The CIA Made A Card Game… And We're Releasing It

from the come-and-get-it dept

Yes, the CIA made a card game. And… we’re releasing it. No, really. If you want to play the top secret card game that the CIA used to train analysts, you can now back our Kickstarter project for CIA: Collect It All.

CIA: Collect It All on Kickstarter

Let me explain how we got here…

We write a lot about the CIA here on Techdirt — often covering just how secretive the organization is around responding to FOIA requests. After all, this is the same organization that invented the famous “Glomar Response” to a FOIA request: the now ubiquitous “we can neither confirm, nor deny.” And that one “invention” is used all the time. Indeed, if you have a few extra hours to spend, feel free to go through just our archives demonstrating CIA obstructionism over FOIA.

But… the organization actually did recently respond to a set of interesting FOIA requests. Back in 2017, at SXSW, the CIA revealed its gaming efforts, and even let some attendees play them. That resulted in a few FOIA requests for the details of the game, including one by MuckRock’s Mitchell Kotler and another by entrepreneur Douglas Palmer. In response to the FOIA requests, the CIA released the details of some of the games (though, somewhat redacted, and in typical FOIA response gritty photo-copy style), including a card game called “Collection Deck.” My first reaction was… “Hey, that would be fun to play…” And then I had a second thought.

There’s another super popular topic here on Techdirt: the public domain and how important it is to build on works in the public domain. Remember, under Section 105 of the US Copyright Act, works of the federal government of the United States are not subject to copyright and are in the public domain.

We’ve already been working with Randy Lubin of Diegetic Games on a few different projects (including Working Futures and others you’ll need to stay tuned for). So, we started talking about making a version of the CIA’s game to play for ourselves. And everyone we mentioned it to wanted to play as well. And the more we looked at the details, the more we realized that we could make a much nicer version (while paying homage to the original and its route through FOIAdom) that was playable, and maybe even offer some changes, fixes and alternative rules. We decided to name our version, “CIA: Collect It All.” Not only does “Collect It All” spell out CIA and pay homage to the CIA’s “Collection Deck” name, “Collect It All” was also General Keith Alexander’s surveillance motto that we roundly mocked due to its inherent conflict with the old 4th Amendment. Anyway, this seemed like a way to take back the phrase a bit.

And that led us to Kickstarter. We’re using Kickstarter in the real original sense of Kickstarter. We had an idea that we thought was pretty damn cool that we wanted for ourselves. And we want to see if others want it as well so we can produce it at scale. If people want it, awesome. We’ll make a bunch. If we’re wrong and no one really wants it… well, we’ll probably still make a copy for ourselves, but you’re on your own, working with redacted photocopies.

CIA: Collect It All on Kickstarter

So… here’s a chance to:

  1. Get a cool, fun game that until just recently was a top secret training game by created by the CIA — which, come on, is pretty cool
  2. Help support Techdirt and all the reporting we do (including reporting on the CIA pushing back on FOIA requests)
  3. Demonstrate why building on the public domain is a good thing
  4. Did I mention that you get to play a fun game, with awesome design work (much better than the CIA’s), that was originally created by the CIA?

So, check it out and back us on Kickstarter. And tell your friends. Because, look, they wanted to be CIA agents when they were kids too.

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Comments on “The CIA Made A Card Game… And We're Releasing It”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Really? Physical CARDS that I can't steal like a computer game?

How quaintly last century. I suppose you haven’t noticed that “life” is now all on computers, believe that people still meet in person and sit round a table. Hee, hee! What a card YOU are!

And certainly minimal effort on your part to try and gain some money. — How about writing lots of interesting content here — for free?

kallethen says:

Re: Really? Physical CARDS that I can't steal like a computer game?

There’s actually a pretty loyal fandom of board games. And I’m not talking just old games, but lots and lots and lots of new board games as well. And even some of those computer and video games even have crossed over into the board game realm. Amazing, isn’t it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Really? Physical CARDS that I can't steal like a computer game?

Not to mention that 2016 and 2017 were Dungeons & Dragons’ most profitable years since it was originally released.

A lot of parts of our lives are on computers, that doesn’t mean that people still don’t interact offline and in the real world.

As kallethen stated, there’s a loyal following of board games, and it’s growing. The board game industry is booming. There is no reason offline and online can’t mix, interact, and live together simultaneously. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Really? Physical CARDS that I can't steal like a computer game?

First Point: Cards

It’s true. Every time I go to Vegas, I observe the oddity of people playing “card games” on the screens of computers, with virtual dealers. You’re so right. Computers CAN simulate a card game.

Of course, those are the nickel games. Walk a few steps over, and — surprise — you’ll see the people actually gambling money in increments above $10 are all actually playing with real cards. So both virtual and actual cards games can co-exist in the market.

But given the house takes a steady %, and the physical card tables have higher minimums, not only do people still choose to play with real cards, they pay substantially more to do so, which is what economists call a “revealed preference”.

So, you are so very wrong.

Second point: Making Money

You joke that Techdirt should, instead, make their money by “writing more free content”. I guess you missed the part of the Techdirt business model, which has been oft repeated, and demonstrated here. It’s “Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB) = The Business Model”

or CwF + RtB. You can see it here

It strikes me that this card game is an incredibly on-point example of that model.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: It'll go full circle...

… if the CIA game ends up on one of the tabletop emulation engines like Tabletop Simulator.

Though yeah, real cards tend to be preferred. Online tabletop emulation is generally used for playing with folks across distance.

Though it makes me tempted to invite a group and play at least one game gathered around a table everyone holding their tablets and gathered at a simulated table. We’d probably only play one short game before breaking out real cards and boards, though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

believe that people still meet in person and sit round a table

Yep, people don’t gather any more. Not for meetings… or mealtimes… it’s so easy to disprove you, it’s ridiculous how any organism could evolve to the capability of using a modern smart device and still be this fucked in the head…

Jinxed (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I was hoping the stretch gold would include an encrypted version, offering additional cards as “decryption devices”, where points allocated from the “investigation” would determine the chance of the “BFI” to “successfully” decrypt the cards.

The 3 device cards would be iFruit, Robotoid, and ObsoleteDevice.

Oh, and it should include a free shredder, if we want to play an agent who wishes to cover our tracks of illegal activity when stealing Bitcoin.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Very important gamer questions

Does CIA: Collect It All support two players? Does it support 3-5 players? Does it support 6+ players? Solitaire?

Is it very easy (Ages 6+), kinda easy (ages 11+) or Grognard hard (ages 41+)

How long does a game typically take? Twenty minutes (e.g. Fluxx), Forty minutes (e.g. Munchkin), All weekend (Catan with all the expansions, oh fuck it let’s call it a draw and get pizza.)

Has anyone played it? Is it fun?

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: awww so cute

The CIA is a sanctioned institution that often operates outside the law and not merely murders, but massacres.

Still taking their card game and publishing it for the rest of us to enjoy hardly condones their heinous programs done in the name of the United States.

And it hardly rehabilitates them into pop culture heroes. For that you just need the Jason Bourne movies.

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