Critical Play: Spyfall

Spyfall is a card game which has recently evolved into a digital game developed by Alexandr Ushan in 2014. The target audience appears to be for teenagers and young adults as the players must be old enough to understand the complexity of trying to say things and ask questions revolving around a location without giving away said location, which would be doable as a young teen. It’s also a great party or waiting game that would be fun for young adults. There can be 3-8 players according to the game’s specifications. Players can ask any other player a question revolving around the location of interest, and that player must answer that question, both out loud so that all players could hear the question and response. In each round of 6-10 minutes, one player does not know what the location is, and players would ask questions and respond to them in order to try to figure out who is the spy (the individual who does not know the location) without giving the location away. The spy must try to decipher the location (from a list of options) by analyzing the types of questions and responses people are giving, and the other players must try to determine who among them is the spy. Similar games to Spyfall would be role play games such as Avalon or Secret Hitler, where certain individuals have a role which other players are trying to figure out. However in those games, there are individuals (i.e., the Minions of Mordred, Merlin, Percival, and Fascists) who know for certainty the roles of some of the other individuals in the game, whereas in Spyfall nobody knows who anyone else is. I wouldn’t say this makes games like Avalon and Secret Hitler better or worse than Spyfall, but simply different in that in Avalon and Secret Hitler, there are groups of individuals who are working together from the beginning (where other individuals have to figure out who they are working with). On the contrary, in Spyfall, no one is 100% certain who anybody is for the entirety of the game. Spyfall was super fun because you are constantly trying to assess other people’s questions and responses, trying to figure out who is being suspicious or not. You’re always on your toes trying to assess everyone else’s moves. And if you are the spy, you are scrambling upon everyone’s words trying to figure out the location, which is thrilling in and of itself. A moment of particular success for me (as the spy) was when one individual responded to a question in a manner that gave the location away completely, and everyone playing sighed in frustration at the response. Specifically, the location was a beach and somebody asked someone the question “What would you drink here?”, and the person responded “Piña Colada”. It surely was an epic fail for the non-spy players! I think one thing I would change to make the game even better is to have multiple spies.

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