Growing up I was a pretty big fan of the Where’s Waldo? franchise. I liked it so much that our family ended up picking up quite a few of the official books and even some of the knockoff books. The premise of the books was simple as you had Waldo and his friends hidden among a bunch of other people and objects. For a long time I have thought that this would make for a good board game. There have been quite a few board games that have utilized this find the hidden object premise and we have taken a look at a lot of them including two Where’s Waldo? games (Where’s Waldo? Waldo Watcher, Where’s Waldo? World Game). Outside of 5-Minute Mystery, Sherlook, and Scrutineyes though most have been pretty average at best as they don’t really expand on the premise in any meaningful way. Before playing today’s game I Spy Spooky Mansion I can’t say that I had high expectations due to the game being made for younger audiences. I Spy Spooky Mansion is an okay game that is surprisingly challenging at times, but it relies on too much luck and fails to really differentiate itself.
How to Play I Spy Spooky Mansion
- Place the gameboard in the middle of the table. The gameboard will remain inside the bottom half of the box.
- Place two Key Tokens in each room making sure the background of each Key Token matches the room that it is placed in.
- Each player takes a playing piece and places it on the start space.
- Each player will also take a Mansion Map which will be used to keep track of the keys that they collect.
- Shuffle the Picture Cards and place them face up on the table. You can either place them in a grid or randomly place them out on the table.
- Shuffle the Word Cards and place them in a face down pile near the gameboard.
- The youngest player will start the game.
Playing the Game
On a player’s turn they will roll the die and move their playing piece the corresponding number of spaces. Each room in the mansion counts as a space. Each room is separated by an orange border. When moving between rooms you must move through an open doorway/gap in the orange wall. While moving you can only move in one direction. Basically you can’t move back and forth between two rooms on the same turn unless you move into a room that only has one exit forcing you to move back to a room you were previously on.
After a player is done moving their playing piece they will take an action based on the room they land on.
When a player lands on a room that has no Key Tokens on it the player’s turn will end immediately. Play will pass to the next player clockwise/left.
Players who land on a room with a Key Token on it will have the opportunity to earn a Key Token. The player will draw the top Word Card which will feature a word and a picture of an item. This exact item will be featured on one of the Picture Cards. The sand timer is turned over and the player starts searching through the Picture Cards for the item from their Word Card. The sand time is fifteen seconds long, but if you want an easier game the players can agree to turn over the timer twice so players will get 30 seconds.
If the player finds the exact item from their Word card before time runs out they will take one of the Key Tokens from their current room and adds it to the corresponding section of their Mansion Map. If a player has already collected a Key Token from this room they will not be able to take another Key Token from the room. Play will then pass to the next player clockwise.
If time runs out and the player didn’t find the exact match, they won’t receive anything this turn. Play will then pass to the next player clockwise.
In either case the Word Card that was used will be discarded. If you ever run out of Word Cards shuffle the discard pile to form a new draw pile.
Winning the Game
When a player has collected Key Tokens from five different rooms they will head for the mansion’s front door. The first player to reach the front door space with the five Key Tokens wins the game.
My Thoughts on I Spy Spooky Mansion
If you are at all familiar with the I Spy brand you should already have a pretty good idea of what to expect from I Spy Spooky Mansion. The basic premise of the game is to find specific objects hidden among many other objects. You will be given a Word Card and fifteen seconds in order to find the pictured item on one of the 20 picture cards. This aspect of I Spy Spooky Mansion is basically what you would expect it to be. Trying to find the object in time is fun like in all of these type of games. Fans of this mechanic should have some fun with the game. I Spy Spooky Mansion doesn’t really try to add anything to make the mechanic different from any other similar game though. If you have played one of these type of games before or have seen I Spy or Where’s Waldo? books before you should already know what to expect.
One thing that I was a little surprised by was that this aspect of I Spy Spooky Mansion was more difficult than I was expecting. For a game made for ages 5+ I have to say that it is harder to find the objects than I thought it would be. I attribute this to a couple things. First the timer is only fifteen seconds. You don’t even have enough time to look at all of the cards for long. If you want to have a chance at succeeding you need to quickly narrow down which cards that the object could possibly be on and direct your focus to those cards. In some cases this works and in others it doesn’t. The game recommends turning over the timer a second time to make the game easier, but I would honestly consider always doing so as 30 seconds will make the game a little easier. Making the time limit worse is the fact that the objects can be well hidden and some can be quite small where you have to really analyze a card to find them.
I don’t really know if this is a good or bad thing for I Spy Spooky Mansion. On the positive side the game isn’t so easy where you will always find your object in time. Generally the people I played with are pretty good at these type of games. Yet we struggled with finding some of the objects in time. If you play the game enough you will likely start to remember where the objects are hidden. Some objects are in logical positions as well. The added difficulty also makes it challenging enough that adults won’t become bored right away. One of the problems with the harder difficulty though is that I can see the game being kind of hard for kids on the younger end of the spectrum. This might frustrate some younger children.
The biggest problem with the added difficulty is that it adds quite a bit of luck to I Spy Spooky Mansion. What Word Card you end up drawing is likely going to have a pretty big impact on how well you do. This is because all of the cards are not created equally. Some of the objects that you can find are really hard to find while others are really easy. If you end up getting one of the items that are really easy to notice or are larger on the Picture Cards you will likely find the object in time. If you get a small object that isn’t very noticeable though it will be much harder.
The thing that helps even more is the background of the object on the Word Card. The pictures for the Word Cards are taken directly from the Picture Cards. Therefore you can get a good idea of what Picture Cards and where on those cards that an object will be located just by looking at the background of the object on your Word Card. If the object has a very noticeable background it will be really easy to narrow down where the object is making it much easier to find. If the object has little to no background this becomes considerably more difficult. It is a shame that luck plays a pretty big role in determining how well you will do in this aspect of I Spy Spooky Mansion.
Other than the “find the object” mechanics I Spy Spooky Mansion has one other major mechanic. In the game you and the other players will be moving around the mansion looking for keys. In order to win the game you need to collect enough keys. You begin your turn by rolling the die and moving your piece the corresponding number of spaces. The objective of this aspect of the game is to land on a room that has a key that you have yet to collect. This mechanic isn’t all that deep, but it actually has a bigger impact on the game than you would think.
At the beginning of I Spy Spooky Mansion it doesn’t really matter which room you land on as you likely haven’t already received a key from that room. As you progress in the game though this decision becomes much more important. As the game progresses rooms will start to run out of keys and there will be more and more rooms that you have already gotten a key from. At this point you need to hope that you roll a number that will get you to a room that you haven’t gotten a key from. You could be good at finding the objects, but if you can’t land on a room that will help you it doesn’t matter. There is some strategy to figuring out what rooms you should go to early in the game, but this element of the game seems to rely mostly on rolling the right numbers.
With only these two mechanics I Spy Spooky Mansion is a pretty straightforward game. It is harder than expected to find some of the objects, but the game itself is quite easy to learn and play. I would say that you can teach the game within just a couple minutes. I don’t see any reason why younger children couldn’t play the game. They may struggle with finding the objects at times though. Even though you will miss some of the Word Cards the game still plays pretty quickly. I would guess that most games will finish within around twenty minutes.
As for the components I would say that they are pretty average. On the positive side I give the game credit as it has quite a few Picture and Word Cards. After the 80 Word Cards you will have to repeat them, but you should be able to play quite a few games before you get to that point. The game’s artwork is not bad as it uses the same style as the I Spy books. I can’t say that I was a big fan of the “3D” board that you keep inside the box though. The problem is that it is hard to see the whole board unless you pass it around to all of the players. This gets a little irritating after a while. The game somewhat rectifies this by giving each player their own map which helps when trying to figure out how to move around the mansion. The game’s components are not bad, but I think they could have been better as well.
Should You Buy I Spy Spooky Mansion?
I Spy Spooky Mansion is basically what you would expect it to be. Like the books and many other similar games the basic premise of the game is to find a specific object within a short amount of time. Like all of the similar games this is kind of fun as you quickly search through the images to find what you are looking for. It doesn’t really differentiate itself from any of the other similar games though. I was a little surprised that some of the objects are considerably harder to find than I was expecting. This makes the game more interesting for adults, but it also makes the game rely on quite a bit more luck. Other than the hidden object mechanics you are moving around the board trying to land in rooms that have keys that you still need. This mechanic is fine even though it adds quite a bit of its own luck.
My recommendation for I Spy Spooky Mansion comes down to a couple of things. If you have never really cared for this I Spy/Where’s Waldo? mechanic of finding a specific object among many others I don’t see the game being for you. If you already own a similar game I don’t see I Spy Spooky Mansion being much of a different experience. People who generally like these type of games though will probably have fun with the game. If you can get a good deal on the game it may be worth picking up.