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Shifty Eyed Spies

Can you be a shifty eyed spy and complete missions with something as simple as a wink?

Shifty Eyed Spies is all about sending secret signals to fellow players while keeping an eye on everyone else to make sure they’re not doing exactly the same thing!

Gameplay

There are four location standees, which are placed as far from each other as possible around the table. Each player then chooses a spy tile and the remaining spy tiles are placed back in the box. All deliver cards that do not match a spy tile currently in the game are also placed back in the box. The remaining deliver cards and the receive cards are put face down in the middle of the table, and a player is given the turn tracker token.

During the first round, when the turn tracker reaches you, you draw one deliver card and one receive card. The receive card shows a location, and the deliver card shows a spy. If you ever draw a receive card with your own spy tile shown on it, you discard it and draw a new one. You then pass the turn tracker to the next player so that she can draw her cards.

As soon as you have your cards you can begin trying to set up your mission. Your goal is to wink at the player who owns the spy that is shown on the deliver card in your hand, but not to be observed by anyone else. If your wink is seen by the spy in question, that spy must then discreetly shift their eyes towards the location standee that matches the location on their receive card, again without being observed by any other players.

When the turn tracker token reaches you after the first round, if you were not able to successfully make contact with the spy on your deliver card or learn the location on their receive card, you announce that you are laying low, and may discard one or both of your cards and refill your hand, and finally pass the turn tracker token to the next player. However, if you did successfully make contact with your fellow spy, you reveal your deliver card and announce the location on the other spy’s receive card. If you got the wrong location, the spy says so, no points are scored, and you draw a new deliver card. If you got it right, the receive card is revealed, and both players take one of the cards (and refill their hands). Each card is worth one point.

Each player starts the game with three intercept tokens. If you ever think you see players signal to each other, you may spend an intercept token and announce what you think you saw. You may guess either a receive or deliver card, or both. The cards you guess are revealed and you score the ones you were right about and the players with the cards score the ones you were incorrect about.

Once you have five points you are eligible to win the game. If you successfully complete a mission with another player who has five points, you both win the game.

Shifty Eyed Spies Components

Review

Shifty Eyed Spies takes the basic wink mechanic of several classic party games and refines it, creating something slicker, neater, and more satisfying. The fact that shifting your eyes towards locations is also mixed in with the winking, provides more things for players to watch out for, which increases both the challenge and the enjoyment.

You want to set up your missions quickly, since you want to be ready to go before the turn tracker reaches you, but that haste as well as the action of resolving your turn, also gives other players openings to wink and give away locations while you’re not looking.

The game also moves at a good pace. The limited number of interceptor tokens, as well as players scoring if you guess wrong when intercepting, means that you must be careful when choosing to intercept — and when you do, progress is always made whether you're right or wrong.

As with any game where visual contact with all players is important, player placement around the table can be tricky to get right. It’s ideal to play at a round table, but you can manage at a square or rectangular table if you have to. It just might be more difficult to keep an eye on the players at your sides.

Shifty Eyed Spies is one of those games in which there’s going to be a lot of laughter and giggles as you play: just what you want from a party game.

Pros: Good pace, leads to a lot of laughing, nice use of wink mechanics

Cons: Table placement can be tricky

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.