Thrift Treasure: SpyNet Card Game

Even if it had been more than a couple bucks for this copy of SpyNet, we would have jumped on it. The designer is well-known throughout the hobby for Magic: The Gathering, Keyforge and Hive Mind. Just by being known as the inventor of the largest CCG ever, MtG, would have been enough for us to take a second look. This one didn’t disappoint.

In fact, the game play of SpyNet reminded us of last week’s overview for Critters at War. Also an inexpensive card game, SpyNet themes itself with four different spy agencies recruiting agents to complete vital missions. Ultimately, you can narrow down the theme to numbers and colors, but it’s more fun to immerse yourself in the undercover intelligence world.

SpyNet - contents of box

Inside the SpyNet box are eighty-four cards of four total types and sixteen cardboard branch tokens in four colors. While advertised for 2-4 players, it is best as four (and I’d recommend only four). Players play in teams of two, sitting across from each other. Separate the Situation cards out of the deck for your first few games. They can be added later once you are familiar with the game play.

SpyNet - Setup and ready to play

Shuffle the rest of the cards together and deal out three, face-down, in a row next to the deck. Everyone receives one of each color Branch token and organizes them in a line in front of them. The player to the right of the starting player draws cards from the deck equal to the number of players. They choose one and pass the rest to the right. Each person selects only one until the final card is given to the starting player.

SpyNet - draw area with multiple cards in each pile

A game of SpyNet plays over a series of turns, starting with the first player, and continuing clockwise. On a turn a player takes one action out of a possible two. Your first option is to Recruit. Beginning with the pile of cards furthest away from the draw deck, look at them and decide if you want to collect them to your hand. If you don’t want those cards, return them face-down to the table and look at the next pile in order. You may not retrace your steps – once you pass on a pile of cards, you must keep going. Continue doing this until you either find a pile you’d like to collect or draw one from the deck and put it in your hand. Then add one card from the deck, face-down, to each pile you looked at and either passed on or collected.

SpyNet - hand of cards

If not Recruiting, your other option is to Deploy. This is how you play cards from your hand. You can do as many of these actions one time, in any order. Play an agent card to its matching branch, optionally with one or more Funding cards, which increases the value of the agent. Play a mission card face-down to a branch in which you have a higher sum than either opponent. Lastly, pass one card from your hand to your teammate, also face-down.

SpyNet - Mission card being played to dominating area

Special Agent cards also have unique effects which resolve immediately. Missions are the cards which provide points needed to win the game (stars). When the last card is taken from the deck, each player, including the current player, will take one final turn. During this final turn you must deploy. Reveal all Mission cards in play and add up the points owned by you and your teammate, considering any conditions on Mission cards. The team with the most points wins SpyNet!

SpyNet - personal tableau halfway through the game

You can still find new copies of SpyNet on Amazon for around $20 from several third-party sellers. If you happen to find a complete copy at thrift or a local game store’s used game sale, it’s a bargain at under $5.

Do you play Magic: The Gathering? Did you know Richard Garfield invented it?

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