In Codenames, two teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board. Their teammates try to guess words of the right colour, while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin. Win or lose, it’s fun to figure out the clues.
Is Codenames simplistic genius, or another boring word association game???
When I first looked at Codenames and read the rules, I thought to myself…Bah another one of those silly little filler games. Oh how wrong I was, how so very, very wrong.
I should have known that Vlaada Chvátil, designer of such greats as Galaxy Trucker, Dungeon Petz, and Mage Knight would never even contemplate releasing a sub-standard game. I should have had faith!
The premises of Codenames is simple. Two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their teammates know the agents only by their CODENAMES. The race is on, which spymaster can get his team to find the identity of their agents!
Yes it really is a very simple game… to learn and play!!!
Firstly, get at least 4 players and to be honest, Codenames is not much fun with less!
A grid of 5 x 5 one word cards are laid out on the table, words such as Casino, Model, Mercury, France and so on…. You see I know what you thinking… “Oh my god, it’s going to be a dull word association game!” Remember it’s Vlaada… Always remember it’s Vlaada.
Pick two players to be the spymasters, they choose who is on their team and what colour that team will be, either red or blue. They place the spymaster card in a card holder and only they can see the corresponding colours that represents blue or red agents, grey citizens and one black agent – The Assassin!
Their mission, should they choose to accept, is to give their team one word clues to the identity of their agents….. Yawn… Yawn… Yawn…. Oi! Remember Vlaada!
Spymasters are able to provide one word clues and tell their teammates that they believe they should be able to guess X amount of words with the clue. i.e. Hot… 1, 2, 3 or even 4, heavens forbid you could even go for more, but not even James Bond could go higher than 4!
The Reason why I have so much faith in Vlaada… is because!!!
And so you are ready to get your teammates to guess the identity of your agents. Simple word association, straight forward clues or abstract ones, what does it matter, it will be all so easy….
Oh wait a minute… what happens if they guess the black Assassin agent instead of one of yours…. GAME OVER that’s what….. Oh Vlaada, you little devil…
And what if I give a clue that could link one of the other spymasters agents and they guess that one instead…. Your turn is over and the opposition gets an advantage. Of course the opposition can throw in spurious words that link words to the clue, that will fuddle your mind, throw you off the scent, or accidentally assist you. Meanwhile, the spymasters can give no further clues in word, gesture or expression…. Let me tell you what that is like… pure, pure torture…. You beauty Vlaada!!!
An Example of what makes Codenames…such Great Fun!!!
Let me give you an example. In a recent game playing against my niece and nephews they had one word left to win the game. My niece confidently give the clue as “Hot”. The nephews discussed and narrowed down to three words…. France, well it can get hot there… Model as in “hot model”… Mercury as in a “hot planet”…. My niece was forced to gag herself and to put her jumper over her head, as they debated whether she was thinking of herself or of them. My brother and I looked at each both thinking the same…. Mercury… Thermometer… Hot… surely!!!
They went for Model, she sobbed and sobbed and we won.
There is another cool mechanic in Codenames, that keeps the game balanced and in a majority of cases keeps both teams in the game. A team can take one more guess than the number given by the spymaster. So if the clue given is Hot for 2, then the team can take 3 guesses. Useful if they have mucked up the previous round and failed to associate with the word given.
This gives a team an opportunity to catch up and keep the pressure on!
What makes Codenames great…is the Spymaster torture!!!
What makes Codenames great is that the spymaster is only able to give a one word clues and cannot say another word or do anything else for that matter. This leaves everything open to interpretation, particularly if the spymaster is forced to give more abstract clues.
With the other team able to interject (not including the opposition spymaster) and try to lead the opposition down spurious avenues, leaves the game open to an enormous amount of social interaction and banter.
It can be torture for the spymaster to sometimes links words to his agents, whilst trying to avoid the Assassin and his opponents words, however in torture lies Fun!
I cannot emphasise how much fun Codenames is, whether its an inexperienced or experience gamer playing, it captivates everyone.
Codenames is without doubt one of the greatest, if not the greatest Gateway game invented to date. I have converted two previously non board gaming families to board gaming thanks to Codenames, one family is even attending UK Expo this year and it was over 6 months ago when they played Codenames.
Everyone should own a copy of codenames, it truly is a brilliant gateway game!
Variants are now available….
The following two tabs change content below.
By Day - Director of online Games and Toy Store Gamesquest. By Night - Father to two girls and husband to one wife! Board Gamer, Blogger and general dogsbody!