This game is phenomenal (looking at it’s simplicity and gaming experience). I immediately decided to buy it after my first play. The thing is I really fond the concept of the game, which has high player interaction. Spyfall is literally a social interaction game where you as players have to find (cleverly) which among you is the spy. And the spy also have to figure out where is the location you are in through clues and communications among players.
The game was first published by Russian game publisher, Hobby World for local publication and then got the English version published by Cryptozoic Entertainment. It can be played with 3-8 players. The game consists of multiple sets of cards that show many different locations. In each game, players will randomly choose one of the sets and play with that set of cards. Pick a spy card and a number of location cards minus one from the number of players and shuffle those cards together. Then dealt one card each for each player face down. All players look their cards secretly. The game is ready to begin. Choose one player to start the game and set a duration with a timer. The duration can be set freely. For a starter, you can set the duration one minute per player. The starting player will start the game by asking a question to one player. The question should related to the location listed on the cards, though not necessarily be true. This is the tricky part or most challenging element in the game. Players need to creatively devise a question that can get the questioned player into a position to reveal his identity (either he’s a spy or not), while in the same time, the asking player can also give certain hint about his identity based on his question. The questioned players also have to answer it cleverly by giving away his identity to his allies while in the same time trying not to be so obvious for the spy to guess the location where about. After the player answer the question, he can ask someone else (he cannot ask back to the player who asked him previously). A player can (during his turn) to accuse one player as the spy, in which players in clockwise direction will take a vote whether they agree or disagree with this accusation. If all players agree, then the accused player must declare whether he is the spy or not. If he is truly the spy, he can then make a guess about the location, if his guess is correct, he won the game. But if it’s incorrect, other players won.
The game should be played with points, but I personally never use the point system cause I think it’s unnecessary. The game already works fine without those fiddly scoring system. It’s pointless. But if you want you can play with scores, to show which player win the game. Judging by the rules, the game is very easy and simple, plays rather quickly (caused it’s time based). But in reality if you are new to the game, come up with certain question could be a challenge. The tricky part of the game is how you can cleverly devise a question that give clue to other players that you are not the spy and give the player you ask a good viable answer to offer so you and others believe that he’s not a spy while in the same time doesn’t give any clue to the spy himself. This what makes the game really interesting. The idea is brilliant, with only sets of cards and a very simple rules, the designer can come up with a very smart engaging social game.
The game comes with many different locations, so it’s not easy for new players to figure out the locations easily since they need those locations as a basic reference about the location in question. The spy have to figure out the alternative possible locations, which he has to consider amidst the questions thrown by other players. Being a spy is difficult for new players, they must act like they know the location and in the same time, figure out what all other players are saying to each other. If the spy is too quiet, he raises suspicion, if he talk, he’s exposed to say wrong things about the locations. The most dangerous thing for a spy is if that he was the first player or was thrown the first question by the starting player. He has no information at all. These situations are very possible and could break the game. If this happened, his reaction and answer would determine his survival within the game. Honestly I think the game is very entertaining and great, but it also has some issues. The first is the locations, some players / new players don’t know the available locations, this means being a spy is a lot harder cause he need to know these locations in order to figure out which one is a relevant information and which one isn’t. So naturally the spy is compelled to check the rule book for locations (this could give away his identity). Okay one can argue that others also need to check / know the locations but it’s not very essential for them as it is for the spy. This issue can be minimized by providing each player information access more close and personal (like booklets). But this doesn’t totally solve the issue since the spy is more frequent to check the locations than others.
The other issue is that the game really has a hit-or-miss behavior, it can work very well with a certain group but can become the opposite with another group. Some players have a hard time to figure out the question they need to ask, this wastes time, thus the limited duration seems unbalanced for each player. We usually pause the timer when the active player is thinking. Of course this makes the game longer, but as long as the game plays well, longer game time is not a very big deal.
The game also provide a variant with the roles. Each location cards has a small role printed on the bottom. This can be used for role play variant where players will role play the role listed on their cards. I do think it’s more interesting and challenging. Experienced players should use this variant to have more engaging plays.
Unfortunately some time after this game released (around a year) the sequel was released, Spyfall 2. That sounds like a good news, it is. The sequel offers more different new locations and it has one more spy card (so players can play with 2 spies instead of 1). That’s a good thing, of course but not that good for the Spyfall itself since the sequel kill the game totally. People just prefer to get the sequel instead this, and only though who already own this game would probably get the sequel for the second spy card and new locations.