Critical Play – Robot Interrogation

I’ve played everything else, so I tried Robot Interrogation, aka Inhuman Conditions by Tommy Maranges and Cory O’Brien. My partner and I played online but in the same room. The target audience seems to be over whatever age that it’s ok to talk about cannibals, cut leaders, or being dishonorably discharged from the military. Probably over 13?

The game is two-player (a bit surprising, since all the other social deception games I know are multiplayer). The actions you can choose from are mostly interrogation and answering, but depending on your suspect role, you can answer freely or have to fulfill certain requirements/penalties. The interrogator can also select a type of interrogation packet that also has different difficulty levels. The rounds are paced at the whim of the interrogator. They start with some procedural checks so that everyone knows their roles and can practice a bit, then they move on to a defined 5 min round of interrogation following the packet theme. Below, my partner as the interrogator chose a creative problem-solving theme, and I tried to convince him of my humanity as a new wave hippie cult leader.

I think the most unique thing about this game is the multiple outcomes. Depending on the identity of the suspect, the desired outcome of the game changes. If you’re a human, you want to be guessed as a human. If you’re a patient robot, you want to be incorrectly guessed as a human to win. If you’re a violent robot, you want to pursue obsessive desires to deprogram yourself and kill the investigator to win. If you’re the interrogator, you just want to get things right. In Among Us or Mafia, the roles provide pretty strict win conditions (forgetting about roles). The premise of Robot Interrogator is also fun, sort of a Turing test/Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep situation.

Our experience was honestly somewhat frustrating. While there were some silly moments, we didn’t have much fun because there were a lot of rules we wanted to get clear on which took most of our time. My partner expressed extra frustration that until they read most of the manual, they didn’t know their strategy as an interrogator/how to formulate questions/what to look for. We also got disconnected a lot, and somehow we never got robot roles so we didn’t know how that would feel different. As an interrogator, I guessed incorrectly once because I thought his normal speech was a bit dilly-dallying like the patient robot (though I should have anticipated that). As a normal human suspect, I was correctly guessed to be a human. One memorable moment was when my partner was the suspect, had a cannibal background, and was being asked questions about cooperation. He said he was a family person who hired a hitman to take out his assassin mother, which paid for his father’s assisted living situation. I just thought this was weird and off his background, so I assumed he was a robot, but alas it was not the case.

To improve the game, at least online it would be nicer if they had an information sidebar to go over how an interrogator might be able to spot different suspect roles without having to refer to a long and unwieldy PDF. Perhaps also allowing you to create your own suspect background would make it easier for those less comfortable with roleplaying to choose something they do feel is more possible. I think if you have a roleplaying background, this game will be more fun for you.

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