Codenames

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RRP £16.99

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Codenames, a party game suitable for 2-8 players, will see you working alongside your teammates and nominated spymaster to work out where your fellow agents are in the field, while also making sure to avoid the innocent bystanders and the dangerous assassin! Czech Game Edition’s Codenames is a fantastic, easy to play word association game that sees players split into two teams…
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Awards

Spiel de jahres
Golden Geek
Great For Two
Dice Tower
Golden Pear
Value For Money

Rating

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

You Might Like

  • Simple to learn.
  • Short play time.
  • Lightweight.
  • Fun social interaction.
  • Huge replay-ability.

Might Not Like

  • Not really suitable for two players.
  • Theme is tacked onto mechanics.
  • Not really suitable under 12’s.
  • If your not into social or party games…..
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Description

Codenames, a party game suitable for 2-8 players, will see you working alongside your teammates and nominated spymaster to work out where your fellow agents are in the field, while also making sure to avoid the innocent bystanders and the dangerous assassin!

Czech Games Edition's Codenames is a fantastic, easy-to-play word association game that sees players split into two teams, each team having a nominated spymaster. These spymasters are given a grid that details the exact location of all their agents in the field. It is up to those spymasters to communicate the locations of the agents to their teammates. However, there is one big catch! The locations are all associated with words and the only way to communicate these is to give one-word clues!

Once a clue has been given, it's up to the team to work out which words the spymaster is trying to communicate to you. If you select a correct word, well done, you’ve found a fellow agent! Be careful though, select a wrong word and one of three things can happen! You could have mistaken an innocent bystander for an agent, a rather foolish thing to do! You could have found one of the other team's agents, which will simply give them the upper hand! But worst of all, you could find the dangerous assassin. Find him, and it's game over for you my friend!

Work together to find all your agents and you will be victorious and successfully complete your mission! This game will have you on the edge of your seat. Be careful, because when you think you’ve found the word, you may just start second-guessing yourself!

Codenames is a great party game and one that has grown in popularity massively! It's an essential game for anyone's collection and one that is sure to be a hit with all!

Player Count: 2-8
Time: 15 Minutes
Age: 14+

OK agents your mission briefing begins here. From now on everything you thought you knew about the world was in fact a lie. There are spies among us and they are not hiding in the shadows, but who are they?

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. So your spymaster can only issue you with covert clues to help you identify those trusted agents out in the field. What 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.

Mission Equipment?

Agent "X" due to the sensitive nature of this mission you will not be issued with the usual exploding pens, laser watches or bullet proof cars. We cannot risk exposure. Instead we will be issuing you with the following equipment:

  • 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.

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

OK agents, listen very carefully I will say this only once. Once out in the field, all communication will be eavesdropped. 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 covert 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.

Sounds Easy? Well it is Not!

You will be faced by 25 potential agents. Only the two Spymasters will know the true location of everyone. 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? No one would give a clue that leads you to an instant lose, 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, you are up against a tight time limit, the rest of your team is thinking of different words and 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. In saying that 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.

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 clues was "Bored"? Really I ask you.

Who is it For?

Codenames is a party game and is 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.

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 in-between some heavier games, allowing for some brain flexing in 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 a 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. It does not get to the table a lot but when it does it tends to stay there for a while.

How to Play Codenames

The 2016 Spiel des Jahres Winner and current second highest ranked party game, Codenames is a must have game for any board game fan. It works on so many levels, and now has multiple variations to suit everyone. Let’s take a quick look at how it plays and then at the end, I will explain the differences between each version.

No Time to Die

Codenames works best in a four, with two teams of two. But it can also work in any variation of two to eight players but even is best. Either way, the sky won’t fall if you have uneven player counts, so just divide as equally as you can, and sit opposite ends of the table. One team is blue, the other red.

On the guessing side as the ‘field operatives’, you will simply see 25 cards laid out in a five-by-five grid. The card has a single word on, shown both the right way up and upside-down so the cards can be easily read both sides of the table, you won’t need to be a spectre of yourself by leaning over. These are the codenames of secret agents. On the other side, as the ‘Spymaster’ you will see this grid too, but also a key card, showing you the location of the nine secret agents for the starting team, the eight secret agents for the second team, one assassin and seven neutral ones on this five-by-five grid.

Your job as the clue giver, is to try and link the words for your side and offer clues to the guessing side so they can pick these. For example, you could have words that you are trying to link that are “elephant”, “bat” and “mouse” and you could give a clue of “animal” to link all these.

Die Another Day

When you give a clue, you need to avoid ones that could lead to the field operatives picking neutral or opponents cards, which would simply end their turn for a neutral, end their turn and assist their opponent if they picked a card from the other field operatives side, or worse; the assassin card, which ends the game immediately and gives the win to the other team. You can always play another round to try and live, or die another day.

Your job as the guesser is to try and piece together the clues given and words available, then point and touch the card you want to choose. Each clue is given with a number, “animal three” for example. This means three words link to “animal,” but you don’t have to guess three. You could guess zero to four as you can always guess one more than the umber offered to you. Perhaps you had got two correct for “animal three,” but missed “bat” as you had read that more as a sporting item as you were not quite on the same wavelength yet and either guessed something else incorrectly or stopped at two. Later, you realise “bat” was what your partner had meant, so could go for this as your extra guess. Let’s say, you are given the clue of “outdoors two” and you see “Forest” and “Mountain” and guess those two both correctly, you can now guess “bat” even though it doesn’t relate to the current clue.

Skyfall

The game has a mechanic for catching up if you are really far behind, where instead of a number, you say “unlimited” after the clue. This means there is one word related to the clue just given, and a bunch more still to get that either you may be able to get from previous unsolved clues, or just blind luck. At this point in the game, the sky wont fall in if you get it wrong, so it is worth a try. If there are five cards left and your opponent had one and you had three and the last was the assassin, this is a perfect time to do it if you cannot find a way to link the remaining three words. Let’s say one world was “America,” but the other two were unrelated, you wouldn’t say “country two” or “country three” just so they could guess all three cards, as this would indicate all three remaining words link to “country.” Instead you would say “ country unlimited.” Generally, this means one word links to the clue and then there are others that don’t, and you need some luck to just try and guess the others.

You can also say “zero” as the number, which mean no words link to the clue, and you can guess as many as you like. This can be good if there are 6 words left for example, you cannot link your remaining three, but the one word you definitely don’t want them to guess, the assassin, is easier to separate. Let’s say in this scenario, there are three words left that are your words and they don’t link together at all. Your opponent has one, that is “arm” and the assassin is “shoe.” You could say “foot zero.” This then gives the field operatives the chance to eliminate “shoe” and potentially “arm” as well, knowing one is the opponents card and the other the assassin, and then have a chance to guess the remaining three on their side.

Quantum of Solace

There are a lot of rules about clues that are and aren’t legal, such as referencing the words location on the grid, the number of letters in the word, or starting letter, or linking words together in a compound. Such as offering “horse” as a clue for “horseshoe.” If you do, that teams turn is over. Be flexible with these rules if you can to have fun, just be fair to both sides. You don’t want to be sat there waiting for hours in a quantum of solace, as the Spymaster thinks for hours as they are restricted by the rules. Also, don’t be afraid to just give a clue for one card, on some occasions, this is fine and all you can do.

That’s it. The game plays until one side guesses all their agents, or one side accidently picks the assassin. You can play multiple rounds, that’s up to you.  Lets now have a quick run through of the other variations of Codenames.

Codenames Game Layout

Pictures

This game plays the same but has pictures instead of words. However, the pictures are all duel layered. Such as you could have a picture of a feather above a bear trap. This allows you to link cards easier, but also adds risk to people guessing the wrong card. Its great for kids or people with issue with reading the words. Although there are version of this game is most languages.

Duet

This is a specific two-player version despite both picture and the main game having a two-player variant. However, this allows for a more structured two-player experience with the key cards set up to just one colour and now with three assassins. It makes it more of a challenge when in two player mode compared to the others two player variants, and the game has a good scoring mechanic to challenge you to guess the cards in a certain amount of turns rather than simply guess before your opponents do such as in the main game. Worth getting if you are going to play more in a two, over getting the main game and using the two player rules.

Deep Undercover

This is almost identical to the main game other than the words you are guessing offer suggestive connotations which can be mildly amusing, I guess! Best played with the ‘Alcohol expansion.’

Disney Family Edition

This is best for families or massive Disney fans. The game is a little easier with a four-by-four grid being used without an assassin, but there is an advanced variant with a five-by-five and assassins. The cards are double sides again with pictures on one side and words on the other.  It’s a real mix of classic and modern Disney and knowing the films does help a lot! The pictures are brightly coloured characters or scenes with no secondary meaning such as seen in the main pictures version. The words are mainly the names of characters but there are other things like “kiss,” “reef” and “contract.”

Marvel, Harry Potter, The Simpsons

Much like the Disney version but themed in the above styles. Perfect if you are a fan of these films or shows.

XXL

A much larger version to help people with vision impairment issues. While the original card size in Codenames was 2.6″ × 1.7″, Codenames XXL contains cards sized 4.7″ × 2.8″.

Not sure if Codenames is the game for you? Check out our review to see what we thought about it!

Zatu Score

Rating

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

You might like

  • Simple to learn.
  • Short play time.
  • Lightweight.
  • Fun social interaction.
  • Huge replay-ability.

Might not like

  • Not really suitable for two players.
  • Theme is tacked onto mechanics.
  • Not really suitable under 12s.
  • If your not into social or party games..