Sun. Feb 5th, 2023
Push the limits of your friends' confidence and laughter with interrogation-driven Spyfall

Sam Machkovech

Like other party-friendly card games in recent history, Spy case depends largely on the group of people you play it with. In the case of this game, that’s thanks to its emphasis on both trickery and theater. Everyone has to come up with both questions and answers, all while keeping the crucial details close to their chest, to figure out their half of an asymmetrical mystery.

Spy case
Price $20 / ~ £20
Writer Alexandr Ushan
Publisher Cryptozoic
Players 3-8
Age 13+
Time 10 minutes
BGG rank #13 party game

But unlike other popular board games, Spy case depends almost as much on how you come across it. The game first rose to prominence in the United States as a print-and-play game – and also came in the form of a pretty nifty HTML5-powered app – before finally making its “official” release in the United States. saw by Cryptozoic Games late last year. year.

The boxed version that the Americans received is not too different from the version sold around the world, based on the Ukrainian original by designer Alexandr Ushan and complete with the original artwork. Sticking to the original presentation is pretty much the only bad part of the game.


To start a game, gather up to eight friends – although we recommend 5-6 players – and reach for the game box to grab one of the 24 small decks. Each deck has one “spy” card, while the rest list a location (“military base”, “circus”, “cruise ship”, “hospital”, etc.) and a corresponding role in that location. Everyone gets one card from the chosen deck and keeps it secret.

Each deck is linked to a single location, so if you play a six-player game and deal a single deck, five people will get a card at, say, the school – with roles such as ‘principal’, ‘guardian’, ‘student’, ‘teacher’ ‘ and ‘concierge’. The sixth gets a card that simply says “spy”, no location, no role. An eight-minute timer begins and the round becomes a showdown between espionage and everyone else.

The spy’s basic objective is to find out which of the 24 known locations he or she is in, while the rest of the players try to figure out who the spy is. Both sides must rely on the game’s single, simple mechanism to ask each other questions. A random player asks the first, and he or she can ask another person a single question… about anything!

What you ask is important, and that’s what can make some less extroverted players nervous or irritable. No one on the right side wants to reveal the location, so ask a pointed question like, “How did you like the homework?” could ruin the game. For the same reason, simple questions are usually answered with simple answers, since neither a spy nor a good guy wants to say too much. Yes/no questions are particularly bad for this reason, even though they are often the most tempting to rattle off when the pressure is on.

A player can pause the action at any time to raise their espionage suspicions – “I think Monica is the spy!” – which will produce a vote. If everyone except Monica raises their hands in agreement, the round ends, with either the right side winning points for an accurate charge, or the spy winning points if they point a finger at the wrong person. (Without a unanimous vote, the round continues.) Alternatively, if the spy has a good guess, he or she can declare espionage, end the round, and say “I believe we’re on the plane,” which will net points if it is correct or give points to everyone else if not.

Great game, bad box

There’s a lot of potential for fucking your friends in Spyfall, as non-spy players should stay coy about trying to confuse the spy… -spies can look like spies themselves. Ultimately, a good session is about understanding your friends’ rhythm in how they answer questions and finding the right questioning styles to suit the current group.

This is one of the most inherently social card games we’ve ever played, built largely around how personalities play off each other – especially while playing a trust-hot-potato game of trust – and as long as you’re not a raging introvert, you’re likely to find a outlet for laughter and kind-hearted teasing. Find ways to confirm to non-spies that you are busy a location – while successfully tricking the spy into thinking you’re somewhere else – is one of the most satisfying board game moments I’ve encountered in years. (For starters, I’ve learned how many locations are suitable for the question, “Have you ever seen such carnage?”) There are also some good strategy paths for players on both sides to try, including the spy’s ability to as if a real player and accuse someone else.

Spy caseThe biggest catch, honestly, is the box Cryptozoic is currently shipping to players in the United States. The art direction on the cards is incredibly busy, meaning new players can feel intimidated and confused about the cards they’ve been dealt. They each feature cartoonish scenes with characters based on the location they indicate, but those drawings don’t always match the roles players have been assigned. We would have preferred a more subdued set of logos and designs to represent a particular location, but that may be a matter of preference as opposed to a deal breaker.

The only list of Spyfall locations that players are expected to share.
Enlarge / The only list of Spyfall locations that players are expected to share.

Even worse is how the game’s box searches the location list. The main thing that a session loves Spy case feeling grounded, as opposed to boundless and intimidating, is the game’s ceiling of 24 locations; players know they have a limited number of places to guess, which helps both the espionage and non-espionage sides come up with good questions and leading answers. Spies can look to the list for some guidance when trying to bully their rivals, while non-spies will love the list just as much to help them come up with answers that might fit. multiple locations and thus confuse the bejeezus from the only spy.

But the box comes with only one location list. It is spread over two pages of the manual and the list is difficult to read quickly due to the many busy illustrations and small bits of text. Most print-and-play versions of Spy case, conversely, come up with a “cheat card” template, meant to be printed eight times, so each player can have a little reference card to look at much more discreetly. That’s much more subtle than having a master list players have to pass – or, worse, ask permission to see – that tends to reveal when a player is a spy or up to something suspicious.

Cryptozoic’s slapdash box doesn’t help matters in the presentation department, as it doesn’t have card-deck-sized slots. In fact, it only contains two shrink-wrapped bundles of cards and 24 pouches. Players must separate the cards and bags themselves, assemble them, and dump them into one big, box-sized pile.

It never failed: every time I played Spy case as Cryptozoic intended, players complained about the cards and felt dumbfounded by the way the game was presented. Conversely, every time I played the game with my print-and-play set or the HTML5 app version, the learning phase was over much faster and the interrogation fun started much earlier. A good party game can live and die on the five minute first impression, and that’s no small factor when it comes to getting new, casual players excited about whatever new game you’ve brought to game night.

I can’t recommend it Spy case enough to be a must-have party game – and I can just as fervently recommend ignoring Cryptozoic’s boxed version and sending Alexandr Ushan some Bitcoins and preferring the HTML5 version. In fact, its smartphone-friendly Spy case has always played well in bars, so if you like whiskey and pretend you’re on an arctic research station, make sure you quickly bookmark on your phone. Otherwise, we can only hope that the profession and the rules will change in the near future Espionage 2scheduled for launch later this year, improving the game on all fronts.

By akfire1

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