Spynet, by designer Richard Garfield, is a card game for two to four players who take on the roles of spymasters. The game includes recruiting agents from different branches of espionage and completing secret missions. The battle rages to see who will be the master spy.
To begin, the cards are shuffled to form a draw deck. Four different colored tokens are placed on the table in front of each player representing four different spy branches that cards can be played to. They come in four colors: red, green, yellow and blue.
Each player begins with a single card. Most of the 84 cards in SpyNet belong to one of the four colored branches of espionage and are either agent or mission cards. To earn points in the game, each player will need to play mission cards on the table. Mission cards can only be played in the same color area. For example, a red mission card can only go in a red area.
Another restriction for mission cards is that they can only be played in a colored area that a player dominates. To dominate an area, a player must first play agents to that area. Each agent has a number value and the player with the highest total score of agents in that colored area can play mission cards there.
Gameplay is simple. On a player's turn, he or she either recruits or deploys spies. To recruit, a player looks at up to four piles of cards and either takes them or passes. A player only gets one look at any given pile, so there is no going back to a previous pile. This is how a player gets more cards to play.
The deploy action is done in four steps. First, one agent card can be played to a colored area to create dominance. Second, a player can add a funding card to an agent, making the agent more powerful. Third, a player can play a mission card to each colored branch he or she is dominating and fourth, a player may pass one card to a teammate.
A variety of cards such as special agents, mercenary agents and text cards can affect the game and make it more unpredictable and interesting. These are included in the card deck and come up periodically.
There are also situation cards that can change the rules of the entire game, but those are recommended for experienced players. Things can get crazy when these are added.
The game ends when the last card of the draw deck is drawn. At that point, all of the mission cards played on the table are added together. The team with the most points wins.
SpyNet is a clever partnership game with simple mechanics and exciting gameplay. Although there are instructions for two or three players, to get the most out of SpyNet players will want to play together with four, creating two teams of two.
Overall, the game is fun and entertaining. One can tell that it was designed by a veteran gamer. Is it groundbreaking? No. But there is enough excitement and variety to make this worth a look. Find out more at the Z-Man Games website.