Everyone assumes being a spy is glamorous, glitzy, gun-filled and great. A bit of espionage here and there, maybe a stolen dossier or two? Martinis with beautiful people and a villain who monologues his plan right before you save the world. Does that sound accurate? Well, sadly it's a lie. James Bond is a lie. Especially if you're playing Shifty Eyed Spies by Big G Creative.
It is absolutely none of the above, you've been deceived. Instead, it's so much better! It's awkward, hilarious, and is a bucket load of fun!
Shifty Eyed Spies is tremendously simple! You are given a target to meet, and they have a location. On your turn you need to announce who you'll meet and where. If you're correct, swap cards with them and put the received card around your player board. At the same time, another spy may be trying to get your attention and you'll need to indicate your location for them to announce. Five correct meet ups will win, but you must win alongside someone else!
To set the game up you place the four locations around the table at a good spacing apart in view of everyone and hand out three binocular tokens to each player. I'd recommend everyone sit so they can see everyone's face as well! Then, in turn, each player is handed the briefcase (active player token) and they collect two cards; a target to meet and a location to be met at. And then the anarchy begins!
Now, here's where Shifty Eyed Spies becomes awkward. You must get your target's attention without alerting anyone else of what you're doing. You've got to be sneaky, stealthy, sharp... You need to wink at them. This in itself poses a problem for some people... Did you know some people can't wink!? Neither did we till we played this. Luckily, a 'meaningful blink' will work just as well but a wink is the best course of action.
Once you've managed to grab your target's attention, they need to indicate which of the four locations on the table you'll be meeting at. This can be done through a nod or something of the likes, but it must still be done silently without attracting attention. Once you've got your location, wait for your turn then announce who and where, confirm you're correct and collect your next target!
It is worth remembering that during the extremely tense atmosphere of espionage it can be quite difficult to get your targets attention, after all, they're also trying to contact another spy! Should you get tired of waiting you can refresh your target card on your turn. You may end up picking up your own card as the target, and that's a shame but can't be helped! You must wait for your turn again to draw a new card.
You need to be on the lookout for what the other spies are doing at all times. If you suspect someone is arranging a meeting with a specific individual, or you know where someone is being met, you can call them out at any time by throwing your binoculars into the centre of the table (as dramatically as possible) and shout 'INTERCEPT!". You say who is meeting who and/or where they're meeting. Should you intercept their contact, you get that player's target card, if you also knew where they were meeting you also get the location card too! They then shamefully collect new target/location cards like the terrible spies they are. If you incorrectly intercept, you get nothing.
You need to be vigilant throughout this game. Eyes peeled at all times for any off winks or shady behaviours. There is nothing quite like the awkward eye contact between two people as they wait for the other to flinch... In common practice, looking at someone for a moment is fine, but this game will have you gazing into people's souls for a while before you break down in laughter! After only knowing someone for a few hours, this game has caused me to be looking someone in the eye for an uncomfortably long time... It definitely broke the awkwardness of not knowing someone well!
Engagement and Player Interaction
Shifty Eyed Spies is a party game through and through. There isn't a moment where you won't be winking awkwardly across the table, tilting your head towards the café, or simply gazing lovingly into someone else's eyes. The level of player interaction is also through the roof. You're always getting into contact with other spies or trying to sniff out another deal going down. I dare even say this game is the perfect ice breaker for introducing a new player into a gaming group!
Component Quality and Replay-ability
The design of the game is fantastic. It's clear how the game works from the outset, the spy cards are colour coded so if you are amongst new players you can say you're meeting Blue as opposed to fumbling about remembering names (not an excuse to forget someone's name). The different meeting points are all different enough so that you would be able to say what they were easily. It requires no reading and no prior understanding of the art of espionage, just a sharp set of eyes and a stealthy method of notification.
Replay-ability is the one catch. It's really replay-able. Tremendously! But you won't want to. It's not designed that way; party games are fast, fun and fluid. They happen, they're great fun, then you move on. We played this a lot back to back and it became exhausting, we burned out! You can play this game a lot, but definitely space out the sessions!
Final Thoughts on Shifty Eyed Spies
Shifty Eyed Spies definitely works best with large groups, however we've had a blast with four people twitching like they're guilty as sin! There is a feeling you're missing out on things when playing this, you can't watch everyone and when people announce their meet ups, there can be a feeling of being alienated... But that's the point of being a spy! If everyone knew what was happening, you'd all be terrible spies.
Shifty Eyed Spies is a fantastic example of what a party game should be; it's fast, easy to follow and funny. If you're reluctant due to embarrassment or because of the theme, I seriously advise you take the plunge and have a go! I guarantee you'll love it. So, get your trench coat on, don your sunglasses and try not to look so shifty!