Codenames was introduced last year and received a Golden Geek award. This year, Target debuted Codenames Deep Undercover, which essentially is the same game, but with more “adult” words to guess. Since I like to keep kid-friendly games in the house, I picked up the standard version, but if you’re looking for a party game geared towards adults, Codenames Deep Undercover may be a better choice.
Codenames can be played as a party game with large teams or as a two-player cooperative game. You can choose to be on the red team or the blue team, and each has to guess their selected words before the other team. The words to guess are randomly selected and placed in a 5 x 5 grid on the table. The cards are double-sided, so the replay value is pretty high, as you’ll more than likely never get the same set of cards again.
In a two-player game, you’re playing against an imaginary opponent who gets to place one of their cards when your teammate guesses incorrectly or when your team’s turn is over. Based on how many opponent cards are remaining by the end of the game, your team receives a score, which you can aim to beat the next time. It’s still pretty fun since you’re working with someone else to try to guess as many cards in as few turns as possible.
A grid card is chosen, and based on the rectangular markings and on the top, bottom, and sides, that will be the color of the team to go first. The blue and red squares represent which cards belong to that team. The vanilla-colored squares are bystanders that don’t help or hurt your team, and the black square is the spy. Do whatever it takes to make sure your team does not guess this square or you lose immediately.
The spymaster will give a one-word clue and then a number that tells how many of the cards are related to the clue. For example, if the cards that I want my team to guess include “London”, “Africa”, and “England”, I may say something like “Places – three”. Then my team would try to determine which three cards I’m referring to. However, if I didn’t notice that “America” was also a card out there, my team may guess it and our turn would be over. If it happened to be the other team’s card, they would get to place their card over it.
Overall, the game is really fun and pretty challenging to try to link numerous cards together under a single word without also having that word apply to the opponent’s cards. Quality wise, the cards are a little on the thin side, but you get so many of them, it would probably increase the price if it were a heavier card stock. The included plastic bags to hold the components are also a thin material, so I opted to use some thicker bags I had from other games. Component quality aside, it’s a great party game and even a couple’s game to see how well you know each other based on one-word clues.
If you’re looking for a little more mature entertainment, there’s Codenames Deep Undercover, or you can always just have an adult beverage while playing the standard version. Regardless of version you choose, it’s worth checking out.