Board Game Week: Spy Web Retrospective

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Here we are in the center of Board Game Week at Toy-TMA and following up 13 Dead End Drive’s relative obscurity I’m breaking out another game from my childhood that most of you have probably never heard of: Spy Web. What is Spy Web? Oh, that’s a good question, so let’s jump right into it, shall we?

Remember this game? Well you should.

Spy Web is a game I’d best describe as Battleship meets Guess Who? in as much as you try to outsmart your opponent via clever placement of your pieces and determining through simple questions how they’ve placed their pieces. Confused yet? I’ll get into the details, just hold on.

Researching Spy Web was a bit of a tricky task since the first thing that pops up in Google for “Spy Web” is naturally anti-spyware software. Also, don’t do a Google image-search for Spy Web, unless you have your preferences set to filter inappropriate content, because you will get a few pages full of very, VERY adult images. Even Wikipedia, my go-to for research, doesn’t list Spy Web as a thing. Dang, is this game really that obscure?

So the premise of Spy Web pits two factions of spies against each other, one with names based off sea creatures such as “Beluga” and “Manta,” and the other with names based off birds such as “Buzzard” and “Osprey.” Each side has nine spies to place in a 3-by-3 board very similar to the way you place ships in Battleship, i.e. hidden from the other player. The first player to accurately determine the other player’s spy arrangement wins the round.

Also, I love the colors here. Doesn't it look spy-like?

The way this is determined is through asking three questions: “Who is [character name]pointing at/looking at/listening to?” You know this because every character tile is either pointing in some direction, looking in some direction, or listening in some direction, sometimes all three at once.

For example, you could ask “Who is Buzzard pointing at?” and you might get an answer like “Buzzard is pointing at Vulture.” You’d then have to use this knowledge to determine where to start placing your enemy’s character tiles. Oh, and in case you were curious, unlike real spy tactics, lying is totally uncalled for here, otherwise the game doesn’t work.

Snazzy characters. Why didn't Guess Who? have spy gadgets in it?

The concept is fairly simple, I admit, but something about it resonated with me as a kid. I became mildly obsessed with creating the perfect, “uncrackable” combination of spies by looking for formations that resulted in a spy not being looked at, pointed to, or listened to by any other characters, or better yet, making it so that no spies connected to any other spies on the board. It’s set up so you can’t really do this, but it ‘s fun to try.

Adding the spy theme to the game really sold me as a kid. It could easily be a sort of board game version of “telephone” whereas the nine characters are just kids set up on the grid, but that would have been sort of lame. Spies are cool, and unlike zombies, they haven’t overstayed their welcome. I highly recommend giving Spy Web a look, though good luck sifting through the other “Spy Webs” in Google. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Apparently spies really don’t like to be found.

Want more about board games? Check these out:

Apples to Apples, Dust to Dust: An Apples to Apples Retrospective

Game Cards Do Not Actually Talk: A Guess Who? Retrospective

Just Don’t Panic: A Retrospective on Catch Phrase

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About Author

Chris was the former Head Writer/Editor of Toy-TMA. He did a great job overseeing the site and getting new content published regularly. Always more than willing to respond to a comment or two, but pitiless with trolls! He has since moved on from TMA, and we wish him the best.

5 Comments

  1. My son and I used to play this so much, it is such a great game. I don’t know why we haven’t got it anymore, probably lost in one of our moves. Hours of fun great game!

  2. My sister and I still play this occasionally 🙂
    We were never sure whether Stingray was male or female though :S

  3. I just bought the Spanish language edition, “Red de Espionaje,” for only $0.99 at the Grocery Outlet! I printed the English instructions and am ready to play Spy Web!

  4. I absolutely loved this game when I was younger. My step-mom and I would play this for hours. I wish I could find it now.

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