The Signal

From Ludocity
The Signal
Designer: Adam Nelson; James Lomuscio; Obscure Games
Year: unknown
Players: 20-100
Stuff required: portable radios, audio recordings, MP3 players, FM transmitters, LED lights, maps, keys/codes, CDs, radio station.
Crew required: 2 required- more are helpful
Preparation: 1 or more days
Time required: 2 hours
Place required: Urban street grid, though almost any outdoor space would work
Activities: finding, chasing, running, sneaking
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?)

The biggest game from the 2011 Steel City Games Fest, The Signal is a dark of night radio drama that’s played out on the streets of the city. The Signal is strong, and growing stronger. Transmissions are hidden throughout the city that give you the tools you need to shut down the Signal. Can you make it before it’s too late?

History and Influences

The Signal debuted in August 2011 at the second annual Steel City Games Festival. It is inspired by other urban chase games like Journey to the End of the Night, 2.8 Hours later, and the radio-transmission game Thoughtcrime.

Playing Space

An urban area with plenty of hiding spaces. A 3-block by 3-block grid seemed to work well, though the whole area shouldn’t be more than a quarter-mile in diameter. As always, please be mindful of traffic.

Number of Players

Players are divided at the start of the game, with ~10% of players beginning the game as Repeaters and the remaining 90% as Resistant. This game has been played with 20-30 people but should work for groups as large as 100.

Gameplay and Rules

The Signal is taking over. Its power grows with each passing hour. By 2 am, it will be too strong to contain. We must shut it down before it is too late. But the Signal isn’t as strong as they say - at least, not yet. There are three places where the Signal is weak. We’ve hijacked the Signal there: find our broadcasts and use them to bring down the Signal. There are people who have been exposed too long – the Signal controls them now. Don’t let them touch you, or you’ll become one of them - if you see one, run.


For the Resistant:

We are the Resistant.

Find the clues, avoid the Repeaters, and shut down the Signal.


1. You are resistant to the effects of the Signal until 10pm, when the Signal will increase its strength. If Mr. Axis is not disabled by then, the game is lost.

2. Use your radio and map to find the weak spots in the Signal and the messages from Mr. Pin, leading you to a Code, a Map, and a Disc. You must find all three items and use them to shut down the Signal.

3. Use your flashlight to keep Repeaters at bay. Direct light interferes with the Signal, causing Repeaters to slow to a walk at 20 feet, a creep at 10 feet, and freeze completely at 5 feet from the light source. You may take items from a frozen Repeater.

4. If Mr. Axis isn’t within line-of-sight, a single burst from a flashlight (even at 20 feet) freezes a Repeater permanently until another Repeater tags them.

5. A Repeater’s body acts like an antenna. If you are tagged by a Repeater, you lose your resistance and become a Repeater.

6. If you are captured, whatever item you are holding becomes a part of the Repeaters, so each player should only carry one item at a time.

For the Repeaters

You are a Repeater.

Tag players who are Resistant and convert them to Repeaters.


1. You are under the control of the Signal. Mr. Axis is the source of the Signal. It’s up to you how close you stay to him, because…

2. Direct light interferes with the Signal. If you are within line-of-sight of Mr. Axis, and a light is held on you, you must slow to a walk at 20 feet, a creep at 10 feet, and freeze completely at 5 feet from the flashlight. You may not walk or run backward to avoid the flashlight.

3. If you are not in line-of-sight of Mr. Axis, any burst from a flashlight freezes you completely, even at 20 feet. You are un-frozen only when tagged by another Repeater.

4. When you tag a Resistant, they become a Repeater. Before you may tag any other player, you must give the player you just tagged a badge and a rule card (badges must always be visible). Players who are tagged keep any items they are holding until the items are taken from them by a Resistant. 5. Queen’s "I Want to Break Free" releases you from the Signal. If you hear it, the game is over.

Mr. Axis

Mr. Axis is the only member of the Repeaters to start the game with a radio - his radio broadcasts static on the game frequency, audible to the Repeaters as “The Signal.” If he or she hears Queen’s “I Want to Break Free,” their power is lost and the game is over.

Mr. Axis is not affected by flashlights, but should wear a bright costume or extra badges (we used EL wire) so as to be easily distinguished from other Repeaters.

Mr. Pin

Mr. Pin is a secret operative known only through the coded messages and clues he has placed throughout the playing area.

Notes for Organizers

The Signal requires extensive preparation and set-up - you should give yourself a few days or a week to get everything together to organize it. Besides portable radios for ⅓ of all players, you will require the following:

A locked building with a transmitter and CD player inside, which serves as the radio station.

Five maps of the location of the radio station, placed in envelopes and hidden at locations M1, M2, M3, M4, and M5.

Five keys or keycodes that open the radio station, placed in envelopes and hidden at locations K1, K2, K3, K4, and K5.

Five compact discs with Queen’s “I Want to Break Free” burned on them, and hidden at locations D1, D2, D3, D4, and D5.

Three MP3 players, each with a connected FM transmitter and each broadcasting a loop of pre-recorded transmissions from Mr. Pin, detailing the M, K, or D locations, themselves hidden at locations T1, T2, and T3.

Maps for ⅓ of all Resistant, each with locations T1, T2, and T3 clearly marked.

Flashlights for ⅓ of all Resistant.

LED badges or similar for all players - one color for Resistant, another color for Repeaters.

Enough Resistant rule cards for all Resistant, and enough Repeater rule cards for all players.

Setting Up the Game

1. Begin by choosing locations M1-M5, K1-K5, and D1-D5. These should be unique locations that can be easily discerned based on an audio description of the location. The locations should be within the playing field and spread out, and the items “hidden in plain sight.” We clustered each item with like items - maps near other maps, etc - to keep players from accidentally stumbling on all the items they needed to win the game. Also choose appropriate spots (on the opposite side of the playing area) to hide the transmitter associated with each item.

2. Record messages from Mr. Pin describing all M, K, and D locations. Create three MP3 playlists, one map, one key, and one disc, and put one of these playlists on each MP3 player. Set the MP3 player to play on a loop and connect an FM transmitter to the player to have it broadcast on your game signal.

3. Hide the transmitters and maps, keys, and discs. We hid the transmitters in black electronic project boxes and placed them in bushes. Test to ensure the transmitters are broadcasting.

4. Gather players together and choose Repeaters and Resistant. Have Mr. Axis lead the Repeaters away to a separate location and explain the Repeater rules, distribute extra badges and extra Repeater rule cards to the Repeater players, and begin the game at the appropriate time.

5. Explain rules and distribute rule cards, flashlights, transmitter maps, and radios to all Resistant. Begin the game at the appropriate time.

The game ends either when “I Want to Break Free” has been heard by Mr. Axis, when all Resistant are converted to Repeaters, or when time ends (in which case, the Repeaters win)

Additional Resources