Spycon is the brand new deduction based party game from publisher Hobby World, which is set in the Spyfall universe. Designed by Alexandr Ushan, featuring artwork from Uildrim, the game sees 4 – 10 players visit the largest spy convention! In around 30 minutes players will be famous people/characters of fiction or non-fiction, as the spies move along a red carpet. The game hopes that teams will get creative. However, is an experience that fits the Spyfall brand? Let’s find out!
Players start out by splitting evenly into two teams, or as close as possible. A red carpet of cards is formed along the table (zigzagging if limited on space). Forming the “board”, at one end is the start card and at the other the victory card, though those in between are shuffled before placing. Both teams claim a small deck of abilities and put the matching character standee on the starting red carpet card.
Which set of characters is to be played with is determined, fictional or non-fictional, with the other returned to the box. Set A or B of the item deck is then brought into play, though the other needs to be within reach for during play. Teams then take their character and keyword wipeable boards, with a pen, turning them to the appropriate sides based on what keywords and character cards are in play.
Taking it in turns, with the team with fewest players (or most gadgets) going first. The active team then nominates one player to be the spy. This player draws a character card and a keyword. At the start of the game this is all that occurs. Once teams have progressed along the red carpet effects can come into play. For example, one red carpet space may allow the player to draw two characters and choose one to use. After taking a look at the cards the spy player passes the keyword to the rest of their team – who can look at it.
The spy then starts taking in first person as the character on the card, giving hints as to whom they are. If possible they should aim to utilize the keyword knowledge their team has, without giving anything away. At any point a guess can be called, by any non-spy player. For most turns there will be up to three guessing rounds – which can be impacted by red carpet spaces. When this guessing round is triggered the opposing team to that of the spy gets to guess first.
Naming the character they believe the spy is portraying, the opposing team wins the round if they are correct – else the spy’s team gets to make a guess. Any incorrect guesses can be crossed off on team’s character boards for this round. If both teams are incorrect the spy continues the describing. When a team guesses correctly determines the points earnt. 3 points are awarded to a team guessing correctly in the first guessing phase, then 2 points, then 1 point.
Points are simply translated into moving spaces along the red carpet. If neither team guesses correctly after three guessing rounds – unless the red carpet space allows a forth guessing round – neither team gets points. All used character cards are discarded face up – so players know they cannot come up again. Used keyword cards however are shuffled back into the deck. Play moves onto the next team, regardless of if points were earnt. The game continues until either team reaches the end victory card in the red carpet line.
Each team has a small deck of identical powers. These can be used at different stages in the round, yet all once used are discarded from the game. The only caveat is the entire team must agree to the power being used. These can be extremely helpful if used at the right time. For example, one power forces the spy to cross out a quarter of the character sheet – reducing the number of possible characters they could be. There are also powers to play when guessing, allowing additional guesses to be performed. These are all little boosts that should be used and not hoarded!
Spycon is mostly a box of cards, albeit with some rather nice flair items. The cards are easy to distinguish what set they are part of, with a nice art style used across the cards. The wipeable character and keyword boards provided for each team give the game a more premium feel, and allow teams to constantly cross off characters or make notes. It would have been nice to have plastic baggies included to be able to separate out the different keyword and character decks. This could have shaved a bit of time of setup but is more for the neatness of storage – it certainly isn’t a large issue.
Having the list of keywords is the ideal component to add some extra tension. The other team may not see the keyword card passed to your team but they may be able to determine which it must be. This results in players choosing their words with more care. In a sense it becomes a balancing act between helping their own team vaguely and revealing information to their opponents. Cross this with the fact the intercepting team goes first and the pressure is on.
The way the red carpet is in a different order every play is a great way to keep the game fresh. In one game we had the fewer guesses red carpet cards towards the victory end of the track. This saw the game have an incredible and tense ending, as teams barely made it to the victory line rather than barrel over it. The effects on the red carpet also make each individual round feel different, with players having to react accordingly. While more variety could have been included, the selection included is great.
As much as I enjoy the Spyfall theming, and the artwork is humorous as a result of the spy dressing up as characters such as Cinderella, it doesn’t add much past the art. The party game underneath shines through, making it seem more of a tacked on way of expanding the Spyfall branding. This may sound harsh but very few party games even attempt a theme, so it is above those that don’t try.
Spycon is, much like Spyfall, a game which improves as players know the game. Knowing the list of characters, rather than constantly skimming the list, makes the spy have to be inventive. With players willing to put into the experience, to get more out, Spycon is an ideal framework to cause moments to remember. Whether it is a hilarious anecdote that those involved won’t forget or a perfect clue, Spycon makes these moments – making it well worth playing!
(Editor’s Note: Spycon was provided to us by Hobby World for the review. The game is currently available from local board game stores in Russia, coming soon in the UK & US.)