Published by: Asmodee NA / Repos Production
# of Players: 4 to 8
Secrets is social game that has players playing cards and changing alliances. Secrets is made up of very few components in a smaller box, but the components are actually rather large in proportion. The cards that players will be offering up on their turns are tarot size cards with a 60's art styling. Each card has a character with their numerical value, name and icons explaining the card's action. The other main component of Secrets is the large, thick identity tokens, as seen in the picture. These are heavy discs that almost seem out of place in such a small box game. There are also a UN token and help tokens that are made from the same material. 4 reference cards are included to explain what each character does when added to your play area. The rules are laid out logically and explain all aspects of the game. Secrets will surprise you with how much game is packed in such a little box.
Secrets is not your usual social deduction party game. I would not even say it is a deduction game, but it does share some of the feeling of one. At the start of the game, identity discs will be handed out face down to each player. The number of discs that are used during the game is determined by the number of players plus 1. There will be equal amount of American and Soviet discs with Hippie discs filling in the last spot or 2. The last disc will be placed face down in the middle of the table. A help sheet will be placed in the middle of the table so everyone knows what two character cards could be offered during each round. 4 bullet cards will be placed to the side and used for the Assassin character cards.
A first player will be randomly chosen, unless someone in your group had been abducted by the CIA or KGB. Then they get to go first for their trouble and experience. That player will receive the character deck and draw character cards face up till they have drawn 2 different character cards. Any copies will be placed on the bottom of the deck. The player will secretly select one and place the other card on the bottom of the deck. The player will then offer the card to one of the other players, saying whatever they like to that player to either convince them to take it or lie about the card. If the other player takes the card they will place it in their play area face up and perform the action on the card. They must fully perform the action on the card. If they refuse the card, the player who offered the card gets to place it face up on their play area and performs that action. After the action has been resolved, the character deck will be passed to the next person and they will take their turn. This will keep happening until someone has a fifth card in their play area for a game with 4 to 6 players and a fourth card for a game with 7 to 8 players. Players will reveal their identity tokens and any bullet cards they received. Each player will total up their score individually and if the player with the hippie identity has the lowest score, they are the winner. Otherwise the players with the same nation will total their points together and the team with the highest points wins the game.
Now you may be thinking "that's it?". There is actually a lot of confusion going on because you only get to view your identity disc at the beginning of the game or when a card's action allows you too. Also that identity disc will probably be swapped at some point during the game. The psychiatrist, double agent, and diplomat all involve you or another player's disc being swapped with either another player's disc or the one in the middle. You may not even know if your disc got swapped. There is also the issue of who may also be on your side and trying to get them to take a high point value card without tipping off other players, who may then try to swap out that player's disc on a later turn. Oh and you have to be careful because if you have the hippie disc, you want to have the lowest points. The assassin will give the top bullet card to a player and that player can not look at the card. They do not know how many points they may lose from that card. The scientist is worth a lot of points but if you get a second one, you flip over all your cards and they are worth nothing. Also if a player ends their turn and they have the least amount of cards in their play area, they take the UN token and can snatch a card during the offer phase on another player's turn. That is the craziness that can happen with a game of Secrets.
I am a big fan of designers Eric Lang and Bruno Faidutti. Looking at the box for Secrets, I was not sure this was going to be a game for me. I was very wrong. The craziness and drastic changes that can happen during a turn make for a great filler game. This reminds me of Mascarade, but faster and harder to figure out who is with you and against you. The components are huge and great quality. I almost think the identity discs were over produced, but with how much they get passed around, they are nice to have. Also they are less prone to flipping over when being exchanged compared to cards or cardboard tokens. Games last 15 to 25 minutes depending on player count. This was very easy to teach and everyone picked it up on their first gameplay. The hippie identity really throws a twist into the game and is fun to make jokes about. Who wins does feel a little random at times, but if you try your best to play to get the best score, or low score if you are the hippie, then you will do fine. I enjoyed Secrets more at an odd player count because then it was more likely to have an even number of nation players and a hippie, rather than one nation being short a person. Though that is the risk of the game and trying to manage those discs. This is a game that I can see any game group enjoying, especially when relaxing for the night or waiting for other games to end. Secrets surprised me and I am glad I got to try it out because it is staying in my collection a filler social game.
+Excellent component quality
+Easy to teach and learn to play
+You have to pay attention due to all the craziness that can happen
+Unique social filler game
-End scoring can seem random and luck based
- Games can be over too quickly