A number of people suggested new cards for v1.2; their names are listed
next to the cards and their addresses are at the end of the article.
Sometimes several people suggested similar card ideas; in that case I
either chose the wording of the suggestion I liked best, or made up a
card out of the suggestions. Either way, everyone who suggested an idea
is listed with the resulting card. This will probably be the last update
for a while (at least until after the summer), but keep sending in those
card ideas and spreading this "game"; it's been a lot of fun so far!
Usenet: The Flaming
copyright © 1995 Matthew E. Grossman
see end of article for distribution information and contributors' email
A collectible trading card game of Usenet politics and global
In this game you take the role of a "Medusa", a sinister
individual plotting to control Usenet through your "tentacles",
operating from the sites under your control. Each player starts out with
five "cred" (symbolizing your credibility on Usenet); when you
have no cred, everyone will ignore you and you have LOST! The objective of
the game is to be the last player remaining with cred. (Eric S. Raymond
has suggested starting with 10 cred to make the game last longer; as it is
it looks like it would be over pretty quickly.)
There are four types of cards: sites, continuous events, instant events,
and attacks. The site cards are shuffled into a separate site deck; the
other cards are shuffled together into a play deck. To start, each
player (on his or her first turn, proceeding clockwise) draws three site
cards and places them face up on the table, then draws seven cards from
their play deck. Play begins, in the same order.
At the start of a players turn, he (come on, how many girls are stupid
enough to play these games anyway? OUCH, sorry Amy...) draws one play
card if he has less than seven cards in his hand. If he has no cards in
his hand he draws seven new cards from his play deck. The player then
brings on-line (untaps) any of his sites that are currently down
(tapped). The player may then play attack or event cards. Since these
things are being done by your tentacles at the sites you control,
playing a card involves downing a site (tying it up with your schemes).
Each attack or event card has a power rating, which indicates how
powerful a site must be in order to play that card. These numbers go
from 1 to 3, with 3 being the most powerful, so mit.edu
can play any card, but hamp.hampshire.edu can only play
cards with a power rating of 1. A player may end his turn at any time
after he has brought his sites on-line. He must end his turn if
all of his sites are down. The player seated clockwise then begins his
Event cards may be played at any time. Continuous events remain on the
board after they have been played (e.g. Turkish Revisionist
'Bot), instant events produce their effect then vanish from
play (e.g. Not Allowed). Events take effect in the
order they are played, but some events (e.g. Not
Allowed) work retroactively. Lengthy discussion and
hair-splitting analysis of the rules is required to solve these
Attack cards may only be played during your turn, and are the only cards
that directly effect Medusas. The name is confusing; some attack cards
are beneficial, and you can play an attack card on yourself.
Each card is listed by type, name, power, and description. Any
resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental. Really.
(using these as guidelines, you can easily make up more)
hamp.hampshire.edu, 1, A small, "alternative" college.
mit.edu, 3, M.I.T. 'Nuff said.
netcom.com, 2, A large Internet service provider.
aol.com, 3, A large commercial network. Every time you
down AOL, you lose a cred. -Arne Knudson and John Kovalic
Instant Event cards:
NOT ALLOWED, 1, Leader Kibo has spoken. Retroactively
blocks last event card.
INTERNET WORM, 3, An undergraduate "accidentally"
releases his homework onto the Internet. Curiously, only your rivals'
sites are affected... Downs every other players' sites for one turn. All
UNIX PASSWORD SECURITY FLAW, 2, Another one?
You may look at one other player's hand.
GULLIBLE CONGRESSMAN, 2, You convince the government to
finance the "information superhighway". You may place one more site into
FORGED SPAM (spam), 1, You forge a spam originating
from the target site. It goes down for one turn.
CANTOR AND SIEGEL (spam), 2, Those darn lawyers get an
account on the target site. It is permanently removed from
MASTER CRACKER, 3, "I'm doing this for scientific
purposes...really!" You may look at one other player's hand and
take one card to add to your hand (if you want to).
FLAMEWAR, 1, Causes the target player to miss his next
turn as he is drawn into a massive flamewar. Also blocks the effects of
a Righteous Rant (no one gains cred).
CHILDHOODS' END, 2, Our brothers in intelligence arrive
from the stars in time to save humanity from its own folly. This card
negates the effects of Global Thermonuclear War;
GTW is removed from play and all players still in the
game draw until they have three sites in play again.
DIRTY GIFS (forgery), 1, You forge a post to
c.i.announce saying that dirty gifs are on the target site, when they
are not. Target site goes down for one turn. -Arne Knudson
HOT SITE. One of your rival's sites finds that it has
been playing host to a huge library of copyrighted porno GIFS. Reduce
the value of that site by 1, or remove it if it was already a 1. -Steve
OLD FART, 2, Say "I was on the net when you were still
toilet-training" and reverse any cred damage done to you by the previous
card -- he who played it takes the damage instead. -Eric S. Raymond
TROGLODYTE FLAMER, 2, A gray eminence from the days
when ITS or TOPS-10 reigned supreme scorches target for ignorance of
36-bit computers and ineffably superior pre-UNIX operating systems.
Target's cred-gaining attempt fails. -Eric S. Raymond
RAPID DEBUGGING SKILL, 3, Negate damage from a
SERIOUS BUG REPORT if played immediately after
SERIOUS BUG REPORT is played.-Eric S. Raymond
Continuous Event cards
GLOBAL THERMONUCLEAR WAR, 1, The Internet was built to
survive this, right? All players must discard the sites currently in
play and each draw one new site. As long as this card is in
play, each player may only have one site. (If you're wondering why this
card is only 1 to play, it's because any fool with a C-64 can hack the
Pentagon. Remember "War Games"?).
CANCELMOOSE, 2, As long as Cancelmoose
is in play, no spams may be played, and any spams already in play are
RISKS DIGEST, 1, As long as you have this card in play,
your sites may not be attacked by Master Cracker or
Unix Password Security Flaw. This does not
protect any other players' sites.
TURKISH REVISIONIST 'BOT (spam), 1, For some nefarious
reason, you set up a 'bot to decrease the signal-noise ratio on Usenet
(even more?)...but it gets out of hand. As long as this card is in play,
every card costs one more power than the listed amount to play.
CANCELBUNNY, 2, Dead agent those SP's, OSA OT's! The
Church of $cientology decides to cancel your posts. As long as this card
is in play, the target may only play one card per turn.
ARCHIVE SITE, 3, "Knowledge is Power". This card allows
you to take one card from any player's discard pile, and
"archive" it at the site which you played this card on (must be one of
your sites). You may then play this card in the future, as if it was in
your hand. After you have played the card, you must discard it (though
you could then archive it again). If the archive site goes down, you
lose the card archived there; if the site is removed from play, this
card is discarded.
PGP, 1, You start using Pretty Good Privacy's public
key encryption to authenticate your correspondence. As long as
PGP is in play, you cannot be affected by forgery
SUPERCOMPUTER, 3, target site may untap one additional
time per turn. -Arne Knudson
T1 LINE, 2, target site now produces one additional
power when you tap it. -Arne Knudson
MASSIVE TROLL, 1, You are caught up in a massive troll
involving rec.org.mensa, rec.arts.startrek.misc, rec.aquaria,
sci.physics, alt.music.ska, alt.sex.bondage, alt.fan.hofstadter, and
alt.conspiracy (among others). You make a complete fool of yourself in
front of thousands of net.citizens. Lose 1 cred.
OOPS!, 1, You meant to do an e-mail reply to
that...interesting...message in alt.sex.bondage. Instead, you post to
alt.activism.militia. Lose 1 cred.
B1FF!!1!, 2, B1FF HAS THIS K00L N3W ACC0UNT!!!111! 1'M
G0NNA P0ST FR0M 1T ALL THE T1M3!!1!!! Your younger brother gets hold of
your password. You'll never live this down. Lose 1 cred.
FEAR THE KABAL!, 2, Dave Hayes and Stephen Boursy
independently reveal your fiendish plans for usenet domination. All
players take a vote as to whether target gains or loses 1 cred.
INITIATION, 3, In a secret 4 a.m. IRC session with Dave
Lawrence, you are initiated into the Cabal. Gain 1 cred.
TIME, 1, Time Magazine writes an article on the
Internet and quotes you. Lose 1 cred.
TIME AGAIN, 2, Time Magazine writes an article on the
Internet and calls you a "cyberpunk guru". Lose 2 cred.
ETERNAL FAME, 2, Someone creates an alt. group named
after you. Gain 1 cred.
ETERNAL FAME ON AN EPIC SCALE, 3, Someone creates an
alt.sex. group named after you. Gain 2 cred.
ETERNAL FOOL, 1, You create an alt. group
named after yourself. Lose 1 cred.
REAL LIFE, 1, You find something better to do than take
over Usenet. Lose 1 cred, but gain a life.
DROP THE KEYBOARD, PUNK!, 2, You get raided by the
Secret Service. Skip a turn, but gain 1 cred.
SUMMON SHUB-INTERNET, 3, You summon Shub-Internet and
wreak havoc on Prodigy and AOL. Gain 1 cred.
MY AMIGA IS BETTER THAN..., 1, You get involved in one
of those computer hardware flamewars. Get a life! Until then, lose 1
BITE ME, MACBOY!!!, 2, You start one of those
computer hardware flamewars. Lose 2 cred, you dweeb.
RIGHTEOUS RANT, 2, An unusually stylish and eloquent
posting which contains polysyllabic words and polite, correctly spelled
English. If no one counters with another Righteous Rant
or Flame, gain 1 cred on your next turn. For each
person which adds or counters with another Righteous
Rant, each rant-player gains a cred (i.e. 3 rants = each
rant-player gains 3 cred). (Advanced rules: 3 righteous rants in the
same turn automatically ends the game, as it is now a discussion and no
longer Usenet.) -Chris Keroack
SECRETS MAN WAS NOT MEANT TO KNOW, 1, You quoted an
entire 22k long flamewar about gay characters in Star Trek to simply add
"So do I!" at the bottom. Lose 1 cred. -Chris Keroack, John Kovalic,
ENTRY ACCEPTED INTO JARGON FILE, 2, Gain 1 cred and
leave this card in your battle line, unless someone else immediately
plays TROGLODYTE FLAMER in which case the card is
buried. -Eric S. Raymond
TNHD EDITION PUBLISHED, 3, All players who have
ENTRY ACCEPTED INTO JARGON FILE cards on the table gain
2 cred. All such cards are buried. -Eric S. Raymond
WARLORD OF THE WEST RESERVATION, 2, The Inner Circle of
alt.fan.warlord shreds target's oversized sig block. Target loses 1
cred. -Eric S. Raymond
FREEWARE RELEASE, 3, You actually release a major
freeware project. Gain 3 cred and leave the card on the table. -Eric S.
SERIOUS BUG REPORT, 1, May only be played against
someone with FREEWARE RELEASE on the table. Target
loses 1 cred. -Eric S. Raymond
CONVINCINGLY FAKE POST (forgery), 2, You forge a post
that seems SO real that everyone picks it up. Major magazines publish
the post's content as the Gospel Truth. Little do they know that a
couple of hours with Photoshop hacked up those pix you sent out. All
other players lose 1 cred. (This comes from my ex-roommate, Slu Aspiks',
post to comp.sys.amiga.* about the A4000 we "beta-tested." Commodore
hated him so much they almost didn't grant him a developer's license
later.) -Tony Reynolds
Even more U:tF...
Matthew E. Grossman
Eric S. Raymond
USENET: THE FLAMING v 1.2 is copyright © 1995 by me (Matthew
E. Grossman). It may be freely distributed provided that this notice
remains attached and no fee is charged for distribution. If you have any
card or rule ideas email them to me at
If I use your ideas in the next version I'll give you credit.