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Subject: For the Meeple, by the Meeple (Review of Spyfall) rss

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Michael Carpenter
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BOX ART



Who among you is a spy?



QUICK FACTS:
Style of Game: Party
Play Time: 10 to 15 minutes
Theme: Detecting a spy
Number of Players: 3-8
Main Mechanics: Bluffing, Deduction
Components: Okay
Weight: Light


THEME AND MECHANISMS:
There is really only one mechanism occurring even though there is bluffing and deduction. So the mechanism does not contradict the theme and in truthfully, it blends reasonably well for as simplistic as the game proves to be.


GAMEPLAY OVERVIEW:
The game comes with thirty different sets of cards and a layout of the thirty locations in the game. The layout is used for all players to look at instead of looking at their cards to help stimulate questions or to provide information to the spy about the potential location.





There are eight cards in each of these sets. Seven cards of each set depict a location. Each of these cards also has a role in the bottom left corner that tells the player how they interact with the location on a daily basis.



Each set of cards also has one Spy card.



At the beginning of each round the players are going to choose one of the thirty sets of cards (these are each contained in their own clear bag). The Spy card should always be on the bottom of the pile within the bags of cards so all thirty sets appear to be identical. Once a set of cards is chosen the player should remove the Spy card and then as many cards necessary to make sure each player receives a card. All of these cards and all of the cards still in the bag need to remain face-down so no one can tell which location is in play.



Once each player has received one of the cards in play, players will look at their own card but will not show it to anyone else. One of the players should definitely have the Spy card at this point.



Depending on whether the group is playing with the roles on the cards or not the players should be sure to be aware of their role. At that point whoever chose the set of cards will begin the game by asking any other player a question about the location without making the location too obvious. The player that has been asked the question must answer the question. They may answer the question however they like, but they must answer. Once that player has answered they must then ask any player a question other than the player that asked them. This cycle continues for the duration of the round. Each round will last eight minutes unless a player gets suspicious or the Spy requests to guess the location.

If a player gets suspicious then he or she may request to stop the timer and accuse another player of being the spy. If ALL players (other than the accused player) vote to accuse the suspected player then that players card is revealed. If the player is the spy, the non-spies win the game. If the player is not the spy, then the spy wins the game. If players do not agree to check the suspected player then the timer is started up again and play continues.

If the spy decides to guess the location he or she must do so when the time is running, not once the eight minutes have run out. The Spy then gets one attempt to guess the location by naming one of the thirty locations on the layout. If the spy is correct, he or she wins. If the spy is wrong the non-spies win.

If time runs out in a round and no accusation has been made and the spy has not attempted to guess the location then a round of accusations is performed. Each player will have an opportunity to accuse another player. Deciding whether or not to reveal the accused players card depends on if the ALL the other players agree to check the card. If all players have an opportunity to accuse another player but the group never unanimously agrees to accuse a player then the spy wins.




ASSESSMENT


My assessment of board games is broken into three core areas: Depth of Strategy, Quality of Design, and Replayability.

Depth of Strategy


I'm not entirely convinced that this game promotes strategy in the purest form or if it just requires you think on your feet and deduce information. I suppose there is some level of strategy involved in organizing a style of questions that fit your own personality or your own role.

I don't want to minimize the difficulty of this game by saying there is no strategy or a low level of strategy because it is harder than you'd think to hide your identity without being too vague and yet get your point across to the other non-spies without making the location too obvious. I am just not sure I would say the heart of this game lies in strategy as much as deduction and wittiness. Being the spy is a whole other story. When the group knows how to play well, being the spy is about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack. I enjoy that though because I think the game has to be like that or it would become boring quickly.


Depth of Strategy:
1.5 = There is really one obvious strategy to follow.
*Note: This doesn't hurt this game, because it is a party-game and doesn't need deep strategy.




Replayability


Technically speaking the replayability of this game is essentially endless. Combining the facts that the location is hidden each round and there are thirty locations available makes for a ton of replayability but adding the fact that players can play the same location entirely different each time it shows up makes the replayability endless. That is just the mechanical design of the game, when you consider the length and weight of the game you can play this game numerous times in the same sitting and it would be difficult not to.

With that said, I see a few things that keep my rating from being higher. One is that this is the type of game not all people are going to enjoy. The "think on your feet" aspect of this game can be difficult and potentially embarrassing for some people. I'd be surprised if you didn't get a lot of plays of this game in with the right groups but some groups may not warrant playing this game. My second issue is that the game eventually loses it's glamour. Not immediately, and not to the point where you won't play it every again, but it has faded for me and I think it is because you have to have a pretty large group (6-8) to really let the game shine and when I have that many I tend to lean toward some of my other party games that don't make a player or players feel uncomfortable so easily.

Replayability:
4.0 = You will certainly get your money's worth.
*Note: You will definitely get your money's worth because this is an inexpensive game but I'm not convinced this game will have a long-term presence as a go-to party game.




Quality of Design


Bluffing: I like bluffing games quite a bit and this game definitely offers the opportunity to bluff. My issue with the bluffing in this game is that in a lot of cases, it is really difficult to bluff anywhere near well if you're the spy and you get asked a question on the first turn of the game. A key aspect of bluffing well is manipulating the information you and the other players share. In Spyfall one player is completely in the dark at times and barely given any information at most times. This leads to weak attempts at bluffing in a lot of situations. The best way I have been able to combat this issue is to develop a playing style or a style of questions that I use every time I play but for new players or players that don't get to play very often this may be difficult. While the bluffing is difficult to achieve at times, it definitely produces laugh out loud moments! Which tends to overshadow the difficulty of the bluffing.

Deduction: This part of the game is where the fun is in my opinion. You can actually acknowledge a progression in the game and your understanding of the table dynamic when attempting to deduce information. Since the deduction occurs simultaneously to the bluffing you are going to be laughing while deducing but you can feel a little better about your play in this area of the game.



Quality of Design:
4.0 = A good design that engages the player for several plays.
*Note: This game borders on having a flaw in the bluffing mechanism but the weight and length of the game manage to save it from feeling broken and make it enjoyable.


FINAL THOUGHTS:
To me, Spyfall sounds better than it is implemented. At first, I felt it was as good as it sounded but I have lost a little interest in the game. I don't dislike the design of the game. In fact, I love the idea. My issue is that it is a little too fragile for my liking. It is very dependent on the players and quite frankly, without a really solid group of six to eight players you may not enjoy this game at all. I don't think the game scales well. Three and Four are very mediocre experiences and five is kind of take it or leave it, but starts to make the game better.

If a player can't bluff well to begin with under ordinary bluffing circumstances, then they are going to have a very hard time bluffing in this game. Honestly, even an average bluffer is going to have a harder time bluffing in this game than most. The deduction can feel very simple at times and that would easily ruin this design if it wasn't so short and meant to make people laugh and have fun.

At the end of the day Spyfall seems to be becoming too much of a situational party game for me to be really happy with it but it isn't a bad game. I like the idea, I have had fun with it, and it is not broken. I just think there is one too many unwritten requirements to keep it from shining in my group.

Spyfall benefits from it's party game categorization because any other style of game that exhibited the same concerns would likely get a much lower score than a 6 but it does have some redeeming qualities and can produce a high fun factor when hitting on all cylinders. Please take note of my notes about each area of assessment because they scores seem as though they would warrant a higher rating but weight of this game made Spyall more difficult to assess than most games.


Overall Rating -
I enjoy Spyfall but with more plays it is starting to become too situational to be played often.



If you enjoy my reviews please recommend and check out my geeklist For the Meeple, by the Meeple


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Jan
Australia
Nollamara
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To me Spyfall's biggest weakness is that A Fake Artist Goes to New York totally replaced it.
It's a much smoother design that offers the same experience.
 
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Michael Carpenter
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You know, I just heard about that game recently but have not played it. I take it you suggest giving it a try?
 
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Mike Beiter
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6 is the absolute minimum to have a great experience. 4 is just not fun and 5 is OK.

But 6 to 8 and the game us awesome. One of my favorite games of all time.
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Michael Carpenter
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MajaiofDreams wrote:
6 is the absolute minimum to have a great experience. 4 is just not fun and 5 is OK.

But 6 to 8 and the game us awesome. One of my favorite games of all time.



I'm glad you feel the same way. I was wondering if there was something to do with the skill of the players at 3 and 4 that influenced the enjoyment but I am glad it has more to do with player count.
 
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Clyde W
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Agree that it isn't good at 4-5.
 
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Mike Beiter
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MariettaTennis wrote:
MajaiofDreams wrote:
6 is the absolute minimum to have a great experience. 4 is just not fun and 5 is OK.

But 6 to 8 and the game us awesome. One of my favorite games of all time.



I'm glad you feel the same way. I was wondering if there was something to do with the skill of the players at 3 and 4 that influenced the enjoyment but I am glad it has more to do with player count.


The issue comes from difficulty for the spy primarily. In a 4 player game, the odds are super high that the Spy will get asked a question early, possibly on turn 1, and one slip up and its game over.
This is especially hard for new players.

I suppose that if you have 4 veteran players who have every location memorized, that a 4 player game could be successful.

But I prefer 6 to 8 hands down.
 
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