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Subject: Covert Review: Spies versus Spies! rss

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Bert Hui
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White Salmon
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From the designer of FUSE and Dead Men Tell No Tales comes a game about spies, mystery, and intrigue! Play the role of spies completing missions in this game with some great mechanics! Complete missions by traveling around the world and by obtaining equipment only spies would need! Covert pits you against up to three of your best friends as you all try to complete mission cards. The game can be broken up into three distinct phases: 1) roll dice and select actions, 2) break codes, and 3) resolve actions. Each player is given five dice and all players roll their five dice simultaneously. Players then take turns placing one die at a time in one of several different action spaces. Actions allow you to gain equipment necessary to complete missions and get a leg up on your opponents.

I personally think the most interesting thing about Covert is the code breaking phase of the game. Each round, after you select what actions to take, every player goes through a code breaking phase. During this phase, your goal is to break the code that’s shown on your code cards. At the start of the game, the game board has an area where you randomly place 12 numbered tiles across two rows, 6 in each row. When it’s your turn to codebreak, you can swap two of the numbered tiles’ positions and try to match what is shown on your held code cards. For example, if you have the number 456 on your code card, you will try to create 456 in the codebreaking area. Matching/breaking the code grants you access to equipment that can be used towards completing missions.

Once code breaking is over, players take turns and resolve the actions one die at a time. As actions are resolved, players will end up completing more and more missions. The game ends once one player completes six mission cards, BUT, that does not mean that player wins the game! Each mission card has a certain number of victory points on the card that you gain for completing the mission. The winner of the game is the person with the most victory points once someone ends the game. It’s entirely possible for you to win the game but not have completed your six missions just because your missions were harder to complete and you got more victory points! That’s another cool thing about this game ~ knowing that it’s not necessarily how fast you complete missions but rather how to balance completing difficult versus easy missions in order to maximize your points while making sure your opponents can’t maximize theirs.

I would recommend Covert to anyone who likes spy vs spy thematic games and who like games that are heavier on strategy and less on randomness. There is certainly some randomness involved, but writing as someone who loves thinking and strategy games, Covert has enough of that to make the game extremely entertaining and very worthwhile.
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