Let The Spy Fall, When It Crumbles, We Will Stand Tall - Spyfall Review

One of the best ways to find out if you will like a game is watch a live play through of it. Now whether you obtain this from The Dice Tower or Tabletop or some other online broadcaster is down to your preference, but seeing how a game plays out among gamers is a good way to at least dip your toes in the water.

This happened for me with Sheriff of Nottingham when I saw The Dice Tower show the old Robin Hood version in a live 24 hour marathon session. I was instantly hooked and have not regretted my purchase of the game, for which you can check out my review here. 

Spyfall is another game which has gone through the same motions. For a long time this game was insanely hard to get and so most of us were forced to simply watch The Dice Tower crew enjoy themselves in many, many games of it. Of course this built up the hype and everyone was excited to finally see its full release recently. Was this one worth the wait as well or did I make a really bad James Bond pun in the title for nothing?




Designer: Alexander Ushan
Publisher: Cryptozoic Entertainment
# of Players: 3-18
Ages: 12+
Play Time: 10-15 Minutes
BGG Rank/Rating: 608 / 7.37

  
Some Setup Required

The game is reasonably cheap on arrival and comes with a lot of cards and bags which will make you wonder as to their purpose at first. But it's all part of how you need to prep this game in advance before you play it. Each of the location decks needs to be separated out and a Spy card added to each one. Each of those then needs to be put in a separate bag so that you can choose one at random each game.

For best results I recommend using some cheap sleeves and sleeving everything in advance. The card stock is average, but it's going to see wear pretty soon and the last thing you want in any deduction style game is a mark that gives the game away. Standard or penny sleeves will suffice and the finished bags will still fit in the box. . . . . just. I was a little worried at first glance, but the lid closes fully in the end. 


Continuing The Multiplayer Trend

The game can cater for between 3 and 8 players, but seriously just assume the first number was a typo and pencil in the number 6. Five players is manageable but I believe six to be the golden number in terms of balancing out the Spy's difficulty. With too few players it's very difficult for the Spy to remain hidden and chances are you'll fall to a complete random guess on probability alone. With the maximum player count, the Spy usually gets plenty of time to deduce the location, but the game is still good so I would happily play this with 6 to 8 and settle for 5. Most party games out there follow this trend so it's no big deal. 



Some people don't like to lie in games, but here it's played out a little differently. As the Spy you aren't trying to lie, you're trying to be deceptive. You won't have enough information to give the best answer, but you can't directly give a wrong one otherwise you'll get found out. In one of my games I listened to various questions about a pleasurable environment and humidity. It narrowed the field quite a bit but I couldn't pinpoint it as the Day Spa just yet which was my main theory. When asked "why would I come here" I took a gamble and said "for rest and relaxation" and it made me completely question free for the rest of the game allowing me to quickly win by deducing the Day Spa was in fact the correct location. 

So the game barely contains any bluffing or deception and is more in fact about deduction. You're either trying to figure out who the Spy is, or you're trying to work out what location you're at. If that's more your style of party game then you're in good hands. 


Dependency On The Gamer

One big issue that is brought up with party games in general and it's a valid claim in some cases is that they are very group dependent. Now you can argue this point in every genre, but it's definitely more predominant in party games and any kind of negotiation or bluffing game. It's said about Cosmic Encounter, Sheriff of Nottingham and even Times Up, it can't be ignored that games like these can fall flat if you don't find the right group.

Spyfall probably is the poster child of such a definition. I've had games where I'm in hysterics at some of the questions asked, but then I've also had games where it feels bone dry and everyone is speaking like they're an extra out of a Matrix movie or something. You need to invest into what's going on and possibly even introduce a little roleplay to get the most out of the game. Not a difficult task for most crazy gamers, but bear this in mind, this isn't always a "laugh and minute" affair.




Verdict

Spyfall is a simple concept that results in a classic party game for the masses. Able to accomodate a large group and certainly at its prime with a full complement of players this is a nice, quick game that can be played repeatedly or as a break in between heavier games. 

That being said, be warned. This is one of the most group dependent games out there. A fun-loving, silly group that really goes nuts with the questions and accusations will adore this experience ensuring laughs a plenty for everyone. However it can fall flat among the introverted individuals and you're going to hear a lot of mixed opinions as a result. 

Is it the best party game out there? For myself, no, this isn't going to replace classics such as One Night Ultimate Werewolf or Telestrations in the "filler party game" category, but it's still very solid and will be a great addition to the collection. 


You Will Like This Game If:

  • You need a very quick palette cleanser to end a gaming night with.
  • You are willing to be expressive and not hold back too much.
  • You like deduction style games with an element of bluffing. 

You Will Not Like This Game If:

  • If the group as a whole isn't very inventive with their questions.
  • You play this with less than 6 players. I feel it really needs a good number.
  • You are expecting a "laugh a minute" style party game, there are better alternatives.

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