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Subject: Spyfall at PAX East: It could still be the space station rss

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Chris Hurd
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A friend of mine showed me this game during a game night recently. He had used this print-and-play file, as did I https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/110443/spyfall-pnp-englis... . I thought it was the type of short game that could be picked up and put down pretty easily. That made it perfect for conventions, at the time near the end of the day when people are looking for something that doesn't take a lot of thought. All of these games were played after 7pm at night, after most people had been at the con for 8+ hours.

One of the things I like about the game is that the core structure is so simple that you can get by with very loose play. I mentioned that there was a points system, but that we didn't have to use it. We abandoned the points structure pretty quickly, in part because we ended up playing with more than 8 people, rotating in and out. This allowed players to get food or check out other games, but come back and not wait too long for the next game.

Another nice feature of the game is that it builds upon itself very quickly. This happened on three levels: the question level, the player level, and across the whole game, round after round.

Players who may be struggling to find a good question can easily pass the turn by using a mediocre one or repeating a previous question. Common questions for our group were

"What's that smell?"
"Who made this mess?"
"Can you fix this for me?"
"Can you get me on the internet?"

In every case, the question could be answered with a short sentence like "I don't know, I can check" or "Yes." But they gave the answerer an opportunity to give a longer answer and clear themselves. The asker could then clear themselves later in the round. That dynamic is good, because it allows players to play to their comfort.

In addition, the game compounds on itself for individual players. One guy got a variation on "Mechanic" three out of four games. From then on, we joked that he was always the mechanic. This lead to some good jokes when he wasn't the mechanic, particularly when he was the captain or another leadership role. "I'm pretty sure I get paid more than you do... you should fix it yourself."

Lastly, after several rounds, the group was comfortable enough that there was a decent amount of table-talk. Every time a new round began, after a few questions, people would comment if it could still be the space station. This often came up when people gave answers were intentionally ambiguous, but for different reasons. For example.

Person A: "What did you have for lunch yesterday?"
Person B: "Oh, just something I brought from home."
Person C: "It could still be the space station."

This came up repeatedly as we thinned the packets. For whatever reason, the joke became funnier and funnier as the rounds passed. We went through most of the packets without coming up on it. Somewhere around packet 20, we finally got space station, and people couldn't contain their giggles early in the round. The spy said that he knew it was space station before the first question was even asked, but he wanted to let people play some before he called it.

I can imagine that type of joke developing with every group, and that only increases the replayability of the game. Once you've played a couple rounds, you'll get the gist of the game. But the game is most fun after that, after people are comfortable enough with the rules to start acting and joking around.
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