Spyfall 2 review
In many ways, it feels like the fervor surrounding the original Spyfall has been drowned out by the wake left behind by that OTHER spy party game released a year later, Codenames. Although the two games are distinctly different in operation – aside from involving a load of cards, a short play time and a whole bunch of guesswork – the espionage-themed titles seemed unable to co-exist peacefully, leading the Spiel des Jahres winner to emerge as the more prominent victor and Spyfall to end up somewhat forgotten.
Now, the two titles find themselves scraping each other’s wings in even closer proximity, as Spyfall 2 releases a matter of months after fellow follow-up Codenames: Pictures. Codenames: Pictures was a clever way to reimplement its predecessor’s core mechanics in a way that felt exciting and fresh, so does Spyfall similarly manage to build on the solid foundation of its ingenious source?
Unfortunately, Spyfall 2 feels less like a sequel and more like a reboot. There are new additions to the game – the ability to play with up to 12 players (boosted from the original's maximum head count of eight) as well as the chance to encounter a pair of spies – but it’s otherwise spy business as usual.
As in the first Spyfall, players are handed location cards – but one or two (depending on the number of people playing) participants are spies and must attempt to work out the location being discussed without blowing their cover.
Players take it in turns to ask each other questions, offering vague enough answers to confirm they know where they are without letting the spies in on the secret. After a set amount of time, or once everyone agrees on whom the spy is, the round ends. Alternatively, the spy can jump the gun, outing themselves and guessing the location in order to win.
It’s an undeniably fun and gripping experience that distils the social deduction genre down to its simplest aspects. As in the first game, the character roles are suggested as a way of complicating the answers given by each player – for example, a graverobber and priest would have very different perspectives on the cemetery. This also lends the spy a hand, as the additional ‘umming’ and ‘erring’ from non-spies makes it harder to determine who’s considering their character’s answer – and who just simply doesn’t have a clue.
The refreshed locations are a good mixture of the mundane and the slightly surreal, ranging from subways and coal mines to cat shows and the UN – making the interrogation ‘is it fragrant?’ a more viable prompt than you might expect.
Yet, unless you’ve completely exhausted the original Spyfall by memorising all of the location cards and mastered the art of identifying their defining features, or have just grown tired of pretending to be in the same 20 places – or happen to need a variant to support more than the already healthy eight player count – it’s hard to recommend dropping another twenty quid on what is essentially the same game twice.
If you’re yet to experience the joy of Spyfall, however (maybe you’ve been playing Codenames this whole time) Spyfall 2 is a great way to jump into the game and score yourself another reasonably cheap party title with plenty of replayability and scale. Otherwise, maybe just invest that money in Codenames: Pictures.
Spyfall 2 is a fantastic entry point for newcomers to the series, with expanded gameplay options and the same wacky social deduction mechanics as its forebear. If you’re already a Spyfall fan, though, it’s hard to justify as an additional purchase when so much remains essentially the same.
Publisher: Cryptozoic/Hobby World
Genre: Social deduction
Time: 10 minutes
This review originally appeared in the February issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.