Publisher: Czech Games Edition
Designer: Vlaada Chvatil
We first played Codenames with some of our friends in Southampton - it was definitely the game of choice for a long while for an evening with drinks and friends. However, since we tend to play most with two and because Codenames was becoming so popular with people that lots of people own it, I didn't see the need for us to own a copy. However, when i started my work board game group, Codenames definitely seemed like a good fit for a group of new gamers and a group of variable size.
There isn't really much theme to this packaged game of word association, however the story is that each team leader is a spy master who is trying to reveal to their team the code names for the other loyal agents in the field. The team need to locate the correct agents, ideally without disturbing random members of the public, but definitely without revealing the Assassin.
In terms of gameplay, players split into two teams, each with a spymaster. The two spymasters have a small colour coded grid representing the grid of 5x 5word cards on the table. the spymaster must give their team clues which match the colour of their team. Clues are just one word and onenumber eg. "ANIMAL, 3" which would mean the spymaster thinks 3 words on the grid are linked to the word animal and correspond to the team colour. The team can then make up to four guesses (1 more than the number the spymaster said) one at a time.If they hit a word that isn't the team colour the corresponding colour card goes on top and the team's turn ends. Guessing a white word is just the end of your turn, a word for the other team is worse because they get the credit and guessing the black assassin loses you the game. the first team to guess all of their words wins.
|The x 5 grid of words with the card that gets given to the two spymasters. the word cards are laid out randomly, and by coincidence this can sometimes work out giving way easier links to one team than the other.|
Recently, Codenames is starting to make waves as a more mainstream game. It's had both a pictures version and an "After Dark" version which I can only assume is full of rude words and they've recently announced Disney and Marvel versions to. Having played Codenames Pictures, I still find that Codenames is my favourite game of the two. Its simplicity makes it more about your ability to think in an open minded way and make connections rather than your ability to scrutinise a picture and find all the hidden meaning as well as associating words and meanings.
If I had to nit-pick at the game, my only comment would be that it's slightly less enjoyable if a player takes forever to think of clues - the game does need to keep going at a decent pace to keep everyone involved. I also often play with a very international group of people and when the words are laid out we just give everyone the opportunity to say they're not familiar with a word and we just swap that word out of the game - there's so many words in the box, that I don't find it to be a problem.
Otherwise, there's not really anything to criticise about Codenames, it's just a really great idea that makes you wonder why no-one thought of it before! It's by no means one of my favourite games, but I enjoy it every single time I play. For any size group, even for people who are coming and going, new gamers and experienced gamers alike, for a party, at work, there's no reason not to give Codenames a go. For the Yellow Meeple, Codenames gets an 8/10.