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Codenames review

Score : 10

Incredibly simple and quick

Very competitive

Interactive with any number of players

"One more go" factor


It was the final match with the scores tied at 2-2. It was our turn but we had three words to guess, with the opponents down to their final word. "Paper" was the clue I gave. "That's obviously book, which is made from paper". Great, one down.  "Tree", yes they were two for two. "Cards".  Fantastic, now all they had to do was touch them and victory was ours. Suddenly our other team mate interjected "cards are more plastic though aren't they". I struggled to keep my face neutral as they argued and started debating what else it could be, before touching "plane". To be fair I couldn't fault their logic there, a close game but we had lost as the opponents got their obvious and easy one.

Codenames is a team vs team game where players are spies. One person on each team is the spymaster, who has to guide his team to identify all their agents before the other team identifies theirs. The only catch is that agents can only be referred to by their codenames so that the other team can't identify them.

Each team will have one codemaster with a shared grid of words laid out in a 5 by 5 grid in front of them. A map will indicate to the codemasters which words are red agents, and which are blue. The rest are all neutral apart from one assassin word, which instantly loses the game if selected.


In turn, the codemasters will give a clue to help their team identify their agents. The clue can consist of one word which links the agents, and one number referring to how many agents that word relates to. So, if they wanted the words "cat", "dog" and "rabbit" identified, they might give the clue "pet, three". Sounds easy, but when you have to link dog and rabbit but not cat, that is where the lateral thinking comes in.

The beauty of this game is it's simplicity. Anyone can play and within reason, the more players you have, the more fun it is. You can play with as few as four, but it works best with 6 or more as most of the fun is listening to your team debate your clue. To link words, you often have to be very tangental, but as people know this, they can up interpreting your clues in wildly different ways to you imagined.

Codenames is the number one ranked party game on Board Game Geek currently for a good reason. It is quick, simple but every game becomes incredibly competitive. It has the capacity to make you feel like a genius, and just as quickly very silly. It has endless replayability due to the huge number of words included and different combinations available and every game invariably ends with the question "one more?".

Publisher: Czech Games Edition

By: Vlaada Chvatil


Number of players: 2-8


Play Time: 15 mins

RRP: £15.99

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