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The Initiative Overview

The Initiative Overview

The Initiative Overview

Welcome to our latest overview of The Initiative published by Unexpected Games. In this article, we’ll detail how to play this fantastic game. This article will be spoiler-free, so you don’t need to worry about finding out some of the game’s secrets. (There are a lot of those!) Instead, we will hone in on the overall setup and gameplay.

The Game – The Initiative

The Initiative has multiple layers to the game. At its heart, it is called a “Campaign game.”, this means that every time you sit down to play, you advance the overall story of the characters in the game. 

Initially, you will read the instructions for setup and the first couple pages of the included comic book. In the comic book, you will find out the backstory of these teenagers and how they acquired the board game “The Key.” The characters will sit down and play “The Key” throughout the campaign’s story. When they sit down to play, this is where you take over, and it is your job to play the game for them. Once you complete a game, the game may instruct you to read another page in the comic book. 

Most of the time, you will be playing this “game within the game” called “The Key,” but don’t let that fool you. The overall story of The Initiative is impressive and has a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Game Setup – The Key

The game is relatively easy to set up. When you first open the box, you must assemble the Mission Holder. This stand has a slot for a mission card, two empty rows, and two rows where you’ll attach plastic doors to hide what’s behind it.

Next, read the comic book stopping when you get to a red instructions box. Typically at this point, the game will instruct you to draw a mission card off of the deck. These cards are double-sided, and DO NOT look at the card’s front side. That is the solution to the mission. The backside will show which side of the board to use for this mission. It will also show file symbols with numbers on them. At this point, shuffle the tokens face down and randomly place the corresponding number of tokens in each matching position on the board. Some missions will show other colored clue tokens. 

If the diagram shows walls, place them on the board, which will change the board’s layout. 

Once the clue tokens and walls are on the board, take the mission card and, without looking at the bottom, slip it into the slot in the mission holder. 

This holder is used only to show the symbols on the front side of the mission card. The team needs to solve this puzzle. 

Next, place the door tile and the character standees that each player has chosen in the door location.

Then place the four action cards (Run, Gather, Intel, and Regroup) within reach of each player. Also, set the discard card next to these actions with the four time cards on top of it.

Finally, shuffle the Resource cards and deal out 4 per player. 

Gameplay – The Key

Each player takes turns performing one or two actions per turn to play this game. Then they must draw replacement resource cards, so they have four cards in hand.


To take an action, you must take a resource card from your hand and place it on top of the action you want to play. However, the trick is that each player must play a higher numbered resource card than the card on the action already. So, for example, if someone has placed a “3 on Run,” no one can place a 1 or 2 card on Run. Similarly, no one can perform the Intel action if someone has set a “12 on Intel” as 12 is the highest card. There is a way to clear cards on an action, which we’ll explain in a minute.

Also, note: You can not discuss with other players what cards you have in your hand. For instance, it is not ok to say, “I have an 8, 10, 11, and 7”, but it’s ok to say, “All my cards are above half” (12 is the highest number card). You can not give specific information.

Run Action

If you place a card on Run, you may move your character up to 3 rooms through passageways and not through walls.

Intel Action

If you place a card on Intel, you may reveal up to two clues in one room, one at a time. You do not need to be in that room to reveal a clue.

When you reveal a clue, you will see one of two types: A Symbol or a Trap. If it is a symbol, first check to see it is in the puzzle. If it is, leave the token in the room. If not, remove the token and return it to the box. We’ll explain Traps later in this article.

Gather Action 

To win the game, you must gather clues from the board. If you are in a room with clue tokens (either face-up or facedown), you may Gather them. As soon as you gather a token with a symbol on it and that symbol is in the puzzle, then you may flip up the door in the mission holder under all of the matching symbols. 

You may notice that some clue tokens have either a half star or half bullseye at the bottom. We won’t detail their use here; the game will explain those as you play.

Regroup Action

You will undoubtedly realize that if you can’t place lower numbered cards on one of the above three actions, the game will become challenging very quickly. That’s where the regroup action comes in. You can take this action to remove all cards from any other action and discard them. Remember that this action works like the others, and you can not do the Regroup action on itself. Try and keep this pile’s top card as low as possible because if it reaches 12, you will not be able to regroup any of the other actions for the rest of the game.

Special Character Actions

Each character has an action specific to them that they can do as one of their two actions on their turn. These actions are on the character cards. A player must discard two cards from their hand to perform that action. 


Some clue tokens you will turn over do not have symbols on them. Instead, they are traps. There are three types of traps: security cameras, Gas, and Counter Intel.

Security Cameras

If you end your turn in a room with Security Cameras, discard one resource card from the top of the resource deck for each camera in your room.


If you turn over a clue token through Intel or Gather and reveal Gas. All people in that room must randomly discard one card from their hand and can not draw a replacement card until the end of their respective turn.

Counter Intel

If revealed during an Intel action, a player should place these tokens on the corresponding action, Run, Intel, or Gather. The game will prevent the players from putting resource cards on that action until a Regroup action is played, which removes this trap.

Running out of Cards

If players run out of cards in the resource deck at any point, they will shuffle the discard pile along with the four time cards into a new draw deck. Flip the Discard Pile card to the “In Peril” side and place the new deck next to it. For the rest of the game, you can choose not to draw any or up to 4 cards whenever you draw cards to add back to your hand. Drawing cards is entirely an option at this point in the game. 

If you reveal a time card while drawing a card, you immediately discard it. If there are three time cards in the discard pile, you lose the game immediately and do not get to solve the puzzle. There is one time card with two time icons, and this card counts as two time cards, so proceed with caution.

Winning the Game – The Key

As a group, you can choose to solve the mission’s puzzle at any point in time. You only get one shot at this, so you lose the mission if you fail. You do not have to reveal all the symbols to solve the puzzle.

Gameplay – The Initiative

Most of the time, you will be playing the game “The Key.” However, there are some more elements to this part of the game.

First, win or lose a game of “The Key” refer to the back of the comic book for the Campaign Log. The log will give you instructions on what to read next in the story. 

Also, throughout the games you play, each teenager has an Achievement to get. There is space to check off those Achievements on the back of the book.

Finally, you’ll have seen a stack of Secret cards with numbers on them. DO NOT LOOK AT THESE unless instructed. Think of these as notes left by the previous owner of “The Key,” The players will reveal them throughout the campaign story.

Lastly, we haven’t given you all the rules for playing this game, but that’s intentional. This game has a lot of secrets to unveil as you play, which is part of its fun and includes additional rules. Some of the rules mentioned above will be modified or expanded on as you play.

Winning the Game – The Initiative

If you complete the campaign successfully, you have won the game. 

Even after you have won the game, you can continue to play “The Key” Included in the box are additional missions. Unexpected Games has added even more missions to their website and a digital Mission Holder, allowing you to keep the mission puzzle a secret more straightforward.

If you like the sound of this game, we have it available in our store!