- Designer: Alexander Ushan
- Publisher: Cryptozoic / Hobby World
- Players: 3 – 12 Players
- Ages: 13 and Up
- Time: 15+ Minutes
- Times Played: > 5
Spyfall came out a couple of years ago and was a big hit on the social deduction game scene, cracking into the top 20 BGG party games. Spyfall 2 was recently released, and Cryptozoic announced that DC Spyfall (based on the DC universe) will be coming in Q4.
If you liked Spyfall, you’ll like Spyfall 2, which adds room for up to 12 players and potentially a second spy at higher player counts. The game also features 20 new locations.
The game comes with 20 decks of 12 cards each. Each deck has two spy cards (though you might only use one) and 10 cards showing one of 20 locations.
Each game, you pull one of these decks — without anybody looking at the location — and pull out one or two spy cards (two spies are recommended with seven or more players) and normal location cards for the rest of the players.
The game is played over several short rounds. Each player that isn’t the spy will know the current location: their job is to figure out who the spy is. The spy, by contrast, is trying to stay hidden and figure out the location.
The main mechanic to figure out the spy — or the location, if you are the spy — is question and answer. The dealer begins by starting a stopwatch and asking a player a question. The questions (and answers) ideally pertain to the current locations. They need to be vague enough where the spy can’t guess the location, but specific enough (or clever enough) that the questioner/answerer conveys knowledge of the location.
Once the questioned player answers, he then asks the next question, but he can’t return to the person who asked him the question.
A round ends in one of three ways: time is up , a player is accused, or at the spy’s request.
When time expires, players vote on each player one by one (starting with the dealer), and a unanimous vote (the accused doesn’t count) means the spy must reveal. If the accused was the spy, the other players win; if not, the spy wins.
The game can also end before time is expired: each player may stop the clock once to ask for a vote on somebody they accuse. If the vote is unanimous, then the game ends and the winner is determined as above. If not, play continues.
The spy can also end the game by revealing his spy card and guessing the location. If correct, he wins; otherwise, the other players win.
Spyfall 2 adds a second spy. The spies are on a team, and they lose if one of them is identified. The votes no longer need to be unanimous: rather, it is enough to have all votes excluding two to have a successful vote.
There’s a scoring mechanic to judge multiple rounds of play. There’s also a variant in which each player takes on a role — printed on their location card — that they can take in in the questions and answers.
My Thoughts on the Game
Like its predecessor, Spyfall 2 is a simple but effective deduction game. It’s a party game, so it isn’t for everybody, but it is a fun way to open or close the evening, and my group has enjoyed our plays.
Spyfall is all about clever and subtle clues, making it a bit of a thinking man’s party game. Any given game is certainly more fun with a group that can think on their feet. While the game’s rules are easy enough that Spyfall can be understood by anybody, the game really shines when the group can speak in riddles to each other.
For fans of Spyfall, the biggest benefit of Spyfall 2 will be getting 20 new locations, which can even be mixed with those from the original game. Some of the new locations are perhaps a tad bit too specific (“Coal Mine” or “Cat Show” or “The U.N.” come to mind), making the game slightly harder for the questioners and easier for the spies, but overall there is a solid mix.
The artwork is top notch — each picture has a lot more going on, making clues easier — and is in the same fun, cartoonish style as Spyfall.
After the locations, the next biggest benefit of Spyfall 2 is the addition of a second spy, which is a nice touch that allows play at higher player counts. That said, we likely won’t use it much in the future: the game becomes much longer (perhaps too much longer) at the player counts (7+) necessary to include the second spy. At those player counts, we’re likely to just pull out Werewolf.
My biggest complaint — and I consider this a severe flaw — is that the publisher didn’t give location player aids in the box. I still went with “I like it.” below because I’m happy to own and play the game, but I’m mildly annoyed that the publisher hasn’t had the foresight to include such a simple (and presumably cheap) necessity.
The lack of a player aid is a major barrier to play, especially for new players. The spy generally ends up being the person glaring at the rulebook (which shows all of the locations) the most, and if it is across the table where the spy can’t read it — which happens in large groups — it can be impossible for the spy to remember what the locations are. (I once lost a round of the original game as a spy that way!)
Also, the inclusion of a sand timer would have been nice. It’s not a big deal — we just pull out a cell phone — but if Codenames can include the sand time and still keep the game reasonably priced, these publishers should have considered doing so as well.
Despite those criticisms, this is a solid social deduction game, and after we printed player aids of BGG, we’ve enjoyed our plays. If you’re a fan of Spyfall, I recommend Spyfall 2. If you haven’t encountered the former, I’d check out Spyfall 2 first: the addition of higher player counts makes it the better buy for getting into the series.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Chris Wray
- Not for me…
Thanks for your honest assessment of the game! Though I would never buy it from Barnes and Nobles due to price inflation, I always see it there and am intrigued. I’ll gladly pass by now knowing what to expect and probably save my money for Tolkien or Martin stuff! Thanks!
That looks pretty fun! I need to try one day :)