Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 21 March 2017

Shuffled, not split:- Codenames

Codenames is a team versus team word game for 2-8 players, in it you play the part of a group of spies trying to find and activate all of their sleeper agents by speaking their activation word to them. If you activate all of your team’s spies first then you win, bu you have to be careful, amongst the population is a sleeper assassin, and should you activate him then you won’t be drinking vodka martinis, shaken or stirred!

Codenames take place on a 5x5 grid of words, there are plenty of word cards in the game to keep each game unique, and each card is double sided which serves for a fast way to play a second game, should people be aching for more. Each team elects 1 player to be the spymaster, they alone can see the coloured answer grid which tells them which words are for sleeper agents in each colour and which hides the assassin. The Spymaster can be a weak point in the game, it can sometimes be *very* hard to give good clues and some people will simply refuse to give less than a clue for 2 answers which can slow the game down terribly. To alleviate this there is an included timer, though use of it is optional.
The game set up ready to play, only the spymasters can see the coloured grid that tells them which words relate to which team. The colour on the outside denotes which team goes first, but they also have an extra word to find!

The spymaster has to give their team a 1 word clue and then a number which indicated how many of the words on the grid relate to that clue. The rest of the team then discuss and pick a number of words equal to the number they were given plus 1, this extra one allows you to pick up on previous clues which you missed words for, or to take wild stabs in the dark if the game gets that desperate. If a clue is guessed correctly then you place a coloured spy tile on it and continue your turn, if you guess your opponent’s team’s clue then they get to place their tile and your turn ends, should you pick  a random civilian then your turn ends with no ill effect, but pick the assassin and your team instantly loses!

There are a vast amount of word cards, so every game is different!
Codenames is a great party game, it has good replayability and can easily keep 8 people engaged, it makes for a good warm-up for a game session, particularly if you are waiting on 1-2 people to arrive because you can add people to each team mid-game without really causing any strife. It can suffer from the spymaster being slow to pick words, and some people are just better at spotting patterns than others, it can also suffer from the randomness of the word selection, sometimes you’ll have 3 names of countries as codes for your team’s spies, but “England” is the assassin, so you are going to have a very hard time avoiding that, while the other team might have no such problems! But the games are quick so it doesn’t matter that much if one team is hindered like that, just don’t be too competitive and you’ll be sure to enjoy Codenames.


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