Codenames Review

So by now if you’ve been following us for a while you’ll have seen we’ve played quite a wide variety of games over the past year. For the most part we’ve enjoyed them all, some more than others. But Codenames is definitely one of my favourite games we’ve played in some time.


  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 15 mins
  • Played: 2-8
  • Price: £10-£15

Codenames is a team based game for 4-8 players, but when I say team based it’s not strategic intense team based, this is very much a fun party based team game. When you’ve decided your team you need to nominate a team leader. The final step is to deal a grid of 25 cards onto the table between your two teams.


The team leaders need to be sat next to each other with their team mates sat opposite. The side with both the team leaders is given a grid which is coloured with both teams colours of red and blue, a cream colour similar to the word cards that are down on the grid and a dark card with a character on it reminiscent of Dick Tracey. The objective is to make the grid or words that’s dealt down match that of the grid card that the team leaders can see.


Once you’ve decided who goes first, in this example we’ll say the red team, the leader will have to describe words on the grid that are red from the grid map card using only one word to describe what he means. If per chance you luck out and there are 2 words on the grid that are red and similar so for example England and Canada are on the word grid on the table, and both of these are red team code words, the team leader can say one word then a number to try and ensure their team mate gets the 2 in one go therefore getting the grid covered quicker. So team leader would say “Country 2”, in the hope that their team mate knows the world map and knows that England and Canada are countries. They then place their red cards down on these words if correct.


Should you team mate incorrectly guess a card from the grid, the result depends on what the grid card is meant to look like. An incorrect guess could result in the opposition team getting to put one of their cards down on it, if it were a blue word, a bystander card which is the cream one, or worst of all, the black card featuring the assassin which results in an instant game over. If it is a bystander card that goes down, the team that placed this card’s go is over and the other team take over guessing.


This is game over

The ultimate goal is to get your grid completed as per the grid card pattern.

It’s such an incredibly simple game to play, and can be over very quickly. We managed to get multiple rounds in and enjoyed each round we played. It can result in some interesting conversations between rounds with your team mate and the opposition team over if a word you’ve used to describe one of the grid words best suits that word. Also depending on your relationship with your team mate, you might already have your own definition for some words that might make it easier to describe. Case in point with my wife on my team as the team leader simply said her name, I instantly knew which card she was wanting me to pickup, but i’ll refrain from telling you which word is relevant to my wife’s name from this review.

The most entertaining part of this game is without a doubt being the team leader but being so restricted as that team leader. Your team mate could be looking at the grid thinking how they’d describe said words to you, but you might end up describing them completely different which can result in hilarious arguments. Having words on the tip of your tongue as a team leader that should be a given for your team mate to get for them to look at you with a blank face. And the opposition team just acknowledging what your trying to describe but your team mate still not getting it can lead to some frustratingly funny moments.

To make the game slightly more entertaining we decided to not use the timer included with the game, but rather set a stop watch on our phones and set the time limit to 30 seconds to describe as the team leader. It added a more frantic dimension to the game and made the word association that much more funny as you’d panic when approaching the dying seconds.

We played this game with 4 players and sober and the result was us laughing till it hurt. Adding more people to the mix and at a gathering with a few beers will only increase the entertainment I don’t doubt.

As I touched up on at the start of this review, It’s genuinely been on of my favourite games we’ve played in a long time, and I’m itching for another gathering to play it some more. The rounds are quick and easy to set up and there is no sense of slow down or repetition to the game. Given that there are 200 word cards which are double sided means the game will feel fresh for a long time.




4 thoughts on “Codenames Review

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