Control-Alt-Hack: delightful strategy card game about white-hat hacking

Control-Alt-Hack is a tremendously fun, hacker-themed strategy card game that uses the mechanic of the classic Steve Jackson Ninja Burger game. It comes out of the University of Washington Computer Security and Privacy Research Lab, and features extremely entertaining and funny computer-security-themed scenarios, buffs, attacks and characters.

The gameplay is very well-thought-through (here's a PDF of the rules). Three of us sat down to play it this weekend with only a cursory glance at the rules beforehand. By following the quickstart instructions, we were able to jump straight into play, and within a few turns, we really had the rhythm and were busily sabotaging one another and cursing at the dice when they rolled against our favor.

Based on my play session, I'm really impressed. Though one player led the game early on, there were several reversals, wherein the leading and trailing players traded places — always the mark of a great game. There was a good mix of skill, strategy and luck, and things were just complicated enough that it absorbed our full attention, without lagging or flagging.

A full game takes about an hour, and between three and six people can play at once. We played it after Sunday brunch and it was a great digestive aid. All three of us loved the geeky, info-sec-y references, the funny scenarios (everything from devising a cryptographic protocol for implanted medical devices to pranking a labmate with a gag WiFi keystroke-inserter), and the grace-notes (like a scenario that is encoded as a cryptogram). There were moments of unlikely hail-mary-heroism, crushing defeat, and lots of laughs. We'll play this one again.

Control-Alt-Hack: White Hat Hacking for Fun and Profit

Control-Alt-Hack [Publisher's site]