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Spy Alley (game) Review by Charlotte GochnauerSpy Alley Partners
Our family loves playing games. Not just mindless, repetitive games, but games that make you think, and that stretch your brain. Spy Alley does all of this and is lots of fun to play.
In this game, each player is dealt a card facedown that tells them what country they are a spy for, and then money to begin the game. They will then try to collect all four of the items from that country: a password, a disguise, the country’s code book, and a key. This is done by rolling a die and moving your marker around the board. These four items are purchased by money you begin with or earn as you circle the board. (Each time around the board earns you $15.) Because your identity is a secret, it should be guarded through the whole game. The tricky thing though, is that each time you purchase something, you must show what you purchased on a scorecard to all the players. So a big part of the game is buying unnecessary items from other countries to confuse the other players. Players are allowed to guess other players identity, but if you guess incorrectly you are out of the game. Also, if your identity is guessed you also leave the game. The game is won when either someone lands on their country space and has collected all of the items from their country, or they are the only one left in the game.
Meant for ages 8 to adult, and played by “2 to 6 spies”, Spy Alley is well made. The game comes with six colored markers and one die, for moving around. There are spaces on the board for each country, plus places to buy all four items. There are also spaces for collecting money and also spots where you need to pay a fee. If you happen to land on “Border Crossing” you will need to pay $5.
There are also numerous places where the space asks you to draw from two card piles – a Move Card or a Free Gift. The Move Cards can be saved and used in place of rolling the die. The Free Gift cards instruct you to take an item from a specific country. This item is free which is great, but then you do have to take what is on the card, which might be a repeat of what you already have. There are also Wild Cards in the Free Gifts that can count for any item.
The scorecards are heavy-duty cardboard, and have holes for black pegs; this is how you indicate which items you have purchased. A little bag of at least 75 of these little pegs were included in the game. There is also enough paper money to play the game; in increments of $1, $5, and $10. There are also detailed directions, plus a bonus pamphlet which has 9 tips and strategies to help improve your game.
The very week we got this game, I sat down to play it with our three girls. We did have to play it a couple of times before we got a good feel for the game. Right away we realized that observing other players is just as important as the items you are collecting. The youngest of my girls, who is eleven, struggled a bit in the beginning. She would smile to herself when getting an item from her country, and inevitably give herself away. She learned very quickly what poker face means, and was very careful when we played next, to not let her emotions show.
We played as a family a few times. Having my husband play added another dimension. He was quite sneaky and would definitely lead the other players on to thinking he was from a certain country. The game does not take long to play at all; we usually got through one game in about 40-45 minutes.
There are some fun twists to this game. You can land on Spy Eliminator and take a free guess at all of the players. There is also a space where, if you land on, you can confiscate one item from another player. This is a good way keep your opponents from getting all four of their items.
So this definitely passed my game standard! We enjoyed playing it and found that it made us really aware of each other’s reactions during the game. This is not a game that you can tune out of when your marker is not in play. That is the time when you need to be paying attention and watching others around you. The one thing my kids did bring up was that they wished that the money rate was higher. The most expensive item is the country key at $30. My kids, being older, did wish that the prices were more in line with what they could be. But I definitely think that making the items very inexpensive is appealing to the younger players and might make it easier for whole families to play. The other thing I appreciated is that there are definite losers with one winner. In fact, you can actually be eliminated from the game if your identity is guessed. I believe in having winners and losers in games and am glad when games make this clear. I do believe that this teaches my kids sportsmanship and how to be gracious winners and humble losers. Do check out Spy Alley and consider adding it to your game closet!
-Product review by Charlotte Gochnauer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2016