Secret Identity Review
We’re fresh into 2024, and maybe you found your way here as someone new to board and card games. Maybe you played something different with friends and family over the festive period and it piqued your interest. Given that it’s often party games that get played with groups during holidays, let’s have a look at some party games that you might not have played before, and broaden your horizons. This time it’s the turn of Secret Identity, a deduction party game for three to eight players. We’ll start with the bit you probably want to know – is it any good?
The answer is yes, it’s great, with a small caveat for younger players.
Get a clue
The basic premise of Secret Identity is to get the other players to guess your mystery person, while simultaneously trying to guess every other player’s identity. How do you do this? Pictures, dear friend.
At the start of the game, eight cards are placed face-up, next to a number from one to eight, each with the name of someone famous on them. It might be a real person or a fictional one. It could be a super-famous pop singer or a character from a TV programme like Game of Thrones. There are eight face-down keys up for grabs in the middle of the table, and everyone takes one before looking at it to see who their key’s number corresponds with.
Each player also has a stack of ten pictorial clue cards. They’re double-sided with a picture on either end, for a total of four potential clues per card. On your player board there’s a cardboard flap you can tuck cards behind. Some slots along this flap have red dots, some have green dots. You try to place your clues so that green means ‘this person is associated with this thing’, and red means ‘this person has nothing to do with this thing’.
So I might have Darth Vader as my secret identity, which means I tuck my card showing a dove of peace into the red slots, and another showing a spaceship in the green slots. On their own, maybe that’s not enough, but when compared to the other seven names on the table, it might be.
In a flap
The trick to making a party game stand out over any other is having some kind of gimmick, and Secret Identity’s gimmick is a winner. At the top of each player board, there are eight holes behind a hinged, magnetic flap. Your secret identity key goes in the first slot, and the flap covers the number on it. When it’s time to guess you pass the boards around and each person can take one of the numbered keys in their chosen colour and slot in the key with the number they think matches the clues.
Once the boards have gone around the group you get to have this wonderful moment of The Big Reveal, where each person gets to fold down the flap on their board and reveal the numbers on the keys. You get the great thing which makes a party game a winner, where half the table cheers while the other half groans.
Games like this always generate the most fun in my experience. Secret Identity, Just One, So Clover, Codenames, Mysterium – games where the person giving the clues gets a chance to explain their choices. These discussions are usually where most of the fun of the game comes from, and Secret Identity has it in spades.
So Secret Idetity is a winner. At least, it is in my friend and family groups. It’s pretty easy to explain, and everyone gets it after a single round. The thing I particularly like is that the clues are all pictorial which removes language dependence, and also makes it more accessible for people who find reading small text hard. I didn’t realise the importance of this until I played Just One with my family over Christmas, and my dad had forgotten his glasses. He just couldn’t read the text on those cards, but managed just fine with black and white line art on these.
The biggest problem I found with the game is with younger players. My son is 11 now, and every time we sit down to play with him I have to discard a load of cards during setup, because they’re names of people and characters he has no knowledge of. Sometimes because they’re TV characters from things he hasn’t seen (kids these days seem to watch substantially more Youtube than TV and movies), and other times they’re singers, politicians or actors from well before his time.
Still, that’s a minor (pun not intended, but very welcome) problem in the grand scheme of things. It’s still a game he loves playing, and I can see him get excited every time he gets a chance to explain the (often very clever) reasoning behind his clues.
For less than 30 quid, it’s a winner in my book. I say this as someone who bought the game after playing someone else’s copy and knew right away that I needed a copy. You can pick it up at my partner store, Kienda, right here. Remember, if you’re signing up for a new account, you can get 5% off your first £60 spend by signing up here – kienda.co.uk/punchboard.
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Secret Identity (2022)
Design: Johan Benvenuto, Alexandre Droit, Kévin Jost, Bertrand Roux
Art: Alain Boyer
Playing time: 20-40 mins