing complexity in a non-destructive way.

Since version 1 was well received, and many others want to join, version 2 will be much larger, involving both more bystanders and team members.

One final problem was that people weren't discreet enough with their briefs.

This simply needs to be stressed more in the new letters.

More to come in Round 2 + A Public Release!