The CIA uses homemade versions of Pandemic and Magic: The Gathering to train its agents

16 March 2017
IMAG2352-1440x1080-63616.jpg Kingpin: The Hunt for El Chapo
Officers used cheating in real-life as a way of simulating potential espionage

We recently reported how playing board games into your 70s could help fend off dementia and Alzheimer's, and now it looks like tabletop gaming could have another major real-life benefit – teaching CIA officers.

A fascinating article over on Ars Technica reveals that the US intelligence agency has designed its own board games specifically designed to mimic the real-world responsibilities and activities required by its agents.

Games have apparently been in use at the CIA for close to a decade, beginning in 2008 as the result of an attempt to spice up tedious training exercises.

What’s particularly interesting is that several of the games mentioned appear to be based on popular hits from the tabletop world, including the Pandemic-like co-op game Collection, wherein players with varying roles (including political, military and economic analysts) collaborate to combat crises around the world, and Collection Deck, a card game compared to Magic: The Gathering that swaps the spells of duelling planeswalkers for intelligence problems combatted with ‘reality check’ cards.

If those titles sound dry, there’s also the mention of the enticingly-named Kingpin: The Hunt for El Chapo, co-designed with the Defense Intelligence Agency, which centres around the search for a fugitive – one team plays as the bad guys who can make use of real-life resources such as facial surgery, while the others try to track them down.

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An upcoming title is Satellite Construction Kit, a resource-management game that involves juggling budgets and time to build and upkeep satellites.

One amusing anecdote also shines a light on the use of cheating to recreate real-world possibilities: in one competitive game, one team of CIA officers hired an IT professional to spy on the opposing side, leading to insight into the unpredictable types of human behaviour board games can produce.

Don’t expect to see any of the CIA-made titles on shelves soon – but maybe your prowess at The Resistance might not be such a silly thing to mention on your CV, after all.

Picture via Ars Technica


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