This review of Spyfall 2 will largely be a comparison with the original game, which I can already say is a great party game for 3-8 people, though to be honest it's best with five or six. I'll go into a quick refresher course later for those who have never seen Spyfall in their lives (and thanks to Cryptozoic's inability to distribute their games well, that's sadly a common occurrence), but essentially this is a sequel to the original with more locations and the chance to include a second spy with more players.
So rather than a sequel, Spyfall 2 is more of a reboot and well, like movies they only have some success so we'll see how this fares.
Pay Attention Spy Class
For those uninitiated, ‘Spyfall’ is a social deduction game that takes place over a series of eight-minute rounds, though you'll probably just play each game as a single round affair (there are rules for scoring for spies, but I've yet to meet a single person who bothers to keep score so ignore those).
Before a round begins, each player receives a card in secret from one of 30 mini decks chosen at random. Each deck includes seven cards that all pertain to the same specific location, such as the Beach or a School, while the eighth card is just identified as a “Spy.” The cards are dealt so that one person always receives the Spy card and the others get the location.
You get a ton of baggies in the box to organise these decks beforehand, but clearly somebody didn't proof read their rule book ahead of time because they suggest to put the Spy card at the top of each deck...........except that means you can see the location when you flip the bag over. That was smart wasn't it?! Put the Spy at the bottom and that way you don't accidentally ruin the game before you begin.
The players take turns asking each other questions. Non-spies want to provide hints to one another proving where they are. The spy not only has to figure out where he is, but also has to respond in such a way to keep his cover from being blown. The key for the agents is not to be too obvious about their own clues so as to give away too much information, but also not be so vague that they get the finger pointed at them.
Once per round, each player can temporarily stop the clock and accuse someone of being a spy. The rest of the players (except the accused) vote. Only when it’s unanimously agreed, the accused player reveals his card. If he’s indeed a spy, then the non-spies win. Otherwise, the spy wins. Likewise, the spy can at any time – except during an accusation – reveal himself and attempt to guess the current location. If correct, he wins, but if not, everyone else is victorious. Pretty simple right? But the questions asked and answered lead to some great moments.
In addition each location has a "role" on it which you should assume when answering the questions - this provides the most laughs as some responses can sound really odd at times, but still be legitimate to the location. For example asking someone on a Pirate Ship "do you enjoy your time here," would be received much differently by the Captain then say, the Prisoner locked up in the hold. Always roleplay these without fail - it increases the fun factor ten fold.
Of course Spyfall 2 is not for everyone and I have noticed in my experience that those who feel a bit uneasy about being put "on the spot" when they are the Spy might not enjoy the game as much. That's understandable and you should bear this in mind. You might get asked a question as the Spy on the first turn with no information whatsoever and you have to be quick at coming up with a great all-rounder response on the fly that can be role-played up to a character role as required. If that sounds scary to you in a bad way, then perhaps Spyfall isn't for you.
Curse of the Reboot
OK, now that the refresher course is complete, let's get on to what's new or different about Spyfall 2. . . besides the box cover. Unfortunately, Spyfall 2 feels less like a sequel and more like a reboot. There are new additions to the game such as the ability to play with up to 12 players using a second Spy, but for the most part, it's another set of locations. Though it should be noted that there are less in this version than the previous one and some of them seem very specific (Cat Show for instance) making this a slightly easier experience for the Spy - not necessarily a bad thing - think of it as a difficulty boost and a way of making the game less daunting for new players who are unlucky enough to be the Spy on their first go!
But....and this still boggles my mind as to the incompetency of Cryptozoic (yeah I'm been harsh, but I pull no punches when reviewing games), Spyfall 2 is still hindered by its lack of player aids in the box. There were 30 possible locations for the Spy to think about before and here you've got only 20, but it's still too many to commit to memory and yet the only access to them is a two-page spread in the center of the rule book, which you have to constantly pass around - yeah doesn't that get annoying real quick?
You have to tell everyone in advance to just randomly stare at the sheet to not give the Spy away too easily and it just feels weird. Such a simple and cheap component to include and yet they force us to go on BGG and print/laminate our own - lazy!
And to continue this badge of stupidity, the box isn't big enough to hold all the cards from the original game. Are you kidding me? Did no-one at the publisher think that maybe owners of the original Spyfall would want a complete storage solution? And I don't mean a fancy insert, I just mean making the box big enough to hold all the bagged up cards in. So obvious and yet just ignored or forgotten, it makes my brain physically hurt trying to understand why this has happened.
And no timer.......but I'm more forgiving of that as every human being owns a smartphone.
Dual Spy Mode
The reason there are only 20 locations is because Spyfall 2 comes with 12 cards per location instead of eight. This means you can play with up to 12 players compared to the original eight and at those levels you should be playing with two spies. However, sadly the concept doesn't work as well as it could.
For such a simple game, the new rules were too convoluted and you can literally hear the gears grinding putting it into operation. Sometimes they win together, sometimes separately, and sometimes they have to guess independently - it's a lot to think about and with such a large group you're going to have new players scratching their heads. Not to mention that in order to make it physically work, you have to keep score and play multiple rounds - again, who keeps score in Spyfall?
So you may think "but now I got 50 locations to pick from, think of all that variety"! Yeah mix them all up, play a game as the Spy and now tell me it's a good thing. If you thought choosing from 20 or 30 locations was hard, try 50! It's practically impossible unless you have a really incompetent set of Agents in the mix.
Spyfall is really crying out for a mobile version of the game or a companion app, where players can see all the locations on the screen privately and the app picks one at random. Some FLASH sites have done this, but they're a bit clunky - Spyfall is ripe for a technological upgrade.
Verdict on Spyfall 2
As much there were plenty of negative comments here, take them with a grain of salt - a lot of that is down to bizarre publisher choices and a lack of integration with the original set. When it comes to the design, Spyfall 2 is just as hilarious as Spyfall was to play and so rather than look at this as an expansion, think of this as a new entry point to the system for newcomers.
It really doesn't matter which set you get if you're new - both will suit you fine and you'll still get a ton of laughs and replays out of the game even if you completely ignore the second Spy mechanic, which to be honest I do anyway.
It's hard to justify the expense if you're simply looking to add more locations to the mix, however if you’re yet to experience the joy of Spyfall - Spyfall 2 is a great way to jump in.