Tabletop Game Review: Codenames

Greetings friends and welcome back to The Goblin Gazette! Karthas here and today we have a great game to review, Codenames. I recently played this with some friends and let me say we had a lot of fun. If you want a game that is quick, creative, and team-oriented this is the game for you! Check out our review below!

Game Overview

Codenames is a tabletop party game that can play between 2-8 people. Each game can take about 15-20 minutes. You can pick it up from any of your local gaming stores or follow this link and pick it up on Amazon!

The idea behind Codenames is pretty simple. There are two teams, Red and Blue. Each team has a Spymaster and a Field Operative or Field Operatives depending on how many people you have playing. The Spymasters must guide their teammate(s) to guess which Codenames represent a friendly Spy by giving a one word clue, and a number representing how many Codenames are tied to this word. The team that finds all of their friendly Spies before the other team wins, but watch out for the Assassin, choosing him will cause you to automatically lose!

200 Codename cards, Key cards, Red, Blue, Civilian, Assassin, Timer
All the pieces you will find inside the box

How To Play

The first thing you will need to do is split into even teams, or as even as possible. Then each team will select a Spymaster and the other teammate(s) will be the Field Operative(s). The Spymaster and Field Operative(s) will sit across from each other. Once you are split into teams the players will lay down 25 Codename cards in a 5×5 grid. Each Codename card has a single word written on it like Orange or Poison. The Codename cards actually represent someone in the field, either a friendly spy, enemy spy, civilian, or assassin.

The Spymasters then get The Key which shows a 5×5 grid that represents the Codenames. But the key tells the Spymasters which Codenames represent a friendly Spy, an enemy Spy, a civilian, or the Assassin based on the color of each box.

The Key tells you which Codename card is which
Red = Red Team, Blue = Blue Team, Cream = Civilian, Black = Assassin

Playing the game can be a little confusing at first but can be picked up pretty quick. The Spymasters need to guide their Field Operatives to guess which Codenames represents their friendly Spies. They do this by giving a one word clue and the number of friendly Spies that relate to this clue.

The Field Operative(s) then “make contact” with the spies in the field, which simply means they point to the Codename that they think represents the friendly Spies by touching each card one at a time. If they are successful in choosing a friendly Spy, they can keep guessing. If they are unsuccessful, their turn ends. As long as the Field Operative(s) are successful, they are able to make up to one more guess than their Spymaster said. This allows the field operative to catch up if they missed one in a previous round or if they want to make a wild guess.


How To Win

The game is over when a team is able to find all of their Spies, or if a team accidentally selects the Assassin. If all of the Spies are found, then the team wins, but if the Assassin is selected then the team that made contact loses automatically. 

Playing the Game

I was actually surprised at how difficult this game can be at times. As the Spymaster you have to really look at all of the cards before you give the clue because you may actually confuse your teammate if you give them a clue that could be associated with more than the Codenames you want them to select.

For example in one game I was trying to get my teammate to guess Bear and Mole, but I saw the word Dinosaur as well. So I said “Animal, 2” thinking they would go for Bear and Mole before they went for Dinosaur. But as soon as I said it, I noticed the word Cat! So now my teammate had 4 potential words. 3 of which were good answers (in my head at least) and one not so good. Sure enough he picked Cat as one of the words. You also have to keep an eye on the Assassin. If you give a clue that leads your teammate to the Assassin you’re in trouble!

As the Field Operative you have to really pay attention to every word. You have to try to understand where your Spymaster may be leading you. This can be difficult because certain words can mean different things to people. For example, the word Check could mean a Check you write, it could be a Check at a restaurant, or it could be the verb Check! You have to keep all of these things in mind while you are looking over the words.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I really enjoyed Codenames and you can bet it will be a game I pull out at parties. Its pretty simple once you understand how the game works and its easy to play multiple games because the Codename cards are double sided! So if you are looking for a good party game that will really challenge you and your friends give it shot.

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