Critical Play – Spyfall

We played Spyfall on net It’s hosted on an online platform created by a group of friends so they could play these games anywhere. It is a deduction, deceit, and communication game, and seems to target people who enjoy having fun messing with their friends’ heads! Online, it said it needed a minimum of three players, and the instructions provided on the website were pretty vague – someone is assigned the role of spy while the other players are shown a location, and using questions, the people who have the location try to figure out who the spy is without letting the spy figure out the location. There were no clear instructions on how turns worked, and the only mechanism displayed on the screen after roles were provided was a list of possible locations and a timer. 
It was pretty confusing to play, and we felt like it was too hard for the spy to figure out the location and conceal that they were the spy – if the spy was asked one of the first questions, it was almost impossible to give a good answer that wouldn’t reveal that you were the spy. We thought that potentially with more than four people, this could be avoided a bit better, but still felt like the way to determine the spy wasn’t that hard, especially when you catch the spy in a question early in the game when they have no clues from other players’ answers. 
On further research, the actual card game provides roles in addition to a location to non spies – this could definitely make players’ answers more interesting if they have to assume a role, but this was omitted from the digital version. I would make sure to add this part back in to make answers more interesting. 
Overall, I think the game has potential, but there don’t seem to be enough constraints to the rules of procedure of the game to make gameplay interesting enough for both the spy and other players. The fun part about other deceit/deception games, like Werewolf of Secret Hitler, is that there are fairly established rounds that give players concrete information that they can then use to deduce player roles in the follow-up discussion time. In Werewolf, the wolves choose who to kill, then the doctor chooses who to save, and then the Seer knows the role of one person – after this all happens, then players are presented with the outcomes and can discuss who they think are the werewolves. There is not this same level of information provided that I think is necessary to make social deception games fun and last long enough to BE fun. If there was a game master that could add some narrative to the question asking, perhaps Spyfall could become more fun and harder for players to guess the spy. 

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