Spy Club: Kid Detectives
Mystery-solving kids is a theme that comes back generation after generation. Whether you prefer the Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, the Baudelaire orphans, or even Scooby Doo, kids solving the crimes adults can’t has a universal appeal.
Jason D. Kingsley and Randy Hoyt designed Spy Club for 2-4 players to take on the role of any of your favorite kid detectives (or yourself)! Developed by Foxtrot Games and published by Renegade Game Studios, Spy Club challenges you to find the aspects involved in a mystery – but you need to find them all before your suspect escapes!
How to Play
On your turn, you will use three actions, refill cards, then move the suspect pawn.
For each of your three actions, choose one of these four options:
Investigate by flipping some or all of the clue cards on your own board. Flip cards one-at-a-time in any order. You may flip each card only once. Cards are double-sided and not the same on both sides, so you may need to do this to reveal other aspects (colors)!
Move the focus token on your board to a different clue card. After shifting focus, gain one idea token for each of your own cards that matches the aspect of the card focused on. Shifting focus is the easiest way to get ideas, since you’ll always get at least one.
To confirm a clue card, move it from your board to the center row. You can either move it to an empty slot or swap it with a card that’s already in the center row. Pay 0-2 idea tokens, depending on how far away the confirmed card was from your focus.
Confirming cards is the key to Spy Club. Once five cards of the same aspect are in the center row, you’ve solved a part of the case! Solve all five aspects (Object, Crime, Location, Suspect, and Motive) to win.
Scout out new clues. Draw a new clue card from the “incoming clues” (the deck and 1-3 additional spaces), paying the cost shown. Then either place it in an empty spot on your board (if there is one), or discard one of your cards to make a space.
In addition to your three actions, there are bonus “teamwork” actions. You can do these for free as many times as you want, but only before you take your final regular action. You can only complete “teamwork” actions with another player whose focus is on a card of the same aspect (color) as your focus!
You can compare notes, trading a card from your board with a card from your teammate’s board. You may trade away your focus card if you want, but then your focus may not match anymore!
Or you can get advice: your teammate(s) give you any number of idea tokens from their stash.
After Your Actions
After you’ve completed three actions, refill empty card spaces: first move cards from the “incoming clues” to your board, then refill the “incoming clues” from the deck.
Then, the suspect moves! Reveal a movement card, which will indicate how far to move the suspect pawn around the player boards. Examine the card the suspect pawn stopped next to; it determines the “bad stuff” that happens this round. The movement card also hints how far the suspect will move next time.
You may need to move the “escape marker” (showing how close the suspect is to getting away), remove idea tokens from the game, discard incoming clues, or flip all players’ cards.
Ending the Case
There are many ways to cut short a game of Spy Club before your team can solve all 5 aspects of the case.
The suspect could escape – when you’re forced to move the escape marker to the last spot on its track. You could run out of resources – either clue cards, movement cards, or ideas. And of course, the campaign mode can introduce more ways to win or lose.
Either way, when you’re done, you’ve solved at least part of a case. A great opportunity to work on storytelling skills with your kids.
Spy Club introduces a new type of campaign game, called “mosaic”. Embark upon a crime-solving spree, playing a series of five games to solve a “master case”. As each case is solved, not only will you have more info for your master case, but you’ll have different tasks, bonuses, and obstacles along the way.
After playing your first game, you’ll unlock new content, based on one of the aspects you solved in the previous case. The campaign deck contains all sorts of surprises. We found additional tasks to complete, ongoing effects that made solving the cases easier or harder, and special powers for players to use sparingly.
Unlike other campaign games, you don’t need the same characters every session, or even the same number of players. Once you’ve finished your five-game campaign, return any special cards to the campaign deck and you’re ready for another campaign – which will probably look completely different from the first!
Strategy in Spy Club was more difficult to learn than we expected. We played several stand-alone (non-campaign) games until we understood how to slow the “bad stuff” to give us time to confirm clues and solve the case.
Then we started in on the campaign, where Spy Club truly shines. Every game, we couldn’t wait to see what we’d unlock next. We especially enjoyed the additional tasks we needed to work on in the midst of solving each case. With two hundred campaign cards, of which you may only see 10-15 in a campaign, there is a ton of replayability here!
Even with the additional obstacles and tasks, we found the campaign options usually made solving the case a bit easier – which didn’t hurt!
Our kids weren’t nearly as enamored with Spy Club as the adults were. There’s a lot of information to attend to: managing focus, predicting suspect movement, remembering both sides of your cards. Confirming clues of the same “aspect” to solve the case is satisfying teamwork, but not intuitive. It doesn’t feel like you’re solving a case – unless you use the game as an opportunity to stretch your storytelling skills.
However, our kids also became more interested with the additional tasks presented by the campaign. One case had us playing a mini memory game with the mosaic tiles every time we completed a certain action. We assigned that task to our memory-game-obsessed son: suddenly he felt like he was contributing to the team in a much more meaningful way.
We love the art in Spy Club (by Bartłomiej Kordowski). It captures the small-town feel that is key to the kid-detective genre, and campaign goals encouraged us to appreciate even the small details on the clue cards.
Spy Club is definitely a hidden gem. It’s best for families with older kids that appreciate a bit of complexity in a cooperative game. Find it on Amazon, or ask for it at your local game store today!
The Family Gamers received a copy of Spy Club from Renegade Game Studios for this review.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
Age Range: 10+
Playtime: 45 minutes