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Tactics for the Imperial Spies

Idea for this picture ridiculously ripped from Pete Vasi. 1) Learn your playstyle Even if you’ve never considered it, everyone has their own playstyle. Some players are quieter and tend to let the game develop at the hands of the other players. Some are louder and tend to take the game by its horns. Some are analytical, while others fly by the seat of their pants and let their gut reads rule their decisions. While I will say that the logical player will likely do better long term, there is something to say about using your gut reads. Regardless, the key aspect of this point is to learn your playstyle. The reason for this is that many players will play differently depending on which role they're dealt. If someone is talkative and active in one game, then suddenly quiet and less participatory odds are something is different this game. This is one of the strongest tells that a player will give. The key is to play the same whether you are a spy or a resistance operative. By having two distinct playing styles based on your role you make it easier for everyone to know when you’re a resistance operative, which is good in one sense, but it kills your chances as a spy. In order to learn your playstyle make a conscious effort to watch yourself play as a RO, then imitate that play as a spy. It takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it you will have eliminated one of the strongest tells that a player has as a spy.


2) Take control of your physical tells For those who don’t know the term ‘tell’, it’s a term that means ‘something that a player does that gives clues to the opponent about 'in-game information’. The major example of this is in Poker, when players act differently depending on their hand. This is similar to my first point, but I want to dig a little deeper into physical tells. Even if a player has gained the ability to mimic their playstyle regardless off allegiance, there can still exist physical tells that give that person away. Excessive eye contact, no eye contact, licking their lips, putting their hands over their mouth, playing with their fingers, rocking in their chair, not moving hardly at all, all of these are decent example and there are many more. This comes down to how well you know the people at the table with you. Inherently newer players will do these actions even as Resistance because they’re excited so it may throw your reads. Players get ‘twitchy’ when they’re excited about something or are nervous they are hiding information from the others at the table. Others freeze because they’re so nervous. Again, the key is learning your physical tells. Watch yourself and how you act as a Resistance Operative. The best application of this is to eliminate all physical tells from your play as both Resistance Operative and Spy. If you can’t control yourself as a spy and your physical tells are practically forced from your body, then do the same as a Resistance Operative in order to mask your play as a Spy. In that case its best to play with a ‘blended’ style of play. It may hurt your Res Op play a bit, because any Spy worth his salt is going to use those ‘fake’ tells against you, but the same tells won’t hurt you when you are the Spy. Some simple (and highly overlooked) tells to consider when you’re a Spy: - Don’t smile more than usual (this is a big one) - Don’t make excessive eye contact with your partner(s) - Don’t NOT look at your partner(s) - Don’t NOT communicate with your partner(s) (another big one) - When someone asks you a question about something have an answer read ahead of time (ex. What do you think about sending x person, and y person on the mission?) - Approach everything from the viewpoint of a Resistance Operative


The last two points are worth discussing further. Remember we’re talking about physical tells here, and that involves your reaction to other players questions, remarks, etc. One way spies get caught is when they are the Leader and are considering mission members. Some think about the issuing of plans for a very long time without much discussion. This can run both ways honestly, but I see it happen far more when the leader is a spy (usually a newer player). Someone will suggest a set of plans that does not include a spy which is usually the kiss of death. The Spy leader does not want to issue those plans, of course, but he didn’t have an effective counter to that suggestion so he just sits there like a deer in headlights. He doesn’t know how to respond, and he’s trying to think of a way out of it, but the longer he sits there not responding or going with the suggestion the worse it looks. The key in this situation is to just go with it (unless it will cost you the game), or to immediately suggest another set of plans. You can buy yourself some time while you think it out by asking the player who suggested the plans why they suggested it or by asking other players about what they think of the suggestion. This situation is variable and heavily dependent on the in-game situation so its difficult to address all potential scenarios with an umbrella tactic. If I had to suggest one thing its this – have something ready for all situations in which you are the leader, even if you’re just buying time for yourself. I will address this more in the Mission Selection section of this article.


3) Approach everything from the standpoint of a Resistance Operative This is easier said than done. You need to convince yourself, in your own mind, that you are a Resistance Operative. If you deviate from this, if only for a moment in play, you can cost yourself the game. Here is a very simplified example: You are a spy. You were sent on a two person mission with another player who is a Resistance Operative. The mission failed because you threw a Sabotage card. The other player knows without a doubt that you are a spy. Here’s the important part: You know without a doubt that the other guy is the spy. For the remainder of this game you need to ‘know’ he is a spy. Sometimes players slip and say stuff like ‘I think x is a spy’. If you went on a mission with x, and it failed, then x HAS to be a spy. You don’t need to be belligerent about it, but remember to vote no on missions that the player is in, and to oppose missions that include player x. This type of scenario is equally applicable to larger mission setups. If you can convince the three other people that went with you that one of them is the spy (when it was really you) you’ll foster discord between them, and be able to sit back and watch actual resistance operatives go for each others throats. That’s a beautiful thing.


4) Don’t be too confident The only players that start the game with information are the spies. Resistance players are mostly in the dark at many points throughout the game so, as a Spy, don’t come across too confident. If someone is overly confident chances are they have info the rest of the players don’t have. For you, this means approaching all scenarios from multiple angles, including talking through scenarios where you are the spy. This is another skill that takes practice, and can be improved with experience. Be open to the other players suggestions, don’t dismiss anyone’s thoughts unless you are at odds with that person (see my above point – player x), and even then let them talk about it because they may sink themselves. Confidence is a good thing, but in the Resistance it can be a huge tell.


5) Select one other player you can go up against and win. This largely applies in smaller games (5-6 players). In five player games especially, games can come down to the group trying to decide between two players. The game will hinge on a 50/50 mission selection, and you need to be able to win that discussion. If you are one of those two players you want to be paired with someone who is equally capable of being the Spy. The key to this point is, if see this scenario coming, as the Leader, select someone early in the game, and try to go on a two person mission with that player (you can also persuade the current Leader to send you and person x). Being smart about your selection is paramount. Don’t select the 12 year old kid who is playing for the first time. That’s not getting you anything except a loss. If you consider yourself a veteran of the game, pick another veteran that players know is capable of playing a good Spy. A really crafty Spy team can even get two spies to go on the two person mission, and only have one Spy throw Sabotage potentially forcing players to choose between the two Spies. That’s a pretty risky and advanced play, but it’s awesome when it happens. If your group is using Plot cards, you can even use the 50/50 scenario to frame another player. I’ll get into this more in the Plot Card section.


6) Mission Selection Mission selection is one of the key components of the game and is a much overlooked part of the game when you’re a spy. Most spy players will just ride along without doing much in regards to mission selection. This is a mistake. There are several key tactics to consider when missions are being selected. First, try to force the Resistance players into impossible scenarios. If you can get them to use their smaller missions early it will force them into a position where they need to choose a larger group, therefore it increases the chance that they’ll include a spy in the plans. As the leader make it a point to suggest the two person missions, even if you end up sending two Resistance Operatives. If the smaller missions fail early and fast, the Resistance will have its back to the wall and will have hardly any information to work with. They will then be forced to make a mission selection that needs to be near, if not completely, perfect in order to win. Second, try to reduce the amount of information that the Resistance gains from each mission. By overlapping mission participants, and spreading spies into different groups you give the resistance information, but not much. A great example would be in five and six player games, having two three-person missions fail back to back. If only one sabotage was thrown each time, it will be very difficult for the resistance to ferit out the spies. In that instance they will likely have to go with two two-person missions back to back, and if they choose incorrectly the game is over. Even if they succeed, and its suddenly 2-2, they still need to select one person out of three in order to succeed on the last mission and win the game. Third, when considering Plot cards, you need to pay attention to the card “Keeping a close eye on you and In the Spotlight”. These cards can break the spies in smaller games. It can also be used to the spies advantage when selecting mission teams (see Plot Cards below).


7) Divide the players/Selling your partner out This is possibly the strongest, and deadliest, tactic for the spies to take. If successful it practically always ends in a Spy victory. During the course of the game players will grow to trust others according to voting results, in-game actions, lack of tells, etc. If the spies use this ‘trust’ in conjunction with the tactic of playing against each other they can divide the entire group in two. If one half of the group trusts Spy A, and the other half trust Spy B the game is essentially over. The spies just need to foster this trust, and lack of it, in order to pull off the win. The spies can create this divide by ‘suspecting’ each other, never giving each other plot cards, using plot cards against one another (taking Leadership from another spy using the Strong Leader card, etc.), and generally arguing with each other. This is a delicate plan, and cannot be over sold, otherwise it will appear false. A great way to begin this tactic is to go on a three-person mission with another spy. If they throw sabotage, and you throw support, everyone will know there is at least one spy on the team. The delicate part is how both spies play the only Resistance Operative in the mix. They each need to distrust the other two mission members, but only to the point where they can get the lone Operative to trust one spy, and distrust the other. This is the beginning of the end for the Resistance….and it’s beautiful to watch. For the remainder of the game, just continue to foster that separation and the spies will walk away with the win. The second and much faster way to do this is to use the “Keeping a close eye on you” plot card. When you are given the card, use it on your fellow spy’s mission card. If its red, say its red and sell him out hardcore. This puts you at odds, and if you can get players to take sides….bingo. Game Over. If you look at his card and say its Support, then the game gets very interesting. More on this in the Plot Card section.


8) Watch your voting Voting is one of the key ways that spies are found by the Resistance. Smart spies need to be aware of their voting, and vote with purpose. If you only take one thing from this article, please….take the following: In ANY scenario where the spies have two bases and are about to win, voting YES for a mission THAT DOES NOT INCLUDE YOU implicates you as a Spy. Think about it. If the Resistance needs to be perfect in their mission selection (that means the mission has to contain only Resistance Operatives), then voting Yes for a mission plan that you are not involved in means that you are ok with the mission team, which you wouldn’t be if you were a Resistance Operative. This is so important that if you don’t understand if, please read it until you do. Obviously if the resistance has its back to the wall, and you are a spy, you’re going to want to try and get a spy into the mission in order to win. But remember, you have time on your side. If the Resistance fails five vote proposals in a row the spies win. So voting no in the endgame is not a bad thing, especially if spies keep ending up in the mission plans. Some things to consider when voting as a spy is to not always vote Yes for plans that your fellow spies propose, or not always voting yes if the proposal includes a spy. You are not necessarily trying to deceive the resistance with your voting, but just trying to confuse the situation by reducing the info they gain. Always have a reason for your vote (even if it’s a crap reason), and always be ready to support why you voted the way you did.


9) If caught, publicly lead the other spies while misdirecting everyone else Sometimes you get caught. The resistance finds you using a plot card or you slip up, it doesn’t matter, the game isn’t over for you. You know who the other spies are and can assist them in winning the game. Your first responsibility is to spread disinformation using your vote record. This has the additional bonus of playing mind games in the resistance operatives heads because they know you’re a spy. They’ll likely say they don’t care what you do with your vote record, but they will. It will sit in the back of their minds while they discuss additional mission plans. Don’t let psychological warfare go unused, its one of the spies biggest weapons. When a large group of spies (2+) goes into an important mission, or even if only one goes in (heh…or even if no spies are on a mission) you can publicly state that the oldest spy, or the youngest spy, or the spy that comes first alphabetically, or the spy in first turn order should throw sabotage. This way they don’t throw multiple sabotages and give themselves up, or allow cleared players. This, again, has the additional effect of psychological warfare. Try this once, and watch the players try to figure out who the spy (or spies) is. You will also stay in the mission proposal rotation, which is a huge boon in itself. On your turn at leader you can propose a set of plans that likely includes all resistance and it might still be voted down. Your vote proposal and its imminent failure can be used by the spies along with Strong Leader and No Confidence to set up five failed votes. Regardless, you may be an even greater weapon as a revealed spy than a hidden one. Keep in mind that double think can go both ways. Maybe you propose a set of plans with all resistance operatives, but maybe they think you’ll do that so you slip one spy in the mix, but maybe you put the poison in your own glass and surely I can’t choose the wine in front of you…..


10) Plot Card Strategy

The Plot Cards provide a huge boon for the Resistance, and can be taken advantage of by the spies. Before we even discuss specific plot cards we should examine a few tactics that can be employed regardless of which Plot Cards are in play. The Leader hands out the plot cards, so you’ll want to keep an eye on how the other Leaders have handed out the cards. This is huge ammunition for the late game when framing one or more players. “Why did they pass the card to that person?” “If player A is a spy, he gave the Plot Card to person B for such and such reason, its very possibly they’re both spies!” The Plot cards provide information and tools the resistance can use against the spies, and it provides the spies with tools they can use to frame and misdirect the resistance. When handing out cards, use them to frame people. If you are found out as a spy, you’ll want to try and drag at least one resistance operative down with you. By not handing plot cards to fellow spies, you set yourself up to do just that. In order to pull this off your partners will need to pick up on it, and, if they do sell you out, they can use that to frame your target – dividing the group as stated earlier. When handing out cards, give the key ones to your fellow spies. Each card in the Plot Deck can have an important role in the game. With that said, there are a few that are stronger than others. Let’s examine each card in detail:


Strong Leader: The ability to take Leadership from someone can be game changing. If the resistance has failed four votes in a row, you can seize leadership, propose anything you want (as long as it includes one spy) and the spies win whether the vote is failed or passed. If there is a Resistance Operative who has the game figured out, the last thing you want is for that person to be selecting mission plans to prove their theory. Take the Leadership from him, put him in a set of plans that includes another spy, and bury him with a sabotage result. Are several spies sitting next to each other with you going first? Fail a few proposed mission plans, seize Leadership and watch the plans go right down the line until the resistance is in a no win situation. Keeping a close eye on you This card is a tremendous psychological weapon. Just having it in play is enough to deter spies from throwing sabotage. This card can be a game breaker for the spies, and it can also be exploited. The goal for the spies is to get into a game situation where this card is worthless – when the spies have two failed missions. If the spies can successfully navigate the game into this situation, they have successfully avoided this card. We’ll first approach it from the standpoint that a Resistance Operative has the card. In a 2-person mission the card is worthless if the person having the card is in the mission plans. This is an excellent way for the spies to avoid having the card used on them. If a spy has the Leadership and you are fairly certain that the card is going to be used, you have a few options. You can propose a set of plans that only contains Resistance Operatives, thereby making the card useless, or you can propose a large mission with 4+ players in order to saturate the mission with blue cards and make it harder to find the spy. If they get lucky and find the spy, then it becomes a 50/50 situation, and depending on the skills of the two players involved the spy may win, but it’s doubtful. The most dangerous position is a Resistance Operative who is both the Leader and has this card in front of them. He can select the mission team, not include himself, and gain good information if he finds a spy. This situation is to be avoided, and cancelled if possible with No Confidence. If at all possible, the spies want to either include the person with the card in on the same mission they use the card, or only include Resistance Operatives in a mission where the card is used. If a Spy has this card in front of them, they can use it in a myriad of ways. The first of which is to look at your partners card, and say it’s a Support card regardless if it is or is not. The danger of that is that if that person is found out to be a spy you are in danger of being tied to that person. You can always say they threw blue when you looked at


their card, and it may work. The second option is to just sell your partner up the river right then and there. If done successfully you will divide the group (as seen in Point #7). If this fails, the game is over for you the spies, so be wise in your execution of this plan. The third option is to use it to frame another player and put yourself into a 50/50 battle with one of the Resistance Operatives. It’s important to know if your partner is likely to throw a red Sabotage card in the results if you try this plan‌otherwise its not going to work too well for you. If there are two spies in the mission, and they are both likely to throw red cards you can try framing the only Resistance Operative on the mission with very likely successful results. No Confidence This card gives a lot of power for the spies, especially in conjunction with the Strong Leader card. If the resistance has failed 3 votes, proposes and passes a 4th vote you can fail it using No Confidence, and if you or another spy has Strong Leader the game is over. It is also a failsafe on the off chance that the resistance proposes a set of plans that will win the game. Take Responsibility This is the most versatile card in the game and is best applied in either preventing the Resistance from using No Confidence/Strong Leader and gaining that card, or removing the threat of Keeping a close eye on you/In the spotlight. It can be used to setup a strong spy play or can be used to prevent disaster. Opinion Maker This is an excellent resistance tool, but like all the cards, can be exploited by crafty spies to misdirect the resistance. If you have it played on you earlier in the game, and are found to be a spy you can throw Yes votes on missions exclusively containing Resistance Operatives and can throw No votes on missions that include spies to force double think. Also, by giving this card to a Resistance Operative, a crafty spy can use their public votes against them in order to make them look more suspicious.


In the Spotlight This is the stronger version of Keeping a close eye on you. This card is extremely dangerous for the spies and should be avoided at all costs. The best way to avoid the use of this card is to handle it similar to Keeping a close eye on you. You’ll want to put all Resistance Operatives into the mission plans (which is what the resistance wants), or put large amounts of Resistance operatives in and one spy. If you’re caught with this card, the game isn’t over as you can publically lead the other spies. And its quite the damaging blow to reveal, blow a base putting the spies into a position to win, and then publicly leading them. Establish Confidence This card has such tremendous promise for the spies its out of control. So the Leader needs to show his card to someone else….excellent. As the spy you can do one of two things, show your card to another Spy so they can ‘clear’ you, or show your card to a Resistance Operative. Wait, what? Show your card to a Resistance Operative? Oh yes. I didn’t make a mistake there. See point #5. When you show your card to the Resistance Operative, he’s going probably going to be shocked and call you a spy immediately. If you can act equally as shocked that they called you a spy, you just might pull this off. I mean honestly….who would show their Spy card to a Resistance Operative?

If you want the 50/50 scenario and the Leader is a Resistance Operative you can always just call them a Spy if they show you their card. Sometimes its best to just clear them anyway as that may gain trust from that person. The final option is, as the person having the card shown to you by your Spy partner, you can call the person a Spy. This buys cred for you, possibly forces the group to take sides, and confuses the situation a lot. All excellent things for the spies.

Open Up/Overheard Conversation


These are essentially the same card, just with different restrictions on who can see the card. The tactics for the use of these cards is generally the same as for Establish Confidence except for a few key points. If someone plays Overheard Conversation on you, and you’re sitting between two Resistance Operatives you can try the 50/50 game for awhile but you’ll likely just end up leading the spies publicly at some point, so don’t delay too long unless you are a in good position against the other person. Even if sitting adjacent to one Spy, and one Resistance Operative you may wish to show your card to the Operative in order to reduce the suspicion if your fellow Spy clears you. If a Resistance Operative sitting adjacent to you shows you their card, the situation may demand a 50/50 battle, or it may be best to just clear that person. Its heavily dependent on the current game situation, and who the people sitting next to you are. If you want to be very crafty, sit next to someone you know you can go head to head with in a 50/50 before the game begins.

Spies Tactics  
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