I always have a knack for word games. there are actually good and decent titles out there and this one is one of them. Codenames is definitely one of the best party game out there with words as its main element. Designed by Vlaada Chvatil, you wouldn’t believe or realize this is one of his works, cause He is just that random. After came up with Space Alert and Galaxy Trucker, He shocked us with interesting complex game of Dungeon Lords and Dungeon Petz. Then a great game appeared, Mage Knight, out of nowhere and we took a deep breath. It is such a great game along Through The Ages and then He designed Codenames. It’s a bit downhill from expectation but not that it’s a bad thing. We just didn’t see this coming.
Codenames is a game about partnership, players play in two teams. One of them from each team will become the Spymaster, who will give clues to their team members what keywords are belong to their team in 5×4 grid word cards spread over the table based on the current key card. The game components are, of course mostly consists of cards. Word cards, Spy Cards and there’s a sand timer to keep the game reasonably on time. The goal is to successfully guess all the team’s codenames while in the same time trying not to mistakenly guess opponent’s codenames or the assassin. Teams take turn to give a shot guessing the clue given by each Spymaster. The clue must consists of a single word and a number of codenames available. Team members must guess the codenames one by one, with each being checked by the Spymaster. Each correct codename is marked with the team tile (color coded) if it’s correctly guessed. If it’s not, the codename is placed with either a bystander tile or the opponent tile. If the team incorrectly guess the codename, their turn is immediately over. If they get all the codenames correct, they have a chance to guess one more (based on the previous clue or maybe they’re feeling lucky to have a shot in the dark). If one side has all their codenames guessed (either by them or accidentally by opponent team), that side wins the game. Or if one team accidentally guess the assassin codename, that team immediately lose.
I guess the game works well with 3 on 3 or more. Having only one team mate to guess your clue is not really that fun but it still fun. You play in teams and the focus is to guess your friends’ mind. Having more players to guess your clue is more fun and hilarious. There are of course, some lenient house ruling based on your preference about what can and cannot be used as clues, the rules have specific restriction for words that can be used as clues but hey as long as you are having fun, right? The cards are double-sided, so you will get plenty of word variations. Though with the sole purpose as clues, the word cards will definitely get used repeatedly after multiple plays.
I must say that the game is very interesting, definitely a great game for couples, casual friends and gamers alike. There will be long discussion over the play sessions and it’s worth your time. Of course the downside is that players need to know English vocabulary well enough, but that’s easy to solve by giving definitions to each word. The words are placed in two-ways, thus avoid players to read them upside down. In addition some players take a long time to figure out what clue is needed to cover all the codenames as efficient as it should, the game provides a sand timer to avoid this. If you plan to play this game fast, I recommend use the timer. If you have spare time, it’s more enjoyable without time limit so players can take their time to find the best possible clue and words. Despite its simplicity and casual friendly, I can see good enough strategy value disguises inside the game.
The good thing is the game has different versions and variations. Up to now the game has many language adaptations, including Bahasa (Indonesian) and different themes such as Disney, Marvel, and Deep Undercover (adult version). In addition there are also variation like Codenames Pictures (using pictures instead of words) and Codenames Duet (offers mode for 2 players with campaign element to add more interesting way to play) which these two are stand alone games (you do not need to have Codenames base game to play).