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List Price: $19.95
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Ages Play Time Players
14+ 15 minutes 2-12

Designer(s): Vlaada Chvátil

Publisher(s): Czech Games Edition

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Product Description

In Codenames, two teams face a square grid of 25 word cards. Each team has a captain, and both captains can see (via a hidden picture) which cards belong to their team, which cards are neutral, and which single card is the "assassin".

On a turn, the captain gives their teammates a clue such as "Car 4". Those teammates then select cards (up to the number given) which they think the captain might have in mind for the clue (perhaps "Wheel", "Electric", "Vacation" and "Price"). Choosing a word not belonging to your team ends the turn, and choosing the "assassin" word makes you lose immediately. Assuming neither team falls to the assassin, the winner is the first team to uncover all of their own words.

Product Information

Codenames has the following expansions available:
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Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4.5 in 2 reviews

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Practically Perfect Party Game
February 14, 2016

An excellent party game for 4+ players (there are alternate rules for 2 or 3 player games, but it really shines with 6+ players). A rare game in that it doesn't seem to have an upper limit on how many people can successfully play. Game length doesn't vary much even with large player counts, it is always around 20-30 minutes. It encourages interaction between players, players on teams can come and go as needed without affecting game play much, and it can be played lightly off the cuff or with a deeper strategy if desired therefore appealing to a wide range of players. We like to rotate who the spymaster is each game to keep things interesting. Everyone we have played this with loves it, and they all want to play it again. The only minor criticism I have is that the theme is just tacked on and is not really part of the game at all, but it really doesn't matter as the game is so fun to play that it doesn't really require a theme to succeed.

by V.J. H.
CODENAMES – The Spymaster Who Loved the Word-meister
September 23, 2015


Game Format: Word game with table top word cards.

Age Range: (Publisher recommends 14 +) I believe 12 + would be fine.

Players: 2 to 8+ players. 3-player version in rulebook.

Gaming Interaction: Abstract, to hint and guess word associations. Team member cooperative. Team vs. team competitive.

Theme: Codenames of spy contacts.

The Goal: To infer all the codenames of your spy contacts before the opposing team does the same, all the while avoiding an assassin card.

Significance: Although there is some simplicity of the key words (the actual codenames), can this game have replay value? Let’s find out.

The Game and the Gamers

Gameplay -

Goal: You, as a spymaster who sits in your office (thematically speaking), have to verbally send single word clues to your agent in the field. This field agent – your teammate – has to infer the meaning of your clue and physically contact 1 or more of the secrets agents in the field. Contacting a rival spy or the single assassin has consequences.

Mechanics of How: The field is actually a grid of 25 tabletop word cards that represent the codenames of 25 secret agents that need to be identified. Each of these word cards is mainly a single color – beige. But the spymaster holds a multi-colored code key that identifies the secret agents and innocent bystanders in the field. Here is a mini example of the codenames from the back of the game box. CAT, CODE, DOG, TURKEY, HONEY, HELICOPTER, FIRE. The spymaster can only give a single word and a single number as a clue. For example, “Hot: 1” (The number 1 signifies only 1 codename.) Now, it’s easy to find the single codename that relates to “hot”, right? But in order to increase the winning odds, the spymaster can say, “Hot: 2”. Now, can you find the 2 codenames that relate to “hot”?

Strategy: This is where the challenge lies in the actual game. As spymaster, you need to find the relationship bewteen words. And the number of words that relate. Do you say, “Hot: 1” or “Hot: 2” or “Hot: 3” or “Hot: 4”? What’s more, you need to understand the cultural background of your field agent in order to give the appropiate clue. Which words does “THEATER: 2” relate to, PICTURE, AUDIENCE, HALL or COMPANY? “Theater” relates to a motion picture, an audience, a theatrical hall and a theatrical company. Depending on the background of the players, different answers can be inferred. A single mistake has consequences.

Ending the Game: Technically, there is no scoring. Whichever team first makes contact with all of their secret agents wins the game. The game could end early if contact with the assassin is made.

Game Length: 15 to 20 minutes for experienced players. Longer for younger players and novices. A sand timer, which creates a sense of “the ticking time bomb,” is provided in the game and can be optionally used by any player against another player who takes too long to provide or respond to a clue.

Difficultly Level: For adults, the codename vocabulary may be simple, while appropiate for younger players, but no worries. This game is also challenging for adults. Working out the relationship between the clue and one or more codenames is an exercise in perception and keennness at any age.

Gaming Background –

The Gaming Enthusiast: A player with this background may find the game a bit simplistic and lacking in deeper theme yet can have fun with family and friends who enjoy an occasional game.

The Occassional Game Player: Recommend.

The Novice: Recommended.

Summing It Up

Contents -

Box: Sturdy and the right size to carry in a bag. The inside of the box has a single compartment made of light card board. The components are packed in plastic bags that let the components rattle a bit in the box, yet all is tightly packed; not a big deal.

Rulebook: Six brief and well organized pages of rules. Only one complaint here: passing the turn to the opposing team is not clearly spelled out when all correct guesses are made. I had to infer, from an example of game play in the rulebook, that after a clue is given and all the correct guesses are made, the turn is passed to the opposing team. Perhaps obvious but not delineated well.

Components: They all serve the game well, but some players may not like the thinness of the 200 vocabulary cards. However, the cards are double sided, making a total of 400 words/codenames. Graphics: The art for the codename cards is plain and simple. What’s more, there are - previously unmentioned here - sturdy red and blue team cards to signify correct guesses. Each card has a male side and a female side. Personally, I like the art for these cards.

The Fun of It All: I enjoy the simplicity of this game and the challenge of word associations. There are times when I want to have casual fun with family and friends, and times when I want to get into the mechanics of more complex games with fuller themes. However, CODENAMES reaches a wide variety of people and is perfect for casual parties or even after-school activites.

Replay Value: 200 double sided cards with 400 codenames total make for a lot of variety. Word association is only limited by your imagination. Even within a single game, finding the numerous connections adds to the fun. Students of English as a second language love this game. I can watch the joy on the faces of students, friends and family many times over. For more experienced players, hopefuly we can look forward to an expansion of more challenging words.

Teachability: I find that teaching by example is always better than over explaining, unlike this review, I know. This is a game where comprehension of the rules, through example, comes pretty easy. One practice round should do it and a couple tweaks during the first game.

Inviting Players: Show potential players the example on the back of the game box, explain a litte, and challenge them a little. They’ll play the game with pleasure.

Other Resources for Codenames:

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