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[liberationtech] NSA: The Game!

Griffin Boyce griffin at
Mon Dec 2 08:51:14 PST 2013

>From the brightest minds on the Cypherpunks list comes an NSA game you
can play with your friends :3 


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 	NSA: The Game
Date: 	Mon, 02 Dec 2013 22:34:54 +1300
From: 	Peter Gutmann <pgut001 at>
To: 	cypherpunks at

For those of you familiar with the game Werewolf (also known as Mafia), here's
an updated version, NSA.


-- Snip --


                      Peter Gutmann, 11 November 2013.
              Adapted from a Werewolf writeup found on Zarfhome.

NSA is a simple game for a largeish group of people, ten or more is best.  It
requires no equipment apart from some playing cards, or even just bits of
paper.  You can play it by simply sitting in a circle, but sitting around a
table works better (there's room for drinks and snacks).

Setting Up

Make up a set of cards, one for each player, with a role on each one:

    Two NSA agents (Werewolves in the original)
    One Edward Snowden (Seer in the original)
    One EFF member (Healer in the original)
    All the rest are Internet users (Villagers in the original)

The cards can be anything from fancy custom ones with the NSA logo and other
graphics representing the players' roles, through to a convenient pack of Dora
the Explorer cards with N, S, and E scrawled on a few of them.

In addition to the players there's a moderator who runs things.  The moderator
shuffles the cards and hands them out, face down.  Each player should look at
their card without revealing it to anyone else.  If there are more than about
15 players then the number of NSA agents, Snowdens, and EFF members can be

Two players are secretly NSA agents.  They are trying to apply extraordinary
rendition to all of the Internet users.  Everyone else is an innocent Internet
user, but one of the Internet users, Snowden, secretly has inside access to
classified information and can detect the presence of NSA agents.  In addition
another Internet user is an EFF member and can protect one player per turn
from the NSA's extraordinary rendition.

The Game: Night and Day

The game begins with each player introducing themselves.  The standard formula
for this is "Hi, my name is <insert name here> and I'm an innocent Internet
user".  This can be embellished as required with additional comments.  Once
everyone has been introduced, the game proceeds in alternating night and day
phases, beginning with night.  At night, the moderator tells all of the
players "Night has fallen, close your eyes".

The moderator then says "NSA, open your eyes".  The two NSA agents do so, and
look around to recognize each other.  The moderator should also note who the
NSA agents are.

The moderator says "NSA agents, pick someone to render".  The two NSA agents
silently agree on one Internet user to subject to extraordinary rendition.
It's important that they remain silent while doing this, pointing at the
victim works best.  When the NSA have agreed on a victim and the moderator
understands who they picked, the moderator says "NSA agents, close your eyes".

The moderator says "Snowden, open your eyes.  Snowden, pick someone to check".
Snowden opens his eyes and points at another player (as for the NSA agents,
this has to be silent).  The moderator signs thumbs-up (or some similar yes-
gesture) if Snowden pointed at an NSA agent, and shakes their head (or some
similar no-gesture) if the Snowden pointed at an innocent Internet user.  The
moderator then says "Snowden, close your eyes".

Finally, the moderator says "EFF member, open your eyes.  EFF member, pick
someone to protect".  The EFF member opens his/her eyes and, as with the
others, points at another player.  The moderator then says "EFF member, close
your eyes".  In the initial rounds its best if the EFF member protects
themselves.  If and when Snowden identifies himself, the EFF member should
protect Snowden in order to prevent him from being subject to extraordinary
rendition by the NSA.

The moderator says "Everybody open your eyes.  It's daytime, and <insert
victim name> has been subject to extraordinary rendition".  The named person
is immediately out of the game, and typically leaves the table or circle so
that only active players remain.  He or she can't say anything involving the
game beyond this point, but would typically sit at the periphery and watch the
game continue.

Now it's daytime.  All of the remaining players decide who to lynch as a
suspected NSA agent.  Anyone can say anything they want.  NSA agents can claim
to be Edward Snowden and "unmask" NSA agents who are actually innocent
Internet users.  Players can privately whisper things to other players (for
example claiming to be Snowden, or the EFF member), or secretly pass notes.
Any excuse to lynch someone is valid, for example because they have a beard,
because they're Australian, or because they took the last potato chip.

The real Edward Snowden should remain silent until they've identified at least
one NSA agent, since they'll be an immediate target for extraordinary
rendition if they reveal themselves too early.  Similarly, the EFF member
shouldn't reveal their identity unless absolutely necessary, since they need
to protect Snowden without being themselves rendered by the NSA.

Once a majority of players vote for a particular player to die (the player can
be allowed to defend themselves, for example by claiming that "we, too, are
Internet users", leading to further votes), the moderator says "<insert-name>
has been lynched as a suspected NSA agent and is now dead".  The player leaves
the game in the same way as those subject to extraordinary rendition.  If the
players take too long to decide, the moderator can hint that night is about to
fall, and if they still dither, night will fall without anyone being lynched.

At this point the cycle repeats.  Everyone closes their eyes, the NSA agent(s)
select another person to subject to extraordinary rendition, Snowden (if
alive) learns another player's identity, and the EFF member (if alive)
protects another player.  The sun rises, one player is rendered (unless
protected by the EFF member), and the remaining players discuss another
lynching.  Repeat until one side wins.


The Internet users win if they kill all of the NSA agents.  The NSA agents win
if they render enough Internet users that the numbers of Internet users and
NSA agents are even.  In other words they win if the NSA agents constitute a
large enough voting bloc that they can't be lynched any more.  At that point
the NSA can unmask and openly subject the remaining Internet users to
extraordinary rendition.


When everyone closes their eyes at night, it's best for people to make some
sort of noise, typically tapping the table.  This will cover up any accidental
sounds that are made by the NSA agents, Snowden, the EFF member, or the

Once a player is lynched or rendered, there are two options on what to do with
their cards, show or no-show.  The show option is easiest, particularly for
the initial games.  With this option the player reveals their card, so that
the other players know what sort of person has been eliminated.  The no-show
option is harder but a lot more fun.  With this option the player doesn't
reveal their card, so that the other players have no idea who's still left in
the game.

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