Cloak & Dagger The Assassins' Guild: FAQ.

Please note that this FAQ is intended as an introduction to the game of Assassins for newcomers who are interested in knowing a bit more. It is not as a substitute for the official game rules, which everyone who intends to play should have read at least the pocket version of in full.

Q1) What's the Assassins Guild about?

You are given the names and addresses of three people who have also signed up, who you should make friendly assassination attempts on, with a range of harmless toy weaponry! Three other such assassins are given your name and address too. High-jinks tend to ensue until there is only one person in the game left standing (preferably you!).

Why do people play?

To some assassins, Assassins is about meeting new people and making friends. Others view it as a game to try and win. Yet others play for fun or for yet other reasons; whichever of these is fine, as is playing for any combination of such reasons.

Q2) When are the assassins games?

The length of the Michaelmas term, and then another game throughout Lent. Players remain in those until they are assassinated. Finally, in Mayweek there's an all-on-all with resurrection every four hours...

Q3) Why is the Assassins activity often considered to be good place to meet people and make friends?

Assassins is a good game to meet people through because it provides amusing circumstances for it, in ways that a wide variety of people appreciate.

It does not require having an excuse so as to approach people. The other players, by signing up, consent to being attacked and being friendly toward the attackers as the rules say.

One doesn't need something cool and memorable to say to introduce oneself to another here, one simply turns up, and tries to surprise them with a toy weapon!

Hijinks often ensue!

Finally, because being involved does not require getting oneself accepted into some core group in order to play well; it is a multicultural activity played by many different social groups for a variety of different reasons. They don't need to all be in one social group because the game is based on what works, whilst staying within the friendly, safe and non-alarming, rather than on some aesthetic criteria set by some core group. Thus one really does keep on meeting new people this way.

Q4) But what if I am assassinated but wish to continue meeting people in that way this term?

To continue meaningfully participating in a termly game, you are welcome to join the Guild Police force; just notify the Umpire to be added! Working as Police can be a great experience because Police can hunt together and work in teams easily so it's a good way to both hone your skills and meet other assassins more extensively.

As Police, you can then hunt those assassins occasionally made Wanted for minor breaches of the Rules, and the much larger populace of assassins who haven't been active of late: the Incompetence List.

Some of the Chiefs of Police will run Police group-raids.

Also know that Fresher-Police can be taken under the wing of a Chief of Police if they so wish; email the Umpire or a Chief of Police to ask.

Whenever Police die, they can ask the umpire to resurrect.
In a Mayweek game, all players will automatically resurrect four hours after :)

Q5) How do I play?

Read the Rules and then sign up as it says there.

You can always sign up late, at least as Police. Yes, being Police does mean that one cannot win, but one can still meaningfully participate as per above!

Q6) How long does Assassins take?

As little or as long as you care to put in. There is no obligation to be active. Passive and part-time participants are entirely welcome here; this activity is for them too!

If you've not made attempts for some time, you will be 'declared incompetent' making you a target for everyone remaining in the game and the Guild police. You might take this to mean that since you've not been going to see any people, it has now become more probable that someone'll come to meet you. While this generally lessens your chances of winning, if you're still keen when action is at hand, then sometimes this will mean it will be you killing them...

Q7) But how do I play well? The rules do not seem to talk much about that!

[This FAQ often takes the form: I played and went down to a really unexpected attack, because they knew more info about me than the umpire gives out/ I was attacked by a group of people/I was attacked by someone who started talking with me inside an Out of Bounds Society Meeting/ I'd told my neighbours not to let assassins into our corridor, but they let in some lady who lied about why she was visiting...]

Well, it's clearly a very complicated game, once people apply creative thought to it.

We will however give you three tips.

Tip 1) Assassins is as much about avoiding being killed as it is about assassinating other players. It is important to avoid dying when you go after your opponents and to think about what others might do to target you (and how to foil them)!

Tip 2) A game about killing and not dying is also a game of making alliances and finding and trading information. Try interacting in these ways too, rather than just trying to kill opponents and considering that any trying to contact you are only interested in killing you! Do not be surprised to find that a game about killing also involves lying, scheming, and information.

Tip 3) You try to find the target (including correctly identifying them). It then helps a lot if you surprise them. However, you may misfire or they may dodge. Then it goes to fight-or-flee. Thus the next stage of attack is to push forward. If they don't budge, it's a fight. If they do it is a pursuit. The escaping party will generally try to vanish, and the pursuer will try and cause the situation to end by cornering the pursued. Thus a good plan allows you to, if your surprise fails, escape and vanish if they are too strong, and to pursue and corner the opponent if you are stronger. There are defenses against being found too (random or systematic avoidance), and against being surprised (alertness). In the surprise/alert phase, it's not about what range your gun has, but about being quick on the draw, much like in the Wild West.

The rest of it is just open-minded variants on these things. Find them ... on the internet. Corner them ... from having enough alliances. Be alert ... to people in assassins-dense societies, who may e.g. find and identify you there, so as to surprise you just as the situation ceases to be Out of Bounds.

Remember that the experienced veteran will often react to their or your surprise attack missing by fleeing. This is because fleeing is often very advantageous. Apart from doing so to stay alive, they may be doing so to lure you into a subsequent ambush, i.e. a sudden return to the surprise attack phase. Remember when you flee, you are dictating where you're taking the encounter, and that may allow you to suddenly have a huge advantage, like being at the top of a flight of stairs, or defending a door when they are totally bereft of cover. If you are in a fair fight, your tactics suck. Most of the veterans know this, and as such they will try and take the encounter to where the odds are stacked heavily in their favour.

Q8) You say it's free, but I see you carry a toy gun. How much do those cost, where are they from, and do I really need one to participate?

Easily concealable bandguns, nerf-guns, waterguns of this size cost around £10. All can be bought online, and Nerf in shops and waterguns in shops in spring and summer. Smaller waterguns can be bought all year round for more like £1, though some of those don't work as well. These days most good waterguns being made are called Water Warriors. Some models of pre-2003 Supersoaker that can occasionally be found on ebay are even better if still in working condition. Good waterguns have both a trigger and a pump (not all Water Warriors and Supersoakers do, so watch out). Another good brand of watergun is Storm (pictured in the Weapons Rules), though those are becoming harder to find online. In water allowed areas, a watergun is a big advantage because it doesn't run out of shots, or have gaps in its shooting that you can be charged through. However, many player rooms are No Water, as are a number of places listed in the Rules. Here the bandgun is good for not getting charged, whilst the nerf gun shoots further but usually with those gaps in its firing.

It is OK to borrow guns from veterans, or to consult them about what weapons work well and where to buy them from. The Umpire, the Chiefs of Police and the battle organizers mentioned below are some possible such contact points.

You can do well also by relying on ambushing and running away, and this can be done with any kind of weapon. Thus you don't need to buy anything. You can instead write `knife' on your old biro and surprise people with that. Or stick a label on a small fluffy toy, to be an attack animal to unleash on one's opponents! Those can also be thrown, thus serving also for ranged ambushes.

Q9) Don't assassins sometimes get portered or in other trouble?

The assassins rules are carefully designed to avoid inconveniencing the public in general and authority figures in particular. We are consideration and discretion are part of the art, rather than being unthoughtful or boisterous. Not only are our weapons safe and unalarming but we also conceal them rather than brandishing them for all to see. We mean no harm, and avoid looking like we might mean harm. We look like we are visiting a friend, because we are. Of course, there happens to be a bright yellow Nerf pistol in my handbag. And if I see my target, I will pull it out with a flourish and take a pot-shot at them, so long as we are In Bounds, and this doesn't risk disturbing any Innocent Bystanders. But I will then just as swiftly reconceal my toy gun, politely offer the deceased a biscuit and then discreetly leave the premises :)

Also bear in mind that, because of our continually meeting people and making new friends aspect, we can explain that our activity serves a socially valuable purpose, in particular for newly arrived Freshers, people who are shy or not particularly mainstream. Some people prefer to meet people outside of bustling raucous social events, and in an amusing context in which they have permission to briefly approach someone without having to have to state some reason or have something smart to say. In Assassins, they can just pull out the Fluffy Duck of Death from their coat pocket and lay into a person who, by playing, consents to being surprised in that and a range of such manners!

Q10) Yes, I see you have a lot of sensible rules. How did these come about? How do I know which rules are particularly important?

Well, we inherited a ruleset from MIT in the early 90's, some of which can be traced back to earlier rulesets as far as the 1960's; Steve Jackson Games published a booklet of such rules. When introduced into a new place, there's new activities not to disrupt and further things the local bystanders don't like. We learn, being open to feedback from both bystanders and our own members. Thus the rules evolve to be better and better at avoiding trouble, involving only harmless weapons etc. We are now very far down that road.

The important rules are of two kinds.

Rules of friendliness and inclusion, most of which are in the "Conduct Rules" section, including indeed the 'be friendly' rule and the 'no force rule' by which the little and the large can play safely side by side and people don't accidentally hit each other with doors.

And the more numerous rules of safety and security. These include the OOB section (Out of Bounds), the banned weapons list, and other parts of the Conduct section. It is extremely important to note that an assassins weapon or action being harmless requires it to be both safe and unalarming. This including not being disruptive of any activities which might lead to complaints, hence the Out of Bounds list in the Rules.

[For potential umpires reading this, such 'ok and perceived to be ok' pairings are very important in understanding how the rules are designed and upgraded.]

Q11) But what if a serious rule is broken?

The Rules address that too! Timeout is an important rule: a call that is made if a serious rules situation is apparent. This stops play and all present are OOB, so nobody need worry about other assassins taking potshots at them during it. In this frozen situation, then, it can be stated what the matter is, and the players present can then remove themselves from it. This is rarely necessary, but very important when it happens, so Timeout cannot be ignored by any participant. It might happen, for instance if an escaping assassin runs into a police crime scene cordon. Or if an assassin spots that another assassin has a weapon that is in fact unsafe or alarming. Assassins do not want harm or trouble to come to their opponents. Were another assassin to e.g. shout abuse at you or cause a personal safety issue, you could also use Timeout to put an end to that.

During an incident between assassins then, if there is a serious rules breach, the use is "Timeout!" followed by stating what the matter is. "Timeout!" Metal cutlery isn't allowed in Assassins! "Timeout!" That's a realistic replica gun! "Timeout!" There's Fellows coming up the stairs! "Timeout!" Shouting abuse at one's opponents is against the Be Friendly Rule! The most common "Timeout!" by far is "Timeout!" Traffic!, occurring in street pursuits that lead into busy roads or the morning flow of cyclists to lectures.

"No Force Rule!" can also be called. If you are holding onto a doorhandle and a bigger person starts to open the door out of not knowing you're already holding it, call "No Force Rule!" I was holding that door, return it to its original position! You should not be alarmed by calls of "No Force Rule", since this almost never has anything to do with people deliberately using force on other people. It has to do with people not knowing a door is already being held by the player on the other side that you're trying to attack... This is important because assassin attacks often involve opening a door or firing through a doorway, and doorways aren't the safest of places, so they need a special rule of their own.

Timeout and the No Force Rule deal with problems on the spot. Discussion Phase! is called if a person is disputing that you succeeded in killing them etc.

If you cannot resolve the issue on the spot, or are not OK with what happened on the spot or in the subsequent discussion, contact the Umpire to arbitrate. If the Serious Rules were breached, but you managed to resolve it on the spot, tell the Umpire also, since it might be part of a bigger pattern. [E.g. five other players have also got the new unsuitable type of gun, or it might reflect that the latest edition of the rules has an easily misunderstandable phrasing.]

Breaking a non-serious rule, such as shooting a person last seen outside your door with an attack hamster upon chance encounter in the street the next day, only for it to turn out that they were in fact targeting your neighbour, often results in your being Wanted.

Breaking serious rules, however, including such as the above things preceded by Timeout or shooting an Innocent Bystander who makes a major complaint about it to the Umpire, may result in the perpetrator being removed from the game.

This is a case then of Wantedness resulting from minor infringements. Whereas if a player's actions were to deliberately or recklessly endanger opponents or the future of the game, then removal from the game becomes an option. The Umpire decides.

Finally, as a friendly society, you know that any safety/security concerns you raise will be welcomed...

Q12) Actually I am reading this because I want to set up an Assassins society in another city...

Very well! See the other FAQ, and also the current FAQ's explanation of the serious rules is important for this too. For instance, don't expect your city's list of OOB areas to be the same as ours. Or in a different country with different laws, a banned assassins weapons list might look different. But what the current FAQ does address are what the main kinds of problems are, and how they are dealt with via friendliness, safety and security types of serious rules.

Q13) Do you do anything other than playing the assassins game, e.g. what about events and socials?

We have some socials throughout the term. Some of those during the game are Out of Bounds. We have one or more Squashes before the Michaelmas game starts. We have end of term duels, where spectators are encouraged and which end in social events. A major social each term occurs when the first Incompetence List comes out, between one and two weeks into the game. We then gather in the pub, hand out copies of the list and then mount hunting expeditions to try to meet and kill as many of them as possible! That's when the term's policework usually takes off. Some of the Chiefs of Police will then organize group raids at some points in the following weeks. Much policework is thus social.

We, and sometimes other societies - currently CSSW: Cambridge Safer Space Waterfighting: read here about them and what they do - also sometimes run battles with water-pistols. These are in some parts of town where this is well-known to not cause trouble, in particular in places that are neither university property nor town areas, such as the Backs. Battles are a good place to figure out how assassins fight, which in turn is useful so that the guild police squads don't get wiped out by alert or veteran people they go after. The battles and the group policing itself are great places for team tactics (and alliances) to develop. By these, a higher proportion of encounters will lead to the opponent dying rather than succeeding in running away or killing you all off first! You know, like spreading out so you don't all get shot at the same time, using your numbers rather to block escape routes. Or watching out for if he phones up other wanted criminals to attack your siege of his room from behind...

Some suggestions: 1) if you want to do better at assassins fighting and duelling, try going to battle events. One consequence of the weapons being safe is that one can dodge many of the shots if not taken by surprise. One of the best ways to see this and starting doing this is to take part in battles. Though there is more to assassins than fighting, such as ambushing and escaping, for all that variants of some of these other things do also occur in some types of battle.

2) If you are very keen and less than 1/4 of your tries to find an opponent to kill are resulting in any action, when you die join the police and hunt with experienced police members. After that, you'll find you're better at finding opponents more often :)

All in all, there is a nice and diverse program of events and socials here. These are based on whoever would like to be part of running a such, and does so friendlily, safely and responsibly, being welcome to just go ahead and do so :)

Q14) Do socials take up a lot of time?

We're not the kind of place where acceptance of people is restricted to those who do all the activities. These are rather a menu you can pick and choose from...

You're also welcome to suggest what you'd like some of the events and socials to be like, and are indeed welcome to run your own. If you want to do something along these lines, you're encouraged to get involved and make it happen so if you have ideas please consult with the Umpire.

Q15) Is the Assassins Guild connected to the works of Terry Pratchett?

If you are a Pratchett fan, you are welcome to interpret the guild as a tribute to Pratchett if you so wish, whilst respecting also those whose views on this matter differ. You could do so, for instance, by using Pratchett character names for pseudonyms and/or by writing amusing kill reports accordingly :)

Generally speaking, writing amusing kill reports of any kind is a good thing, and the wide range of different such reports stands as testimonial to the truth that assassins is indeed a multicultural activity.


Attack Animals are fluffy toys that can be used to gently strike or throw. Use of these is very widespread in Cambridge Assassins :) It reflects multiculturality (this originates from people other than toy gun fans) and the general fluffiness of Cambridge Assassins.

New player Welcome :) And we welcome feedback from you, it's your society too, and should be run in a way that you too get positive stuff out of participating. This also applies to each of the below :)

Passive player One who signs up but does not make attempts, or hasn't done so for a while.

Caution to the Police: some people on the Incompetence list are very ready to defend themselves, including some who saw a lot of action in previous games.

Part-time) player One who only plays some games, or who varies a lot in activeness from week to week or term to term.

New keen player Attacks a lot, will often die at some point, and as such should be aware of joining the Police.

Accomplice If you are a player who's gone out hunting with an Accomplice who hasn't read the Rules, they should stay with you so you ensure they don't break the rules. If they have read the Rules, they can act independently, though it remains the case that if they break the rules you will be held responsible too for involving them thus. Also in some games if your Accomplice is shot then you yourself may be made Wanted. If your Accomplice is keen, see if they'd like to sign up as a Player or Police, though we understand that some people have reasons why they cannot.

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