board game reviews

Our Thoughts on Codenames: Board Game Review #1

Michael and I are really big board game fans. Game nights have been a staple in our relationship for years. When Michael was away at college he learned about the game Codenames and absolutely fell in love. So much so, that he brought it to my family Christmas party that year. He had been telling me about it for weeks but the instructions felt unclear to me when he excitedly told me about them over face time.

We played many round of code names that Christmas, we have played many rounds since, and I am sure we will play many rounds in the future. Here are all of our thoughts about the game Code Names.

click this image to head to amazon and purchase code names for $11 🙂

Basic Information about Codenames:

price of the game: $11-$40 depending on the version you buy and where you buy it

average time needed to play: 15- 20 minutes/round

ideal # of players: at least four players per round

minimum age to play: 10 years and older

difficulty rating: 3/5

fun rating: 4.5/5

how to win: guess all of your team’s words, are the other team guesses the “assassin card”, which is an automatic loss

How You Play Codenames:

  1. Split up into two teams. One team will be the red team, and one team will be the blue team.
  2. Each team chooses one person to be the spymaster for the round.
  3. Set up the word cards in a 5×5 grid.
  4. Use a key card to determine which of the word cards are for the red team to guess, and which of the cards are for the blue team to guess. Only the spymasters should know this.
  5. You’re all set up. Now, whichever spy master can get their team to guess all of their words first wins!
  6. The spymaster gives one key word that relates to some of their words. They also give their team a number of guesses. The teammates try to guess which cards the spymaster’s word relates to.
  7. Go back and forth between teams, one word at a time, until one team guesses all of their words.
  8. Each time you guess a word correctly you get to put a card of your color over the word. This means that if the spymaster gives you three guesses, however you only want to take two, that is fine.
  9. If you guess a wrong word your turn is up not matter what. If your guess was the other team’s word they can put their color card on it, and if they guess is not either teams word you put a brown card over it and the next team goes.
  10. To win, guess all of your team’s cards. Also, if the other team guesses the “assassin card” you win!

Our Top Tips When Playing Codenames:

1.When you are the spymaster write down all of your teams words. We usually just put them in the notes on our phone, but you can also use a piece of paper. Remembering which words you are finding clues for can get confusing, plus writing them out makes it much easier to see connections.

2.Decide how many guesses each team gets before starting. We think there are three different options that you can choose between.

  • If the spymaster says you get three guesses, you only get three guesses or less. If they think you might know a word from a past clue they must remember to give you an extra guess.
  • You get one extra guess if you choose to take it. If the spymaster says their word applies to three cards, you can take up to four guesses.
  • The guessers get as many guesses as they would like until they decide that their turn it up.

3.Try to include as many words in your clue as possible! This really makes the game more fun. Yes you risk getting the assassin card or giving one to the other team, but at least you’re not being boring.

4.Decide if you want to use a timer or not. We usually don’t, but some people really take their time guessing.

5.Touch the card to lock in your guess. You are going to want to think out loud or discuss if their are multiple guessers. You don’t want the spymaster mistaking your thoughts for your final guess.

6.Look through all versions of the game before buying. We have the original version which we linked above, but there are a lot of other versions we can put here for you to see. If you are going to play with big groups often we definitely recommend the XXL version. It makes it so much easier to see from across the table. There are also themed versions which could be more fun for kids, and a version designed to be played with only two people.

Where To Buy Codenames:

click here

That link will bring you to an amazon page filled with tons of code names options. It is only $11 for the original version, which is what we have. Some other options include:

a version that uses pictures on the cards instead of words (click the image above) price: $19.95

a version designed for only two players, we have not tried this one (click the image above) price: $13.59

the XXL version, great for a big group or if you have vision troubles (click the image above) price: $35.49

There are also some really fun themed versions that you could find through that link above. There is a disney one, a harry potter one, and a marvel one!

Code names can also be played virtually with far away friends. Here is the link if you want to try that out.

What We Love and Don’t Love About Codenames:

What we love about codenames:

Rounds go quickly so you can switch up teams and roles often. Sitting down to play is not a big investment.

You can play with a lot of people. Some games get overwhelming with lots of people, but codenames stays just as fun!

The game is more fun when you play with someone you know well. You might notice how much it helps to know how they think. Me and Michael are a pretty great team because of this.

What we don’t love about codenames:

Codenames can be tricky. The box says for ages ten and up, however a ten year old might have a hard time playing.

Similar Games to Codenames:

link to amazon to buy headbands for $13.59

Codenames feels a lot like an advanced version of headbands that is played with a team. You have to use word association to figure out the mystery word.

link to purchase guess who for $30.99

Guess who is another similar game that also feels a little easier than codenames. Similarly to code names, there are a lot of cards displayed, and you have to guess the correct one based off of another players clues.

Guess Who and Headbands are both really fun, however they do not have the same teammate rules that we love about codenames. If you have any favorite games that also feel similar, let us know!