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Liars and Verifiers: a role-playing card game

Here's a good new excuse to get your nerd game on. | Photo Szente Akos (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Here's a good new excuse to get your nerd game on. | Photo Szente Akos (CC BY-SA 3.0)

We've all got the ability to send reports, photos and video from our pockets now, but how do we know if it’s true? How can the system be manipulated to serve a vested interest? Who are the verifiers, and do they have enough of what they need to do a good job?

Citizen journalism verification is hard. It’s serious. And it’s something usually taught by doing it on the job.

The game

This game is based on the classic role-playing game Werewolf, but with different roles assigned to players. Special thanks go to Dee Harding, for invaluable advice on game play, and Magdalena Klein, for work on the production of the cards.

Liars and Verifiers is played with 4-17 players, plus a moderator. To play, you need at least one vested interest, one citizen journalist and one verifier, plus a moderator.

Characters

There are three types of players — citizen journalists, verifiers and vested interests. All players are encouraged to ham it up and get into character.   

  • Citizen journalists report on what they happen to be seeing at the moment. They can also vote at the end of each news cycle to nominate one person to be banned from the news stream, and therefore from the game.
  • Verifiers are charged with verifying the reports they receive. They have a set of tools to use, and they don’t trust anyone.
  • Vested interests seek to slip in false information into the news stream. They should try to keep their identity secret, because if they are discovered, they are exposed and the game is over.

 

Winning the game

The game is finished when the vested interest is able to successfully slip in two knowingly false reports into the stream that get past the verifier. Then the vested interest wins.

Conversely, if the vested interest is exposed by either the verifier or the citizen journalists, then the citizen journalists and verifier wins.

News event cards

There are three sets of event cards; each card represents a citizen journalist’s report. The three default sets are:

  • Civil unrest
  • Storm
  • Fire

 

Play starts with the break of day and the beginning of a new news cycle. The moderator greets the players and informs them that it is a new day, and therefore a new news cycle.

The moderator (who should try to mimic a TV news anchor’s demeanor), informs the players that today’s big news story is the continuing unrest in the streets downtown. The moderator puts out a call to citizen journalists to send in their reports.

In order to do this, citizen journalists are asked to close their eyes as they submit their report. The moderator then asks the vested interests to open their eyes (with everyone else’s closed) and submit their report. Finally, everyone opens their eyes to see the reports that have been submitted. The verifier then goes around and looks at the report cards and decides how he or she will verify the report.

Verifier tool cards

The verifier has tool cards that allow him or her to perform a verification of the report based on the items that are submitted. The verifier should play one of these cards per report.

Ending the game

The game ends when the vested interest slips two false cards into the news stream successfully, or when the citizen journalists or the verifier reveal the identity of the vested interest. If there are two vested interests, then the game ends when both are revealed; the vested interests then have to successfully pass four report cards.

Download the cards

Feel free to download the cards we've created for the game or create your own based on them. They are available both as a PDF and as a LibreOffice Draw file. If you play the game, please tell me how it went and if you have any suggestions for improvements — drop me an email or tweet @dougiegyro.

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