The original card game published in 2014.

A Critical Play of Skyfall

The original Spyfall card game was designed by Alexandr Ushan in 2014. Today, it’s been adapted for a digital format on web and mobile devices. In this critical play, we’ll be analyzing the version on, a popular hosting website for games.

You can read more about the rules here.

The spy is randomly selected.
After a period of guessing, you can all vote on who is the spy.

Target Audience

Based on the basic rules and social format, I believe the target audience is a small group of friends or family at a gathering/party. The original game was designed for 13+, meaning it’s not suited for younger kids that might not yet be interested in social strategy games.

Formal Elements

I love the premise of this game. The most pronounced formal elements are the objective (outwit) and player set up (unilateral competition) which makes for interesting social gameplay. What is very clever about the use of both is that you don’t know who is on your team and who isn’t. So although you have teammates, it feels like you are actually on your own as the game unfolds.

Moments of Success: Types of Fun

Spyfall clearly falls into the category of Fellowship as defined by Marc LeBlanc. The game is a great exploration of cooperation and betrayal, and success in the game depends on your ability to cooperate and read others.

My favorite moments were outsmarting my friends and of course putting the blame on someone else! I also loved it when we were able to uncover the spy, as well. It felt extremely rewarding and fun.

Beyond the “boundaries” of the game, I was excited to reconnect with old friends as well. Playing Spyfall was a really fun way to bond with friends I haven’t seen in a long time.

Moments of Fail: How might we make it better?

  • Many of my friends weren’t familiar with the game, and it was frustrating to find a ruleset and mutually agree. It would have been better if the website specified the rules outright.
  • Over time, you easily master the game as you find patterns in the locations. It would be better to have a larger possibility space. Or alternatively, you could require the Spy guess multiple facts about the “location” (e.g. why are we here?)
  • Coming up with clever questions quickly was very difficult. We might prolong the time to ask questions to make it more interesting.




The focus of CS 247G is an introduction to theory and practice of the design of games. We make games (digital, paper, or otherwise), do rapid iteration, and run user research studies appropriate to game design with the goal of improving and refining our design instincts.

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Tyler T. Su

Tyler T. Su

Design + Engineering @ Stanford | Incoming Product Designer @ Roblox

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