Review: Codenames

posted in: Quick Games, Reviews | 3

It’s not easy being a spymaster, but it is a lot of fun. Using one-word hints you must help your team find all your agents in the field before the other team find theirs.

Codenames - Cover

What is Codenames like?

At its heart Codenames is a simple word association game, it might sound almost too simple, but it actually makes a great game.

In each game 25 words (out of the games 400 words in total) are spread out in a five by five grid. Everyone will be on either the blue or red team. One person on each team is declared the “spymaster”. Their job is to help the rest of the team find all the “field agents” before the other team does the same. This is done by giving a one-word clue followed by a number. The number tells how many words on the 5 x 5 grid the clue refers to. The rest of the team then decides on what word(s) they think the clue refers to by pointing at them one at a time. If they guess correctly they place one of their teams “field agent” token on the board. If they are incorrect their turn ends and it’s the other teams turn. If a team points to a word that is the other teams word the other team gets the point instead. Therefore, the spymaster has to be very careful with the clues he or she gives. However, playing it too safe by trying to have your team guess one word at a time might cost you the game, as the other team could be guessing multiple words each turn. To add a little extra spice there is also one assassin word in the grid, and if anyone ever points to that word they immediately lose the game to the other team.

Codenames - Contents


4 / 6

As always Vlaada Chvátil has created something new and unlike any of his previous games. And as always it is a great one 🙂 This is definitely a game I would recommend to everyone, hardcore gamers and “muggles” alike. It’s fun, easy to teach and works great in larger groups. The game will be very different depending on the people you play with. It is possible to play the game  with two and three players, but I highly recommend playing with four or more, as it makes for much better dynamics.



6 / 6

This game is a blast to play! Even for someone like me who is not a big fan of the party game genre.



2 / 6

The theme of the game, the whole spymaster thing feels very pasted on. While codes and secrets fall in the domain of spies, it doesn’t tie that well into the game and the mechanics. But for a party game it does not matter much.



4 / 6

The game has a very simple style, but it matches the game well and is a good match that keeps focus on the important things without any clutter.



5 / 6

The rules are simple and well written, and includes variations for even more re-playability.

Codenames - Cards


  • Players: 2 – 8+
  • Playing time: 15 minutes
  • Suggested age: 14+

Would you like to know more?

If you want to see a quick run-through of the rules I highly recommend Watch It Played – How To Play Instructions:


Follow Peter H. Møller:

Tabletop Together and dachshund owner, sci-fi geek, trekkie and whovian. Lover of medium length, thematic, silly (in the good way), worker placement style games. A sucker for beautiful art. Generally just a big lovable teddy bear.

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3 Responses

  1. Top 6 Games for Beginners - Tabletop Together

    […] Codenames is a fantastically simple game, great for larger groups and for people not really into playing board games. So the perfect game to bring to parties and family events. The game is all about word association, and is played in teams. Of course it has a little more depth to it than that. But mostly it’s just fun for everyone. If you want to know more about it check out my review of it here: Review: Codenames […]

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