Codenames Board Game Review: Intriguing Guessing Game for the Whole Family

Editor's rating:
Reviewed by Brankica Ivanova
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We like

Simple rules to follow and understand

Easy to set up

It offers many times of playing with almost certain guarantee that the game will never be the same twice

Affordable price

The game does not last long (15 -30 minutes)

Great game for playing in teams

We don’t like

The game sometimes relies too much on the Spymaster’s skills of giving clues

Sometimes it takes too long to come up with a single word clue

How it works

If you and your family or friends like board games that make you think logically, creatively and you like word association kind of games, we are sure that you will like Codenames, as it was voted for one of the best board games. This game was designed by Vlaada Chavatil and in case that you are not a gamer and this name does not ring a bell, this designer’s name is behind many popular games such as Dungeon Lords, Galaxy Trucker and many more. It is a simple concept game that forces players to think and puts them in different roles in the game. It is a fun and challenging game that due to the number of the components each time you play it, offers new adventure and a totally new experience. If you have not played this game we are more than certain that you will want to try it after reading our review of this really famous board game called Codenames.

<h2>Product description</h2>

Product description

This is a competitive board game that is played as a team game. After you form the teams you must appoint one person in each team that is going to be the Spymaster who will be in charge of the giving clues to the members of his/her team.All the other members of the two teams know that there are agents that have a codename but players do not know which agent belongs to their team so they do not know their teammates and they have to try to figure this out based on one-word clues. The board game comes in a simple carton box. When you open the box there is a bunch of staff. There is a sand timer which is actually an optional tool because many users actually do not use it, but it is up to you or your team, and you can use it if you want to add some extra challenge and equal time for each guess. It actually runs for 90 seconds. There are 200 cards that have code words on both sides so this makes around 400 codenames. These words are all nouns and the words are written in two different orientation for the purpose of easier reading regardless of the sitting position of the players.There are also cards that are made of harder cardboard and that are designed to be agent cards in two different colors -red and blue which actually are the colors of each of the team. The total number of these cards is 16. The game is made even more interesting because there is one card for the assassin, 7 cards for bystanders that are also two-sided cards because there is a female and a male side and of course like in every spy movie there is one double agent. There are 40 key cards and one stand for the cards. The key cards are actually a form of grid with red and blue squares and can be seen only by the Spymaster, and the grid actually tells the Spymaster who is in their team and who are the opponents. Although the box looks pretty simple it contains everything that is actually required for the playing of the game.
<h2>Who is this game for?</h2>

Who is this game for?

This board game is recommended by the manufacturer for players who are older than 10 years old so although it is a family board game that can bring families together and offer great quality time spent together as a family it will be harder to involve the younger members of the family. The reason for this is the nature of the game that requires a lot of thinking in reference to word associations. However, harder does not mean impossible and since this game is a team game where there are different roles to be played, the younger family members can still be engaged in the guessing part. Codenames will be especially enjoyed by older kids (teens) and adults who like solving mysteries based on clues, those who love the word association type of games and those intrigued by spies and secret agents. Although the manufacturer says that the game can be played by at least 2 players still it is much better if you create 2 teams that consist of more people. The game does not actually limits the maximum number of players just states 2-8+ or if you make it more competitive game then the minimum number of players should be 4 players and this makes it perfect for playing it as a party game or at large family gatherings.
<h2>What makes this game popular?</h2>

What makes this game popular?

There are several reasons for the popularity of this game. Maybe one of the first is that people usually like spies and secret agents because they bring some adventure into the typical everyday’s life and activities and this game offers the chance to try yourself in discovering, guessing and revealing codenames and secrets. It is a nice board game that can be played in the comfort of home but also whenever you are on-the-go -picnic, holiday or weekend away with family and friends. By its nature it is a game that is intended to be played into teams and can be played by 8 players so the number of engaged players makes it great and popular as a board game. The manufacturer states that the time that is needed for playing this game is 15 minutes which also is great since the game is dynamic and involving for the players but you cannot get bored since it does not last long. If you want to play it again it is very easy to do so and again it would be great fun because the game is not repetitive as the cards are double sided, there are 40 key cards which is pretty great number and they can be layout in so many different ways so even if you want to repeat the exact game it would be very hard to do so. It is also a game that has simple rules so it is easy for players to understand what they have to do actually and what are their tasks in the game.
<h>Rules of playing the game</h2>

Rules of playing the game

We already mentioned that there are 200 cards with code words on them but what you need for one game is only 25 cards that are chosen randomly and to start playing the game you need to set up the cards in a 5x5 grid. The rest of the cards is returned and will have to wait for other rounds of the game. These rules apply for a standard game that is, at least 4 members divided into two teams and the rule book explains the other rules when there are two or three players.
One of the team members should be a Spymaster whose task is to look at the key card and if there are two spymasters they sit one next to each other and the other team members sit opposite them because only spymasters have right to look at the key card meaning the blue and red grid and give his/her team members a clue. When it comes to giving clues we can say that there are a lot of rules that are actually explained in the Rule book, which is part of the board game but for example the most important one is that the clue is one word that can be followed by a number but the clue word must not be part of the code name written on the code cards. In one round of the game only one key card can be used which is again randomly picked and the rest are returned back into the box. The grid as said consists of red field that the red team must guess, blue fields that the blue team must guess and some brownish or pale fields are the bystanders and one field -black is the assassin. If you are wondering who starts the game first, the designers of this game have thought of that too and if you have a look at the grid, from the outside frame of the grid you can see either blue or red little squares, and the color of these squares indicates actually who starts the game first. The team that starts first will have 9 players and the other team 8 players. The spy cards are equal in number I.e. 8 blue cards and 8 red cards and depending on the team which starts the first there is one extra card which is a double agent card and is two sided with red and blue color. The double agent is put in the pile of cards in the color of the team which starts first. The piles of agent cards, assassin card and bystanders cards are placed in front of the spymaster(s). Once the game is set up the Spymasters can begin giving clues that relate to their team cards -they can say one word plus a number. The number always corresponds to the number of cards that can be related to the clue word. The team then together can discuss about which cards the clue can relate to.
Although it might sound easy it actually involves lots of thinking especially on the behalf of the spymaster who has to try to think of only one word that might relate to let’s say three or four cards but has to be very careful that word not to refer to other code words that belong to the opposite team and this involves lots of thinking and requires skillful word association.

<h2>Aim of the game</h2>

Aim of the game

When the team guesses the code words I.e. cards the spymaster shall cover that code card with the agent card in corresponding color. The point is to guess all the cards that correspond to the color of your team I.e. to identify all the members that belong to the same team. The correct guess depends on the skills of the spymaster for proper giving clue and the skills of the team members of ability to understand and logically connect the word associations. If the team does not make a correct guess and touches the card that actually belongs to the other team then they will help the other team to take a lead because they will identify the opposite team member. What you should really avoid is not to touch the assassin card because this will put an end to the game and the team that touches this card will be automatically the loser in the game. If your team touches a card that actually belongs to a bystander it is time for the other team to make a guess so your team loses the turn. The team which reveals its team members first is the winner of the game. If you want to be the winner you will definitely have to choose carefully when it comes to the person who is going to be the spymaster because if this person is not so good in word associations and giving clues the whole team will definitely have a hard time in this game.
<h2>Cost of value</h2>

Cost of value

This game can be purchased for less than 20 dollars and it is worth every penny. As a game that consists literally of hundreds of cards and contains everything you need to play the game. The setting of the game, the number of cards and its nature draw the attention of the players making them want to play the game many times and what is even greater the game is not repetitive because of the so many options of key grids and code words. The cards and the other components are good quality and do not seem as cheap. Overall the game is worth the price and definitely your time that you are going to spend on playing it.
<h2>Bottom line</h2>

Bottom line

Codenames is a popular board game that has been one of the bestsellers and yet the idea behind the game is actually not a novelty but a simple one, word associations but designed in a clever and versatile play. The board game consists of 400 code words that can offer multiple play rounds each time you play so you will never get tired or bored of playing this game. It is a social game that can be played at parties and it is great that actually the game does not limit the number of players but recommends up to 8 players. The game is also pretty short in length of playing, around 15 minutes but it is quite addictive and makes you want to play again and again despite the fact that in the world of interactive features and 3D technology this game I pretty old-fashioned still it is not surprisingly loved and played by many.
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