Critical Review - Ace of Spies

In 1984 I was a sprouting youth, with big dreams, nerdy thoughts, and a love of bad movies.  Really bad movies.  I remember this one, with Dabney Coleman, and Henry Thomas (yes, Elliot from ET), called Cloak and Dagger.  I think HBO played it at the top of every other hour because I must have watched it 50 times over.  It was terribly bad, terribly fun and it made me want to grow up and be a spy as my trade of choice!


Obviously that didn't happen or pan out (although I may know the secret location of a specific WOW mini some players have a yearning desire for), alas, my level of spy espionage and thrilling adventures is pretty hum drum and regular.  It's because of that though, that when a truly fun and engaging game comes about on the topic, I get excited, but temper it with the fact that there really haven't been many fun games about being a spy.  Sure, there's a lot of deduction games, but being the spy?  Being the underhanded, dirty trick tactics and backstabbing figure in the shadows?  Not so much... until now!

With that, I'm happy to bring you another Kickstarter game from the Albino Dragon, the Ace of Spies!  The Ace of Spies puts you in the role of a secret agent, trying to traverse three different cities in Europe, find locations, spy gear, and intelligence, and complete missions to become the Ace of Spies!  Of course, nothing in the world of cloak and dagger is as it seems, so there's sure to be others willing to do what's necessary to take you out and achieve their own victory and they'll be lurking around every corner! 


In Ace of Spies, the goal is simple, you are a spy with missions to complete.  You'll travel to London, Paris, and Berlin to collect Intelligence, Locations, Spy Gear, and other Agents, which you'll use to complete those missions.  Each mission when completed provides points based off the cards used to complete it and at the end of the game, the spy with the most mission points is the Ace of Spies!


Sound simple right?  Well, there are these other agents see?  They are also armed with interrupts which will thwart your well laid plans, and they will use their spy actions to steal, sneak, and backstab anyone who gets in their way!

Set collecting is the heart of Ace of Spies.  Each city has a color associated with it and each mission will call for some, or all, of its pieces to come from that city.  Some are simple and require a small amount of cards that can come from any city (gray icons) while some are complex, requiring multiple pieces of espionage to complete, and from the same city... so get comfortable in London if you are going after a 6 piece yellow mission!


While in most set collection games, once you have your set, you gain your points (which you do in Ace of Spies) and that's it, Ace of Spies takes underhandedness to a whole new level!  There are interrupt cards that will cause you to add more items to completed missions to gain points, but more so than not, there will be many that opponent's play on you that force you to lose cards from your completed sets, and of course the point values of those cards!  Interaction is high and backstabbing is plentiful in this world of cloak and dagger!  


To start the game, each city deck is shuffled and each player receives two cards from each city deck.  Also, two cards from each city deck are placed face up in front of them as options for players to select when taking an action for their turn.  Players then are dealt three missions from the mission deck, and they must keep one but can keep up to all three.  Any not chosen are discarded.  Players then begin to take turns, which consist of taking an action, completing missions and discarding.


"Taking an action" comes in the form of any one of the following:

  • Draw any two cards from the city decks (in any combination of face up/down and cities)
  • Draw three cards from the mission deck (keeping a minimum of one)
  • Play an Agent from your hand and use it's "Spy" ability
  • Perform a special action by discarding cards from your hand equal to its cost


Special Actions will force you to discard cards from your hand worth a specific amount of points but can gain you big advantages like drawing cards from the discard pile, searching through decks to find specific cards or forcing an opponent to lose one card from a completed mission.  These are powerful and if well timed can sway the game in your favor!

At the core, the Agents in Ace of Spies make for the most fun! Agents have two abilities.  The top ability you gain and trigger when using them to complete a mission.  The bottom ability is used when choosing to play an Agent from your hand as your action for the turn.  Both are equally devastating when timed correctly and usually mean disaster, or at least a setback, for your opponent(s).


After taking an action, you then can complete missions.  If you have acquired the right set(s) of cards you simply announce the mission you'll be completing, and play it face up along with the sets you are using to complete it.  Finally, when completing it, check the agent used to complete the mission as they trigger their top ability and usually get to perform some underhanded tactic!


You then gain the points for all the cards used, including the mission itself, and move your meeple along the score track. Additionally, you may play interrupt cards, but beware, while these can be played at any time, they can also be played by anyone, even if it's not their turn!  Once any one of the city or mission decks runs out of cards, or a player reaches 75 points, the game is over and the person with the most points is the Ace of Spies!


Ace of Spies is an amazingly interactive game!  There is little to no downtime in this raucous adventure and even when not your turn, you'll be very curious to what your opponent's are doing as you'll have plenty of opportunities to thwart their plans, increase your point total, and get you closer to winning the game!  As you can imagine, the fun is in sabotaging the other players!  If you are not a fan of "Take that" or "I got you!" type games, steer clear of this, as being sneaky and deceitful is what wins you the title of Ace of Spies!


The artwork is once again unique and engaging.  The colorful locations, intelligence and spy-gear pop out and make you feel like you are directly in a spy movie!  Meanwhile the black and white "dossier" style pictures of the agents make you feel like you're holding intel on each one, and their strong abilities to sway the game, whether completing you a mission or acting on behalf of your "organization" will have you seeking them out of every city deck to enjoy the chaos they bring to the gameplay.


Ace of Spies is a wonderfully deceptive game!  It appears to be a light set collecting game that when you delve into it, surprises you and provides a fast paced, enjoyable, and tense time!  It's something you could play multiple times in a night (taking only 30 to 45 minutes to complete a game) or something you could play in between other games, but either way, you won't be disappointed... you may backstabbed and left with no spy gear, but you wont be disappointed.  This is a Crit of a game and one that will make anyone who kickstarted it happy to get!  It's fun, it's deceitful, it's playful, and it's interactive, but above all, it's a unique and fresh take on an interactive and underhanded heck of a good time!


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