Review: Super Spy
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Year: 1971
Tagline: The Electric Alarm Game

Super Spy cover showing two spies

how we met

I picked up Super Spy just last month at the Chicago Toy Show. It was near the end of the day. The game had a post-it indicating that the seller was unsure if it was complete or whether it even worked – kind of a key factor in an electronic game. It looked in good shape, and Bill has a talent for bringing broken electronic games back to life, so I took the deal and bought it for about the price of finding it at thrift.

how it plays

Super Spy is a roll and move game that supports 2-4 players. Players are spies with the objective of retrieving secret documents and then exiting the building.

Picture of female spy pawn looking sultry

And it doesn’t hurt if you can look good doing so

For setup, you are encouraged to gently shake the game board while it is flat to reset the magic. Then each player receives an ASSIGNMENT card indicating which documents they need. Players roll the die and move the indicated number of spaces on their turn, with the goal of safely reaching the vault spaces in each of the four rooms and finding their required document. You can land on a vault space without exact count, which is nice. Landing on the vault space allows you to take the document you need from that room.

NOTE the rules emphasize this important point: you should not slide your pawn from space to space but instead pick it up and land on each space in turn.

Each pawn has a magnetic bottom, and certain spaces on the board will alarm when landed on. If this happens to you, draw from the ALARM deck and do as it indicates, which is generally return one of your documents (if you have any) to where you found it and move your pawn to a specific room on the space indicated by an X. It behooves all players to try and remember which spaces on the board are alarmed.

Example alarm cards indicating your pawn should move to a different space

Example alarm cards

The game is meant to be different each play with alarms shifting location, and the aforementioned gentle shaking is meant to reset where alarms are based.

The exit must be hit by exact count. The first player to safely exit the building through the vault room with all of their documents wins!

Overhead shot of the game board

The game board showing the entrance in the lower right area and exit in the upper right area

how it went

Super Spy closely resembled what it would probably be like if my game group attempted to covertly obtain secret documents and exit a building undetected. It was a shitshow.

Example assignments showing which documents are needed

There are four assignments for up to four players

To begin with, all pawns enter the game board from the same entrance area, with only three choices for your first space. If you have a bunch of noob spies like we are, they may roll a lot of 1’s and 2’s right out of the gate. So we were shoulder to shoulder in the entrance room for no less than three turns.

And oh the alarm. Let me see if I can describe the alarm sound. The game takes D batteries and uses every ounce of that power to screech at you. The alarm sounds almost like an old school bell meets a prank palm buzzer, or perhaps like an old telephone from the 60s or 70s. Where there was silence, there is now a loud, obnoxious alarm. This unpleasantness probably resembles an actual alarm fairly well and is a nice touch.

The alarm also adds tension to Super Spy that would not otherwise be there. You definitely want to avoid the alarmed spaces for the sake of your ears and any dogs in the room, to say nothing of your game.

The alarm teased us by defying predictability. In certain points of the game, it seemed to go off pretty haphazard. One time, and this is a true story, it went off just when John rolled the die. He was like, “I’m not sure what to do. I didn’t move.” This would probably only happen to John though, so take it with a grain of salt.

A hand moving their pawn

A dark shot of our play

Sometimes a spy whose turn it was would set off the alarm, or so you would assume since they were moving, and the alarm would only stop if you lifted someone who was safely resting on a space from their previous turn. Or a couple times it would only stop if we lifted the ALARM deck (not magnetic, almost weightless) off of the area above the batteries. So those are problems.

After all of this alarm-sounding, the game was quiet for a long time and we wondered if the batteries died or it broke. But after a period it awoke and it screeched and we lost documents and play continued normally.

Example documents for radio room, micro-film room, etc

The documents are categorized by room, as you see on the left

We were impressed that after all these years the game still worked and alarmed at us. But, in very fundamental ways, it didn’t work at all.

We all gained documents and lost documents throughout play. We all wondered if the game would ever end. Eventually we all had our documents and were racing for the finish – which must be hit by exact roll but leaves a lot of freedom for movement at the same time. It looked like Keri had it, but the last spot before the end was alarmed and she was shuffled off to a different room. Bill won on his next turn and we packed up the game.

For the first time ever John asked me, “Can we never play this game again?”

play or pass

Pass! I had a good time, but even I don’t want to play this again. The game was a nice idea and has a gimmick factor, but it is fundamentally flawed. If you are into novelty games and loud noises then this might be just the game for you.

It is worth noting that Super Spy comes with an extraordinary number of blank cards. We know, because they confused us at first. Perhaps you can create something glorious with those cards. I will never know.

Picture showing two roughly equal size decks, one being blank

One of these decks contains all cards needed for play. The other deck is completely blank on the other side