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The CIA Uses Board Games as Training Tools

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Working for the CIA is serious business. But that doesn’t mean the agency’s top operatives don’t know how to have fun while sharpening their skills. As Ars Technica reports, the CIA uses specially designed board and card games to train its officers. They unveiled the activities at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.

Unlike other exercises that focus on the individual, success in these games depends on teamwork. "This game is really about value of collaboration," David Clopper, the CIA senior collection analyst who launched the game program in 2008, told Ars Technica. "We saw [game sessions] where people took the time to talk to one another ... They tended to win. The tables where someone would go on their own and do what they wanted, or do their own thing, or didn't collaborate until too late, they couldn’t catch up to the crises. It was a simulation of what we do, but also teaching the importance of working together."

The games played by CIA agents look similar to some titles on store shelves. Collection, for instance, is like Pandemic in that players collaborate to solves global crises. There’s also Collection Deck, a card game that Clopper compared to Magic: The Gathering. Only instead of mythical creatures, participants work to collect government intel.

Another game, called Kingpin: The Hunt for El Chapo is "about finding a fugitive from justice who, if not found sooner than later, will likely do harm to innocent people and harm U.S. interests," according to CIA intelligence educator and game co-designer Volko Ruhnke.

Government agencies have used board games as strategy tools for centuries. Before Risk was published in 1957, Kriegspiel was a favorite war game of the Prussian army in the 19th century. A similar tabletop game was used by Japanese forces to plan the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Whether or not hunting El Chapo sounds like your idea of a good time, you won’t be able to do so with these games. They were briefly shared with members of the public during a special event at SXSW. Now that it’s over, the only way to play games like Collection is with government clearance.

[h/t Ars Technica]

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Pop Culture
Defend Westeros From the Wildlings In A Game of Thrones Catan
HBO
HBO

The board of the latest version of Catan should look familiar to Game of Thrones fans. It’s been relocated to Westeros, where players of the popular settlement-building game are tasked with defending the Seven Kingdoms from invading wildlings.

According to Mashable, the new Game of Thrones version of Catan takes a slightly different approach to the classic gameplay. All players are members of the Night's Watch, and their goal is to develop the land south of the Wall. But wildlings can breach the Wall, stealing resources from players as the game progresses. To win, players must strategically strengthen the Wall to keep out hostile forces while developing land fast enough to be the first person to earn 10 victory points. Players can also depend on characters from the George R.R. Martin series for help, including Samwell Tarly, Jeor Mormont, and Bowen Marsh.

Game of Thrones Catan game.
Catan

Game of Thrones Catan cards.
Catan

Game of Thrones Catan.
Catan

Boxes of A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch are available in limited quantities and can be pre-ordered for $80 apiece before shipping early February. Pop culture-themed Catan spin-offs are rare, but not unheard of—prior to this, the brand released a Star Trek version set in deep space.

[h/t Mashable]

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This $20 Board Game From JetBlue Includes a Free Round-Trip Flight
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Still looking for a last-minute gift idea? Here’s an affordable item that everyone in your family will be fighting over: As Travel + Leisure reports, JetBlue is selling a $20 board game that includes complimentary round-trip airfare.

The object of the limited-edition game, called Get Packing!, is to fill up your board with personal belongings in preparation for your flight and prevent other players from doing the same. Sounds simple enough, but if you play the way JetBlue recommends, the gameplay will get competitive fast: The first person to fill their bag wins a certificate that can be redeemed for a real round-trip flight.

Winners have from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018 to book their free trip. Destinations eligible for flights include domestic cities as well as ones abroad, like Quito, Ecuador and Lima, Peru. Taxes and other fees apply and travelers will still have to pay blackout rates on busy travel days.

After debuting the deal on Amazon on December 12, the product quickly sold out. Fortunately, a new batch will be made available on December 18 at 3 p.m.—just remember to act fast, as it’s likely to be a hot item on everyone’s wish list.

Board game from JetBlue.
JetBlue, Amazon

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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