We will equip you with the strategies for giving clever word clues, spotting secret friendly agents, and avoiding the assassin. Learning how to play codenames couldn’t be more fun.
Codenames is a team-based party board game designed by Vlaada Chvátil and published by Czech Games.
- Number of Players: 2 – 8 Players
- Difficulty: Easy
- Time: 15min
- Age: 14+
Objective of the Game
The goal of the game is to be the first team to find all your agents.
Divide the team evenly into two teams with at least two players each. Also, take into consideration their skill level.
Shuffle the cards and lay them out on a table in a 5*5 grid format.
Each team will select one player to be their spymaster or team leader.
The Spymasters will sit next to each other opposite their respective team members.
The Spymasters will draw a random keycard from the pile and insert into the stand and place it in between them.
Each spymaster gets a set of colored agent tiles.
The four red lights on the four corners of the keycard will show which team will start first.
That team gets nine (9) words to guess and the other team gets eight (8). The number of words corresponds to the number of agents each team has. This means that the starting team gets nine agents and the other team starts with eight agents.
The first clue of the game will be given by the starting team.
There are two agent cards – Red and blue agent cards.
The red spymaster will keep the red agent cards in a stack facing him or her. The other spymaster also does the same. This process is to help the respective master keep track of their choice of team.
The double agent card goes to the starting team so flip it to that team color. Remember, it will be part of the starting team’s card throughout the game.
There are seven (7) innocent bystanders’ cards in the game.
Keep cards within the reach of both spymasters for easy access.
There is only one Assassin to be wary of.
As I said earlier, the starting team is indicated by the four lights on the keycard. The teams will also alternate turns.
As the spymaster of a team, you will need to come up with a single-word clue that points to the words your team members are trying to guess. If you’re able to come up with a suitable word, you will relay it out loud to your teammates. Using a number, you can also help your teammates know how many codenames your words relate to.
For example, if you have two words teacher and a pencil pointing to education, you could say Education: 2.
One word clue per word is advisable but if you can target two or more with a word clue, go for it. Being able to do so is a very big deal showing how smart you are.
You’re permitted a single word clue per word. Giving extra suggestions or signals is not allowed in the game. The clue given must not include the code names visible on the table or make it too obvious by alluding to the word is rather just a hint to what it is. For example, if there is a code name Elizabeth, you can’t give a word clue as Elizabeth.
After the spymaster has relayed the clue, respective team members or field operatives will reason among themselves and try to figure out what the word is. Spymaster must always keep straight so as to not give an indication of whether a word is correct or not.
Team members will show their guess by indicating the codename on the table.
- If the card chosen belongs to the field operative’s team, the spymaster will cover the word with the color of that agent. The team will the chance of guessing another word.
- If the card belongs is a bystander the spymaster covers the word with the corresponding bystander card. With this, the team’s turn ends.
- If the card chosen belongs to the opposing team, the word will be covered with the opposing team’s agent card. This also ends the team and goes in favor of the other team as well.
- If, however, the operative touches the card covered by the assassin the game ends, and the word is covered with the assassin’s card. The team will also lose the game.
With these in mind, always make sure your clue doesn’t point to the assassin’s card.
Number of Guesses
You’re allowed one guess per word. However, if you manage to choose a card that belongs to your team, you can keep on guessing.
It is advisable to guess as many words as possible. However, you can choose to stop guessing if you want to.
Spymaster will alternate turns with each turn covering at least one word.
End Of Game
The win goes to the team which covers all their words.
Your opposing team can win the game if they manage to guess your last word.
If field operatives land on the assassin’s card, the team loses the game.
Another Game Setup
After the game ends, you can allow other players the opportunity to be spymasters.
Remove the cards on the codenames and put them back in their stacks.
Now flip over codenames, and you’re all set for another fun game of guessing.
Over To You
Playing codenames is fairly easy. Pick up the game, play with your friends and have fun.
Check our board game page for more ideas.
If you don’t own the game yet, buy it here on Amazon.