- Game Title: Codenames
- Release Date: 2015
- Number of Players: 2-8
- Average Game Time: 15-30 minutes
- Game Publisher: Czech Games Edition
- Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/178900/codenames
- Game Designer: Vlaada Chvatil
- Expansions/Alternates: No
- Available in Stores: Yes
I have seen plenty of reviews of the game Codenames online, and it looked like everybody enjoyed the game as a whole. I put the game on my list to try a long time ago and never got a chance until this past weekend, when I went to a Birthday party with a group of board game enthusiasts. We divided up into two teams and ended up playing two rounds before moving on to other activities, and I thoroughly enjoyed both rounds and the game strategy as a whole. At first I thought that you needed an even number of people to play, but after playing I do believe you could have an odd number of players if you really wanted to.
Codenames is a two-team competitive card based game focused on one team member providing clues to the other team members that relate to specific code names. The game is set up by placing 25 “agent” cards down in a 5×5 row- these cards have a word on them, which is the code name of the agent. Then the team members chosen as Spymasters choose a Map card that shows which agent is on which team. Only the spymasters are allowed to see the map card. The map is set up to show which of the cards on the 5×5 grid are red agents, blue agents, civilians and the assassin. The object of the game is for the spymaster to provide a one-word clue to their team that relates to as many of the codenames as possible that are assigned to their team color. The other team members then guess which code name (or code names) the spymaster is trying to get you to choose. If the team is able to find all of their teams’ agents, they win. However, if they choose the opposing team’s agent, that agent is revealed and the other team has one less word to guess correctly. Guessing a civilian doesn’t hurt, but it does end your turn and leaves you unable to guess again if you wanted to. Guessing the assassin means that your team automatically loses, so the assassin should be avoided at all costs.
The biggest part about this game is the strategy of choosing words both as the spymaster and a team member. For the spymaster, the goal is to choose a word clue that can be linked to multiple agents on your team without misleading your team and causing them to choose the other team’s card or the assassin. There is also strategy in choosing a word that only could apply to one card, making sure that there isn’t any misunderstanding and effectively “playing it safe”. On the other side, the team members choosing the agents must strategically choose how many cards, and which cards, they want to choose. They can choose one card they are sure of, or they can choose multiple cards and take more of a risk. This is usually dependent on which team is winning and how confident you are that your spymaster is indicating a certain card.
The most impressive thing about this game is the sheer number of variations: the game consists of numerous code name cards and map cards, so the possibilities of the cards on the grid and the options for agent card layouts are effectively limitless. The game encourages teamwork and strategy and is great for groups of close friends and strangers alike. Finally, the game is easy to set up and quick to play, so it is a perfect party game. The one downside I could think of with the game is the fact that while you can play with an odd number of players, ultimately it is easier/better to play with an even number so that no team gets an advantage. There are also a number of “player’s choice” rules revolving the hints that can be made, such as using Pronouns, that need to be addressed before the game starts. If your group forgets to go over these rules, it can cause confusion.
Overall I recommend Codenames as a great party game with a lot of fun strategy in a simple package. While the game says up to 8 players, you could certainly find a way to include more people if you choose, making it ideal for larger groups. In addition, the game can be played in small groups with the same effect, so don’t skip on it with 3-4 players either.
Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars