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A competitive card game based on the CIA's declassified training game: Collection Deck.
A competitive card game based on the CIA's declassified training game: Collection Deck.
4,476 backers pledged $151,184 to help bring this project to life.

Gameplay Backer Update

Posted by Mike Masnick (Creator)

We know you’ve been curious about what it’s like to play the game and what we’re updating from the CIA’s original version. See below for details on all that and more.


The gameplay is quick, competitive, and tactical. On your turn, you assemble a collection strategy from the Techniques in your hand and pick a Crisis that you want to diffuse. Your rivals can then play Reality Check cards that might disrupt your strategy and prevent you from overcoming the crisis.  

To win, you need to weigh the risk of disruption against the point value of the crisis -- as well as how much extra “power” you have in your hand should your strategy get disrupted. Do you take your time and pursue safe, low value crises or gamble on a higher value crisis that your rivals will likely try to block?  

We think one of the CIA’s goals for the game was to get players familiar with different types of intelligence collection techniques. The game definitely succeeds at that and playing has made us much more conversant in the wide array of tactics as well as the difficulties and hurdles they sometimes face.

Rules Tweaks and Card Updates 

The CIA’s version was well designed and playtested – it’s a polished product that is a lot of fun to play. That said, we’ll be tweaking the game to make it more fun and accessible.

As we tested the game, there were a few ambiguities in the rules. We’re adding clarifications to remove any uncertainty about how particular cards interact. Hopefully that will prevent some arguments at the table!  

A bigger change is that we’re removing the “Manager Challenge” cards from the base game. They are a type of Reality Check that forces an active player to defend why their set of tactics would plausibly work for the targeted crisis. This type of mechanic is perfect for a training game but not as great a fit for a public game. We’ll keep a way to play with them as a house rule / variant so they’re not totally gone from the game -- just not in the core ruleset.

And, of course, we're continuing to work on filling in the redacted/censored cards (keeping very much within the spirit of the game and the revealed cards) and updating the visual design to make the game more enjoyable.

Game Particulars

We’ve had a few questions about specific details of the game, here are some quick answers:

Age Range:

We’re officially recommending the game for ages 14 and up. The mechanics are fairly straightforward but the cards contain some technical descriptions that might be confusing to younger players.  

That being said, I've playtested the game with my 8-year-old son, who picked up the rules and gameplay very quickly (faster than some adults) -- even if he didn’t understand the underlying descriptions, crises, and techniques. We would not recommend it for players that young, but teenagers should easily be able to play the game fully.

Number of Players:

We think the game plays best with 3-5 players. We’ve tested it with 2 and it’s still fun, but misses some of the social scheming and decisions. We are experimenting with some rule variations that might work better for two players, but haven’t decided on anything yet. We haven’t tested it with 6 players yet but we’ll try it soon to see how it plays.


The game takes roughly 20 to 30 minutes for a complete game (each of which takes 2 or 3 “rounds.”) The game has high replayability and we’re often eager to start a new game as soon as one ends.

Storytelling Variant

We’re in the early stages of developing the storytelling variant and still have a lot of decisions to make. So far, we’ve tested one version that focuses more on information collection and one that has a James Bond, secret agent theme. One of the later tests centered on a syndicate of clean energy companies trying to blow up oil pipelines – it was a lot of fun.  

We’ll continue testing both versions and go with the one that’s most fun. Expect more updates in the coming weeks!


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    1. Marek Vincenc

      When you say diffuse a crisis, do you really mean diffuse? Just checkin'.