UK Police Seize War on Terror Board Game

They said—and it’s almost too stupid to believe—that:

the balaclava “could be used to conceal someone’s identity or could be used in the course of a criminal act”.

Don’t they realize that balaclavas are for sale everywhere in the UK? Or that scarves, hoods, handkerchiefs, and dark glasses could also be used to conceal someone’s identity?

The game sounds like it could be fun, though:

Each player starts as an empire filled with good intentions and a determination to liberate the world from terrorists and from each other.

Then the reality of world politics kicks and terrorist states emerge.

Andrew said: “The terrorists can win and quite often do and it’s global anarchy. It sums up the randomness of geo-politics pretty well.”

In their cardboard version of realpolitik George Bush’s “Axis of Evil” is reduced to a spinner in the middle of the board, which determines which player is designated a terrorist state.

That person then has to wear a balaclava (included in the box set) with the word “Evil” stitched on to it.

Buy yours here; I first blogged about it in 2006.

Posted on August 15, 2008 at 6:50 AM38 Comments


Lance August 15, 2008 7:39 AM

the game is great fun, I took it to my in-laws for Christmas day games one year!

It does make you think about terrorism in a different light. There are positives and negatives to going “terrorist” in the game, I suppose that mirrors reality.

The game is presumably illegal in the UK anyway, seeing as it “glorifies terrorism”.

rubberman August 15, 2008 8:43 AM

Government job interview for potential Head Of Security.

“What’s your IQ?”
“Huh? What’s an eye cue?”
“Good. You’re hired.”

One is automatically disqualified if they are smarter than the average turnip.

edgore August 15, 2008 10:55 AM

Yes, yes, and GURPS CYberpunk is, and I quote the Secert Service agent “A manual for committing computer crimes!”. We are ruled by idiots.

erik k August 15, 2008 11:44 AM

i am afraid all of this is a semantic misunderstanding…they thought they were seizing baklava, a middle eastern dessert made of many layers of dough, into which pages of the koran could be hidden

Roy August 15, 2008 12:17 PM

I have a balaclava that I bought when I was working rotating shifts. Put it on backwards and it serves as a sleepmask that won’t fall off. (Yes, you can breathe through it.)

Clearly, this is just spoiled brats abusing their power. If they believed a word of what they’re saying, they would be seizing burqas and nuns’ habits. The solution here is public floggings.

SteveJ August 15, 2008 12:27 PM

For those who aren’t following UK news, the police aren’t quite as stupid as they look. They’re just bullies.

If they said the game was confiscated because they thought the balaclava could be used in a crime, then they lied.

Note that this copy of the game wasn’t seized just anywhere – it was at the Climate Camp. This was an extended protest / camping holiday / political workshop, held last week close to a coal-fired power station scheduled to be extended. There were over 1000 people on site, and the police got up to all sorts of nonsense to make sure their presence was felt, and that the general public don’t get the impression that they can just express political opinions whenever they choose.

Search your favourite UK news sources for “climate camp” and/or “kingsnorth” if you want more details. But for example, they were doing ID checks on anyone approaching the site. They also found a knife in the woods nearby, and decided that the appropriate action to take was a national press release.

To be fair, the police were sufficiently scared of the protesters to bus in armed reinforcements from Wales. Fortunately there was in the end no significant violence, nor any plan to start any, although there was an attempt to storm the power station by river with the aid of an inflatable dinghy.

So even if you take the police’s side, it’s pretty clear that they aren’t trying to set a precedent for other owners of the game, or comment on the general availability of balaclavas. Obviously they took the game because it has the word “terrorist” in it, and they found it at a political protest.

Anonymous August 15, 2008 12:48 PM

@ pipebaum

The Diebolds I’ve voted on recently* provide such meager privacy with their narrow side wings that I’ve been doing what I do at ATMs: I use one hand to enter the data while trying to obstruct the view of its fine movements with the other hand.

*Oops, I’ve narrowed the field of my possible geolocations.

yonodeler August 15, 2008 12:57 PM

Confession: I inadvertently truncated my confession of 12:48 PM today by leaving my handle off.

Davi Ottenheimer August 15, 2008 1:39 PM

@ SteveJ

Good insights.

“If they said the game was confiscated because they thought the balaclava could be used in a crime, then they lied.”

Well, sort of. Citizens of a police state should feel lucky when they do not have all their clothes confiscated, since obviously clothes could be used in the course of a criminal act.

Remember the scene in Midnight Express when they forget to check his boots for drugs?

Under the conditions described here, the police could say “fear of potential use” justifies stripping everyone naked and shackling them. After all, arms could be used in the course of a criminal act, as could legs. Eyes too. Once all your potentials have been eliminated…you would be allowed to roam about your cell freely.

bfwebster August 15, 2008 2:01 PM

Hey, I own this game! (And contra the post above, the game comes from England, so I doubt it’s illegal there.) Since I live just outside of Denver, I wonder what would happen if I took the game — with the Evil Balaclava! — down to the DNC Convention. (Sadly, I’m pretty much stuck in Virginia for the next few weeks, so I don’t think I’ll have that chance.)

On the gripping hand, I will not take the balaclava on my next plane flight; no sense pressing my luck with the TSA. Maybe John Gilmore would like to borrow it. 🙂 ..bruce..

tcliu August 15, 2008 2:07 PM

“The satirical board game was confiscated along with knives, chisels and bolt cutters, from climate protesters during a series of raids near Kingsnorth power station, in Kent, last week.”

So, it seems like people who were likely to use a balaclava to cover their faces while doing no good got their balaclava confiscated – to keep them from covering their faces if they were up to no good.

Pending more information (such as, the balaclava being confiscated from guy A while it was guy B who had the knives), I’m with the police on this one.

Clive Robinson August 15, 2008 2:12 PM

@ Davi,

“Once all your potentials have been eliminated…you would be allowed to roam about your cell freely.”

A minor problem in the U.K. we appear to have run out of cells to “bang people up” in.

However it does not stop the powers that be in the U.K. from insisting they are tough on crime by locking up single parents who have alowed their T.V. Licence to expire by a few weeks, whilst letting out those who go onto maim and murder within a few days of their release.

Kjetil Kjernsmo August 15, 2008 4:56 PM

Heh, on the Norwegian arctic archipelago of Svalbard, it used to be OK to walk into the Longyear city bank wearing a balaclava and carry a rifle. The balaclava because it is the arctic and the rifle because of the polar bear hazard. Nowadays, they ask that you do not bring the gun indoors though, as it has been too many accidents. I took this picture of the bank:

This is also kinda cute:

clvrmnky August 15, 2008 5:04 PM

Clearly, they are smart enough to know that /this/ balaclava is as harmless as the next one.

This is just the slight misuse of the law to suppress what they know is wrong. I mean, they’re cops, right? So, they should know what they are doing.


David August 16, 2008 2:23 AM

Could it be that the cap was inside-out, and is meant to read ‘Live’? Yes, I think that’s it.

Jones August 16, 2008 4:27 AM

This reminds me of my horrible history, as chronicled by my friendly neighbour, Mr Gilbert Keith Chesterton:

Jones had a dog; it had a chain;
Not often worn, not causing pain;
But, as the I. K. L. had passed
Their ‘Unleashed Cousins Act’ at last,
Inspectors took the chain away;
Whereat the canine barked ‘Hooray!’
At which, of course, the S. P. U.
(Whose Nervous Motorists’ Bill was through)
Were forced to give the dog in charge
For being Audibly at Large.
None, you will say, were now annoyed,
Save, haply, Jones – the yard was void.
But something being in the lease
About ‘alarms to aid the police,’
The U. S. U. annexed the yard
For having no sufficient guard.
Now if there’s one condition
The C. C. P. are strong upon
It is that every house one buys
Must have a yard for exercise;
So Jones, as tenant, was unfit,
His state of health was proof of it.
Two doctors of the T. T. U.’s
Told him his legs, from long disuse,
Were atrophied; and saying ‘So
From step to higher step we go
Till everything is New and True.’
They cut his legs off and withdrew.
You know the E. T. S. T.’s views
Are stronger than the T. T. U.’s:
And soon (as one may say) took wing
The Arms, though not the Man, I sing.
To see him sitting limbless there
Was more than the K. K. could bear.
‘In mercy silence with all speed
That mouth there are no hands to feed;
What cruel sentimentalist,
O Jones, would doom thee to exist –
Clinging to selfish Selfhood yet?
Weak one! Such reasoning might upset
The Pump Act, and the accumulation
Of all constructive legislation;
Let us construct you up a bit ­­- ‘
The head fell off when it was hit:
Then words did rise and honest doubt,
And four Commissioners sat about
Whether the slash that left him dead
Cut off his body or his head.

An author in the Isle of Wight [1]
Observed with unconcealed delight
A land of just and old renown
Where Freedom slowly broadened down
From Precedent to Precedent.
And this, I think, was what he meant.

Mark August 16, 2008 10:36 AM


From what I’ve read, it was a legal non-violent protest. Whatever the circumstances of this particular game being confiscated were, there are other worrying aspects of police involvement, see:

“Green MEP Caroline Lucas, who is attending the week-long event, said police had confiscated hundreds of items including disabled access ramps, board games and fire safety equipment.”

Also see:

Unfortunately the article about the game being seized misses the point. It reads like an advert, and ignores the wider issues of what was going on. Worse, by leaving out the context, it leads people to jump to unsupported conclusions that protesters are up to no good.

So, it seems like people who were likely to use a balaclava to cover their faces while doing no good got their balaclava confiscated ”

Since when does being on a protest imply criminal actions?

I’m with the police on this one.

I prefer innocent until proven guilty. Where are the references to support your point of view?

Nostromo August 17, 2008 3:06 PM

“it’s almost too stupid to believe”

Ten years ago, it would have been too stupid to believe.

Civilisation is not making progress.

Albert August 17, 2008 3:38 PM

TSA has been doing this for a long time. Two years ago, Knotts Berry farm gave everyone who came to the grand opening of their new rollercoaster, ‘Silver Bullet’ a nice wood gift box with a bullet shaped ball point pen inside. TSA refused to let anyone at CA’s Orange county airport board with it.

TSA said that other passengers may mistake the gift for a real bullet and be upset.

gopi August 17, 2008 10:31 PM

Something doesn’t precisely add up here:

The police either,
a) Already knew what was in the board game when they confiscated it.
b) Opened it up, saw the baclava, and decided to confiscate all of it.
c) Confiscated it without knowing what it was.

(a) seems unlikely. (b) seems strange. If I opened up a board game and saw a baclava in it, I would probably not assume it was part of the game. Given the situation, I tend to suspect that (c) is what happened. They probably did an over-broad sweep and grabbed too much stuff, and are now trying to make sure their list of contraband found is big enough to justify their behaviour.

kme August 17, 2008 10:47 PM

This reminds me of the 60s board game “Nuclear War”, where the players represent competing nuclear powers. One of the endearing features of the game is that a player eliminated from the game has the opportunity to dispatch their entire remaining arsenal in one final retaliatory strike. Quite often, this leads to a chain reaction that destroys every player, so there is no winner.

xd0s August 19, 2008 1:22 AM


Those pictures are great. I love the risk analysis on the second one, which states clearly that the risk of polar bear attack is low, therefore guns are not needed. 🙂

KV August 19, 2008 11:51 AM

This entry motivated me to go and buy the boardgame – great way to give a “tool of terrorism” loads of PR!

We were looking for a new board game to play anyway!

Thanks Bruce!

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