Codenames is a hugely popular title in board gaming. Since winning the Spiel des Jahres award it’s really hit the mainstream. Codenames: Disney was one of the first special themed versions of the game, alongside Codenames: Marvel, and it also serves as the family version of the game. Both editions are published by USAopoly.
A Whole New World... for Codenames?
Codenames: Disney works off the same Codenames system that we all know and love. Players split into two teams, each of which has a code master. A grid of words (or pictures, as all the cards are double-sided) is laid out for all players to see. Following this, a small secret grid is placed so only the two code masters can see it. This grid will tell the code masters which of the words are the ones their team has to guess, which belong to the other team, and which is the dreaded assassin.
The Codemasters will then take turns giving clues to their team. Each clue must consist of a word and a number. With the idea being that the word is a clue that will guide their teams to a number of cards. The rest of the team can then discuss, before eventually picking out cards one at a time as their guesses. Should their pick be correct, they cover the card with a tile of their team’s colour. The turn then continues, allowing them to guess more.
If they make a mistake, they either place out a blank tile (if no team owned the card) or a tile of their opponent's colour! Worse - the turn prematurely ends, meaning they can’t continue to guess. The game is won when either team manages to place all of their coloured tiles. Should any team accidentally guess the assassin word, the game immediately ends with a loss for that team!
Codenames: Disney can be played either with a 'family' 4x4 grid, excluding the assassin, or a typical 5x5 grid exactly like the original Codenames.
Fiona’s Final Thoughts
I know some Disney films, primarily Pixar ones, but also a few of the older classics. I probably recognise 60% of the artwork and 40% of the words in Codenames: Disney. It supports both words and pictures which I really like. I am a much bigger fan of original Codenames with words than I am of Codenames: Pictures - but in Disney, playing with pictures is definitely the most fun for me.
I am a big fan of Codenames: Disney, perhaps even more so than the original game, but its biggest drawback is that the theme can be polarising. Among adults, there are a lot of nostalgic Disney fans. But there are other people who have no interest in it. While I know that it doesn’t matter, because linking the pictures can be completely independent of knowing what the pictures are, some people are put off playing. With a high player count game like Codenames, that can make it hard to get the group together.
If you have a group of friends who love Disney, or you have a family with enough players for a good game of Codenames (4 or more), then I highly recommend Disney: Codenames. I don’t think you really need to own it as well as another version, although you can pair it nicely with Codenames Duet if you and your partner are big Disney fans.
Amy’s Final Thoughts
Codenames is a great party game. We all know this. The gameplay is simple enough that anyone can learn and engaging enough that everyone can enjoy. Mixing Codenames with the Disney theme seems like a no-brainer, and I was hugely looking forward to playing this rendition.
I strongly recommend that you start each round with a chance to ‘admit ignorance’. To point at a card and say that you have no idea who or what it is. This is far more important for the word side than the picture side. However, with a good 90+ years of releases, Disney has an intimidating filmography. It takes a super-fan to recognise every character from every movie, let alone know enough about them to be able to give clever clues. The only other downside is that the double-sided cards feature the name of a character and the picture of them. This means that you can’t rapidly reset the board by flipping all the cards over.
But enough about the drawbacks. Codenames: Disney does exactly what you’d expect it to do. It brings the great gameplay of a modern party classic. It also merges it with the backdrop to a large chunk of the western world’s childhood. The stories woven into all of these characters allows for wonderful clue giving. Being able to group characters as heroes, villains, princesses, and sidekicks gives chances to have major swings in the game. This then ends in further excitement as you are more likely to have those nail-biting finishes. Codenames: Disney is a fantastic game, just make sure you’ve seen some of the movies before playing!
Editors note: This blog was originally published on November 6th, 2019. Updated on February 15th, 2022 to improve the information available.