Spy Tricks Review
Quick Glance: Spy Tricks: Buy This On Sale
Game Type: Card
Number of Players: 3 - 4 Players
Mechanics: Trick Taking, Bidding/Deduction, Hand Management
Release: July 2018
Introduction/Overview: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to decipher the contents of the SECRET DOCUMENT and bring glory to your country’s covert intelligence network. But, uh, we’re not exactly sure what countries those are specifically. Just trust us, you’re part of a country. You will carry out your mission with the utmost urgency, because there are 2-3 other countries (players) just like you vying for the document as well. Use the information you glean from their movements and their intel to deduce what the contents of the SECRET DOCUMENT may be. You will be rewarded heartily based upon the accuracy of the information you provide.
The game starts slightly different, depending on whether you’re playing the 3 or 4 player version. If you’re playing the 3 player version, there are adjustments made to the number of total possibilities that the SECRET DOCUMENT could be. Cards are dealt to all players, but some are reserved, and one will eventually become the SECRET DOCUMENT. The starting player, which is determined by whatever method you choose, plays a card from their hand to begin the round. May I suggest using the last person to watch a spy movie? Or maybe the last person to encrypt something with a secret code? Or the person who can say the word “game” in the most languages? Depending on what the first player put down, the next player in line MUST play a card of the same suit (red, blue, white) but if they can’t, they may play a card of any suit. The cards are numbered 1-9, and the suits (red, blue and white) are in order of strength on the playmat. Red is the highest strength, then blue, then white. This means that if three players play the following cards, Red 1, Blue 5, White 9, that Red 1 is the winner and White 9 is the loser of that trick. At the end of each trick, the winner gets to place a henchman somewhere on the playmat (think roulette) and then the loser gets to do the same. If you aren’t the winner or loser, you don’t get to place a henchman! This is KEY to the strategy of the game. Each henchman represents a guess as to what the SECRET DOCUMENT is. If a player places the henchman in the “2” column, they are betting that the SECRET DOCUMENT is a “2” of any suit. Play continues until 5 cards from each player have been played. Each player will be left with 1 card remaining. The SECRET DOCUMENT is revealed at this point and coins are distributed based on who guessed correctly. The person with the least amount of coins starts the next round with a helper pawn, which can double the payout of any guess. Play continues until every player has started a round once, and then the person with the most coins wins!
8-pages of no nonsense, straight to the point setup and game rules. The rules were simple to follow, concise and had a great sample round at the end which summed everything up nicely.
Spy Tricks is very lightly sprinkled with the essence of espionage. It’s really just a background flavor though, you aren’t immersed in a world of sabotage and subterfuge (although that would be sweet!)
Setup really couldn’t be any easier than it already is. A play mat needs to be unfolded, some cards need to be shuffled then dealt and every player needs to pick a color. You won’t be wasting any time setting this one up, which means more time for SECRET DOCUMENTS. Don’t forget though, if you're playing with 3 players instead of 4, you’ll have to take out Red, Blue and White cards 1 and 2 before playing!
The components for Spy Tricks were one of the things that I thought could be improved about the game. First, let’s talk about the play mat. It’s a glossy, folded 11x17 sheet of paper. Yep. That’s it. The fact that it’s folded in the box means there are creases where it isn’t convenient to have creases, if you know what I mean. It’s not something that would ruin the game, but I feel like was a different way to achieve the layout they were looking for here. Also, it looks pretty cheap. The second beef I have with the components is the card size! The main deck is comprised of tiny, tiny, tiny cards that need to be shuffled occasionally and they are so small that it becomes a challenge. I’d have liked to see normal sized cards, definitely.
There is no solo-play option for this game.
The quickness of getting a game of Spy Tricks going was refreshing. The first game we played only took about 10 minutes of reading, unpacking the goodies and setting up the game. Subsequent games were up and running in a couple minutes. Fast! The shortcomings of Spy Tricks may be important to you and your game purchasing decisions, so in no particular order, here they are. Cheap components. I think that with a cardstock or cardboard play mat, and normal sized playing cards, I would have felt like the game was of a higher quality. Although, I will say that the henchmen, helper and coins pieces were decent! The one-dimensional gameplay. When you start a game of Spy Tricks, you know what you’re going to get. It’s the same experience every single time. To some, that’s great. It’s predictable, easy and constant. To others looking for a more dynamic game, this would be a pretty significant let down. Dynamic is definitely not a word that I’d use for Spy Tricks. The lack of thematic elements. I didn’t feel the “spy” vibe at all when playing, and the game could’ve been called anything at all and still would’ve fit. With all of that said, there is merit for a game like Spy Tricks. It's easy, it travels well, it’s affordable and it doesn’t take 2 hours to play. This would be a good one to take on a beach vacation, where attention spans are at a minimum and you’re playing with Grandma. Grab this one during a sale!