Doug's Dungeon - Codenames
Picture the situation: You’re a board game person. You’ve been invited to a party. They want you to bring some fun games. But you know there will be 8 or more people there. There goes your entire catalogue, right? Not a lot of board games are spectator sports, so you can’t rely on some people wanting to watch four others play. Furthermore, a party game needs to have little investment of energy and time. Players should be able to get up and swap places with others at will, or even add players mid game. Also, it needs to be simple enough to cater to the whole crowd. Man, if only there was a game that perfectly satisfies all these condi-
Y’know what, I’m just gunna show you the box already.
Codenames is a 2 to infinity player word puzzle game that is your primary weapon against large parties. Play it as a cooperative fun time jaunt, or split the room into two teams and watch the entropy spiral. Players listen to cryptic commands given by an appointed spymaster. They then use that knowledge to work out the codewords that their friendly agent cards respond to. If playing teams, two spymasters represent the blue and red agents. Each piece of info they give to help their team gives clues for what the opponents should avoid. Once a team finds all their spies, the game is over!
The game is set up with 25 random words dealt out in a 5x5 grid in view of all players. Then, a layout card is drawn and displayed only to the spymaster(s). Then play begins. I’m not kidding, Aside from grabbing the agent tiles, that’s the whole set up. Codenames is played over a series of rounds. Spymasters examine the layout card, then say a word, followed by a number. The word is associated with some of the cards laid out on the board. The number tells you how many of those cards are related. There is no restriction on what codeword you can come up with, as long as you don’t just flat-out say a word on the board.
Now, the other players (spies) discuss what the hell you meant by “Plumbus 4”. They can’t talk to the spymaster or ask for any indication they are right. All they can do is touch a card. The spymaster then places the appropriate tile over the card. It can either be a blue agent, a red agent, a civilian, or the assassin. If the players guessed correctly (getting a blue or orange agent, depending on their team), they get to have another guess. If they found the wrong coloured agent or a civilian, the round ends for that team. The other team then gets an order from their spymaster, and they go until they guess wrong or stop. In a cooperative setting, all the players are blue team, and each round a red spy is placed automatically, as a ticking clock.
As for that nasty assassin, WELL. If a spymaster screws up or the players make a massive leap in logic and touch the card associated with the assassin, their team loses. Like, the whole game. Spymasters have to make sure their clues do not lead to the assassin, nor do the players want to stretch their logic too far. “No Jenny, ‘sticky 3’ does not include tree. Okay?” etc.
Codenames is one of those perfect party games. Everyone has an opportunity to engage. Players learn things about each other’s thought patterns. Memes are formed. It’s even a blast for those just spectating! One time, we had ‘Bermuda’ and ‘Triangle’ in the same colour, and I was all ‘CONSPIRACY 2’!!!! Hehe good times.
I put Codenames down as a collection staple for any type of gamer. But if you’re not a words guy and want a different flavour, there’s Codenames: Pictures. You still need to give out codewords, but now it has to relate to pictures of buses and parrots and junk. But if you really want to play cards against humanity, there’s Codenames: Deep Undercover. It’s got all the naughty words. Words kiddies shouldn’t know.
But they do. They do.
I'm an avid lover of all things table top. I also have a growing collection of board games which inspire me to create my own. I put my loud and expressive personality to good use as a dungeon master for my friends, having run many campaigns through 4th and 5th edition D&D.
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