I played Spyfall, created by Alexandr Ushan on netgames.io. The game was originally created as a card game and since has been modified to play online. Given that it is a social deduction game aiming to seek out who is lying, it seems intended for groups of players who know each other somewhat – it is easier to deduce whether friends may be lying and accuse them rather than strangers. That being said, it doesn’t require the players to be intimate and personal as in other social games so it is also targeted at social circles rather than close friends.
The game requires at least three players (variable number) and after entering the game, each player receives a card signifying their role. Players are either a spy or part of the team but nobody knows who is who. If part of the team, players also receive a meeting location with this card signifying the location of the meeting. The spy does not receive this location. The game structure is unilateral competition — the objective of the team is to work together to weed out the spy while the spy has to determine the location. For the spy, their objective is to survive while the team must deduce and outwit the spy. Once the players have confirmed their role, a list of potential meeting locations appears along a timer.
The game’s conflict is between opponents — the spy and the team. I think the concept of boundaries is interesting in this game — players may play with friends but everything said is within the magic circle. Once we started playing, even small talk was somehow linked to the game.
Players can ask each other questions or make statements regarding the location — any player who is part of the team has to try to deduce who the spy is while not making statements that clearly identify the location. The spy has to deduce the location but also not reveal themself. When I played, I got the position of spy and was unfortunately figured out meaning that I lost the game:
The team won as I was not able to deduce the location:
I noticed that the timer was almost disregarded by the group I was playing with — even though, there was an allotted time to discuss, most players didn’t seem to pay attention to it or worry about the time at all. I found myself comparing the game to Chameleon — which is similar in nature and has the same component of everyone knowing one piece of information except one person. However, one place where I thought Spyfall failed compared to chameleon is how hard it is to be the spy/outsider. In Chameleon, every player generating a word allows the chameleon to say a similar word to someone before them — additionally, when I have played chameleon, usually words are so different that players who are not the chameleon come under scrutiny. The nature of spyfall instead allows players to make comments, meaning the spy has to quickly deduce it and can struggles to. For example, when I played, a friend of mine remarked that it seemed dark outside — as the location as the space station. I struggled as the spy to come up with a response. In Chameleon, people have to defend their individual words — something that is easier than being asked questions to see if you know the location.
I did think the game was fun but I feel like the nature of this game allows you to figure out the spy quickly. I can imagine this game would be more interesting with multiple spies, but with one, it was easy to ask vague but revealing questions to determine the spy. I also noticed that this was a more “silent” game than Chameleon or other social deduction games. When I have played other social deduction games, people are quick to accuse or vigorously defend. However, in this game, people seemed more cautious — almost more confused and unsure about how to approach the process of drawing out the spy without revealing the location. In this way, I feel like spy fall really works best for players who enjoy and more importantly, are good at social deduction. While in other games you can get by even if you’re not good at lying, this game is much harder to do so. It is much harder to deflect attention compared to chameleon and Mafia.