A mobile card game for iOS and Android, from Noesis and the Public Verdict foundation.
Prisoner - Warden
A game of incarceration and freedom for two players
The Noesis social project studio and the Public Verdict foundation presents Prisoner – Warden, a card game for iOS and Android about prisoners and their guards. Defeat a virtual opponent in a unique asymmetical game. Learn about life in Russian prisons, learning how to defend your rights, even when you are completely alone.
Available on App Store and Google Play completely free of charge
  • What is the game about?
    You play as the Prisoner. The prisoner's task is to prevent their rights from being violated and publicise what is going on behind bars. The Warden must prevent this from happening. You each play cards, representing various actions (like the Prisoner's 'Communicate with human rights activists' or the Warden's 'Prevent access to bath house'). The cards affect the Warden's and Prisoner's available resources. If these resources reach a critical point, the game ends.
  • Who are the creators?
    The Public Verdict foundation. Since its creation in 2004, the foundation has been fighting against unlawful violence and degrading treatment by law-enforcement officials in all manner of places, defending both people at liberty and in prison.

    The foundation provides free information, and legal and psychological support to those who have the courage and strength to seek justice and recover their violated rights. This can take years.

    Every successful case fought by the foundation's lawyers and advocates is not simply a matter of giving convictions to specific violators of the law (although this is a massive victory). It is also a legal attempt to prevent unpunished and senseless violations by officials in authority and new brutal human stories.

    Every year, the Foundation receives up to 700 appeals from civilians who are waiting for our unique specialists to take specific action and who hope for the best. The number of these appeals has been growing incrementally over the last few years, with hundreds of cases ongoing. Their number will not fall if the public fails to get involved in the fates of fellow civilians who have suffered from injustice, choosing a humane law-enforcement system and greater public safety. Our first mobile game is an invitation to make this very choice.

    Noesis is a social project studio. The studio offers six games for mobile devices and browsers on diverse themes, from stalking to the ethics of progress, from dealing with security forces to harassment. The objective of Noesis is to talk about key problems facing society and find ways to address them through the medium of games. The audience for the studio's games has already reached half a million. Why not join them?
How to play
You play as the Prisoner vs. the Warden. As Prisoner, your task is to tell everyone about the prison rights violations. In order to win, the Prisoner needs to get Publicity to maximum. The Warden's task is to ruin the Prisoner's life as much as possible. The Warden wins when Health falls to zero. If both parties succeed at the same time, the warden wins by default.
Every round, each player plays one action card. These cards can affect the values of Health, Publicity and/or Respect. The actions of the Prisoner and the Warden do not impact one another directly, instead they raise and lower the aformentioned values instantaneously.

The action cards are ranked with levels 1 to 3. The higher the level, the stronger the card.
Respect means you can double the effects of your action cards. If the scale fills to the top, the Warden receives a doubling token. If it falls to the bottom, the Prisoner receives a doubling token. The Respect indicator then returns to the middle. The token doubles the Health and Publicity (but not Respect) of the action card played by the token holder next round.
A random event card is played at the start of each round. An event card does exactly what it says on it, which is usually to affect the amount of resources gained and lost by action cards played that round. See below for more about the cards.
The Prisoner sometimes gets character cards. This character card can be played on your turn instead of an action card. This character will improve one of the prisoner's attributes every turn until they are dismissed. You cannot have two characters in play at the same time. The first one will be removed from the table when a second is played. The doubling token has no effect on a character's effects.
What cards are in the game?
Prisoner cards
Suicides solves nothing – the main thing in prison is to simply endure, survive, and sit it out until your release. Ending your life prematurely is to give in. If you slit your wrists to attract attention, you might achieve nothing apart from time in hospital. Of course, you can raise a disturbance to get attention, but nothing is guaranteed.
The voice of a loved one from outside might bring you back to life and reason, acting as an inspiration, offering a glimpse of normal life. That said, we are well aware that there must be a very good reason for embarking on an illegal action. In any event, carrying a mobile phone is an offence. Telephones are bought and sold illegally in prison. Generally though, it is prison management staff who bring them in.
A public oversight commission, if it is truly effective, might help advance a complaint or uphold a prisoner's rights. It is designed to confirm or disprove human rights violations. It is not always this simple in real life, though.
Working with human rights activists is almost always a long game. However, there is a chance you can stand your ground, prove your case through legal means and even gain compensation for violations on the part of the prison management. You can make a name for yourself if you have a decent lawyer and you have the patience to do everything by the book. Whatever the case, it's worth doing. We encourage it.
The most extreme form of protest is a hunger strike. The management will have to respond to the hunger strike, but the nature of this response is unknown and possibly dangerous. This is a desperate step and the striking prisoner must be prepared for any outcome.
Sometimes, to avoid an unwanted meeting or a task, or when you are just tired and need a break, you can feign illness and take some time to recharge your batteries and avoid an unpleasant situation. Everyone can see through pretenders – you have to hurt yourself in some way or catch a cold on purpose. No one gets sent to the medical unit because of a headache.
If you think your rights or procedures have been violated, write a complaint. A complaint is always something for the management to worry about and will always provoke a response – of course that might be to simply punish you for writing one, but if you're backed by a good lawyer or the matter is under public scrutiny, maybe things might go your way.
Nowadays this is something almost entirely out of the movies. Until recently, there have been instances of escapes from prisons and penal settlements, but this is an almost impossible enterprise and, ultimately, a decision that is extremely life-threatening to the escapee. It is completely illegal, which means you either manage to escape and spend the rest of your days in fear, hiding in the shadows, or you are caught and either killed, or your sentence is extended to the ultimate degree. Not something we recommend.
Doing repairs and fixing things in your unit will make you feel productive and be a good thing for the prison management. Any work is seen as an interesting change, a break from the boredom and monotony.
It's up to the prisoner to decide how much they want to cooperate. This can take many forms. You can be a librarian or a cook and that's fine. However, you could also perform the prison management's dirty work, handing out the abuse they can't be seen doing. To put it mildly, this could cause friction with other inmates and might come back to bite you after your release. Sure, you'll get plenty of perks from management, but it's better to really weigh up a big decision like this.
Warden cards
One of the most common forms of ill-treatment of prisoners, for whom a letter from outside is a long-awaited moment of joy, and deeply personal to each inmate. Any interference in correspondence is keenly perceived as an attack on personal rights.
Another form of humiliation and punishment. You can be deprived of bath house access for no reason. This can be a week-long hardship in hot and stuffy conditions.
Early release from detention (parole) takes great effort and time to earn, but is easily lost. One disciplinary offence is all it might take for parole to be taken away. The court decides, but it is the prison management who prepares the parole documentation.
There is never any urgency in calling for medical treatment, whatever the condition. This is just another means of reminding the person they are in a penitentiary institution and deprived of their typical rights. Compassion is not a thing here.
Parcels from outside (from friends and relatives) are opened mandatorily. If management wants to punish the recipient of a parcel for something, it is easy enough to simply take something from a package. Or simply take anything they fancy regardless. By taking tea or cigarettes, for example, the prison management deprives a person of 'internal prison currency'.
Prisoners must not carry any cash. If this ever happens, it is a simple matter for the prison management to confiscate. However, the prisoner might be coerced to buy something for the prison's own needs, such as building materials. Alternatively, the prisoner is forced to pay for something in the local shop from their personal account. Every prisoner has a personal account, to which relatives and friends can transfer funds. The account is opened officially by the Federal Penitentiary Service when a prisoner is admitted to the institution. These funds can be spent on food and additional personal hygiene products, with the prisoner transferring the money for each item electronically.
The prison management decides whether a prisoner can have personal belongings or not. This decision can be used as a tool to control prisoners and punish them.
A special cell in which the prison management, with the help of cooperating prisoners, creates unbearable conditions for selected convicts. Here, they can be beaten, raped, physically and mentally abused, or even killed.
Placement in Solitary describes a worsening of detention conditions through new restrictions. You are placed in a single cell, called solitary confinement, sometimes for months on end. Other restrictions include: you cannot lie down during the day, you may only sit on a terribly uncomfortable chair, you are not allowed visits (except for your lawyer), you have no deliveries or access to the telephone, and you are not allowed to smoke.
This is a common practice in places of detention. And for what else do people come here? Not for correction, that's for sure.
What are the stories the cards are based on?
All the cards in the game are based on real events. Let's go through them.
Withhold medication
Warden card, reduce Publicity by 1 and Health by 4

In early March 2020, Yegor Lesnykh, a defendant in the 'Moscow Case', fell ill while incarcerated at the Vodnik pre-trial detention centre. He had a high temperature and a dry cough for two weeks. After this information was made public, Yegor was tested for coronavirus. The initial diagnosis had been 'flu of unknown strain'. For reasons unknown however, Yegor's test results could not be deciphered. Still, treatment was provided. At first, Yegor was given only antipyretic drugs.

However, during the brief time he was held at the Tver pre-trial detention centre, Yegor was subjected to an electric shock device. A Public Verdict lawyer learned of this only six days later, when he came to visit Yegor. Immediately after this visit, the management began to act differently. Yegor was examined several times and even had books delivered from the library, which he had been waiting for an entire week. They opted to transfer Yegor further along in the process and the foundation prepared a complaint for the ECHR.

Hunger strike
Prisoner card, increase Publicity by 3 and Respect by 2, but reduce Health by 1

The criminal case brought against Boris Astashkin was fabricated. At around ten o'clock in the evening of 4th May 2016, when Boris and his wife were returning home in Samara, he was seized by operatives from an anti-drug trafficking unit. After taking money from him and threatening to rape Astashkin's wife with a rubber baton, they persuaded the detainee to sign the papers the police wanted. Because of his poor eyesight, Boris thought he was being prosecuted for drug possession. However, once at the pre-trial detention facility, he discovered that he was being charged with drug trafficking under Part 1 of Article 228.1 of the Russian Criminal Code.

Now at the pre-trial detention facility and disputing the fabricated case against him, Astashkin wrote complaints to all possible authorities. After that, the case against Boris was reclassified under a more serious charge, under Part 3 of Article 228.1 of the Russian Criminal Code. '"You're not behaving yourself," was how they explained it to me,' Astashkin says. In the end, he decided to take the most extreme measure and went on hunger strike, which he maintained for 136 days. The court subsequently found Astashkin guilty only under Part 1 of Article 228.1 of the Russian Criminal Code. Later, a criminal case was brought against the police officers who fabricated the case against Astashkin and others from Samara. Boris and 16 others have now been recognised as victims under the so-called 'Samara Case'. Public Verdict represents Boris in court.
Go to solitary
Warden card, reduce Publicity by 1 and Health by 4, but increase Respect by 1

Being placed in solitary confinement is a harsh punishment in itself, but it also includes the loss of the opportunity to be released on parole. If such a punishment is imposed illegally, meaning without sufficient grounds, it is particularly unjust, especially when it is done shortly before a possible release.

In 2009, Vladimir Nyrov was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment in a maximum security facility. In 2019, as his disciplinary record allowed him, he planned to apply for parole. In May, the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast and observe other religious precepts, Nyrov found himself in trouble for removing his outer clothing before prayer. The prison saw this as a serious violation and placed him in solitary for 15 days. The court then transferred Nyrov back to prison to serve another full year.

Nyrov contacted human rights defenders, who spent almost the next two years challenging the legality of this punishment. In August 2020, it was declared unlawful, as the court found that the prisoner had suffered moral damage and he would be able to gain compensation.

Plan escape
Prisoner card, increase Publicity by 1 and Respect by 3, but reduce Health by 1

In 2006, Mikhail Golikov was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment at a maximum-security facility. In 2012, he was transferred to a lower-security prison for good behaviour, and then again to an open prison in 2018. In 2019, he was transferred to an isolated site operating as a correctional facility. Everything seemed to be heading for release on parole, but something went wrong and, in August 2019, the correctional facility placed him in an offender's cell for infringements, crushing his hopes of freedom. The explanation for this punishment was that Golikov had allegedly repeatedly refused to greet the prison management staff and had been unresponsive to educational conversations. The evidence provided to the court turned out to be falsified, so his lawyer, Chekhlova, filed a criminal complaint with the Investigative Department. In February 2020, the court issued a ruling stating that the detention in an offender's cell was unlawful.

A separate criminal case was brought on abuse of authority related to Golikov's beating by the correctional facility officers. Interestingly, however, Golikov was regularly hospitalised after this beating. In May 2020, Golikov left his ward after his latest visit and hitch-hiked to Finland, where he handed himself over to the police and sought political asylum.
Violation report
Warden card, reduce Respect by 3 points

In 2017, Yevgeny Chekhlov was serving a three-year sentence in a Krasnoyarsk general regime facility, when he got into trouble with the administration (another prisoner had tried to strangle him and received no reprimand) and was forced to seek help from a lawyer. He was then subjected to sanctions, that as a result of which, just two months before his release, Chekhlov had become a serial offender.

In his claims, Chekhlov asked the court to find all three sanctioning orders unlawful and quash them. He also pointed to the regular denial of access to qualified legal assistance, as his lawyer had been consistently denied access to the disciplinary committee sessions.

The court of the first instance dismissed Chekhlov's statement of claim, but his appeal was upheld and all three sanctioning orders against Chekhlov were subsequently found to be unlawful.

Communicate with rights activists
Prisoner card, increase Publicity by 2 and Health by 3, but reduce Respect by 1

Alexander Ryabinin is serving his sentence in penal colony IK-2 in Kursk Oblast, and is one of just three prisoners who were not afraid to report instances of torture to the law enforcement authorities. Consequentially, the prison staff sought revenge by placing him in solitary confinement, first for seven days and then for a further five, apparently justified by wholly unsubstantiated and alleged offences. Ryabinin sought legal assistance from human rights lawyers to challenge the disciplinary sanctions he'd received, but on several occasions the court of first instance dismissed his claim. A Public Verdict lawyer has now filed a cassation appeal on his behalf. An appeal hearing has yet to be scheduled.
All these stories have become public thanks to the Public Verdict foundation. You can support its work with donations. PV reports every donation and where it is spent.
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The Public Verdict foundation has been forcibly added to the register of 'foreign agents' by the Russian Justice Ministry. The foundation is appealing this decision with the European Court of Human Rights. When this is appealed and compensation is paid, which we are confident will happen, the foundation plans to use the entire amount on legal support for other organizations and individuals similarly unjustly marked with 'foreign agent' status.
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