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Game Review: Enter the Spudnet, or How Potatoes Taught me Cyber

Sometimes a light touch, and a bit of humour can make complex topics very accessible.

Enter the Spudnet is an innovative, and fun, learning game from the studio that brought the coding card game, Potato Pirates, to life. Despite its comical approach, Enter the Spudnet truly is a serious game in a brilliantly accessible disguise.

Played across a network of shipping ports, players must fulfill their 5 potato orders while playing ability cards to benefit themselves or harm others’ shipment or structures. Further complicating the potato fulfillment process are bot “ships” who collide with player shipments and destroy them, overload warehouses, and generally cause mischief.

The analogies to cyber are clear from the moment you open the game board. Each map is organized into interconnected, coloured networks (shipping lanes) of nodes (ports) each with its own IP address. The map is immediately recognizable as a network diagram with a wink to its pirating theme.

Players can place firewalls, blocking travel to others, and play cards like Trojans, Ransomeware, 301 Rediects and so many more. There are 40 of these ability cards, with a cyber explanation for each in the clear and concise manual.

Play can be competitive or cooperative, with each game style giving rise to its own strategies and approaches.

As players move their potatoes (think data packets) across the shipping network they will be faced with all the network hinderances (502 bad gateways, static routes…), navigating inconvenient firewalls, and frustrating connection slowdowns when warehouse nodes get overloaded.

While this teaches cyber security at a higher level – no one will become an instant cyber expert playing this game – it brilliantly illustrates concepts, and introduces the player to those hacks, workarounds, problems and possibilities of the cyber realm. As discussion and emphasis is placed more and more on multi-domain operations this fun, approachable game provides a gateway to understanding a piece of the sometimes arcane concepts of cyber security.

Playable by 2-6 players in 30-60 minutes, with high-quality components, I can think of no more approachable introduction to a very serious topic.

Tom Fisher
I can be reached at tfisher@imaginetic.net if you want a more detailed account.

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