Police seize War on Terror board game because its ski-mask "could be used in a criminal act"

Police in Kent, UK arrested some climate protestors and confiscated their "criminal" equipment, including a satirical boardgame about the war on terror. The police claim that the ski mask that came with the game could be used in a criminal act.

"Surely no member of the public is going to believe that a board game could be used as a weapon?"

War on Terror, similar to games like Risk, revolves around creating empires that compete and wage war.

But there is a twist - players can poke fun at the rhetoric of world leaders like George Bush and Tony Blair...

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.

War On Terror board game seized by police (via Schneier)


  1. Next up: police raid clothing K-Mart because winter jackets are often used by shoplifters.

    I think we are assembling a good set of measures for a new IQ test. Do you think people will use this toy to commit crimes? Do you believe Saddam Hussein planned 9/11? Do you need an SUV to drive 1 mile to work every day?

  2. Oh, come now. We all know that terrorists wear ski masks with the word EVIL stitched in it, just like the person who is about to rob the corner store will put on one with THIEF stitched in it.

    The problem is that now all bank robbers was the licence plate ROBBER for their cars. Too bad there’s only one :-)

  3. So it’s against the law in the UK to possess things that “could be used in a criminal act”?

    Though honestly, who needs real laws when you have creative enforcement?

  4. Protestors at a power plant were found to be in possession of knives, chisels, bolt cutters and a ski mask. Why would police possibly be suspicious?

  5. With the kind of logic the police are using, they should encourage the company to sell more games. That way, in their mind, all the terrorists would be labeled evil.

  6. if that player is caught, do they then get to wear a black hood while the other players re-enact Abu Ghraib ?

  7. Clay – no, it’s possibly police harassment. If they are looking for any excuse to arrest protectors, they’ll find one. “Could be used in a criminal act” is a good way to get the charges thrown out and the cops laughed at in court.

    However, reading the article, they also had knives, chisels, and bolt cutters, and they were protesting at a power plant. Being arrested for a ski mask is stupid, but tools like that do not imply it’s going to be a law-abiding protest. Something tells me the game wasn’t WHY they were arrested, even if it was kept as evidence.

  8. Next they’ll be coming for our Wrenches, Ropes, Lead Pipes, Revolvers, Candlesticks and Knives.

  9. With that kinda logic, you could argue a man’s penis “could be used in a criminal act.” So, are the UK police gonna start chopping of each others sausages of mass destruction?

  10. I also always liked that William Burroughs quote,

    “Anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.”

  11. It is truly awful that my reaction (after an immediate and deep desire to own and wear that balaclava) was a cynical / sarcastic: ‘Yeah, this is news – police find a way to use something harmless to harass people who are (legally)annoying them’

    In a good world / system the officers involved would be punished and the victims would be apologized to and justly compensated for the ordeal. If that actually happens, I will throw a party.

  12. For people considering buying the game: Do it. The game is superb. A little bit of Risk, a little bit of Settlers, random, chaotic, and hilarious.

    Unlike most people who create games on a controversial topic, the folks who did this one actually decided to make a game.

    As far as games being seized, I do fear for the body bag in my copy of Serial Killer.

  13. This game is like Risk, excepr GWoT is actually fun, where Risk gets boring fast.

    The EVIL balacalava is on half my friends when their pic comes up on my cell phone. It would be funny for a police officer to assume my friends are terrorists because they have EVIL printed on their forehead.

    GWoT is also featured in the set dressing of the IT Crowd.

  14. Lizardman 20: Hear, hear! On all points.

    Hey, I just thought of a new parlor game: name an item, and the other players have to come up with a way it can be used in a criminal act. Easy and fast paced.

    Chocolate? Poison.
    Telephone? Terroristic threats; assault.
    Underwear? Garotte.

  15. I can’t actually think of a better example of why we have the First and Fourth Amendments in the U.S. Maybe if the Bush Administration assigned officers to follow around Democrats and slap them whenever they said something critical of the government? Would THAT be worse than confiscating a politically satirical game?

  16. Since a couple of you seem to be greatly concerned about penises, rest assured that yes, if the police suspect you intend to use it in a criminal act, they will likely detain it. They will lock it away until a determination is made whether to charge you with a crime. At no time, however, will it be removed from your body.

  17. is there anyone in Kent who could go to the police and ask them for us: Are you REALLY that stupid? Or was it just a way to attack the political protesters on orders from the top? Again? I can cope with the usual corrupt, amoral betrayal of trust and stooging for the bosses, but please, please tell me you are not THAT painfully stupid? Please?

  18. Next they’ll be coming for our Wrenches, Ropes, Lead Pipes, Revolvers, Candlesticks and Knives.

    and our Libraries.

  19. I expect to see coordinated raids on all the ski resorts on opening day.

    Except for the really ritzy ski resorts frequented by people who can afford lawyers.

  20. Ghrebby – these were seized in raids, i.e. entries into peoples’ homes or workplaces – not at a protest at the power plant. In fact it doesn’t even say that the protests themselves were held at the plant.

    The owners of these items were either past protestors (i.e. not protesting now) or current protestors (i.e. they had left their tools at home for the cops to find in the raids, and so had no plans to use them at the protests)

    What exactly it means that the raids were “near” (not at – read the report over) the power station is unclear to me – the power station is within an hour’s walk of a couple of towns. It would not surprise me of the police if they raided these people due to political pressure from above, found nothing more incriminating than some tools, and declared them to be “near” the nearest imaginable target of terrorororism so as to make us fear the posessors of these fearsome tools of metalworking.

    If the police raided my house, they could declare that “In a raid near a [major oil refinery facility | a Royal Canadian Air Force base], an [environmental | anti-war] protestor was found to be in possession of knives, crowbars, ski masks, and sabotage manuals.”

    Put that way, it sounds pretty terrifying, and it’s all true. But all it means is that I live in North East Edmonton, I have appropriate Winter clothes, I have attended both environmental and peace demonstrations in the past, my kitchen and toolbox are reasonably well stocked, and I printed out that WWII sabotage manual that was posted on boingboing not long ago.

  21. #29, Wot? Your penis is still in shrink wrap?

    I predict a second edition of GWoT that implements an additional game phase satirizing this entire episode.

  22. Dragonfrog @ #34:

    Thank you for pointing out eloquently how the police like to creatively frame events in order to both make themselves look better and cast a negative light on people they harass. Unfortunately some people just take their words at face value.

  23. @ SidFishes

    This might be a weird question, but by any chance was that picture taken at the U of M engineering building?

  24. Thank goodness our governments are protecting us from these EVIL ski-mask-wearing terrorists! I sleep better at night knowing that these diligent protectors of freedom are on the job!

  25. You could make a LOT of money selling ski masks with “Evil” printed on them.

    It would be bigger than those “Bears” toques that are omnipresent in Chicago.

  26. I read today that a British judge banned a man from visiting his girlfriend because they had loud sex. The british are pathetic sheep and their surveillance state is a dictator’s dream machine, just waiting for any and all fascists to pull the levers.

  27. I think the story has been twisted to make it news worthy. The police took knives, chisels and bolt cutters too. In any normal household the game would have been left behind, but as these people were probably likely to be the type that would wear (or have worn) the balaclava “for mischief”, they would have needed to take it on the off-chance it was related evidence.

    @44 Iburl: Again it’s a twisted story: the couple were having really noisy sex next to a family with children. The children were asking the parents all sorts of unsuitable questions based on what they had heard. Most people would agree that having noisy sex when you know children can hear is slightly disturbing.

  28. Hey, I know the guys who made that game. In fact, I participated in the filming of a promotional video after a party in Cambridge one winters morn. If anyone’s seen such a video, or knows where I could see it, it’d be good to know.

    Nice to know I’ve contributed in some small way to the further disintegration of law and order.

  29. @ CharlesSpongeworth

    Most people would agree that having noisy sex when you know children can hear is slightly disturbing.

    And very many people would agree that getting a restraining order against your neighbor, rather than filing a noise complaint, just so you don’t have to tell your children about biology – is fascist.

    “Most people” fail to recognise the tyranny of the majority.

  30. having noisy, filthy, sweaty sex is a godgiven right bestowed on humanity by a beneficent and loving deity. if sex isn’t loud, wet and disgusting, it isn’t being performed properly! read the manual, kids. ( i believe it’s an FTW file)

  31. What about making jokes about shrink-wrapped penii in a blog that children could read?
    And on that subject… nah, I went and convinced myself…

  32. The british are pathetic sheep and their surveillance state is a dictator’s dream machine, just waiting for any and all fascists to pull the levers.

    Indeed, Iburl, our cowed and craven nation has so much to learn from our noble cousins across the Atlantic. I trust–nay, pray!–you’ll be keeping us updated on your valiant efforts to tear down the minatory citadels of the CIA, DHS and TSA. Stout role models are required, MEN with character and backbone. (You are a man, I hope.) I’m sure you’re patrolling the Barricades of Freedom even as I pen these timid words, steel-eyed gaze scouring the horizon for the first sign of Neocon Humvees. None shall pass!

    Yours in admiration, etc.

  33. this is a provacation

    it would not surprise me one bit if the local force there set this whole thing up to set a precedent

    either way – it is to set precedent

    vocal oppostion would do a lot of good

  34. If people don’t want their kids asking uncomfortable questions about the noisy sex next door, they should move to a place with thicker walls or put up egg cartons. The guy can’t visit his girlfriend because their sex is too noisy? What a crack-brained judge!

    Yes, we’ve had equally ridiculous cases here. While it’s possible to be out in public without being on camera in the US, I don’t think we have much to lord over the British in terms of privacy and freedom.

  35. I have often thought that outlawing hats could bring sanity to the world…what are people trying to hide with hats? bald spots?

    seriously though…

    …what if ski masks were outlawed and anyone seen hiding their faces automatically get shot in the knee cap without a trial…afterall…terrorists who decapitate journalists and such would probably think twice before removing a head once they have removed their face hat…

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