Today’s review is provided by Stef of HappiMess Media!

Review: Spy Alley
Publisher: Spy Alley Partners LLP
Year: 1992
Tagline: The Game of Suspense and Intrigue! 

Cover shows a dark figure in the shadows

how we met

I was on the hunt for some two-person games, since my fiancé, HB, and I are usually on our own when it comes to games. Unfortunately, the thrift store didn’t have anything old and/or weird enough. But I’d never heard of this game (even though it’s a multiple-award winner!), and I liked the promise of “suspense and intrigue,” and it was for “2 to 6 spies.” Thus, it seemed worth a shot.

how it plays

The bare-bones gist: You—an international spy—need to collect your spy stuff and end up at your embassy before those other pesky spies learn what country you’re from.

The worst part about a new game is learning the rules, but this wasn’t so painful (considering it’s for ages 8 and up). In this roll-and-move game, you scoot around the board and land on squares that let you buy passwords, disguises, code books, and keys. You can do this via the following board spaces:

  • Those specifically labeled Disguises, Keys, Code Books, and Passwords
  • Free Gift, where you pick any item for free
  • Black Market, where you buy any one item of your choosing
  • Confiscate Materials, where you buy any item of your choice from a fellow player

However, you don’t want to get just your country’s spy gear, because that would give away your identity. All spies need to buy items from all the countries in an attempt to throw everyone else off their trail until it’s too late.

All the components laid out

When you’ve got all your stuff, you’ve got to make your way to Spy Alley—a path cutting through the center of the board—and land on your country’s embassy before someone guesses who you are. Someone can make a guess about a spy’s identity at the start of his or her turn. If the guesser is correct, the player who is guessed is out of the game, and the guesser gets all that player’s money and items. If the guesser is incorrect, the guesser is out of the game and the guessed player gets all the stuff. You can also guess all players’ identities—without penalty to yourself—if you land on the Spy Eliminator space.

In short: It’s part Clue, part Monopoly Jr., part Mall Madness (with the buying stuff and putting pegs in a board).

how it went

We happened to play this on the rare occasion when we had a third player! HB, PC, and I poured ourselves some spiced rum over ice and got down to biz. I was the Russian spy, so when I saw PC buying the Russian key right off the bat, I thought, “LIAR!!!!” 

A close up of the Russian SPY ID card

PC (the American spy, who was predictably overweight) landed on the Spy Eliminator space and guessed HB and I were French. He was right regarding HB, but when he took HB’s items he forgot to keep the money. This is an example of just one of many hazards of drinking while playing. This was also good news for me, because I kept getting crappy rolls that forced me through Spy Alley, which is primarily comprised of embassies and too few options to get items. 

We spoke in horrific accents (which the game itself actively encourages you to do), often mixing them within the same sentence. It was surely my reliance on my dreadful Italian accent that led PC to guess that I was from Italy, but NO! So I won, and that was nice. 

play or pass

Play, if you’re in the mood for something silly and relatively effortless (and you need an excuse to bust out a bad accent). 

The box next to sleeping hound dog Max