Picture the following scene: you’re an officer in a submarine deep in the ocean on a mission of utmost priority. Secrecy is key and everyone on board is aware of the stakes should anything go wrong. You walk through the bowels of the ship and nod to your crew who are hard at work asking them questions about what they are doing. Suddenly you notice someone dressed strangely. You walk over to ask them, “What’s your job here?”. They stare deep within you and in a high pitched questioning tone they say “I’m an astronaut?”. Suddenly without notice, they leap out of the sub shouting “Spaceship!”.
And that is Spyfall. Job done. Players are dealt locations with a role, but one player gets the spy card. People take turns to ask and answer questions. The spy is trying to figure out where they are and everyone else is looking for the spy. If you think you know who the spy is, to call a vote and if you get enough people you take a guess. Get it right and you win, get it wrong and you lose. If the spy thinks they know where they are, then they reveal who they are and make their guess. You can keep score, but Spyfall isn’t one of those kinds of games. Keep playing until you want it to end, something you might not want to happen.
This is because once you get into a groove with Spyfall, it is a crystal perfect gaming experience. Picking the right question is tricky and it takes a few games to fully understand this. You need to ask something that confirms you aren’t the spy but also doesn’t give away the location and same with all of your answers. This means, more often than not, you are suspicious of everyone. So once you find that game where it flows and you have a group who are committed to their roles, it is perfect. That isn’t a word I throw around without thought either. My few games of Spyfall where everyone knows what they are doing and fully inhabit their role as part of a location or a spy are amazing.
Unfortunately, like many of these kinds of games, that doesn’t always happen. One of the main struggles of Spyfall is one of its greatest strengths – the sheer number of locations. This is great because it means that you get to visit somewhere new each game. However, it also means that players need to know what the location options are to be in with a fair shot at guessing if they are the spy. There is a double spread in the rules that show all of the locations but a clear way of giving away that you’re the spy is to ask for that or keep glancing at the pictures. A workaround for this printing an aide for everyone but it isn’t a perfect fix.
Another issue with Spyfall is that all it takes is a single bad question or answer to give the game away. This means that there is a lot of pressure. You don’t want to ruin it for your friends and they don’t want to do the same to you. This means that you’ll often have games that give away nothing and they are bland. Alternatively, you’ll have games that end with somebody slipping up and they are disappointing. While there is a Venn diagram where that perfection I mentioned before shows its face, it is so infrequent and requires the exact right group that when given the option I always pick a different party game over Spyfall.
That being said if under the right circumstances Spyfall is wonderful. I love the idea of it and when it was originally pitched to me, on paper it is amazing. However, practice and paper are so far apart that I struggle to recommend picking up a copy. If you have a group of friends who you regularly place these kinds of social party games with and they all go down well, then definitely get a copy. However, if that isn’t the case then Spyfall won’t change that fact. For me, the spy truly has fallen. What an awful joke to end on.
Thank you for reading, if you want another social party game I wouldn’t necessarily recommend then check out my review of Billionaire Banshee. Or if you want a party game I wholly recommend, then my review of Champion of the Wild is the place for you. .
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