Mutually Assured Destruction

Created as a one-shot team based role playing and card game set in a Dr. Strangelove inspired ‘war-room’, Mutually Assured Destruction was designed by myself and William Owen. It is best described as a mix between Werewolf and Battleship and was reviewed positively in Wargaming journal The Nugget.


To play, 18 players are divided into 3 teams. Each team is given a handful of missile bases at undisclosed coordinates. Each base contains a single missile to destroy another base. The game ends when there is one team left standing, or everyone is destroyed.

Core to the design is that players don’t know the location of all their team’s bases. There are 2 sets of ‘intelligence’ cards, each indicating if a location on a map has a missile base or not.

Before the game starts each team is given a set of cards with their own bases, and the rest of the deck contains empty and enemy locations. However this information is split among the team: each player is given an individual dossier containing a portion of their team’s cards.

The game begins with a final revelation – within each team there are spies!

Players learn if they are a spy within their dossier, and must subvert their supposed team by stealing and spreading misinformation. However their loyalties are unknown by their true team.

As the game plays out interactions and organization is left up to the players and their own paranoia.

Mutually Assured Destruction

Players can learn base coordinates by negotiating internally with their own team and externally with other teams to trade cards and information. Stray cards may also be stolen, leading to crafty opportunities for keen players.

At any time a player can launch one of their team’s missiles, however this gives away the location of the base. Each launch starts a timer, giving all players 1 minute to react before the missile destroys it’s target. This can result in a catastrophic domino effect were many bases are destroyed within minutes, so players must work carefully and strategically along this knife’s edge before the missiles fly.

In practice this escalated into comical chaos where one team managed to blow up one of their own bases, and another team stole so much information couldn’t make sense it in time to make a difference.

To enhance the excitement and add dramatic flair I integrated a projector and computer with a custom-made clock and missile tracker in Unity, alerting everyone to launches and impacts. When a team fired a missile they could only do so from the computer, sounding an alarm and triggering the countdown.

In all the result was an fantastic dynamic of caution, subversion, lying, bluffs, camaraderie, and chaotic gamesmanship.

You can read more about Mutually Assured Destruction on Will’s website, or check out Todd Mason’s review in Wargame Developments’ September 2013 edition (No. 264) of their journal, The Nugget.