Everything You Need to Know About the NCL Team Game

AKA: Seven Habits of Highly Effective NCL Teams

Picture this:

You’re feelin’ great because you’ve just made your way through the individual games and you gave it your all. (Maybe you’re also a little sleep deprived, because 3 days of hacking challenges changes a person.) In a few short weeks, the team games are coming up. What do you do then? It’s time to grab a handful of friends or other people looking to ‘squad up and tackle challenges together!

Step 0: Find a team.

As the number of brains you are allowed put together to solve problems increases, so does the difficulty of individual challenges. You may feel like an undefeatable Lone Wolf™, but that won’t help you in this case! 

If you have multiple players at your university, group up with them and see if they want to work together. If you don’t have that, there’s also dozens of people always looking for teammates in the CyberSkyline slack channel who are willing to join you.

Step 1: Figure out how you’re going to communicate.

One of the most crucial things for the team games is to…. well… communicate with your team. Seems like a no-brainer right? However, it’s something that some groups forget up until they really need to talk with that *one* person who actually understands RSA. So: how do you want to communicate? Group Chats can be made on all platforms from mobile texting to Discord, so work together to decide which you prefer.

Step 2: Work out a schedule.

Sometimes people like to sleep, you know? Find out how much time each player is planning on putting into the competition and what times they work best during. If you time it right, (and have some particularly dedicated night owls) you might just be able to have people working around the clock. This also helps keep track of when players can get in contact with each other for help for maximum efficiency. Better to check the calendar and see that your crypto teammate is at a music lesson for the next hour than to send them a message and think that they’re just ghosting you.

Step 3: Put together a plan of attack.

The team games are identical to the solo games in structure. With that in mind, talk with your team and figure out how you want to split up the work.

  • Do you want to assign individuals to certain subsections?
  • Do newer players tackle the easy questions while grizzled veterans work out the binary exploitation?
  • Is it a ravenous free-for-all?

You decide! The important thing is to make sure everyone is on roughly the same page, or at least in the same chapter. Just make sure that someone isn’t working on a challenge for four hours to only find out that another team member swooped in with the answer an hour and a half ago.

For the ambassadors, we copied all the challenge text into a google spreadsheet and labeled them with point values. (See below) Each ambassador had a column to put what they thought was the right answer. If at least two ambassadors agreed on a question’s answer, someone would be elected to enter the answer in the platform. We did this specifically to keep our accuracy up, but it is by no means the only way to organize your team.

Step 4: JUST DO IT!

No, really. As soon as that metaphorical gunshot sounds, the race is on. Keep in mind that the primary goal of the NCL is for fun and learning. Work together with your teammates! Ask questions! You’ll find that you’ll learn a lot more by talking to people that you ever would by isolating yourself during this time.

Step 5: Remember to take care of yourself.

Your body is a machine that requires food, water, and sleep to keep functions at peak capacity. Sometimes, it’s better to step away from the computer to give your brain a break — let it chew on the problem while you chew on some snacks. You may think that staying up all night gets you ahead of the pack, but it really just mentally slows you down in the long run. 

Step 6: Rejoice!

After three days, you can give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. Head over to the methodology-no-answer channel in the Cyber Skyline slack and take a look at the methodologies shared by other players. Maybe submit your own!

Step 7: Recap

If you have the time to do so, do a recap with your team to get a sense of what people were successful with, what they struggled with, and what they want to do more next time. Head on over to the How to Run You NCL Recaps blog post if you want more ideas on what to talk about.

With this knowledge, go forth and conquer the team games! Of course every team is different, so you can change the above to whatever your team finds the most useful. 

Happy Hacking!


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