GTM #207 - SpyFall 2
Reviewed by Eric Steiger & Rob Herman

The overwhelming (and well-deserved) success of Vlaada Chvatil’s Codenames had an unforeseen side effect: it overshadowed the other spy-themed party game that had released a little earlier, Cryptozoic’s Spyfall.  This is a real shame, because Spyfall is a truly innovative and original game that deserves as much spotlight as it can get.  Hopefully, the release late last year of the standalone expansion, Spyfall 2, helped to rectify this oversight.  Spyfall 2 is more Spyfall, with everything we like about the social game of bluffing, probing questions, clever answers, and suspicion…and a bit more besides.

The gameplay is the same: we are all together at one of 20 (26 in the original Spyfall) possible locations, such as a construction site, stadium, the U.N., or a jazz club.  All but one of us knows where we are.  That player is the ‘spy’.  Over the next 8-10 minutes, we will endeavor to ferret out who’s the spy by taking turns asking each other questions about the place we are in.  Meanwhile, the spy is trying to discover where we are.  If your questions or answers are too specific (“Hey, check out all the foreign diplomats hanging out here”), then you will give away our location to the spy.  If they are too vague, however, then the other players will (rightly or wrongly) accuse you of being the spy. 

At any time, a player can stop the clock, and make an accusation that someone is the spy. If their accusation receives unanimous approval (excluding the accused player), the round ends, and if their accusation is correct, that player wins.  But, if their declaration is wrong, the spy wins.  If they didn’t receive unanimous approval, then they may not accuse anybody else until the timer runs out and the round ends.  On the other hand, the spy can also stop the clock at any time, reveal themselves, and declare where we are.  If they deduce correctly, they win the round; if they’re wrong, they lose.  If the round ends without the spy figuring out our location or being uncovered, then each player has one last chance to accuse (again, needing unanimous approval to convict).  If the spy is still hidden, they receive half a victory. 

If the game sounds incredibly simple, that’s because it is, and that’s the beauty of Spyfall.  It’s incredibly approachable, even for “casual” gamers.  However, the bluffing and deduction involved are surprisingly deep, and you will agonize over whether someone is being vague because they are the spy, or because they’re trying not to tip off the spy.  Add in some truly hilarious, exaggerated art, and you’ve got a very replayable experience for a small investment of both money and teaching time.

So, what does Spyfall 2 add? Well, in addition to the aforementioned 20 new locations, which might help refresh players for whom the first 26 locations grew stale, it also allows for up to 12 players, and includes a possible second spy at each location.  Spies usually win or lose together, with each knowing who the other is at the start of the game, but a variant allows for the spies to work independently, with the first one to correctly guess the location being the winner, and the first one discovered to be the “loser.”  While the second spy is convenient for games of 9+ players (and necessary for one with all 12), it does remove some of the elegance that makes the basic game so appealing. 

Spyfall 2 has some great new locations, it allows for more players, and it has the same gameplay that we love about Spyfall.  As a standalone expansion, there’s also the question of whether you should buy it instead of Spyfall, and the answer to that is “maybe.”  If you expect to regularly have 9-12 players in a session, or you want the additional complication added by a second spy, then you absolutely should get Spyfall 2 instead of the original.  But this isn’t one of those cases where the second version of the game renders the first one obsolete.  Spyfall is the same price and has six more locations than Spyfall 2.  If you don’t plan to go past 8 players, and you don’t need the extra spy, then you get more bang for your buck in the original.  On the other hand, at an MSRP of $25, it won’t break the bank to pick up both.

Eric and Rob are your friends, and friends wouldn't let you play bad games.