Spyfall 2 is a social deduction board game designed by Alexandr Ushan and published by Hobby World in 2016. Its target audience is players older than 13 years old. The suggested number of players is 3-12.
Rule: There can be at most ten non-spy players and two spies in a game. Players can decide whether the number of spies is 1 or 2. Non-spy players in this game will get a shared location, while the spies won’t know that. The non-spy players’ objective is to find out who the spies are, whereas the spies’ objective is to guess the location without being found out to be the spies.
Procedure: A game takes several short rounds. The dealer begins by starting a stopwatch and asking a player a question. In each round, players ask other players questions and the asked players would need to answer those questions. Non-players can accuse another player to be the spy whenever they want, and then the accused player needs to reveal their identity if other players reached a consensus. If the accused player is the spy, the non-spy players win. If not, the game continues. The spy can reveal that they are the spy anytime and guess the location. If they get the location right, they win. Else they lose.
The main mechanic to figure out the spy — or the location, if you are the spy — is question and answer. The questions (and answers) ideally pertain to the current locations. They need to be vague enough that the spy can’t guess the location, but specific enough (or clever enough) that the questioner/answerer conveys knowledge of the location so that your fellow non-spy players know that you are not a spy and trust you.
This game offers fun by building community. The bluffing and social deduction in this mechanic helps people chat with each other and build bonds among them.
Overall, this game is okay-balanced. Because this is a multi-player game where there is asymmetry, the type of balance involved in this game is about whether one starting position is easier to win with than another. The two starting points in this game are non-spy players and spy players. Non-spy players start with the advantage of knowing the location, but they can’t reveal it need to all agree on accusing one player to be the spy to win the game. Spies start with the disadvantage of not knowing the location, but they can end the game anytime by their own wish.
I don’t think there is any transitive balancing technique in this game. Rather, I believe the game is balanced intransitively. It is a non-strict rock-paper-scissors mechanic, which can be represented as Players -> Spy -> Location -> Players. The players can accuse the spy, and the spy can guess the location, and a correctly guessed location will make the players lose.
Another interesting balancing technique in this game is a fruity technique. It is a party game and usually involves a mix of players who are good at it/have played it before and players who are not as good/haven’t played it before. Because in every single game, the majority of the players are non-spy players, there are likely to be non-spies who are less good in this game and reveal too much information about the location with their questions and answers. In this way, although spies are at the disadvantage of not knowing the location, it can possibly be compensated by the mix of skill levels on the non-spy players’ side.
There was one game that I was quite proud of. I was a non-spy that game and our location was Cemetry. I asked another player how many times they visited this place last year and they responded once a month. At that moment, every non-spy player decided to accuse that player to be a spy. That was a very exciting moment at the party.
Things you would change to make the game better
Although this game is already quite balanced, it can be helpful to help the spy more at the beginning of the game because they don’t have any information in the first round and can reveal their identity easily. This is very unbalanced against the spy players. I would probably add a round of everyone providing a keyword about the location at the beginning of the game, before players start to ask questions to provide some information to the spy in the first round.