Team against team. Spymaster against spymaster. Codenames: Pictures is an easy game to get into, but both challenging and fun to play. Like it’s older (less visual) sibling Codenames: Pictures is a great game to bring to parties and works well with larger groups.
What is Codenames: Pictures like?
Codenames: Pictures is a team vs. team game, played on a grid of 5 x 4 cards with simple (but surreal) pictures. The goal of the game is to be the first team to correctly identify all the pictures assigned to them. This is where the spymaster comes in. Each team will have exactly 1 spymaster that, through the use of single word clues, will help the rest of his team identify the correct pictures.
Both teams’ spymaster will be sitting on one side of the table and the rest of their teams will be sitting on the opposite side. The 2 spymasters will have a card showing the location of the pictures in the 5 x 4 grid that he/she will have to have their team correctly point out (along with the other team’s locations)
The spymasters will take turns giving a single word clue and a number that indicates how many pictures on the grid the clue they gave relates to. After this the spymaster can not speak or otherwise do anything to help out his team. Then the rest of the team will discuss what pictures they think the clue relates to. The spymaster can choose to play it safe and only choosing hints that can be associated with 1-2 of the pictures, but this makes your team lose if the other team is more efficient. On the other hand if you go for a higher number your 1 hint might cause your team to guess incorrect pictures (you might even help out the other team by picking one of their pictures).
The first team to find all their agents (8 for the starting team and 7 for the other) is the winner. There is one important exception if any team points to the assassin they immediately lose the game, so the spymaster has to be very careful that his clues don’t relate to that picture in any way.
If you’ve played Codenames already you might have noticed that Codenames: Pictures plays almost exactly the same way. There are only 2 main differences. The first one being the most obvious, having pictures instead of words on the cards and the second one being that it’s played on a 5×4 grid and not a 5×5 grid as “the original”.
Codenames: Pictures is without a doubt a party game, and a very good one at that. Personally I’m not a big fan of party games, but this one is one of the few ones I do own and that I actually enjoy playing. I would actually go as far as to say that this is the ultimate party game. It’s easy to teach people and works great with many players.
Don’t the let the simple ruleset fool you, it is a game with more depth than meets the eye at first glance. After a few plays you’ll be able to remember the earlier hints the spymaster gives and use them to help you with future clues. If you are really observant then you can even do the same for the opponents team. It’s also a game you can definitely become better at by playing with the same people. Codenames: Pictures also offers you a lot of fun insight into the way other people think, and can lead to a lot of great talks and fun moments.
If you were a cynical man you could claim that Codenames: Pictures is just a rehash of regular Codenames and not worth even looking at if you already have the original. While it is a fair point I do think that Codenames: Pictures has a lot to offer even though the rules are almost identical. But I think the surreal pictures makes the game a better choice for families with kids, and for groups of people with different native languages nationalities.
- Simple rules
- Can handle a high player count
- Doesn’t overstay it’s welcome
- Great for families
- Works great for groups of people who do not share the same native language
- It can feel that it’s more of a social activity than a game
- Theme is not really relevant
- Only good with 4 or more players
Codenames: Pictures has such a simple ruleset and a quick playing time. It can be taught to kids and drunk people in minutes.
- Players: 2 – 8+
- Playing time: 15 minutes
- Suggested age: 10+