Critical Play: Spyfall Online

Critical Play: Spyfall online

Spyfall is a unilateral, friendly game of lies designed Ukrainian board-game designer Alexandr Ushan.

The target audience is broad, although there is an Adults Only category and an Outrageous category that seems to be targeted to an older crowd, since some of the categories require a considerable amount of knowledge/experience in the world.

(Screenshot from the Outrageous Category).

There should be more than 3 players, but it’s probably not suitable for very large groups since there is a limited amount of roles. There are a multitude of roles in the game but the two main roles are spy and people that belong in the venue. The spy’s objective is to identify the correct venue out of a list of possible places and everyone else’s objective is to identify the spy. A player starts by choosing a person to ask a question regarding either the venue or the work that they do in the venue. Players must make sure their questions don’t reveal too much about their knowledge of the venue. Each round a different person is assigned spy and a new venue is chosen. The rounds are timed and if the players haven’t figured out the spy by the end of time the spy is the winner.

This game is similar to games like Mafia or Werewolf in that one person is an “imposter” however they differ in that they force people to lie. Since both parties have an objective, they must always be careful of the wording they choose when they ask and answer questions.This adds a layer of intrigue as you are never sure if a player isn’t revealing information because they don’t know or because they want to hide information from the spy. Thus, the levels of mistrust in the game are high at all points in time. There is also a lot of work that the spy must accomplish in order to check player’s questions and answers with each venue and cross off the venues that don’t fit. Unlike Mafia or Werewolf, where actions can often be passive or random, like choosing who to kill, the spy is always acting intentionally and with a lot of reason–they need to find the location.

The game is fun, however I am terrible at lying. It is really interesting to see who in your group of friends performs the best at this game, as it reveals a lot about their capacity to lie. Aside from that, I think this game is super fun and challenging, particularly because of the balance that comes between preventing the spy from guessing the venue and preventing the other players from knowing who the spy is. 

When all the people in the group start to know who the spy is, I think that is a really powerful moment. You start to see a shift in the tide of power and a sense of fellowship amongst the players. I think the one thing that this game could improve from is giving the spy equal footing to the rest of the group. Whenever I was chosen as the spy, I found that my brain had to work overtime to look over all of the locations, scrolling back and forth and checking off the ones that didn’t look right. However, the other players can just sit still and think of questions to fool me. The game could be balanced by adding a new spy for every 3 people. That way, there’s fellowship amongst the spies as well.

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