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‘Codenames’ Review: A Super High Stakes Guessing Game

To put it simply, Codenames is an amalgamation of things that everyone will consider classic parts of board games, and that is what makes it a great game. Designed by Vlaada Chvátil and published by Czech Games Edition, Codenames is a team-based game where you compete to figure out which of the given codenames are your spies based on one-word clues. As a game with no limits to how many players there can be, Codenames is a great game in a large group setting.

Codenames Box
Codenames Box
What’s in the Box?
  • Codenames Rule Booklet
  • 8 Blue Agent Cards
  • 8 Red Agent Cards
  • 1 Double Agent Card
  • 1 Assassin Card
  • 7 Innocent Bystander Cards
  • 200 Double-Sided Codename Cards
  • 40 Game Key Cards
  • Plastic Key Card Stand
  • Sand Timer
  • 5 Plastic Bags for Card Storage
Inside of Codenames
How to Play Codenames

To begin, 25 codename cards are laid out in a 5 by 5 card square. The group of players is then divided into two teams: Red and Blue. Each team picks a Spymaster, the person who will know where each spy is and will be giving the one-word clues that teams will make their guesses off of.

The Spymasters will pick a Key Card that will tell them where each spy is, where the Assassin, is, and what team starts playing first. For example, if the four lights on the Key Card are blue then the Blue Team will play first.

Each team has 8 regular agents, and the team who starts off the game has the extra Double Agent card that they also must find to win. When a team guesses whether a codename is their agent, the Spymaster will place a corresponding agent, assassin, or bystander card on top of the chosen codename. If the team is correct, they may guess for another codename, but they may not be given another clue until their next turn.

Start of Game: Blue goes first.

In the event that the team guesses incorrectly, a few things may happen. If the team identifies a bystander instead of their agent, their round automatically ends and the other team is allowed a clue and a guess. If the team identifies an agent from the opposite side, the team ends their turn and they have given their enemies an advantage by uncovering one of their agents for them.

If the team identifies the assassin, the game is automatically ended, and there is no winner. Neither team wants to find the assassin at any point in the game.

The game is finished when a team is able to find all of their spies on the board.

Middle of Game
What Do We Think?

Codenames is a really fun and fast-paced game that’s really easy to learn. The instruction booklet can seem a little bit daunting at first, but once you get past the first round, the game is easy to get a grasp on, and there’s nothing overly complicated about it at all.

The artwork and game pieces are great as well, and the fact that the game comes with little bags so that you can easily store everything is another great touch. With so many cards and pieces, it’s nice to know that storing them won’t get messy and that the game designers thought of that ahead of time.

Another great thing is that the rulebook gives smaller groups of 2 or 3 players a way to play as well, which is especially nice in the time of the pandemic where gatherings often have to be limited to a much smaller amount of people.

Overall, Codenames is great, and anyone who likes guessing games of any kind will love it.

Gameplay
Presentation
Value

Images Courtesy of Vlaada Chvátil and Czech Games Edition

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Author

  • Kathryn spends her free time watching a variety of TV shows and movies, and holds an affection for strategy games of all kinds. pc: nonartisticart

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