Skip to main content

Board Game Review: Spy Club

This year at GenCon, my husband Chris was in charge of scouting out potentially excellent games to play in the demo hall. He signed us up for a session of Spy Club and explained it to me like this: “Remember how awesome Encyclopedia Brown books were when we were kids?" This game is like that and you get to be the kid detective!” . It sounded intriguing so one afternoon we found ourselves sitting at a table in the demo hall with the designer of Spy Club, Randy Hoyt. He ran through the game rules with us and then we played a few games. We had signed up to play a full campaign (five individual games, chained together, unraveling a bit of storyline with each play) but I actually stopped the play halfway through because I was so enamored with the game that I wanted to avoid any potential spoilers and save the experience to be savored with our kids (daughter 13, and twin sons, 9). I came away from the demo with the game in hand, excited to play once we got home.

Cover ArtSpy Club is a cooperative set collection game that can be played in campaign mode as mentioned above or as a standalone game. Each game aims to solve a case, and each case is composed of 5 aspects – the crime, the motive, the suspect, the location, and the object the crime is centered on. Once all aspects of the case are solved, you’ve won the game, provided you finished before your ideas or clues ran out, the suspect escaped, or time ran out because you couldn’t draw a movement card for the suspect.

The artwork featured in Spy Club is cutesy and playful, featuring vivid colors and well defined illustrations that play on the kid detective theme. It’s definitely geared toward toward the under 16 set but still inviting to adults. And it absolutely evokes the Encyclopedia Brown aesthetic as my husband remarked (which is a good thing for those who appreciate nostalgia).

Components include oversized cards, a card tray, interlocking player boards, cardboard tokens for ideas (the game’s currency) and focus, wooden tokens for the suspect and escape marker, and a central board to track aspects of the crime and suspect movements. There are also a variety of special components designed to be used when playing in campaign mode. All of the components are sturdy enough to hold up to typical use, although I’d suggesting putting the cards in sleeves for frequent play.

Game play moves at a good pace in Spy Club and is not typically subject to analysis paralysis. On each player’s turn, they may choose up to three of the four standard actions (flipping the two-sided clue cards on their player board to see what is on the back, submitting a clue card to the central board, moving focus tokens around on their player board to gain new idea tokens, and drawing a new clue card from one of the incoming clue slots). Some of these actions must be paid for with idea tokens. Players may also complete any number of free “bonus” actions on their turn. The bonus actions all involve interacting with other players to complete tasks like trading cards, sharing idea tokens, etc., and do not cost idea tokens. All actions are simple enough for children to understand but provide enough strategy options to keep adults engaged.

Player board with 3 clues Incoming clue slots and idea tokens 

The various actions permitted in the game should be interplayed skillfully to achieve the team’s strategic goal of confirming crime aspects by repeatedly collecting five cards of one color to the central board. Each time the team has gathered five cards to the board, one aspect of the crime is solved (A symbol on the current suspect card identifies which aspect of the crime has been solved).


After each player’s turn is complete, they refill their player board with clue cards, refill incoming clue slots from the clue deck, reveal the next suspect card, move the escape marker 1 space on the escape tracker (only if there is an escape icon on the revealed card), and then move the suspect token across player boards the number of spaces indicated on the suspect card. When the suspect token completes its movement in this way, whichever clue card it stops at will correspond in color to a penalty as indicated on the central board. This is a very clever pushback mechanism against the players to keep everyone on their toes.The penalty is assessed and then the next player begins their turn.

Win Condition: solve the case before the game ends in any number of defeat paths

Inputs: number of case aspects solved

Strategy Tip: Pay close attention to the potential penalties that may be assessed at the end of your turn based on the minimum-maximum moves the suspect could make. If possible, use actions (such as trading cards with other team members) to prevent penalties that could cost you the game.

When Spy Club is played in campaign mode, the campaign deck is also used, introducing unexpected twists, goals, and new rules that are slowly revealed over the course of five games. Because there are multiple paths through the campaign deck due to variations in which cards are unlocked each game, Spy Club offers a high level of unique replayability in campaign mode.

I really enjoy playing Spy Club, and I especially enjoy playing it with our kids. Cooperative games are always a good choice for families, especially families with elementary school kids who haven’t developed the frustration tolerance to deal with competitive games and the threat of losing to other players. That aspect of the game, combined with its pleasing artwork and easy-to-learn-&-fun-to-play nature, pushes Spy Club toward the top of my list for family games. And the cherry on top? Spy Club has introduced my kids to the concept of board game campaigns.

I cannot recommend Spy Club highly enough. Go and get this games and let it be one of the special ones under the tree this year.


Publisher: Renegade Games (Developed by Foxtrot Games)
Players: 2-4 (We played with 3 and 4)
Actual Playing Time (vs the guideline on the box): About 30 minutes per game
Game type: cooperative, set collection



Jenni’s rating scale:
OUI: I would play this game again; this game is ok. I probably would not buy this game myself but I would play it with those who own it and if someone gave it to me I would keep it.
OUI OUI: I would play this game again; this game is good. I would buy this game.
NON: I would not play this game again. I would return this game or give it away if it was given to me.


Popular posts from this blog

Board Game Review: Hues and Cues

Last week we received Hues and Cues from The Op Games. We recently finished playing through Scooby-Doo Escape from the Haunted Mansion (a fantastic game in The Op Games catalogue designed by Jay Cormier, Sen-Foong Lim, and Kami Mandell that you should absolutely pick up to play with your family) and wanted to give another game from the same publisher a go. I picked Hues and Cues because I’ve been pleasantly surprised by other “test whether our minds think the same way” games such as The Mind   and Wavelength. In Hues and Cues , players gather around a large central board comprised of 480 graduating colors of the rainbow surrounded by an x-y axis and scoring table. White and black (which are technically not colors) are conspicuously absent as are shades (mixtures of color + black; e.g., grey) and tints (mixtures of color + white; e.g., cream).  On each player’s turn, they draw a card with four colors and the x-y axis codes of those colors depicted and they select one. They are in the

Board Game Review: Obsessed with Obsession

I'm completely obsessed with Obsession! I received a review copy of the updated second edition along with all the expansions (Wessex, Useful Man, Upstairs Downstairs) and from the moment I took everything out of the boxes, my excitement was over the top. Actually, that's not even the half of it - I remember I was already quite excited before the game even arrived. I'd wanted to get my hands on a copy as soon as I learned there was a game that brought the lifestyle that we all fell in love with watching Downton Abbey to the gaming table. Back in 2021, I was having a great time at the Dice Tower Summer Retreat and a new friend Bonnie sang the praises of Obsession. She had seen me eyeing the box on the shelf and gave me a summary of the game mechanics as she owned the first edition. She explained that the theme is centered on running an estate in Derbyshire and competing against others to have the best home, reputation, gentry guests, etc. Based on her enthusiasm and descripti

Board Game Review: Anno 1800

Whenever Martin Wallace designs a new game, I am all over it. This is because I absolutely love Brass Birmingham (another MW designed game); in fact Brass Birmingham is my #1 board game of all time. Over the years, his other games I've tried have been pretty good, but not necessarily amazing must-buys. Still, I keep trying each new release of his, searching for that next star performer. That's why I'm excited to report that Anno 1800 is, in fact, a star performer, and an amazing must-buy board game. Anno 1800 was adapted by the publisher (Kosmos) from a Ubisoft video game of the same name. In the board game, players take on the role of industrialists, charged with developing their island economies and exploring other islands. Each player begins the game with a personal industry board with trade & exploration ships, a shipyard, and industrial goods tiles printed on the board. A starting collection of workers (wooden cubes) of various types to produce the goods is a