Critical Play: Spyfall

Game: Spyfall

Creator: Alexandr Ushan

Platform: web browser, card game

Target audience: generally all players (13+)

Notable elements: 

The game needs at least 3 players, but can go up to many players. This is a simple deduction game, where the other players have to find out who the “spy” player is, while the spy player must blend in and find the shared location that others know. The players are allowed to ask questions to each other about the location in order to figure out if one person knows the location (and is not a spy) or not. This is a one round game, with a timer on how long players have to question each other. With regards to how the players reach their objective (with the spy trying to stay hidden and figure out the location, and the others figuring out the spy), they are only bound to ask questions. What kinds of questions, how much those questions reveal, and how they respond are entirely up to the players! This leads to crafty questions and responses that hint at just enough for players to glean information.

As a hidden role deduction game (that originated as a card game, with an online version) its rules are much simpler than other hidden role games (i.e. Werewolf). There are no complicated roles, only the spy and the “normal” players. It also provides extra complexity by allowing the spy a way to win if identified (identifying the location). It is simple with its rules, but with this added element, players must be crafty about what they ask and how they ask it, as well as their response. Sometimes, a question or response can give away how much the person knows (or doesn’t know) about the location! Generally speaking, I wouldn’t say this game is better or worse than others in its genre, but it is certainly faster and easier to learn than others.

I personally had a lot of fun playing this game, as I am generally bad at bluffing. You have to do some of that in this game, but it is less direct given the question/answer format. Your question or answer can be vague, but that can be intentional, allow room to throw others off, or give you the space to figure out the location. In my game, there were some particularly crafty answers (for example, in response to “how busy is this location,” one response was “2 people per 5 minutes”)! One modification that I would like to add is some tool for the spy to sabotage the guessing group (this would work well on the browser version, where the identity of the spy is hidden), by forcing a “normal” person to respond incorrectly to a question, or any other method to cast more doubt in the deduction process. It is much more fun to play this in groups larger than 3, so adding some similar tools to add more chaos would be great for smaller groups.

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