Critical Play: Spyfall

Spyfall is a social game original published as a card game by Hobby World in 2014 that has since been adapted to be an online game by The target audience is players aged 12 and up, particularly those that are interested in action and mystery as genres, as extrapolated from Hobby World’s original marketing.

There need to be at least 3 players. On each round of 6-10 minutes, one player is randomly selected as the spy while everyone else is clued in on the same location that the spy ultimately needs to guess. The main action that is taken is asking other players questions that can help you determine who knows what the location is and who doesn’t. The spy wins if they are able to survive the round of questioning without revealing that they don’t know the location.

Out of the provided list, I have only otherwise played Among Us and Mafia, compared to which I prefer Spyfall. I appreciated that it required a lot of social interaction and constant contemplation about who the spy is whereas there is a lot of downtime in Mafia where the moderator is the only one talking. Likewise, Among Us I’ve only played online in a way that required essentially no social interaction, so I did not consider it a particularly social game at the time.

This game was very enjoyable, particularly in the categories of narrative, fellowship, and fantasy. It was a fun mental puzzle putting together the pieces of peoples’ questions and answers in order to figure out who was the spy and who wasn’t. The aspect of having to work together and rely on each other’s questions to piece the story together made it more engaging as well. It was also fun being able to put on the hat of an imposter or investigator in game play.

One downside of the online game was that some people I was playing with forgot what the location was after the game had started, so we had to reset the round partway through. This would not be an issue in the card version, of course, but the online version did not allow you to double check the location mid-round. This may be one thing that can be changed to make it better. In addition, enforcing an answer time cap may help the game move faster and therefore be more exciting, but this may come at the cost of people figuring out very early who the spy is. There is a balance there to strike between the excitement of a fast pace and boredom of revealing the spy being too easy and often.

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