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Darin Stephenson
United States
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I do not run and hide... I strategically maneuver.
I got this game for my 6-soon-to-be-7 year old in late 2003, and we have played it 15+ times over the course of a year. At the beginning of the game, each player randomly selects a secret identity (nationality).

Object: A player wins by either (a) collecting 4 items related to his own nationality (a password, a disguise, a codebook, and a key) and then going to his embassy, or (b) being the last player in the game.

Mechanics: The primary mechanic is basically roll, move, and collect $15 for passing start a la Monopoly, but there are a few tweaks that make it more interesting. At any time, a player may forego a turn to try and guess the nationality of another player. If the guess is correct, the player who was guessed is eliminated from the game, and the guessing player gets all of his money and items. The guessing player can either stick with their current secret identity, or can secretly switch to the identity of the eliminated player. If the guess is incorrect, the player who made the incorrect guess is the one eliminated. Secondly, "Move Cards" can be collected by landing on certain spaces throughout the game. Each of these cards has a number from 1 to 6, and a player may use one instead of rolling the die. This can come in very handy late in the game if a player is trying to collect a final item or land on an embassy.

The gameboard: On the rectangular board, there is a space marked "Start", as well as spaces for acquiring items, money and move cards in various ways. A player who lands on a space marked "Disguises", "Codebooks", or "Keys", must buy as many of the indicated item as he can afford. He gets to choose which nationalities to buy; he must try to obtain items related to his own nationality, but must also buy enough items from other countries so as not to give his identity away. There is a space for each nationality of password, and a player landing on one of these spaces has the option of whether or not to purchase. Beyond that, there are other spaces allowing a player to obtain items (black market, confiscate from other players, and free gift), spaces allowing a player to get a move card, and spaces requiring a player to collect or forfeit a set amount of cash.

The most interesting set of spaces on the board are the ten spaces known as Spy Alley. These spaces form an alternate route, which breaks off from and later merges back into the outer rectangle. It is here that all 6 embassies are found, along with a "Spy Eliminator". Each time around the board, players can choose whether to enter Spy Alley or to continue around the outer rectangle. Any player who lands on the "Spy Eliminator" gets to take a free guess to try and eliminate any other player who is currently in Spy Alley. These are free guesses in the sense that incorrect guesses do not result in the elimination of the guessing player. Players can choose to "play it safe" by not entering Spy Alley before it becomes necessary, but any player landing on the first space of Spy Alley (which is a part of the outer rectangle) must enter Spy Alley.

Components: The components are good quality, and are fairly standard for a game of this type. The board is well layed out and well printed, and the cards are durable cardstock. The money is paper, with different colors representing different denominations. The items are represented by plastic pegs; each player has a sturdy cardboard pegboard with a 4 x 6 array (4 items by 6 nationalities) showing which items have been obtained. This is my only quibble with the components -- while this mechanism makes it easy to see what each player has, it diminishes the theme of the game somewhat. It is a bit hard to imagine that the little plastic pegs are actually disguises, keys, codebooks and passwords.

Rules: The rules for this game are well written, with no noticable errors or ambiguities. The rule for foregoing a turn and trying to eliminate another player is a little bit daunting, as it always results in someone being eliminated from the game (either because of a correct or an incorrect guess). This rule has seldom come into play in our games, since players are usually too worried about eliminating themselves to actually try a guess.

Players: The game is listed for 2 to 6 players, and we have tried it with 2 to 4. I would think that it only gets better and more interesting with more players. I think that it loses something with only 2 players, but my son enjoys it with any number.

Educational value: This game has won awards for its educational value, and I think that this is well deserved. Of course, it teaches basic arithmetic and logic, as one would expect. It also teaches about the value of misdirection and subtlety, and how things such as body language and tone of voice can convey information (or misinformation).

Overall recommendation: I would think that there would be many preferable games to play with a group of adults (gamers or non-gamers), and therefore for me, this game only ranks about a 6. However, if you have one or more children in the 7-14 age group who would enjoy the spy theme, then the fun value of this game goes way up. My son rates this as one of his favorite games, and he suggests it whenever we decide to play something. Some children at the young end of the age scale may be put off by the elimination mechanic, since there is the chance of a player being knocked out early. Once, when my son had just turned 7, someone got a free guess at him in Spy Alley near the start of the game. They tried to be nice by guessing someone they thought he was not, but they ended up getting his identity correct and eliminating him! We finished up that game quickly and started again. shake

All in all, a fun family game. Kids enjoy it, and it isn't too tedious for adults (and can actually be fun). The kids will also learn something along the way.

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