Critical Play — Spyfall


Yesterday, my friends and I played Spyfall Online version for our first critical play assignment. The online version of this game was created and is maintained by Luke Tsekouras on, and it can be played on any mobile device connected to the internet. It seems to be targeted at players of the original board game Spyfall, which I personally have never played before but apparently is mechanically very similar.

The game requires at least four players, which is what we played with, but we found that four was really the bare minimum and the game would have benefited from many more players being involved. The game begins with everyone being given a card stating whether or not they are a spy. There is exactly one spy within the midst of the players, and no one knows the identity of anyone else. The players who are not spies are also provided with a location which is the same for all non-spy players during one round, while the spies are not. The game proceeds like this: one player begins by asking another player of their choosing a question to determine if they are the spy or not. Then, the player who was asked gets to ask another player a question, etc etc. The objective of the game is for the non-spy players to discover who the spy is, while the spy’s goal is to blend in and try to figure out the location that the other players have been given via the answers they give. There is also a timer which provides time pressure to figure out the spy as fast as possible and not spend lots of time deliberating.

This game was pretty fun, although like I said earlier, it would have been much more fun with more people. With only four players, it was pretty simple to figure out who the spy was, and there were no rounds during which the spy won the game. However, it was fun to see people come up with vague answers or excuses for their answers being what they were, and coming up with a perfect question was also a nice challenge. I particularly liked that this game had interesting situations and locations for each round, which made it interesting and different. During one round, we were in a Military Base, while in another, we were in a Day Spa. It was funny to see people try to come up with excuses for their answers to questions about these esoteric places. At one point during our Military Base round, the spy was under the impression that we were at a farm (we had answered that we were wearing green, using industrial equipment, etc), and was pretty successfully pulling off the ruse despite being completely wrong about the premise.

This game is quite similar to games like Among Us or Mafia, which we played in class. It’s types of fun are fellowship, as well as discovery and narrative. The interesting parts of playing games like these are the conversations, the mystery, the lies, and the discovery at the end. However, it differs from Among Us / Mafia in that in Spyfall, the non-spies have information that the spy does not have, while in Mafia, the mafia have information that the rest do not have (namely, who the mafia are).

One of my qualms with this game was that the number of players really limited how interesting the game could be. I think that Mafia and Among Us also suffer a similar problem–blending-in type games simply need lots of people in which to blend for the game to work well at all. Also, at first we were quite confused by the game’s mechanics. There was a screen in the UI that allowed players, including spies, to view the possibilities of locations the game could be in which we didn’t even know existed for the first play-through of the game. This screen also contained the question timer, which we also didn’t see the first time around. I think the designer could have made the UI progression during the game more clear and fluid, to cause less confusion.

Other than this, I think this game was a pretty cool party game! I would love to play the original board game version!

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