Almost Got ‘im Card Game – Games based on Batman: The Animated Series, Part 3

Previously, I’ve taken a look at two other Batman: The Animated Series games. Batman Fluxx is a reworked version of Fluxx. Batman: The Animated Series Dice Game is a reworked version of Zombie Dice.

Now it’s time for a look at the Almost Got ‘im Card Game from Cryptozoic. Unlike the previous titles, this is not a remake of an existing game. It’s a completely new game based on the acclaimed episode “Almost Got ‘im”—where the villains of Gotham City get together and play poker, but one of them is actually Batman in disguise.

Now, I have to say, out of all of the episodes of The Animated Series, “Almost Got ‘im” is not really my favorite. I acknowledge its greatness. It’s extremely well-written and animated, the inclusion of so many villains makes it a classic, and it has the best closing line of any episode. However, personally, I much prefer the mind-bending confusion of “Perchance to Dream,” the cosmic horror of “Avatar,” or the grown-man-cry-inducing pathos of “Beware the Gray Ghost.”

Still, “Almost Got ‘im” is a memorable episode and comes in first or second on nearly every best of episode list. Apparently, that was enough to make this game into a hit. Earlier this year, I was planning on buying this, but then a series of articles came out (such as Nerdist’s Batman: The Animated Series‘ best episode is now a card game” and Gizmodo’s “One of Batman: The Animated Series‘ best episodes comes to life…”), and it sold out everywhere.

Now that it’s back in stock and I’ve finally gotten to play it, what do I think?

Almost Got ‘im Card Game

Really though, a Batman: The Animated Series game inspired by Werewolf should be based on “Moon of the Wolf.” *sick electric guitar riff in the background*

A quick synopsis of the episode (“the villains of Gotham City get together and play poker, but one of them is actually Batman in disguise”) is enough to tell you basically what’s going on. The Almost Got ‘im Card Game is a lot like Werewolf or Mafia, with a poker-ish layer on top. One player is secretly Batman. All of the other players are villains. Batman wins by “subduing” villains. The villains win by figuring out who Batman is.

Each player gets a public persona: one of Gotham City’s villains. Each player also gets a private persona: one player is “Batman in Disguise,” while the other players get attributes like “Crafty” (can give out extra cards) or “Watchful” (can protect players from being subdued).

The gang’s all here. Even villains who weren’t in the episode.

Each player has a hand of five cards from an ordinary deck of cards and takes turns drawing and discarding. Each player’s secret role ability is activated by a specific poker hand. For example, Batman can subdue another player with two pair (subdued players are partially out of the game). After each round of drawing and discarding, there is a blackout phase where the poker hand abilities are activated by secretly showing cards to a moderator.

I played this game with people who are frequent players of games. We all encountered stumbling blocks. As far as I can tell, there are three main problems.


First, this game convoluted. There’s a huge amount to explain just to get off the ground.

Everyone has two roles to keep track of. Plus, both of their roles have special abilities that are activated by cards. Plus, over the course of the game, you’ve got some players who are subdued and can’t do anything—except they can still vote and draw cards.

Plus, you’ve got “The Brains” role that rotates among the players each round. Only The Brains can accuse someone of being Batman and trigger a vote.

Also, one of the secret roles is “Catwoman in Disguise,” who has a totally different winning condition. And, if you’ve got enough players in the game, there might be even more players with unique winning conditions.

Also, there’s that blackout phase that happens after every round. During the blackout phase, everyone closes their eyes and the moderator checks with each player to see if they have the hand to activate their ability. A significant portion of the actions in Almost Got ‘im are taken during the blackout, and everyone is doing something slightly different, which inevitably means questions are going to come up. But, if anyone needs to ask for clarification during the blackout, it can completely ruin an entire game.


You’ll notice I mentioned a moderator. The second, and possibly biggest issue, is the game requires a moderator to keep track of what’s going on. This means one player essentially doesn’t get to play. Other games in this vein have innovated ways to play without a moderator (The Resistance), or have automated the moderator as an app (One Night Ultimate Werewolf), or have incorporated the moderator as a player (Deception: Murder in Hong Kong).

It’s not even just that Almost Got ‘im requires a moderator, though. It’s that the implementation of the moderator is awkward and inelegant.

The moderator’s main role is to verify which players have formed the poker hand they need. So, basically, during the blackout, the moderator has to get up, walk around the table, silently meet with each player, and—if necessary—give them a new hand of cards and keep track of who they’re subduing/protecting/healing/etc. The problem is, during a given blackout phase, most players will not have a hand to activate, but the few who do will take a long time to exchange their cards and point out who else they’re affecting with their ability.

If you were the moderator, and you spent 30 seconds with one player, and then one second with every other player, and then announced​ that Batman has done something, it’s going to be obvious who Batman is.

So, that means you have to spend 29 extra seconds with every player, just standing around, wasting a lot of time, and making a lot of distracting background noises to try to keep other people from guessing what’s going on.

The actual game in Almost Got ‘im is supposed to be during the drawing, discarding, and voting phase. That’s where the interesting discussion and deduction take place! However, in practice, it feels like you spend most of the time with your eyes closed and the moderator standing there, shuffling around, trying to keep things mysterious.


To add on to the general complexity and clunkiness, we experienced what you might describe as a “bad game.”

In the first round, Batman got two pair and subdued a villain. After that, because of Batman’s total lack of a poker face, everyone was essentially positive who Batman was. However, at that point, the Batman player was also The Brains, and since only The Brains can make an accusation and Batman wasn’t going to accuse himself, the villains couldn’t act on their knowledge. Plus, to top it all off, Batman got two pair again and subdued a second villain for the win.

Essentially, it was impossible for the villains to win no matter what they did.

This got me to thinking. Was this just a fluke? How easy is it for Batman to form the poker hands he needs?

Poker hand probabilities are a frequently studied problem in mathematics. The probability of being dealt two pair (and/or four of a kind) in five card poker is around 5%. This would put your probability of being dealt one of those hands twice in a row at less than 0.03%. But, that probability jumps dramatically when you go from ordinary five card poker to Almost Got ‘im.

Calculating the exact probabilities of forming a hand in Almost Got ‘im is a little tricky because you have a deck with two jokers and a choice of drawing from any one of three face-up discard piles or a face-down draw pile. I’m kind of lazy, so I did what anyone would do and wrote a Perl 6 script that partially simulates​ 1,000 games of Almost Got ‘Im.

The probability of Batman getting two pair in both of the first two rounds of the game is around 18%.

That means that, in a four or five player game, Batman is practically unstoppable around 18% of the time: the villains will only ever get one chance to guess his identity before he wins.

Now, I know there are some nuances to this. Some of the other players also need two pair, so—if those particular roles are in the game—they have the same odds of getting a hand and using it to do something that could block Batman. Also, the villains can astronomically boost their odds of getting a good hand by openly discussing and cooperating and using the discard piles to give each other cards. Plus, Batman’s got a tough enough job trying to blend in; if it was any more difficult, maybe Batman would never win.

But how fun is the game if a reasonably-poker-faced player is practically guaranteed to win a fifth of the time?

I guess the flip side is, in a five player game, you always have at least a 20% chance of randomly guessing who Batman is. So the odds are kind of even? Then again, there’s always a 20% chance that Batman is going to be The Brains… Plus, if Batman has already subdued one player, a wrong guess is going to give Batman the win…

So, who knows. The game is probably fine. It just really irks me that everyone can still lose even if they figure out who Batman is.

Final thoughts

You do get a fantastic looking deck of cards.

I was so excited for this game to come out. I’m the target audience. I love Batman: The Animated Series. I love any game with secret roles.

This game does capture the feeling of Gotham City villains playing a poker game. It really does.

But I’m not loving this game.

I worry about people who bought this based on the articles that said things like “Hey, remember that great episode of the TV show you loved as a kid? Now it’s a fun card game you can play at home with your friends!”

No, it’s not. It’s really, really not.

If you just want a fun, easygoing card game based on Batman: The Animated Series, you should probably get the excellent Batman Fluxx.

I try to avoid a lot of jargon, but let’s call Almost Got ‘im what it is: it’s a complex social deduction game for people who want to play a complex social deduction game.

You should sit down a have a long think before buying this. If you—yes, you, the person who is reading this—buy this game, are you ever actually going to get to play it? It’s too involved to easily explain to someone else how to be the moderator, so chances are you will have to be the moderator every single time. You may never even actually get to experience it as a player. Is that what you really want, or not? Personally, I enjoy moderating and facilitating games. But I don’t want to be locked into doing that every single time.

I mean, clearly some people are playing Almost Got ‘im and having fun with it. More power to them. I do want to play this again, eventually. But, at this point, I don’t see how this game holds candle to, for example, The Resistance, or Bang, or Bang: The Dice Game, or Spyfall, or Deception: Murder in Hong Kong.

Maybe, if you happen to be part of a group that has played a ton of Werewolf or The Resistance, and you’re looking for something with a Batman spin that you can invest a lot of time into, and you’re interested enough to be on the web looking for articles about Almost Got ‘im, you would enjoy this. Just know what you’re getting into.

Spyfall: A game of suspicion and sangfroid

My wife and I met through online dating. The hardest part about online dating is writing your profile. I wrote and rewrote mine dozens of times until I had something I was satisfied with. In the end, it turned out to be intriguing enough that women, including my future wife, actually contacted me first.

I’d share the secret formula for writing an intriguing online dating profile, except—of course—there isn’t one. Every person has to tap into what makes them unique. (Also, if I had a secret formula for anything, I would probably keep it a secret so I could bestow it on to my children as a sort of powerful dynastic birthright—like, I’m sorry, I don’t have a ring of power to pass down to you and we’re not wizards or anything, but I can show you how to get a date online so we can hopefully keep this thing rolling for another generation.)

I still remember statements I read on profiles of women from back when I was online dating. A lot of what people write is trite and you forget it. “I just moved here, and I just want to see who’s out there, and I like TV or whatever.” The things that I remember the most are the things that seemed the most shocking, the red flags indicating fundamental incompatibilities. One woman sent me a message and then I saw on her profile that she was looking to date single dads—which, as a non-dad, was confusing.

I remember one woman who asserted that she used her student ID to get discounts on as many things as possible, even though she’d graduated years ago. I know… that’s not objectively shocking. It’s actually a great profile statement. It’s charmingly hipster and one of those fun things that shows you have a personality.

Of course, it’s also pretty unethical. Which enabled me to quickly decide to move on to the next person.

There are basically two kinds of profile statements: statements about who you are and statements about who you’re looking for. When writing an online dating profile, a truculent pronouncement of exactly who you aren’t interested in is extremely helpful to your readers.

For example, I remember another woman who wrote, if your idea of fun is sitting around a table playing board games, don’t contact me.

That was back before I really owned any board games, when I was a lonely single man working from home and going to my cousin’s for a game of Catan was one of the few times I really got out of the house and socialized. I distinctly remember feeling a little sad for the woman who wrote that. Not because I think she was wrong to say it, but because, bless her heart, in spite of how clear it was, she probably had to spend a lot of time deleting messages from men saying, “Board games are actually fun.”

Board games aren’t for everyone—for quite a few reasons. There are a lot of people who’d rather be outside doing something more active. There are a lot of people with health issues that make it difficult to participate in certain games. Also, board gaming can be expensive. You see people on Epic Shelfie posting pictures of their massive board game collections and it’s a reminder that, like fox hunting, marathon running, and donning the mantle of the Batman, board gaming is only accessible to the at-least-sort-of affluent.

On the other hand, of course part of me feels like people don’t know what they’re talking about if they diss board gaming as not fun. Board games are literally designed with the express purpose of entertaining the human mind. When people say board gaming isn’t for them, it’s probably just because they haven’t played a board game that’s for them.

There are many, many different kinds of board games. Some board games allow you to just sit around and relax and have a good time. Some board games require intense logic and math. And some board games can literally send you into a cold sweat of terror. Case in point: Spyfall—quite possibly the most heart-racing experience you can have while sitting around a table. If you want to feel your whole body tense up and your flight or fight response kick in like you’re in a real life version of the tavern scene from Inglourious Basterds, this is the game you’ve been looking for.


First of all, you have to be prepared for people to make a lot of jokes about Skyfall.

Spyfall is a game from Hobby World and Cryptozoic Entertainment about sitting around a table and finding the spy in your midst. At the start, each player gets a card, which they look at secretly. One of the cards just says “spy.” All of the rest of the cards have a location (for example, everyone else will have a card that says “hotel” on it). The players attempt to suss out who has the spy card by taking turns asking each other questions. Questions can be literally anything (for example, “how much did it cost to get in here?” or “what’s your favorite thing to eat here?”). At any time, anyone can accuse another player of being the spy; if there is unanimous agreement, and that player is actually be the spy, then the non-spies win. Alternatively, at any time, the spy can reveal themself and, if they can correctly guess the location, then they win. After a eight minutes, if the game hasn’t already ended and the non-spies cannot agree on the spy, then the spy wins.

Many board games are based on taking a difficult task and making it fun, like how Pictionary makes a game out of drawing. Spyfall is based on the difficulty of innuendo—saying something that shows you know what a secret is without actually giving away that secret. Basically, it’s all about asking and answering questions to find out who doesn’t know the location without giving the location away.

As a spy, the game is nail-bitingly tense as you try to blend into the background, give out ambiguous answers, and add up the characteristics of the location. On the other hand, as a non-spy, the game creates an atmosphere of suspense as you try to mentally check off which players have said enough to show that you can trust them.

Sometimes the game ends in about two questions because the spy gets asked a direct question, says the wrong thing, and everyone bursts out laughing. (For example, if the location is police station and the question is “do you want to spend the night here” and the spy says “yes.”)

Other times the game ends in about two questions because someone says something that makes it obvious to the spy what the location is.

Usually, the game lasts well into the time limit, though. At the start of a round, the spy is in an extremely difficult position. However, as the game goes on, it becomes easier and easier for the spy to give convincing answers or guess the location because they’ve heard more and more information. It also becomes more and more difficult for the other players to ask and answer questions without giving the whole thing away.


Spyfall rulebook locations
When I’m the spy, my favorite thing to do is figure out the location and then not reveal myself and answer questions perfectly to sow dissension in the group.

The game contains just the right mix of locations to keep things interesting. There are locations you would typically associate with espionage or spycraft (embassy, military base, submarine), mundane locations (bank, supermarket, school), and really bizarre locations (pirate ship, space station, crusader army).

As an extra quirk, many of the locations lend themselves to different interpretations. For example, does “carnival” mean only the type of Carnival masquerade festival pictured on the card or is it any type of carnival? Does “passenger train” encompass subways and light rail? Is a “service station” a place to get your car fixed or a place to buy gas? This ambiguity contributes to the sense of paranoia in the game. Other players might be giving answers that sound completely wrong to you, not because they are the spy, but because of a genuine disagreement about what exactly the location is.

Every location card also states a unique role. For example, the airplane location cards have pilot, passenger, and flight attendant roles. For a more complex game, you can require players to answer from the perspective of their role. The roles can also help struggling players get into the right mindset to come up with a question or answer.

Number of players

The game supports from three to eight players. However, generally speaking, you need at least five people for Spyfall, especially if you have new players. Technically you can play with less, but it’s virtually impossible for the spy to win.


Basically, Spyfall is a box full of bags of cards.
Basically, Spyfall is a box full of bags of cards.

Even though there are relatively few rules, there are a few logistical issues to consider with Spyfall. First of all, you need a timer, so someone’s probably going to have to pull out their smartphone and be in charge of timekeeping. Because each round of the game revolves completely around keeping a single piece of information secret, it is very important to prevent that secrecy from being accidentally compromised. The game comes with a bag for each deck of location cards. You have to be careful to store the decks in the bags in such a way that you can separate out the correct number of cards for the players without seeing what the location is (always storing the spy card on the bottom of each deck works pretty well). Also, any nick or mark could spoil the game, so it is a good idea to use card sleeves.

Many reviews have noted that Spyfall does not include player aid cards listing all of the possible locations. While I wouldn’t turn down player aids, I also haven’t found the lack of them to be a barrier. During games, we pass around the rulebook so everyone can see the page with all of the locations. This is superior to a player aid card because the rulebook has room to show each location’s picture, not just the name (and occasionally players will reference specifics of the artwork, even though it is discouraged). Unless the person asking for the rulebook is clawing for it while dripping in sweat, you can’t really infer that they are the spy; non-spies often just want to see it so they can craft a question or answer without revealing too much.

Final thoughts

I love Spyfall, but I’m a chill cookie and I’ve played it enough times—and been the spy enough times—that I find it more exciting than frightening.

Spyfall is not for everyone. Being the spy is extremely stressful… as in, your body’s stress response literally triggers, your heart kicks into high gear, and your stomach knots up. Sure, you’re just sitting around a table with your friends, holding a card, but it’s not like most other games where you might have a secret role. As the spy, you start with nothing. You have zero information and everyone else has all of the information. You have no choice but to lie your pants off and one wrong glance, strange intonation, or answer that isn’t exactly the right amount of vague could give you away.

I’ve played the game with people who haven’t enjoyed it. When you’re the spy, it can feel like you’re under the gun in a way that isn’t necessarily consistent with the fun, happy-go-lucky experience you might be looking for in a casual evening of board games. If you’re uncomfortable answering questions under pressure (and laughing along if you get caught giving a ridiculous answer), this may not be the right game for you.

I don’t mean to just focus on how draining the spy role can be, either. The game is pretty tough for non-spies, too. You have to be able to think of relatively creative questions and relatively subtle answers. If you take too long to formulate something, other players may get frustrated (or start to think you’re the spy).

But Spyfall is worth experiencing. Spyfall is enjoyable because it’s a holistic challenge. Once it starts, every word and gesture is part of the game and you have to use the full extent of your perceptive faculties to either find the spy or keep yourself hidden. Most of us want to believe that we’re clever raconteurs, skilled at witty comebacks and cunning wordplay, able to drop hints that will go completely over others’ heads and quickly detect when people are lying to our face. Spyfall lets you put that belief to the test, and you’ll probably end up laughing harder than you’ve ever expected.