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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Simple to learn.
  • Short play time.
  • Lightweight.
  • Fun social interaction.
  • Huge replayability.

Might Not Like

  • Not really suitable for two players.
  • Theme is tacked onto mechanics.
  • Not suitable for children.
  • If you're not into social or party games...

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Codenames Review

Codenames-Review-blog

Agents, your mission briefing begins here. From now on, everything you thought you knew about the world was a lie. There are spies among us and they are not hiding in the shadows, but in plain sight all around you.

Your neighbour? Your work colleague? The mad cat lady from number 47?

Who is friend? Who is foe?

What is worse is that there is an assassin is hiding in their midst.

We cannot risk a leak. Who do you trust? Your only true friends are your team. Your spymaster can only issue you covert clues to help you identify your trusted agents out in the field. The intelligence we have to hand tells us that our enemy is in the same situation. Will you and your team be able to contact those agents and bring them in safely, before the assassin strikes? Or will the opposing forces manage to recover their agents first? Time is critical.

As always, should you or any of your forces be caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.

Mission Equipment?

Agent “X,” due to the sensitive nature of this mission you will not be issued with the usual equipment. No exploding pens, laser watches or bulletproof cars. We cannot risk exposure. Instead, we will be issuing you the following:

  • Eight Red Agent Cards.
  • Eight Blue Agent Cards.
  • One Double Agent Card.
  • Seven Innocent Bystander Cards.
  • One Assassin Card.
  • 40 Key Cards.
  • 200 Double-Sided Codename Cards.
  • One Sand Timer.
  • Eight Red Agent Cards.
  • Eight Blue Agent Cards.
  • One Double Agent Card.
  • Seven Innocent Bystander Cards.
  • One Assassin Card.
  • 40 Key Cards.
  • 200 Double-Sided Codename Cards.
  • One Sand Timer.

Codenames

Before you rush off Agent “X”. Be aware that the enemy can hear every word that is said and will be actively trying to feed false ideas and leads to your team. You have been warned!

Playing Codenames Game (Credit: Czech Games Edition)

Spymaster Calling

Okay agents, listen very carefully. I will say this only once. Once out in the field, all communication will be eavesdropped on. So, from this point on, I will only be using the approved code to communicate. You and your team will need to decode the transmission to locate the relevant operatives and bring them in from the cold.

Wait, what is that…?

You have not been issued with the codebreaker?

Assassin on the loose?

Right, old school code-form it is then. As you know all agents are identified by one-word codenames. I will issue you with one word and a number. You will use that to decide on the names of the agents I am referring to.

For example, if I state “Flying 4," you will automatically know the four agents are, “Plane”, “Robin”, “Balloon” and “Saucer”. Due to all communication being tapped I will not be able to communicate outside those transmissions.

Be careful if you decode incorrectly. If you're lucky, you will just point out an innocent bystander. If not, you might uncover one of the opposing spies, or even worse - the assassin. They will wipe out your entire force. Game over. Need more info? Check out our full how to play.

Sound Easy?

You will be faced by 25 potential agents. Only the two Spymasters will know the true location of every one. Using only one word and one number they will try to lead you to your agents while avoiding the innocent bystanders or the dreaded assassin. You would think that would be easy to do, right? No one would give a clue that leads you to an instant loss, would they?

Normally, no they would not. But that is the beauty of Codenames. Everyone thinks differently. And because the spymaster is not allowed to talk, and you are up against a tight time limit, the rest of your team is thinking of different words. While the opposing team are trash-talking and throwing out red herring suggestions to put you off.

All of a sudden, Codenames becomes a lot more complex than a simple word guessing game.

Codenames - Word Cards and Grid Cards (Credit: Czech Games Edition)

Strategy Or Luck?

There is not a lot of room for strategy in Codenames. But do not think it is a game of luck either. Well, not in the traditional sense. The luck and strategy all come together when you give your clue. Have you strategically picked the best one-word clue, linking as many of your agents together as possible, without hinting at a random word?

Will you be lucky enough that the rest of the team are thinking like you? Here is an example:

Your clue is “White-3.” Your words are Black, Wash, Snow, Rabbit, Paper, Chocolate, Out.

………..

3

……..

2

..

1

If you said Wash, Snow and Out? Well done you got all three correct. If not? Back to spy school you go. Yes, the example I gave was mean because all of the words could be used with white. But hopefully, you can see how tricky it can be to interpret the clue.

It is agonising watching as your teammates discuss selecting the assassin as an answer. I mean, who would have picked “Skate” when the clue was “Bored”? Really, I ask you.

Who Is It For?

Codenames is a party game best suited for larger groups. I have played with four players all the way up to 12, and the more the merrier. Although, the more timid players might get a bit sidelined with the larger group sizes.

You can, in theory, play Codenames with just two players. But in my opinion, it just loses all of the attraction that a social deduction game can bring. I would suggest only playing with six or more players to get the best from the game and the social fun that can occur. If you want two play two-player, Codenames Duet would be your go-to.

Final Thoughts On Codenames

Codenames is a great fun game for groups of six or more who are up for a bit of banter. It can be a good filler between some heavier games, allowing for some brain flexing in an alternative way. Having played as a family game I have struggled to enjoy it as much. Although for a large family I could see it making its mark.

The components, while not mind-blowing, are of nice quality and, given the number of words included, you would struggle to play the same game twice. Codenames will remain fun and fresh as long as you enjoy the mechanics of the game with the right groups of people.

I, personally, am not a big fan of "Social Party" style games. But Codenames is the exception to the rule. And now there are many different versions of Codenames that you can enjoy, from Codenames: Pictures to Codenames: Marvel, there's something for everyone. Shop the collection here.

Editors note: This blog was originally published on November 10th, 2018. Updated on October 18th, 2021 to improve the information available.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Simple to learn.
  • Short play time.
  • Lightweight.
  • Fun social interaction.
  • Huge replayability.

Might not like

  • Not really suitable for two players.
  • Theme is tacked onto mechanics.
  • Not suitable for children.
  • If you're not into social or party games...

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