Budget Bucket – “SpyFall”

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So you’re sitting down in your office, having a cup of coffee and talking about your workday with your coworkers. You each discuss the watercooler moment of the day and exaggerate the frustrations of your last task. Everything seems normal. Your coworkers are normal people like you, right?

When out of the blue, one of your coworkers asks if you remembered your sunscreen. How… odd. That is, if you were playing any other game. In Spyfall, weird questions become the norm.

So is it any good, or should it be left in the Budget Bucket?

Spyfall is a multiplayer party game where all of the players are given a role in some kind of ordinary or bizzare workplace. A military base, beach, bank, or space station, for example. Each player is tasked with acting out their role, be it station commander or cook or prisoner of war.

But there is one player that is not given a common role. He’s the outcast. He has no place or purpose. He is the spy.

And he also has no clue where everyone else is or what they do there.

In this party game, the spy is tasked with trying to figure out the current location in question (yeah, not a very observant spy if he has to ask where he parked his car this morning, but we’ll go with it). Each turn, a player is allowed to ask one question of one other player. The questions themselves and the answers can be used to either ferret out who the spy is – or inadvertantly feed information to the spy about the other player’s current location. The spy can then use this gleaned information to guess which location from a provided list these players are currently residing at.

He guesses correctly, the spy wins.

He outs himself by asking dumb questions or answering poorly and gets caught by the other players, they win.

Spyfall is a completely free game. Simply get a few friends and point your favorite smartphone browsers to www.spyfall.meteor.com, and boom. You’re ready to hunt spies. A simple premise. Quick gameplay. But you’ll be surprised at just how deep the tactics and social manipulation can run.

Yes. Social manipulation.

This is a game that is completely about using your fellow players for information. Even if you’re not the spy, you still have to convey enough to your fellow not-spies to convince them that you are legit. But don’t be too obvious. A difficult balance arises while playing nice with your allies and trying to be coy enough not to spoon-feed information to the greedy spy hanging on your every word.

I mentioned roles earlier. This becomes a key component of the game and a way of managing the difficult task of being the spy. The assigned roles act like wild cards, ensuring that the game never gets too easy for the players to spy-hunt. Players must respond to questions in their role, which may be a little… “out there”, on occasion.

For example, in a recent game I played as the spy, an early question about having exact change at this location tipped the hand a bit for me, creating a mental list either bank, service station, or casino. But then one of the other players started answering… weird.

“Do you find all of the security here comforting?” a player asked this fellow chap.

“Um,” he stammered. “No. Not at all. I don’t.”

Odd indeed, considering I was the spy. Naturally, everyone started glaring at him suspiciously. Then a bell went off in my head. Maybe he’s a bank robber? Sure, he could have also been a con artist at the casino or something similar, but for some reason, robber felt right. So, first impressions and all that, I ran with it when it was my turn to ask:

“These men with the sidearms at their hips,” I said, gesturing to the invisible security officers to my side. “Would you mind answering their questions for them?”

It didn’t matter what that other player’s answer was. I could see the grins on his compatriots’ faces. To them, my question made sense. My question jived with what they expected. I had to know where we were, right? I was one of them. I was “in”.

In fact, I did know where we were, after all. Only I was the spy.

Sure enough, this was a bank. The outed player was, indeed, a robber. His fellow bank employees called a vote against him, and I got to enjoy their dumbfounded faces when I revealed that it was I, not the robber, that was the spy.

Spyfall has that just one more!! feel to it. The games go so quickly that it’s easy to play round after round. Twice now the battery has gone into the red on my phone just from the endless rounds of Spyfall my gaming group enjoyed.

Plus, given that the game is completely free, it’s hard not to recommend this as a party game or a time-killer for you and your friends. Those preferring something tangible might be able to find the board game version as well (though as of the time of this writing, I had no luck looking it up on the usual gaming sites).

So give it a shot sometime. Just watch what you say. Literally, everybody around you is listening to every word you say.

Every. Word.

THE GOOD

  • Web version is completely free. Can’t argue with the price here.
  • Deceptive gameplay leaves you second-guessing everything you say and hanging on every word of your opponents
  • Quick gameplay gives this game the “just one more!” appeal

THE BAD

  • A bit of a learning curve, as all questions are generated by players. The game does nothing to teach you how to play.
  • Best played on a cell phone, which can drain the battery quickly.

THE VERDICT

  • An excellent party game well worth the time spent
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