Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Review: Codenames Board Game #BoardGameClub


I was super pleased that our family were asked to be part of the Blogger #BoardGameClub where we will receive a different board game each month for twelve months and our family will get to try the game out and share with you an honest review.

Codenames - an Introduction
The first game we have received is Codenames which has been crowned the Blogger Games Club game of the year 2016. It's not a game I've heard of before but it sounded interesting from the box blurb -
Two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their teammates know the agents only by their CODENAMES. In Codenames, two teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board. Their teammates try to guess words of the right colour while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin. Codenames: Win or lose, it's fun to figure out the clues.
Codenames is designed by Vlaada Chvatil, a Czech board game designer who has had much success in the last decade. When you look across the web at reviews for Codenames it seems to be widely agreed that Vlaada has done it again with Codenames and it is a massive hit with games geeks. Take a look on Board Game Geek and see for yourself what the self-proclaimed board game experts say.

What did we think of Codenames?
I was a little dubious at first as the blurb we were sent with the game said it was recommended for age 12 years plus and my girls only turned 10 last week and one of them is dyslexic so word games can be a challenge. We decided to play it on holiday with my mum, brother, myself and my three kids (ages 10,10,13) and it was noisy, quickfire fun. My Dad commented that he had not heard us all so lively in a long time.

I really need not have worried as we all had a great time playing. We split into two teams of three players and tried to ensure a roughly equal split of skill. You have to pick one person from each team to be the Spymaster and the other two are the guessers. From the 200 code name cards you set up a 5x5 grid of cards on the table and the Spymasters have a 5x5 grid key card to show them which of the codenames belong to their team (red or blue).

The 5 x 5 grid set out ready for play

The aim is for the teammates to identify all the agents that belong to their team. You do this by guessing which codenames are yours from the one word clue given by your spymaster. You have to avoid the innocent bystanders, the other teams agents and of course the deadly assassin, as if you get him/her then the game is instantly over and the other team wins.

A bit of skill is needed for making up the clues and it is good to find a clue which can relate to more than one codename but be careful as you don't want your team guessing codenames that belong to the other team (and giving them that point) or the assassin. The instructions and rules booklet is really good and has quite extensive instructions on what clues are acceptable and which ones are not. I had to send the kids away and allow myself about 15 minutes of  'reading up' time before we could play as there was quite a lot I needed to know to be able to explain it easily to the others.

I'll give you a couple of examples of the kind of clues we gave -

Clue - China:1 (this means the clue is China and it relates to one card) and the codename card it related to was Beijing, which of course is easy to get but that is about as difficult as my 10 year olds could make it on their first night playing.

Clue - Music:3 (the clue is music and it relates to three of their cards). The cards were note, sound and bugle and it was very lucky these all coincidentally belonged to the same team, otherwise this clue could have been tricky as it might have led the guessers to guess a codename from the other team.

I found it much more fun when the adults were the Spymasters as the clues could be more cryptic (if you know the person well-enough) and often they related to a number of cards on the board. My brother and I were on the same team and obviously we know each other well, so here is a couple of his clues for me.

Clue - Soldier:2 - The codename cards were tank and buffalo (as in the song title)

Clue - Ruby:1 - The codename card was India, the clue was rhyming slang - a Ruby Murray is a curry and curry comes from India

The number of codename cards the clue relates to dictates the number of guesses the teammates may take, plus one extra guess to allow for wrong guesses against previous clues in previous goes.

10 Year old SpyMasters working together to check if a clue is acceptable before it is shared with their guessers

The Spymasters have to work together to decide if a clue is acceptable or not before it is spoken out. As some two words would be taken as a single clue for example 'New York' or a persons given name 'Tom Cruise'.

You get better and better at Codenames as you play it more. We found that after about eight games or a couple of hours that we all felt confident with the game and it was quicker paced and even more fun. You get an egg timer included in the box too and anyone can turn this at any point (even on their own team) if either the spymaster or the guessers are being too slow and are slowing down the game.

Hi 5 for my team mate Miss M as we guess successfully again!

Codenames is a real party game and I'm looking forward to playing it with our pastoral group where it will be all adults.

Information
  • Price:  The RRP for Codenames is £16.99 but I've seen it online for as little as £11.58 so it is good value.
  • Players: 2-8  (2 or 3 is an abridged game though and probably 6 or more players is optimum for the most fun)
  • Playing time: Around 15 minutes (although it can be as short as 2!)
  • Suggested Age: The box says 10 years but the blurb I was sent said 12 years. My 10 year olds could play it but it would be far better and quicker with older children/ just adults
  • Box Contains: 16 agent cards in two colours, 1 double agent card, 7 innocent bystander cards, 1 assassin card, 40 key cards, 1 rulebook, 1 card stand, 1 timer, 200 cards with 400 codenames 
You can see how much fun we had playing on our holiday. Please excuse the gaudy fruity tablecloth, orange walls and bad lighting in the photos. This isn't my house, it is the holiday let we were staying in! You can see that even with bad decor Codenames is ace!

I'd give a 9/10 for now. It may rise to 10/10 when we have played it more or when I am just playing with adults. I love the fact it is fast paced, quick to play and so much fun.


Disclosure: I am part of the blogger board game club and I will receive a game each month for 12 months free of charge for the purpose of a review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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