Codenames Board Game Review

Codenames is a complicated game to wrap your head around at first, but after a few games things start to become more interesting. It’s silly and involves a great deal of guess-work, but it’s worth it for the entertainment it provides, proving to be a great party game.

As mentioned before the rules are slightly complicated, so stick with me. A standard game requires at least four people, split in two teams of two. Each team needs a spymaster. Everyone else takes on the role of field operatives. The cards, or codenames, are then laid down in a 5×5 grid. Each spymaster picks a key card. They know the real identity of the 25 codenames. In turns, spymasters give clues to their field operatives, but they can only use one word. Players keep guessing until they run out of ideas, pick the wrong card or hopefully get the correct answer and touch the correct card. Each team keeps doing this until one team gets all their agents.

That’s a brief summary, there is much more to the game. For example players need to sit in specific positions when playing. The game rules are more complicated than they should be. They key to a successful board game is easy to understand rules. New players should be able to read the rules once and be good to go. Of course there are exceptions, but board games play best when players can understand the mechanics quickly. However if players take their time to understand the game, it can be an enjoyable experience.

Before talking about the games positives, it is worth pointing out depending on the player’s ability, a session can be pretty lengthy. When it comes down to it, Codenames is a guessing game. Naturally that means one play through could be very short, or it could take some time. Not necessarily a bad thing, but worth noting. With a good sense of humour and a willingness to pass if you are taking too long, then the play through should fly by.

Codenames really taxes the player’s imagination and vocabulary. With good team mates, the possibilities, and fun is endless. Especially when players really embrace the spy theme. Pretending to be spies, desperately trying to help fellow agents is a silly and novel concept but it really plays out well in Codenames. Needless to say the more players, the greater the game becomes. It’s down to the spymaster to come up with the best one word hint to really aid their team and guide them to success. Being the spymaster is no easy job, while they may not be involved with the guessing, the hint they provide can make or break a round. It proves to be very entertaining watching your friends endlessly make guesses to what you think was an easy hint. In bigger teams communication is key, Codenames does a good job of bringing everyone together. Or maybe tearing each other apart if you disagree, but it is all part of the fun.

Codenames is a great deal of fun, and clearly designed for larger parties than your standard board game. Sure it is complicated to begin with, but after a few games players start to get the hang of it. It’s a pressure filled experience, especially for the spymaster, but it still finds a way to remain fun. Players may not enjoy it as much with the minimum amount of players, but it is still worth a try, even if it just to unleash your inner spy.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Board Game was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to

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