We have played over 20 rounds of Codenames in the last few weeks, no joke. Enough said. =-) We’ve played with family, with friends, with kids, with elderly folk, with single people, with married couples, with liberals, with conservatives, and a bunch of combinations of each. This game is such a blast and engages everyone. Party games often instill varying levels of engagement based on interest, age, type of game, education level, etc. Not so with Codenames. This type of variety actually enhances Codenames and increases the level of fun.
Essentially, you have two teams: red and blue. You have one Spy Master for each team. The goal of the Spy Master is to get her team to guess each of her team’s spies for the victory. There is a grid of random, single-word noun cards on the table, visible to everyone. The Spy Masters then have a secret corresponding “code” grid which tells them which cards are associated with which team’s spies. Then the guessing begins. Without any hints or insinuations (that’s actually really hard!), the Spy Master gives a single word clue with a number (to tell how many word cards she is associating with that clue). One at a time, the team then guesses the words. If they guess right, mark it down and keep guessing. If they guess the other team’s spy, the other team gets the benefit and the turn is over. If they guess an innocent bystander, nothing happens, but the turn is over. If they guess the assassin, game over!
Being Spy Master is actually a lot harder than it seems but is so fun! You need to concoct a single word that would lead your team to guess as many code words as possible. Seems easy, but you need to be very aware of your opponent’s code words and especially aware of the assassin. You’ll find more conservative, risk-averse players will got for only one or two code words per turn (slow and steady). I’m very reward-sensitive, so I say “go big or go home!” But I’ve also been burned by that strategy many a time. =-)
When you’re on the team and not the Spy Master, be sure to listen to everyone’s opinions. So often the loudest or pushiest player would convince the team to go one way when the quiet, 10-year-old kid would be spot on. You also need to be very conscientious of a clue’s intended meaning. Does the clue “duck” refer to ducking one’s head or an actual quacking duck? Does “cool” mean chilly or awesome? Or, if the Spy Master is really good, does it refer to both meanings?
I hope Czech Games comes out with an expansion to the original game soon because at our rate, we’re going to hit 50 games in no time at all. =-) I dub this as my highest-rated party game at 9.5. It’s virtually flawless. The only downside plays into how awesome of a game it is: there are a lot of code word cards included (which can, of course, be shuffled and mixed up), but with how much we want to play, we have blown through the cards quickly.
Disclaimer: I received this game for free in exchange for my review, but believe me, I post authentic reviews every time and will be brazenly blunt if needs be.