Critical Play – Spyfall

Spyfall is a social deduction game that was originally created as a card game by Alexandr Ushan in 2014. Since then, an online version of the game was created by Github user “adrianocola” and another online accessible link is at Spyfall was created for 3 or more players. with the recommended upper bound at 8 players. It is intended for groups of pre-existing friends, requiring a certain level of knowledge of the players’ behaviors and mannerisms as well as comfort with the other players to work effectively.

The game begins by issuing every player a card that details if they are a spy or not. One person is given the “spy” card, and every other player is given a “not spy” card and the same location. In this round, I was issued a “not spy” card, and all the non-spies were given the location “service station”, as seen in the first photo.

Then the group convenes and begins asking one another questions about the location to determine who knows the location and who is the spy. Because there didn’t seem to be formal rules on the website explaining who can as whom and what you can ask, my friends and I just allowed anyone to ask anyone a question at random. As the players are questioning one another, as 4 minute timer is slowly ticking down, adding some time pressure to find the spy quickly. The group all has a list of locations to reference as they are asking questions, seen in the second picture.

Because the four of us who were non-spies in the “service station” round were not very familiar with the term “service station”, we quickly figured out who else was confused by the term and laughing at our jokes and discovered the spy by process of elimination. This happened well before the timer ended.

Then, all the players are to vote on who they think is the spy, and then the spy selects the location he/she thinks the group is located in from a list of locations.

This is where my group experienced a fail. Because we had determined who the spy was well before the timer ran out and the spy revealed himself, the group began openly discussing the location and laughing about it. During this first round, we were not aware that the spy still got to vote on the location after we identify the spy and that the spy could still win even if he/she is correctly identified if he/she correctly identifies the location. Thus, despite identifying the spy, the spy still won by choosing the “service station” location.

Compared to other games in this social deduction genre, the fun of the game really depends on the group dynamic and comfort rather than complex roles or procedures in the game. The fun stems from funny questions and interrogations of group members within the group, requiring a certain comfort with one another to do so, as well as an eagerness to embrace the silliness from all the group members. Thus, I think this game is better than others in the genre for groups of pre-established friends who enjoy conversing and spending time together, but this game is worse for groups of strangers and acquaintances.

Something I would change with the online version of this game is to add some brief instructions to the game before you start to play. The first screen at the beginning where you choose to play a new game or join an existing game could easily have some short bullet points about how to play that would have clarified the rules and avoided our first fail of revealing the location to the spy too soon. Because the actual rules are relatively straightforward, I think having some instructions at the beginning before you even start would not detract from the fun of the game but rather make it more easily playable. My group was waiting for an instruction page to show up at some point (which one did not) and ended up having to Google instructions as we were playing.

Another thing I would change would be to create a more up-to-date location list. I would rename more old-fashioned terms like “service station” to the more modern terms like “gas station” and add some more interesting and fun locations that people today would likely be familiar with. For example. a fun location could be the Eiffel Tower or the White House. By having more unique locations, I think this game would even better allow for fun questions to come out during the discussion portion.

Overall, I really enjoyed playing Spyfall with my friends, and with some minor tweaks, this game has a lot of potential for building camaraderie and fellowship among friends.

About the author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.