location cards on spyfall.app

Critical Play: Your first critical play! – Elyse

Spyfall by Alexandr Ushan, on netgames.io and spyfall.app

Audience: groups of friends, friends trying to connect virtually

Best with 4-8 players. Players take turns asking and answering questions about a location until 5-10 minutes of time runs out. One person is the spy, and doesn’t know the location that’s been assigned for that round and tries to ask/answer questions in a way that doesn’t reveal they’re the spy. The spy has access to a bank of locations, which does include the one chosen for this round. Non-spy players are also assigned roles, and must answer and ask questions from the perspective of this person. The roles will often make players answer questions in an unusual way, making innocent players seem like spies.  If the spy guesses the location before the time runs out, or the spy isn’t suspected by the majority after times runs out, they win.

Elyse is the spy

The first round I played, I was the spy! I got found out pretty easily. Another time I was a junk collector at a junkyard, which made everyone pretty suspicious of my answers and think I was the spy.

This is a social deception game, and it resembles A Fake Artist Goes to New York, Secret Hitler, and Mafia for that reason. It reminds me of Among Us because it’s social deception, but also because there’s an online version that one might play with friends remotely. I’d argue that it differentiates itself from Among Us and many online multiplayer games because there’s more social interaction required – players have conversations and improvise. I thought this made it better than similar short, online multiplayer games. On the other hand, communicating synchronously does require some coordination with Zoom and app in the browser, which can be tedious.

I think Spyfall is also different from other social deception games because it asks people to act out roles, which is subjective and isn’t always to the player’s advantage. It’s up to the player how much they want to follow their role, and the fact that the role playing component could be ignored or forgotten means that people might be playing by different rules. The roleplaying is interesting because it makes non-spies look suspicious, and encourages fun and storytelling over competition. The conversations get so silly and improvised that it’s hard to be serious when playing, so I liked it more than Mafia and Secret Hitler, which are more argumentative and accusatory.

This game was fun because of the silly roleplaying aspect that I mentioned before, and because it’s engaging and challenging to be either the spy or the regular players. Some social deduction games only feel exciting when you’re the one doing the deceiving. Spyfall was great because I enjoyed either role, and sometimes preferred knowing the location just because answering and asking questions to interrogate people was fun. I also liked how quick it was to learn the game, unlike Mafia which has a bit more complexity with rounds and sleeping and different roles.

One success was when Jonathan (someone I was playing with) tricked Jake and I into choosing each other as the spies when it was really Jonathan. Sometimes I got so caught up in the game that I forgot the spy was narrowing in on what the location was, so I failed when I made the location too obvious and Jonathan was able to guess it (Jonathan was the spy twice and won both times).

To make the game better – and I think this likely only applies to the online version I played – I’d make it so that regular players can easily see the list of locations that the spy is using. Then, it would be easier to tell which questions were too leading and which were general enough to apply to all the locations. My understanding is that the physical card game Spyfall does make this possible by putting all the locations on the back of the box.

location cards on spyfall.app

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