This war is getting old and boring. Everyone feels that way. Everything is starting to wind down, but there still needs to be a winner. The best way to get this all over with is to play a quick game of capture the flag and use a double agent that both sides have some influence over to determine the outcome. Sure, we will still line the armies up, but it will mostly be for spectacle. The real objective is to gain influence and control over the double agent and have him sneak behind enemy lines to capture their flag and finally put an end to all this fighting.
Spies and Lies: A Stratego Story is a deduction-based game for two players.
Spies and Lies is all about trying to figure out what cards the other player has deployed and then maximizing your card’s abilities to move the double agent closer to your opponent’s base. This is all done over the course of three rounds.
Each round consists of three phases. The first is the Deploy phase, which has both players laying out their troops, face down, in the four positions in front of them. Each troop card has a unique number from 1-10. The troops have to be laid out in numerical order (exception is #4, it can go in any spot regardless of order). Once all four positions are filled the next phase begins.
This phase is the Intel phase. An Intel card is flipped and will show four numbers. If a player placed a card in one of the deployment positions that match a number on the Intel card, they have to place a mark on the position of that card.
The final phase is the Mission phase. Now players must guess which cards the other player has laid out. Starting at deployment position 1, players guess the card number and their opponent flips over that card revealing it. If the guessing player is correct, they score points and that card is turned sideways and is unable to use its special ability. If the guessing player is incorrect, then their opponent scores points and/or performs that card’s special action.
During this time, the players are adding intrigue points and taking special actions to move the double agent. Play continues until one player has moved the double agent onto another player’s flag or after the end of round three, the player who has moved the double agent into the other player’s territory wins the game.
Spies and Lies was easy to learn and teach. The setup was quick and so was the overall game. I liked the deduction aspect of the game. There are ways to help you narrow down choices which makes guessing feel less like guessing. I have never played a two-player deduction game. Usually, in my experience, deduction games involve larger groups. It was cool to see it in a two-player format.
I always try really hard to wear my best poker face during deduction games and you really have to have a good one when there is no one else for the other player to look at. It made the game intense and it made me sweat. I can see some people being great at Spies and Lies and others not doing so well because of this aspect of the game. This might be what makes people either enjoy or dislike the game too.
The build is just fine. Nothing to complain about but nothing outstanding. One component I wish was different was a card that is flipped to determine if red or blue is the first player. It should have been a cardboard token. I don’t think cards flip well. But this is a very minor issue. The box, board and tokens are pretty standard cardboard and the cards are nice cardstock. The Stratego looking pieces are plastic.
The artwork is well done. Each soldier is unique and that makes it fun. The game board looks nice. When it is all laid out there is great uniformity and everything feels like it fits in its place. The soldiers are cartoon inspired instead of a more realistic take on soldiers. This was great to see since this game ends up being a game of capture the flag and not a real war simulation.
The thing I enjoyed most about Spies and Lies was the mental process of trying to figure out what my opponent had laid down and then trying to be sneaky enough with my deployments to get some great combos from my troops’ special abilities. There are some great combos if you can pull them off. That is the challenge.
I also really liked having a deduction option in a two-player format. It was intense. I was never able to make eye contact during the Mission phase because I didn’t want to give anything away.
The recommended age for Spies and Lies is 12+. Because of the mental aspects of this game, I feel like that is a solid recommendation. It might be great brain work for younger players, but I can also see it becoming frustrating. I explained it to my 8-year-old as I was setting up and he thought it sounded great but I could see he was interested in the newness of the game. While I was explaining how Deployment worked, I could see he was interested in lots of other things besides my explanation.
The game is not heavy at all. It can be enjoyed by those who are new to board games and also by experienced players. The rules are straightforward and easy to teach.
If you have read my other reviews, then you know I am always on the hunt for great two player games. Spies and Lies kind of fits that bill. It is a really fun two-player game; the problem is that it does require some heavy thinking and deducing. For Ally and I, the time we get to play two-player games is after the kids are in bed and we are winding down for a long day of work and family life. This is not always the best time to start something that requires intense mental abilities. Maybe it is not that bad, but we are just worn out for the day. But each time we have played Spies and Lies we are like, “Wow, I really had to make my brain work on that one.” Sometimes a less brain heavy game is the preferred option for winding down time.
Even with that thought, I think Spies and Lies should be added to your shelf if you are a two-player fanatic. It is a quick game that has some nice player interaction. Maybe the secret is when to play it. Maybe late-night winding down sessions are not the best option.