Updated: Jan 11
WBG Score: 7.5/10
Player Count: 3-8
Published by: Funnyfox
Before I start this review, I should probably preface this with two facts.
I love party games.
I played this a lot over Christmas 2021 when I was in a really good mood.
But, I will try and cast my positive pre-conceptions aside and offer this fair and reasoned comment. Secret Identity is the best game ever!!
OK, that may be a bit far, but I certainly did share some hilarious times with it. Let's get into it.
Secret Identity is a very good party game. There is no doubt about that. Party Games are hard to review objectively as the experience you can have with them varies so much based on the people you play with and the environment you play in. But I always feel a fair way to judge party games is how well they fair within multiple environments, with gamers and non-gamers, over multiple plays when, and this is the key, someone in the group doesn't seem up for it! Can the game bring all the players in, and give everyone a good time?
I played Secret Identity with many different friends and family over the 2021 Christmas break and as is the norm, there was usually at least one person less enthusiastic about playing a game. I brought Secret Identity with me to each house I went to as it has a very simple rule set and feels instantly accessible. On each occasion it was played, I have been able to explain the game within a few minutes and get playing very quickly which is key for this sort of situation. But crucially, everyone always had a good time with this game.
This is the thing I like most about Secret Identity. How quickly it seems everyone starts having fun with this game, every time I play it. There is a co-operative and competitive variant which has only one real rule change, and I like offering the group the opportunity to chose how we play without any added complications. As the game is so simple to learn and play, and offers quick and accessible fun, it always seems to land well, and quickly for all players.
Give each player a coloured board, a set of keys, and their scoring marker. Place the scoring board on the table, then set up the game board with eight different character cards placed around it. If anyone around the table doesn't know any of the characters then simply change them. There are 150 double side cards included so plenty to go around. The game doesn't work unless every player knows every character. Most characters are common enough, I only had a few occasions with younger players when we needed to make a change. John Lennon being one of the characters I had to change. Sad times.
Then place the eight gold Mystery Keys numbered one to eight face down in the middle of the table. These refer to one of the eight character cards. Each player takes one, sneaks a look, then tucks it away secretly into the fold out part of their game board. Each player will then use up to six of their eight "Picto" cards to give clues as to which character their Mystery key refers too. The game officially has four rounds, and you do not get to replace any used "Picto" cards so you are supposed to be sparing with their use. I have house ruled this to allow younger players to have more cards or replace ones that simply don't work for them. But I do tell players that it is easier to guess from seemingly obscure clues than you may think. Firstly as you are guessing from eight known characters. And secondly as you can rule others out from other players own clues.
The player boards have spaces for up to six "Picto" cards. Three spaces are for images that are like your character. And three spaces for cards that are not like your character. This opens up the opportunity for some very amusing and creative clues. Each time I have played, people have always been surprised at how often one-card clues are guessed correctly. One simple black square to represent Darth Vader when he is the only apparent villian A Spiders web when Spiderman is one of the options. It sometimes works out easier than you think.
Once everyone has set their "Picto" cards in place, each player then uses their own set of coloured numbered keys to make a guess for each other players character. Placing their guesses into each other players board. I like this part of the game a lot. Players are giving clues and then guessing each others clues simultaneously. Of course, some players can work faster than others, but there really is not much down time in the game at all. And even if you have guessed everything, you can always have fun watching other players try to do the same.
Can you guess from the clues above which of the above eight characters I was referring too? I have tried to make this one a little more difficult with more "Picto" cards than usual to show you how the game works, but I still hope that most would get this quite quickly.
This is something that is key for a party game. I love Codenames and think it rightly sits high up on its throne as one of the best Party games. But there is a lot of downtime and silence. Players can often take a little too long creating and then guessing the clues. And whilst the clues are being thought of, the other players really are not doing much at all. In Secret Identity, there is minimal downtime, the game moves very quickly. As such, there is a constant release of endorphins for all players as people correctly guess each others clues regularly.
When everyone has made their guess by placing their own coloured keys into each others player boards, players will then flip open their board to reveal what character they were referring to, and what everyone else has guessed for it. It was Bond! He is not a baddy. He does not wear a tie. He is a bow tie kind of guy. He is often in exotic locations and enjoys alcohol. Did you get it? Everyone in my familiar did bar my wife who guessed Marilyn Munroe. Players score a point for each correct guess made on their character, and one point for each correct guess they make on each others characters. Players are encourage to give good clues and make good guesses.
The co-operative version works very similarly. The main change is that only one person is ever giving clues at a time, and all other players are working together, discussing as a group to decide which character to guess. It's harder in that only one of eight characters is ever being given clues for so you cannot eliminate characters like the normal game. But it's made simpler as you have the benefit of a group discussion to learn from. Players take it in turns to give the clues over 10 rounds. Like the competitive version, you can of course house this rule how ever you see fit and play for as long as you are all having fun!
Decrypto is my favorite party game of all time. But it really does need at least four, and those four players need to be a similar age/ability for the game to work well. For me, ideally two couples. It works in other environments, but this is its peak for me. Secret Identity doesn't really have a optimum group or number. It works in a two or eight. I have found it to work equally well with young children or adults. It is certainly one of the most accessible party games I have played and enjoyed. I also find with Decrypto that people seem to start really enjoying it by round three. Secret Identity wraps people in its party fun clutches from the very start! All players are always involved and the fun starts from the very first second.
I would recommend this game to anyone, and I rarely say this. It is so versatile and simple to play, it really does work in every situation. It's quick and fun to play, and you can adapt it to suit whatever game style, length, or difficulty you want. I think Secret Identity is a real gem of a game that deserves it's place very high up on the list of party games.