The drone warfare game where you spy on players with your smartphone


"Bycatch" is a term used by fishermen to describe the extraneous marine life that unintentionally gets caught in their nets. It's also the name of a card game that deals with a very different sort of collateral damage: the civilians killed by drone strikes.

Created by Subalekha Udayasankar and the studio Hubbub, Bycatch is described as a game about "flawed surveillance, impossible decisions, and the people caught in between." Three to five players are presented with a series of cards, which signify either citizens of their own nation, or intelligence about "suspects" who, presumably, they need to kill. The goal is to shelter your own citizens from the drone strikes of your opponents, while finding and eliminating suspects in other nation.

In order to determine where to strike, you surveil your opponents' cards by poking a smartphone in front of their hands and taking a single picture of their cards. Of course, that doesn't mean they have to make it easy; they can literally keep their cards close to their chest to obscure your view, although they have to leave at least a small gap for your phone to poke through.


Much like drone surveillance, this leaves you with imperfect data—if it's badly angled or out of focus, you're out of luck—but you have to decide whether to launch a strike anyway. If you're playing to win, you probably will. Although you lose ten points for each civilian you kill, you gain 100 points for every suspect you take out. This creates a significant incentive to strike early and often, even if your intelligence is bad or even non-existent.

Just so long as you don't mind having all those bodies on your conscience, of course. Perhaps the most striking thing about the game is how the system it creates makes the random killing of innocents seem first necessary and then almost easy—and then, perhaps, makes you uneasy with how effortless it has become.

Bycatch is available for purchase for €12 (a little over $13).