Spy Club (Brandon Kempf)
Spy Club is currently on Kickstarter from desingers Jason Kingsley and Randy Hoyt, it is being published by Randy's Foxtrot Games. Check out the Kickstarter page HERE!!
So, do you remember when you were a kid, and in your neighborhood you and your friends would run around, solving mysteries in the neighborhood? Well, Spy Club is like that, except now we're a bit older, and we get to solve our mysteries at the game table, instead of having to ride that uncomfortable bike with the banana seat, in our way too hilly neighborhoods.
In Spy Club, you and 2-3 more of your friends are trying to solve a mystery through cooperative card play. I am not going to go into the rules here, as there are only 9 days left in the campaign and those rules have been covered really well by our friend over in PunchBoard Media, Eric Yurko, on his What's Eric Playing website. Be sure to check out his written review plus the the tutorials on the Kickstarter page for a complete overview. Oh, Kerensa and I do talk about it on Week 148 of our podcast as well. I'll wait for you all to get back, I'm trusting that you come back.
I am going to just say that of all the family styled cooperative card games I have played over the last 5-7 years, this one feels the most complete and fun. It has a theme that is saturated throughout the game, you can't escape it if you tried, it has challenging game play that is constantly making you adjust your strategies to try to make it work, and most importantly, it encourages you to work together, I don't see a lot of quarterbacking in Spy Club, it can be there, but given that there is that memory aspect to the game it should be quarterback free. Unless of course you are playing with that person who remembers everything, but they'd ruin any co-op game, right?
On your turn, you have those 4 steady actions that you can do, but the trick in the game for us has been managing to use those bonus "Teamwork" actions as best we can, they are free actions that can be taken during your turn, and they may seem like small things when first looking at Spy Club, but they aren't. They can be the actions that will make or break your game and they take some serious planning to pull off effectively, I almost think it's more difficult at two player because of this, just due to the fact that it would require you and your playing partner to try to constantly adjust your focus to keep those bonuses available, and you just can't do that. It would cost you too many actions.
One of the more fun parts of Spy Club for us, has been those stories that we tell after the game. When we know all the who, what, when, where & why. We get to tell that story to each other and see where it goes. It's something I have been wanting to do a lot more with our gaming as a family, be more creative and incorporate more story telling experiences and this is a good jumping in point for that I think. You have all the information, you just have to tie it all together, no pressure as there are no points awarded for your story, so you just have fun with it.
So while the single play setting for Spy Club is great, it really starts to shine in what Foxtrot Games is calling their Mosaic System. This system allows you to play Spy Club in a 5 game "campaign", it's easily saveable and it makes the game get progressively more challenging, while keeping the feel to that of the single play game. It will add new mechanics and it will make you do things differently, all while scoring you over time. After five rounds check your score and see how you did, then reset, and do it all again, and you may get things different this time, it'll never be the exact same from Campaign to Campaign. And at 30-45 minutes per game, you can probably sit down and play a complete campaign with the same group in one evening and not feel too rushed if you have a 2-3 hours.
The prototype art that we have on this version from Bartłomiej Kordowski(who also did Dream House), is a lot of fun and it really evokes the theme throughout the game. It's inclusive and the cast of characters in the art are pretty well represented, which is a breath of fresh air, I love seeing games that are like this from the word go, instead of someone having to push for it. So thank you to Mr. Kordowski, Jason & Randy.
Price point wise, $39 was an easy back for us, even though we have played it a half dozen times so far, including jumping into the campaign, which we still plan on finishing before our Kickstarter copy arrives, which is estimated around July of 2018.
If you are a fan of cooperative games, with a fun, family friendly theme that can challenge you from game to game and then increase the challenges as you go, Spy Club is going to be a gift that keeps on giving. I can't wait to see what Jason and Randy do with the Mosaic System, as it seems ripe for future expansions and more fun storytelling.