Game Buzz: Imperial Spies

I’ll be doing a couple of previews today that really have nothing to do with each other – not in art, not in size, not in theme, not in style of play, not even in availability.  But they’re two games I wanted to talk about, and what better time than now?

image by BGG user Imploded
image by BGG user Imploded

We’ll start with the smaller of the two – Spyfall, designed by Alexandr Ushan and published by Hobby World, a company out of Russia.  This is a social deduction party game where one player is a spy, and all others have to try to find him.

The game comes with 208 cards – that’s 26 decks of 8 cards each.  Apparently, they also include 26 ziplock bags, so hooray for that.  Each deck represents one location, and has one spy card.  At the start of each round, a location deck is selected at random, and the appropriate number of cards are removed from the bag.  You can’t look at the cards, so I assume that you keep the spy on the bottom of each deck so that is one of the cards passed out.  You set a timer for eight minutes, and it’s time to play.

The dealer begins the game by asking one player a question.  It can be anything, but it should pertain to the location in some way.  You should keep it vague, however, because the spy does not know what the location is.  The player who answered the question will ask the next question, and so on.

The basic strategy is this: the spy does not know the location, and is trying to deduce what it is from the questions the other players ask.  The other players are trying to find the spy without giving him or her any good information about the location.  As mentioned, there are 26 different locations – Airplane, Bank, Beach, Circus Tent, Corporate Party, Crusader Army, Casino, Day Spa, Embassy, Hospital, Hotel, Military Base, Movie Studio, Ocean Liner, Passenger Train, Pirate Ship, Polar Station, Police Station, Restaurant, School, Service Station, Space Station, Submarine, Supermarket, Theater, and University.  Each non-spy card has a role that relates to the given location, and you’re encouraged to role-play.

A round ends in one of three things happens.  First, if the eight minutes runs out, all players must unanimously accuse the spy (the spy doesn’t count in this vote) in order to win.  You can also end a round by accusing a player mid-game.  Again, the other players must unanimously agree with you (the accused doesn’t count).  You can only do this once per round, and if you’re right, the players win.  If not, the game continues.  The spy can also stop the game by revealing and guessing where they are.  If correct, the spy wins.  If not, the other players win the round.

Scoring: if the spy wins, he gets two points.  If the non-spies win, they each get one point, with a bonus point going to a player who stopped the game and accused the right person.  After an agreed-upon number of rounds, the game ends, and the player with the most points wins.

I’ve heard nothing but praise for this game since BGG.con last November.  People seem to love it.  It’s being called a great party social-deduction type game.  I’ve heard comparisons to The Resistance, with most people saying this game is better.  And it does sound fun.  I don’t know how good I’d be at it – the ability to be sufficiently vague eludes me sometimes, particularly in something like Dixit.  But this is one I’d definitely like to try whenever it gets wide release in the US.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin
image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Next is Star Wars: Imperial Assault.  This is a 2-5 player game designed by Justin Kemppainen, Corey Konieczka, and Jonathan Ying that is published by Fantasy Flight Games.  The formula is this: take an extremely popular property (Descent) and mix it with an extremely popular license (Star Wars) to produce what is one of the most anticipated games of the year.  One player controls the Imperial side, while the others combine forces as the Rebellion tries to overthrow the Empire.  You can play out skirmishes, or even fight in a campaign.

Imperial Assault comes with a threat/round dial, 59 map tiles, 4 door tokens with stands, 34 figures, 11 dice, 6 hero sheets, 39 deployment cards, 10 story mission cards, 14 side mission cards, 18 agenda cards, 5 reference cards, 54 hero class cards, 27 Imperial class cards, 36 item cards, 12 supply cards, 18 reward cards, 42 command cards, 12 condition cards, an initiative token, 45 damage tokens, 2 skirmish mission cards, 8 terminal tokens, 8 crate tokens, an entrance token, 35 strain tokens, 20 ID tokens with 60 ID stickers, 20 mission tokens, 15 condition tokens, 12 ally and villain tokens, and 4 activation tokens.  For your first game, it is suggested that you run a tutorial mission as outlined in the rules.  After that, you can start your campaign or even fight a skirmish with two players.

In the beginning, you choose one player to play the Empire, and others will play Rebels.  Each Rebel takes a hero and all associated components (hero sheet, figure, class deck), and removes the weapon from their class deck.  The Imperial player takes deployment cards based on what is needed for the scenario, and figures are placed on the map as indicated.

Missions are played out according to the scenario, each with its own victory condition.  For the tutorial, the Rebels want to defeat all Imperial figures, while the Empire wants to defeat one hero or interact with a terminal.  A mission is played over a series of rounds, with two steps per round – activation and status.

ACTIVATION: In this phase, the Rebels and Empire will alternate activating a figure (or in the Empire’s case, all figures associated with one deployment card).  To activate, you get to do two actions.  You can do any combination of the following:

  • Move: Spend movement points according to your character’s speed.
  • Interact: Search, examine, or otherwise interact with objects on the match.  Crates provide supply cards, doors can be opened, and other special things may exist in the scenarios.
  • Rest: Recover strain your hero has accrues equal to your endurance, or damage if you have points left over.  The Empire can’t do this.
  • Special Action: These are specified on cards you may have.
  • Attack: Choose a hostile figure to target, then roll the dice indicated by your weapon or deployment card.  The defender also can roll to defend.  Subtract blocks from hits to see how badly you damaged them.  If a character’s HP hits zero, they are defeated.

STATUS: After all activations have taken place, players ready all exhausted items.  In the campaign, the threat also increases, the Imperial player can spend threat points to bring additional figures on the map, the round dial advances, and any end of round effects happen.

When one said has met their win objective, the game ends.  In the case of a campaign, you can spend credits or influence to upgrade your side before moving on to the next mission.

Descent is a very fun game, and this looks like they’ve put a lot of work into bringing the system to a whole new universe.  It’s hard to really judge how the game will play in a situation like this since the game will be different from scenario to scenario.  But it looks fairly streamlined, and will probably be a fun game.  Fantasy Flight has been doing very well with the Star Wars license so far, and hopefully this is another big hit for them – I know that with the new movie coming out in December, now is the time to be milking that franchise for everything it’s worth.

So that’s it for today.  Thanks for reading!

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