The CopyCat (Kickstarter) Review – with Video

The CopyCat

Score: 3 out of 5

I’m a huge fan of Spyfall, the social deduction game released by Cryptozoic Entertainment in 2015. When a “spy” has to fit in among the rest of the players who have a critical piece of information, and he or she must ask and answer questions to figure out the secret location, the room quickly fills with the sounds of bluffs, lies, laughter, and accusations.

But when the secret information is limited to 30 locations, the questioning process that is the crux of the game can end up becoming repetitive or formulaic, especially in a game that’s designed for and encourages many repeat plays. The CopyCat from Hawk Games, however, leverages the expanse of the English language to create a similar gameplay experience that won’t feel the same from play session to play session (at least not for a long time), but still surrounds the gaming table with feelings of suspicion and paranoia.

The CopyCat is a social deduction game for 4-15 players that takes about 15-20 minutes to play. The premise is simple: there are “CopyCats” among the group of humans, and the CopyCats are trying to impersonate the humans by describing a word or phrase that the humans can see but the CopyCats only have a hint or two about.

At the start of the game, human and CopyCat cards are dealt secretly, informing each player what his or her role will be during the game. There are 1-3 CopyCats, depending on the number of players, and the CopyCats win either by lasting until the end of the game without being eliminated or by guessing the secret word/phrase when eliminated. The humans win by eliminating all the CopyCats.

The CopyCat Cards

One or two Topic cards, depending on player count, are placed in the center of the table and covered by Litterbox cards so that nobody can see them. Everyone closes their eyes and players take turns sliding the Litterbox card(s) to reveal a portion of each Topic card before covering them up again. Human players slide the Litterbox card down to reveal the secret word/phrase, and CopyCats slide it up to reveal either one or two hints, depending on what the group has agreed to. The second hint is dubbed “Easy Mode,” but it may be a good idea to always play with both hints, especially as beginners. Topic category is visible to everyone.

Then, in turn, each player describes the word(s) he or she has seen. The CopyCats use their hints to try to fit in with the humans without veering too far off from the relationship between the words. For example, it might be good to say “found on a boat” when you have a hint of “Viking” when the secret word is “pirate,” but saying “European” or “wears a helmet” might give away that you are a CopyCat working off of a vague hint.

After going around once, players discuss who to eliminate based on everyone’s answers, and on the count of three everyone points at the person they think should be eliminated. Whoever is chosen by the most players is eliminated and must reveal their role. With larger player counts, two eliminations may take place in a given round. If there is a tie, there must be a re-vote, but if that results in another tie, players have lost the opportunity to eliminate anyone for that vote. Any eliminated CopyCat has one final chance to guess the secret word/phrase and win the game on the spot, thanks to the Nine Lives rule that comes into play at certain player counts. If at least one CopyCat remains after the first round’s elimination phase, a second round is played. After the second round, the CopyCats win if at least one of them has bluffed well enough to survive all eliminations.


There are 120-140 Topic cards in The Copycat, meaning it will take 60-140 games to repeat any card once. Furthermore, there’s variety to the cards; it’s not limited to locations like in Spyfall. Each card falls into one of 7 categories: Person, Place, Thing, Action, Event, and Proper Noun come standard. Slang (like bae or YOLO) is the seventh category, with 20 cards, that will be added to the game based on funding. One consideration, though, is that if the Topic cards are shuffled and the same cards come up in subsequent games, then hint and secret word/phrase combinations will be easy to connect and remember because they are specifically matched, making for an easy win.

Pro Tip: Shuffle the topic cards once and work through them from one end of the deck to the other, never repeating.

It’s a lot of fun to watch the CopyCats squirm during the description phase when you’re playing as a human, or to try to be crafty and put one over on your friends when you’re playing as a CopyCat. Laughter can be a huge part of this social game. It’s also cool that The CopyCat‘s design ensures that all players have equal input throughout a single game. Some games, though, end up feeling like they’re over before they’ve ever begun.

An early criticism that most players who tried The CopyCat had about the game was that the hints don’t seem “good enough” for the secret words on the cards. The connections seemed far too loose to make any real sense, and CopyCats run the risk of losing the second they open their mouths because of this. Over time, though, players will come to understand that the goal isn’t to use the hints to guess the secret word/phrase, but to produce a verbal description that will work for both. Coming up with vague descriptions of the hints will often work with the secret word/phrase, at least for the first round. The second round, a combination of that and the information gleaned from the human players will be necessary to stay stealthy.

The CopyCat is a solid social deduction word game that can be a lot of fun for a thoughtful gaming group. It could work as a general party game, as well, but might take a few plays to get people in the groove of giving well thought-out descriptions that are sufficiently vague or detailed. I like it as a companion to Spyfall, which can hit the table and fire on all cylinders a bit better for less engaged or less thinky players. And for those of you focused squarely on our review score, you might want to think of this one as more of a 3.5 than a flat 3 out of 5.

The CopyCat is currently in production by Hawk Games, with a Kickstarter just getting underway on June 1. You can check it out and choose the level at which you’d like to back. For the $20 base level, it’ll definitely be worth it when the game ships this November, and that NSFW expansion listed on the Kickstarter page is sure to be a ton of fun for adult players — totally looking forward to that.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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