Central Intelligence Agency developed its own card game – for training purposes – but there are many more available games, focused on espionage and its mechanisms.
CIA training game is called Collection Deck – name refers both to intelligence collection and collecting cards. After FOIA request, it was scanned to PDFs at Muckrock. In short, players are presented with intelligence problems (such as “Pakistan nuclear security”), solve them using espionage methods (for instance “Foreign media transcription”), and respond to issues along the way (e.g., “Misinformed source”).
Declassified card names paint comprehensive image of the game:
- Intelligence Method (Technique) cards: Airborne Imagery, Commercial Multispectral Imagery, Commercial Panchromatic Imagery, Handheld Imagery, Open Surveillance Imagery, Vibrometry, Defense Attache Offices, Document and Media Exploitation, Foreign Material Exploitation, Homeland Security Fusion Centers, Leadership Debriefing, Legal Attache Offices, Non-Title 50 Agencies, State Department, Tactical Military HUMINT, Biometrics, Analytic Outreach, Commercial Databases, Contract Open Source Exploitation, Foreign Media Transcription, Foreign Media Translation, Grey Literature, Internet, National Virtual Translations Center, Wire Services, COMINT Mapping, Computer Network Exploitation, Overhead COMINT, Overhead ELINT, Overhead FISINT, Tactical Military SIGINT
- Intelligence Problem cards: al-Qa’ida Leadership, China Missile Testing, Iran Missile Testing, North Korea Nuclear Talks, Pakistan Nuclear Security, Taliban Resurgence, Afghanistan Opium Network, Caspian Energy Crisis, India Missile Program, Iraq Instability, Israel Palestinian Conflict, Russia Georgia Conflict, Russia Military Sales, Venezuela Foreign Policy, Atrocities in Darfur, Bolivia Economic Reform, China Yuan Revelation, G-8 Summit, Global Warming Summit, Indonesia Typhoon, Iraq Oil Infrastructure, Syria Chemical Weapon Testing, China Taiwan Posturing, Weaponized UAV Proliferation, Zimbabwe Unrest
- Issue (Reality Check) cards: Aggressive Counterintelligence, Persona Non-Grata, Misinformed Source, Encryption, Linguists Reassigned, Bad Weather, Satellite Warning, Satellite Failure, Ground Station Failure, Corrupt Signature Database, Disinformation Campaign, Customer Bias, Media Blackout, Compartmented, Denial and Deception, No Exploitation Resources, Competition, Red Tape, Internal Politics, Hard Target
Independent version of the CIA game was published under the name “Collect It All“.
Espionage-focused Board Games
Topic of espionage, as the main focus or as a significant part of Cold War history, was used in many popular board games:
- Twilight Struggle – bipolar conflict between the United States and Soviet Union, where players take over proxy countries and are limited by nuclear war indicator (DEFCON)
- Cold War: CIA vs KGB – card-based strategy game relying on building spy networks and influencing governments around the world
- Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War – game of abstracted pawns (pieces) moved on the board representing two superpowers of the Cold War
- 1955: The War of Espionage – faction building game, players attempt to influence the same six persons/countries using intelligence methods
- The Resistance – Mafia-alike game for many players who assign operatives to missions in abstract Resistance-Empire conflict
- Agents of SMERSH – storytelling game set in the alternative 1970s where Soviet agents compete with United Nations spy service
Espionage-focused Computer Games
There were only a few PC games which focused entirely on espionage:
- Covert Action (1990) – Story-rich action and strategy game by Sid Meier, where the player attempts to stop terrorist plot by executing covert operations around the world.
- Alpha Protocol (2010) – RPG in which you play as a spy, borrows gameplay mechanics from stealth and FPS genres.
- US and THEM (2010) – Turn-based conflict between CIA and KGB over a control of the world, incorporating detailed intelligence technology (e.g., one time pads, minox cameras, dead drop spikes).
- Invisible, Inc. (2015) – Turn-based mix of puzzle genre and tactical X-COM, where cartoon characters are guided through various maps.
- Alekhine’s Gun (2016) – Play as a Russian assassin in the Cold War RPG, focused on stealth mechanics and timeline from late 1940s to early 1960s.
- Phantom Doctrine (2018) – Fictional Cold War scenario in 1983, X-COM-like global and tactical layer, largely linear gameplay.