Property of a Traitor

From Ludocity
Property of a Traitor
Designer: Ben Henley; developed with Holly Gramazio
Year: unknown
Players: 8-12
Stuff required: An item of luggage full of clues, large table, whiteboard and pens
Crew required: Two (spymaster/moderator and traitor)
Preparation: At least a couple of days
Time required: An hour
Place required: A room in an urban area
Activities: Deduction, codebreaking, acting, teamwork
This is a playable game - it's finished, tested and ready to play.
This game is made available under an Attribution-Noncommercial Creative Commons licence. (What does this mean?)

Players collaborate to catch an enemy spy from clues left in an item of abandoned luggage.

Player briefing

For years we have been on the trail of a traitor at the highest levels of government who is selling our secrets to a foreign power. We have recently been able to tap in to the traitor's encrypted communications channel. We came with minutes of liquidating them, but they escaped.

We know from previous intercepts that the traitor's compromise procedure calls for a meeting with an enemy agent somewhere nearby in one hour to arrange an extraction. Unfortunately, the enemy is now aware of our intercept: the traitor has stopped communicating via the encrypted channel and must have used low-tech improvised means to arrange an extraction with his or her handler.

We can't eliminate the traitor in a public place without risking a major diplomatic incident. Our best hope is for you to take the place of the enemy handler.

All we have to work on is the contents of this bag which the traitor left behind.

You must work out:

  1. Where the meeting will take place.
  2. The recognition signal
  3. The codephrase to identify yourself as the handler.

To avoid destroying evidence, you must not mark or alter any of the objects in the bag or remove them from this room without my permission.


Set up a trail of clues using whatever spy gimmicks you can think of. Make sure progress involves errands to the surrounding area. Bear in mind that the contents of the bag should not just be a series of arbitrary puzzles, but a mixture of the spy's personal effects and coded communications with the handler.

Provide redundancy for anything which may go wrong (e.g. an item left out in the world). For example, the passphrase is underlined in a certain reference book in a nearby library: in case of unforeseen closure/theft, provide them with a shredded photocopy of the page which takes them time to put together. Even if they solve both, it's confirmation that they're on the right track and builds the credibility of the story (at the expense of making the traitor seem dumber).

Ideas for clues

  • Items left in coat checks/left luggage/gym lockers - players must recover to get more clues.
  • Book codes and a clue to the book.
  • Items left inside books in nearby libraries.
  • SIM cards/memory cards/USB sticks.
  • Shredded documents (put a red ring around the important part otherwise putting them together takes forever).
  • Receipts, tickets, business cards, menus, matchbooks, Oyster cards (journey history).

Tips for spymaster

While waiting for full complement of players, get them to exchange mobile numbers - encourage them to use codenames instead of their real names.

Avoid the temptation to hint at all for at least 20 minutes - 12 players are collectively smart and will progress faster than you think.

Don't push people into particular jobs/errands - but make clear if the group is neglecting something.

When scouting the location, keep receipts for meals or anything else you buy and incorporate into the game (or just drop into the bag for colour).

If running game more than once, keep an eye on any props which might be destroyed or rendered useless (mobile phone PIN lockout etc) and be ready to confiscate them (or have backups). One team ironed some receipts looking for secret writing, and burned them (luckily in the last session of the night).

Fun things to tell players

The spymaster cannot help much because he has been awake for 48 hours, and is also very very drunk.

Any stickers/badges for game entry are biometric tracking devices so he knows if they've been killed by an enemy agent.


If the players solve all three elements in time, the spymaster can lead them to make an arrest. Tell the players that they are not to physically restrain the traitor themselves - they tend to get carried away.

One volunteer should impersonate the handler, then lead the traitor to a suitable nearby place. The spymaster can then make an arrest using a disguised weapon (e.g. a pen) and commend the team on a job well done.

If the players fail, the traitor could call them up and taunt them.


Maybe the spymaster is the real traitor, and is framing the 'traitor'?


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Play history

Property of a Traitor ran at Sandpit #11 at the BFI, as part of their James Bond weekend. It ran at the Hide&Seek Weekender 2009, in combination with Lasertrap, as Property of a Traitor: Target London. A cut-down version with a shorter clue trail appeared at Igfest 2009.