‘Codenames’ board game review
By Ed Appleby, Illustrator
Codenames is a party game for two or more players designed by Vlaada Chvátil and published by Czech Games Edition (CGE) in 2015. The players split into two teams, each lead by a “spymaster.” Cards with codenames are laid out in a five by five grid, and the spymasters must give clues to their team as to which codenames belong to their “contacts.” Once a team uncovers all of their team’s contacts—or accidentally uncovers the “assassin”—the session ends and the team with the most contacts wins.
The gameplay of Codenames is as fast as it is hard. Several games can be played within a short period of time, and the spymasters are governed by strict rules as to what they can use as clues. Each clue can only consist of one word and one number, the word being the clue to the code name and the number representing how many of the contacts the clue describes. The spymaster can say no more than that, and the team only has as many guesses as the spymasters’ number, plus one. If a team guesses wrong, the play moves to the other team.
Codenames is ranked as the no. 1 party game in the top 20 list on boardgamegeek.com, and is widely regarded as the breakout hit of 2015. The game is simple to learn, yet extremely challenging, requiring lateral thinking and creative strategy to win. I would recommend it to anyone.