When you think about the CIA you think of complicated government operations, secret meetings, and perhaps even questionable intelligence gathering tactics. What you don’t think about is board games. It may surprise you then that apparently not only does the CIA like board games, it likes them so much it made some of their own, with the intention of using them to train operatives.
It all sounds a bit ridiculous, like something out of a satirical movie. After all, just what sort of value could CIA operatives get out of playing board games? Cue mental images of men in sunglasses and suits with earpieces shouting out answers in Pictionary, or trying to snap up exclusive property in Monopoly while lining up their high powered rifles. It’s all a little bit too much to believe, and many assumed the reveal was perhaps a very elaborate marketing campaign.
But, it turns out, it’s true, and not only do the games exist, but are apparently pretty good too. Just like playing online casino games can help you develop your strategic thinking skills, putting Agents into gamified situations where varying tactics are used to address economic, political or military crises and seeing how they can go badly wrong is not only enjoyable, it’s a full on learning experience.
A Bit of Classified Fun
The story goes that David Clopper, a Senior CIA Collection Analyst, set about coming up with a dynamic, interesting way in which to not only test CIA agent’s critical thinking skills, but also hone them firmly in the right grooves. In order to do so he created three board games, each aimed at focusing on different skills.
The CIA went along with the idea, and soon agents were playing board games in training, and in their spare time. But, of course, the games were classified, since playing them gave insight into how agents did their jobs.
After word about the games got around, requests by dedicated board game fans were sent to the CIA to share more information. And, a few years ago a civilian by the name of Sam Machkovech was allowed to play the games under the supervision of Clopper himself. Later in 2017, in a surprising turn of events, details of two of the games were made accessible, after a request for them was sent by Douglas A. Palmer of Two Bats Gaming.
The assumption is that the CIA no longer officially uses the games, or that what they contain isn’t enough to blow their cover.
Getting the Games Off the Ground
One of the games, titled Kingpin: The Search For El Chapo, is apparently beyond being saved. The game was apparently overly convoluted and complicated, and had a video component that was lost long ago. So, sadly, this game will never be played or seen by the public.
Another game though, titled Collect it All, has been recreated, and will be re-mastered and released to the public. The game currently has a Kickstarter campaign, which will provide physical copies of the game, pieced together from documents. Word is that the CIA censored only small parts of the game before they released the information. But, the game will still be 100% playable, and many assume it will provide great insight into what transpires at the CIA.
What’s In The Game?
A closer look at Collect It All reveals that it looks somewhat like the popular game Pandemic, or Magic: The Gathering. The rules are based around players being co-operative with one another, and attempting to control a crisis that is forever growing, and getting more out of control. An element of attempting to predict future outcomes and control them before they occur is also present.
Early reviews of the game say that it is a great deal of fun, and was probably aimed at teaching agents how out-of-control situations can escalate drastically, even when the correct methods of control and systems are put in place. The game will likely be available for purchase soon after the Kickstarter campaign has run it’s course, giving everyone the chance to pretend to be a CIA agent.