Spyfall and Spyfall 2 Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 10 and up (publisher suggests 13+)
  • For 2 to 12 players (depending on which of the two games you have)
  • Variable gameplay length

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Memorization
  • Cooperative & Team Play
  • Self-confidence
  • Imagination
  • Bluffing and Misdirection

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Practice your skills of deduction and misdirection

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Australian-born actress, Freya Tingley, said: “I really wanted to be a spy. I guess it’s a bit like acting, where you play a role.” To be a competent spy, you must hide in plain sight, listen intently, and be well-versed in the art of misdirection. Your survival depends on it! In this game, one or more spies will be hiding among the players. The goal is simple: find the spy, but nothing is as easy as it seems.

Spyfall, designed by Alexandr Ushan and published by Crptyozoic Gamesis comprised of 240 cards (30 decks of eight cards each) and 30 ziplock bags (to hold those decks). The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card, but of much higher quality. Illustration by Sergey Dulin and Uildrim, are bright, colorful, and downright hilarious. Each depicts our hero spy in outrageous situations, cleverly hidden as part of the scene.

Spyfall 2, designed by the same folks with the same artists, is comprised of 240 cards, as well. It’s the same game. Same rules; same everything. It’s a standalone game (not an expansion) and can be mixed with the original Spyfall if that is your thing. The only difference is the number of locations that allow for up to twelve players (original Spyfall could only seat eight players). There can be two spies instead of one hiding among the crowd, as well, increasing the game’s difficulty and depth.

Not included with either game, but necessary to play, is a time tracking device of some sort. Considering that the majority of the human race now has cell phones with a timer feature, this shouldn’t be a big deal. If you want to keep points, you’ll also need a pen or pencil and something to write on.

Mission Briefing

Note: Before playing this game, you must divide the cards into separate Location decks, putting each deck into a small ziplock bag or bind them together using a rubber band. The “Spy” card is always at the top of the deck and face-down. This is SUPER IMPORTANT, so don’t mess it up. This is also a time-consuming and monotonous job when you first open the game and are cleaning it up. Give this task to your least liked friend.

To set up the game, first determine as a group how many rounds should be played. The suggested number of rounds for first-time players is five, which is estimated to take about one hour to complete (figure about 10 minutes per round). It’s also suggested that before continuing that all players take a moment to review the middle spread of the rulebook that shows all the possible locations. This will help the players remember what locations could be in play.

Example of locations on the top row and our two spies on the bottom row

Example of locations on the top row and our two spies on the bottom row

Second, if playing with Spyfall 2, you will also need to decide how many spies will be used. If there are six or fewer players, it’s generally recommended that only one spy be put in the mix. For nine or more players, add both spies. Up to the players, of course, but the one exception is if you play with twelve players. If you are lucky enough to have that many numbers of friends, you should play with both spies. If playing the original Spyfall, just stick to what is included in the decks.

Determine who will be the first dealer and give them all the unplayed location cards (which, in the case of the first round, is all of them), have them turn all the contents of the ziplock bags face-down (so no one can see the cards) and shuffle. Select one ziplock bag, and without showing any of the cards, the dealer takes a number of cards from the top equal to the number of players. Since the “Spy” card is always the top face-down card, it will always be part of the count. Any unused Location cards are returned to the ziplock bag WITHOUT revealing what they are (this includes the dealer). Again, SUPER IMPORTANT.

Third, the dealer shuffles the cards selected and deals one to each player (including themselves) face-down, being careful not to let anyone see the cards passed around. Once dealt, all players pick up their card and view it, making DAMN SURE not to let any opponent see their card. They then place it back in front of them, face-down.

Are you starting to pick up how important it is to keep things secret? Good.

That’s it for game setup. Time to do a little spy-hunting!

Understanding Your Role

Spyfall and Spyfall 2 is, essentially, a game of Hide-and-Seek. There will always be one “Spy” in the group at a minimum who is hiding among the other players. The Spy does not want others to find them and goes to great length to “blend in”. The problem is, the Spy has no clue (at first) about their location, while everyone else does. The Spy must listen carefully to the clues being shared, attempting to discern what is factual and what is meant as a bluff to reveal the Spy. In contrast, all the other players have no clue who the Spy is other than knowing for certain it isn’t them. It’s their job to find the Spy by asking questions that they believe only a non-Spy would know. Remember: the Spy has no idea about the location, but everyone else does. If done correctly, the non-Spy players can use this shared information to reveal who the Spy is by tricking them to answer a question anyone with a location card would know.

Spying Around

Spyfall and Spyfall 2 is played in any number of rounds determined by the players when the game is set up. The duration of each round is also determined as a group. A round of gameplay is summarized here.

Step One: Start the Timer and Round

The dealer announces that the round has begun and starts whatever time tracking device is available. They then ask one opponent a question, calling them by name (or pointing to them). For example, if I were playing with this guy named “Johnny Rev”, I’d say, “Hey, Johnny Rev,… ” followed by my question. Questions normally – but are not strictly required – to be based on the location shown on the Location card. Only one question is asked and there is no follow-up.

The opponent’s response can take any form they like (verbal response, a head shake, a cold calculated smile, etc.), but lying is not a wise move. The answer provided must legitly answer the question posed, but it should be clouded in mystery and double entendres. You don’t want to give away too much to the Spy and a Spy doesn’t know much about the location. Be vague, but not completely imprecise. Yes, this can be tricky.

Step Two: Keep Digging

The player who answered the question now gets to ask a question, but they cannot ask a question to the opponent who just interrogated them. They could ask the same question, but doing so would be super silly. Instead, non-Spy players should continue to ask questions that they don’t believe the Spy would know and the Spy should ask questions based on what they think they know from listening in on the other players.

This continues and players can ask questions of others in any order they like as long as they don’t ask a question of the player who just asked them a question. Who the player asks a question of is based on suspicion most of the time.

Ending the Round and the Game

A round can end three different ways:

  • The time runs out. At which point, all the players can now openly discuss who they think is or is not the Spy. They MAY NOT announce the location or ask for additional information. The players then start to accuse each other. This is done by each player announcing who they think the Spy is and then putting it to a vote with the other players. If the accusation is not unanimously agreed to, the next player in turn order sequence now identifies who they think the spy is. This continues until all players agree who is the spy. If all players agree on a vote, they are considered “convicted” and the accused reveals their card. If it’s the Spy, all non-Spy players win the round. However, if each player accuses and the group never unanimously agrees, the Spy reveals their card and the Spy wins the round.
  • When suspicion is too high to continue. Any player may stop the clock once per round and declare they have a likely suspect, putting it to a vote (as explained in the above bullet). If the vote is unanimous, reveal the accused card and award victory points accordingly. However, if the vote is not unanimous, the clock starts again and the round continues. Any player can be accused and can be accused multiple times per round. Don’t take it personally.
  • The Spy knows their location. The player with the hidden role of “Spy” can call to stop the clock (like in the above bullet) and reveals their card. After all the “I knew it!” and “I told you so!” proclamations are said and done, the Spy now informs their opponents the location they think they are in. They can, if they so choose, review the middle spread of the rule book to help with the name. If the Spy is correct, they win the round. If they are incorrect, all the other players win the round.

For the next round, it’s essentially the same as the original game setup, wherein a new location is selected at random and dealt.

The game ends when the final round comes to a close. Wasn’t that fun? Yes, it was. Go play it again!

Game Variants

There are several game variants available. They are summarized here.

Really Winning the Game

The winning or losing of the round is very simple in the above explanation but does not provide an overall winner at the end of the game. If there is a need to be a “real winner” because your group is overly competitive, points are earned by players based on if they are a Spy or non-Spy and how the round is completed. You’ll need a piece of paper to keep track of these scores, which is more trouble than it’s worth. Whoever has the most points at the end of the specified number of rounds wins the game overall.

Role-Playing

Players can also decide at the start of the game if they will stick to the role identified on the location card they are dealt. For example, if a location has the role of “Manager”, then that player will answer questions as if they are the manager of wherever the location is. This is pretty entertaining and can lead to a lot of creative answers. It also makes the game more complicated to find the spy, as each player’s role will have a different take on the location. It’s not recommended for players who are new to the game or have limited imaginations. Feel free to use funny voices.

Two or Three Players

In a two-player game, a third card is drawn and placed face-down. This could or could not be the Spy, meaning players will have to take special care to not outthink or out-trick each other if they are both the non-Spy player. The same goes for a three-player game, where a fourth card is drawn and placed face-down.

Team Play (i.e. “Spy Training 001”)

If there are seven or more players who want to join in on the fun, use two Location decks each round. Teams are created and one player per team is the designated “Captain”. The Captains will always know their location and decide who will go first, asking each agent (the other players) a question. The Captains pick who they think is NOT the Spy and the Spy tries to select the location known by the Captain.

Old Friends

If playing with two spies, this game variant allows the players who were randomly dealt the Spy card to recognize each other before the round begins. This is done via Werewolf style, wherein all players put their heads down and the spies are asked to look at each other. This is completed quietly so as to not draw attention to the players who are the spies. After the two players make eye contact, give each other a “knowing wink”, they put their heads down. The game then begins as normal.

To learn more about Spyfall and Spyfall 2, visit the game publisher’s web site.

Final Word

Child Geeks had a lot of fun. They were loud, accused other players on the fly without much in the way of legit evidence to back up their claim, and laughed most of the time making it difficult to understand what they were talking about. In short, they loved it and it was a blast watching them play. According to one Child Geek, “This is better than Werewolf! You get to hide as a spy or seek out the spy. Really simple rules but the game is a lot of fun to play!” Another Child Geek said, “I like being the spy the most, but it is also fun trying to find the spy. The only problem with the game is that my friends don’t want to play it more.” When all the spies were found (or safely returned to their country of origin), the Child Geeks voted and fully approved Spyfall and Spyfall 2.

Parent Geeks might have just found their new favorite party game. Both with their peers and families, alcoholic drinks in abundance or not, everyone had a great time. According to one Parent Geek, “A superb party game. It has elements of classic party games like Charades and Twenty-Questions but is much more refined and engrossing. I not only had fun playing, but was challenged and fully engaged from start to finish. Excellent. Simply excellent.” Another Parent Geek said, “The hardest part about the game is trying to share your location without actually sharing your location if that makes sense. It creates a real need to be creative and to listen really hard what is being said and not said. A real winner in my book.” The Parent Geeks, fully satisfied with their spy hunt, gave both games their full approval.

Gamer Geeks also had a blast. They took the game to a whole new level, of course. They were louder than the Child Geeks, swore more than the Parent Geeks, and I’m pretty sure a cat got thrown at one player at one point in the game. That or the cat attacked the player. Hard to say. It was a late night, folks. According to one Gamer Geek, “A creative game with a simple ruleset and deep gameplay. Even a non-gamer can play this game just as well as an old warhorse like me. A great example of a party game that knows what a party really is.” Another Gamer Geek said, “One of my favorites. I’ve played this before at parties, as a filler, and at several game conventions. In all cases, the games were a lot of fun, even if you don’t know the people you are playing with.” When the last game was finished and put aside, the Gamer Geeks all agreed they would welcome it back to their table sooner rather than later.

Spyfall and Spyfall 2 are a lot of fun. I have attempted to find a downside to this game, providing a balanced review, but I can’t find any. This is hardly a “perfect game” (not even sure what that would look like), but it’s most certainly a huge hit. All our players enjoyed it, from the humor on the cards to the entertaining engagement with their opponents. The game is simple to teach, fast to play, and exceedingly social making it a very enjoyable group event. Regardless of age or experience, all our players applauded the game, giving it high praise.

So, yeah, give it a shot. I can’t add much more to the review because so much has already been said by my players. Do give this a game a try at your next party or gathering. I think you’ll find it to be a cleverly deceptive game that will sneak into your heart and imagination.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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