From The Resistance to Werewolf, ferreting out the bad seeds in a group is not a new concept. However, deduction games of this style continue to make waves by adding meaningful twists to the core formula. Spyfall by Cryptozoic does this in a way that’s extremely tense for everyone sitting at the table.
The premise of the game is that a group of special agents are trying to catch a spy in one of 20-something locations. All of special agents know where they are, but the spy does not. Players take turns answering questions from others in order to identify the one person who doesn’t know where they are. If the group can successfully identify the spy, they win. However, if the spy is incorrectly identified, or if the spy reveals themselves and successfully identifies the location, the spy wins.
All of this is achieved through a series of decks that are kept in baggies. When a deck is randomly drawn, the cards within it are doled out to each player. Almost all of the cards in the deck correspond to one specific location, except for the lone spy card. Once players know who they are, a 10-minute timer is set and the round begins. Here, players will ask each other questions and taking note of the answers they receive.
On one hand, if you’re not the spy, you want to ask something that gives enough of a hint to the other secret agents that you’re not the spy. However, you also have to word it in a way so that the spy doesn’t catch onto where everyone is. Meanwhile, the spy wants to speak in a way that doesn’t raise suspicion, but still gets them valuable information about the location. With no real limitations to what you can ask or what you can answer with, the dialogue that’s generated is fascinating. Some people will be really slick in their approach, though it’s quite the challenge to formulate questions and responses that give away just enough.
Having been the secret agent and the spy, it’s definitely tougher as the latter. If you get asked a question before you have any clue as to what’s going on, it can be really easy to blow your cover. That said, if you pay close attention and can stay incognito long enough, you might be able to catch the agents slipping. When I ultimately won just minutes after almost being unanimously nominated as being the spy, the joy I felt was up there with some of my all-time favourite board gaming memories.
That said, I don’t know how much I’d play this game. Aside from a lack of individual location cheat sheets for each player, the game is rock solid. It does an incredible job of making the bluffing and deduction aspects of the experience really matter. However, it also takes a certain type of player that can handle the create thinking and lying that this game demands. My poker face is horrible, and the stress that comes with having to keep up the facade can be really draining.
Spyfall will not work for every group, but it will work fantastically with the right people at the table. It’s really going to put your creativity and bluffing skills to the test, as the conversations that will arise at the table will demand that you be on point. If games like The Resistance or Werewolf tickle your fancy, this is a must-buy. For everyone else, you should at least try this out, as it might surprise you.