One of the most popular party board games – Codenames. So easy, yet so hard. But how could it be? Very simple. The rules are so easy, but playing it, and especially succeeding in it is a completely different story. Probably, this is one of the main reasons why it is so good.
Codenames – originally released in 2015 by Czech Games is a word, memory-based game that is great for parties & family game-plays. There are 25 cards with words in a grid 5 by 5. Each word is a clue name that belongs to three different categories: 1. Team Red clue names (cards); 2. Team Blue clue names (cards); 3. Civilian or deadly clue names (cards).
Each team’s goal is to be the first team to guess all team’s clue names (or just words, or cards). There is 1 agent per team who gives clues to their team members. These clue givers are facing a map tile (also called the Key), indicating which words belong to what categories. Based on that, clues are given by trying to connect as many cards as possible using 1 word only.
For example, the clue could be “round 3(three)”. Where the word round indicates the round form. And “three” indicates the number of cards team members have to guess. The clue is always provided with a number so that players would know how many cards to guess. The clues are provided by turns – one team provides clues & guesses the cards by pointing at cards 1 by 1.
If there are multiple cards to guess (the clue is given together with the number 2 or higher), firstly point to one card, if the guessed card belongs to your team, you can proceed with another guess. Of a guess is incorrect, meaning the card with a civilian (also neutral card) is guessed, your team’s turn ends immediately. Then another team’s turn begins. This continues until one team guesses all its pictures to become the winner.
It is also possible to lose the game in advance, as 1 clue name (card) represents the assassin. If any team guesses the card, they lose the game immediately.
The review will be covered in the following structure:
Giving & guessing the clues is SUPER fun. Wait, but that actually covers whole gameplay. Almost. There are 2 teams after all, during your team turn, you either give or guess the clues, during other team’s turn – you watch, and sometimes – you also comment. Though the last point is subjective, as some players are completely against that.
So your team’s turn is super entertaining – in a puzzling way. Giving good clues is incredible dream work. You have to get creative & original. Especially, taking into consideration that there are 200 different word cards.
You can have a situation where you team clue names cards are “brick” & “wall”, but you just want to give a clue “house two” to your team, but there could be another associated word to that, such as “construction” that would belong to another team. Giving a very good clue for more than two cards is usually difficult, and not always result in good guessing.
Sometimes there are just a bunch of words that are difficult to relate with one another. If that is the case, not even great clues will make it easy. Guessing is still gonna be hard. But once you pull off a difficult clue and all the risky guessing is correct, the feeling is incredibly rewarding.
Some cons to the fun are the fact that sometimes one team gets more difficult words, so a bit unbalance is felt. It also increases the downtime for a particular team’s clue giver.
I also incredibly enjoy participating in the opposing team’s discussion. You know, messing around, mind gaming about interpretations of clues, stuff like that. Sometimes you unintentionally help, or your brilliant plan brings damage to your opponents & a win to your team 😀 .
Given the fact that there are 200 word-cards that are two-sided and 40 key cards, also two-sided. So based on that you are safe to get those different combinations of words every time you play it. The replay value of this is slightly higher than in comparison to Codenames Pictures when we look at the number of cards included (200 vs 140 cards). But that game is based on pictures and therefore language independent. You can certainly come up with more varying clues when comparing pictures instead of words.
Finally, you can combine both games to get the ultimate replay experience. By placing 10 Codenames Pictures, and 10 Codenames cards to form a mixed grid of words & pictures. The experience is very rewarding.
Finally, let me discuss the replays with 2 players only. Generally, there are custom rules that form a cooperative experience, to play against the game. The game-play is pretty simple, you take your turn, and reveal the opposing team agent (or two agents if you want a more difficult game). And you aim to work your way through before all other team’s pictures are revealed. Based on that, you win or lose, and score victory points based on how fast you finish (in case you win). Pretty simple, right?
A little too simple, I am afraid. Hands down the best way for two players to experience the best codenames game is to dive into Codenames: Duet card game. Check out our detailed Codenames: Duet game review.
Art & parts
The art is okay. Since it is a words based game, the art & pictures are minimal. But the positive factor is that the game is colorblind-friendly. The colors onto team tiles & neutral tiles can easily be distinguished.
Codenames colorblindness rating: A (Very good)
The quality of cards is okay, no sleeves required. The tiles are thick and have a great feel.
This is a budget game, the price is similar to other Codenames games, but this one actually has a little more cards included, so I give for the price rating a little bump (up). You can check out below what is the current pricing for the game in the “Where to buy” section.
Codenames card game review
A really good word, clue puzzle that fits primarily party groups, also families. Very easy to get into, quick to play, but difficult to master & not that easy to play good & win. Conflict-friendly, small box game that is pretty replayable. Better with 4+ players.
Art & Parts
Your rating1 Vote
Very easy to learn & start playing
Great replay value
Difficult to play well, for some players might be too complex or tiring
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