Unleash Your Inner Spy with Codenames: The Ultimate Word-Based Party Game

Welcome to the world of espionage, where rats could be lurking around every corner and friendly faces may not be what they seem. In the midst of a cold war, you and your squad have been tasked with identifying ally spies from enemy spies who have infiltrated your base. But there’s a catch – you can only identify them by their codenames!

As you and your team work to uncover the spies, you’ll need to rely on limited clues from your spymaster. It’s a race against time as you try to identify your allies and get your affairs in order before the enemy does.

But watch out! The deadly assassin is waiting to strike anyone he sees, and you’ll need to avoid selecting the assassin at all costs. It’s a game of wordplay and strategy, where every move counts, and every clue could be the key to victory.

So, get ready to put your spy skills to the test in Codenames! With its thrilling atmosphere and challenging gameplay, you’ll feel like a real secret agent on a mission to save the world. Are you up for the challenge?


How to Play

Codenames is a party game designed for 4 to 8 aspiring spies. In the box, you’ll find a massive deck of double-sided word cards. To set up a game of Codenames, you must first shuffle the word cards and randomly place 25 of them in a 5×5 grid. These 25 words are the 25 codenames you must find your allies from. 17 of them are spies, 7 are bystanders, and one is the feared assassin.

Divide players into two teams – red and blue, and choose one player from each team to be the spymaster, the rest of the players are operatives. The spymasters are the only players who know the true nature of each codename. To do so, shuffle the deck of key cards and randomly draw one to be the key for this round. Place the key card on the stand in a way that only the spymasters can see. Now they know exactly which cards belong to their team. There is also a blue or red colored strip on the key card. Whichever color it is, turn the double agent tile to that side. This means that team has one extra agent to find, but in turn they are the first team to play.


On each team’s turn, the spymaster looks at the key card, and then announces a single-word clue and a number. The number is the number of cards the spymaster wants his teammates to guess, and the word is the thing they have in common. For example, if the spymaster says “Animal, 2”, it means the operatives must find 2 cards related to animals. After discussing their options, the operatives then select the cards one by one.

If the card you chose is an agent of your own team, well done! Place the agent tile on that card and move on to the next one. If it is an innocent bystander, tough luck. Place a bystander tile on that card and go on to the next team, you lost your chance. But if by bad luck you choose a card belonging to the opposite team, you just gave them a free agent. Place the corresponding tile on the card and end your turn. But that’s not worse than choosing the assassin. Out of all the cards, only one is the assassin and if any team chooses that card at any point throughout the game, they immediately lose.

This means that the spymasters must be extra careful when announcing clues – they must make sure their operatives don’t confuse the clues with enemy agent cards, and god forbid, the assassin. So spymasters should pay attention to the whole grid, not just their own agents.

Let’s go for a warmup round and test your espionage skills. Can you find our agents from the codenames below with this clue?

Wear, 3


Of course, it’s up to the spymaster to determine the number of cards each round. This means they could play safe and announce lower numbers so the operatives don’t make a mistake. They could even give a clue for one card. For example, for the word “Fire” they could say “Hot,1”. While this lowers the risk of error, it slows down your progress as the opposite team may be able to find more cards in their turn.

Also, the clues must be related to the meaning of the words. This means you cannot use rhymes or words describing the position of the card in the grid. No one likes a smarty-pants.

How is the Experience?


Playing Codenames can feel exciting, challenging, and rewarding. As a player, you are constantly engaged in the game, trying to come up with the best clues and guesses to help your team identify the secret words on the board. There is a sense of satisfaction when you successfully guess a word or when your teammates correctly identify a word based on your clue.

The game is filled with laughter, excitement, and a lot of brainpower. You’ll be shouting out guesses, high-fiving your teammates, and trying to come up with the most creative clues possible. It’s like a game of charades, but with words instead of actions.

The game can also be tense at times, as you try to avoid selecting the opposing team’s words or the assassin word. There is a feeling of anticipation as you wait for your teammates to guess your clue, hoping that they will understand your reference and select the correct word.

Overall, playing Codenames can be a fun and enjoyable experience. It requires you to think creatively, work together with your teammates, and use your intuition to make the best guesses. The game can be played with a variety of people, making it a great choice for parties, family gatherings, or game nights with friends.

Awards and Recognition

Codenames is one of the most highly praised and top-selling board games around the world. It’s been the topic of discussion in the board game community for many years and it has made some of the best memories for hardcore gamers and newbies alike.
It has also won tons of awards, most notably the 2015 Golden Geek for best family game and party game, as well as the “Spiel des Jahres” Game of the Year award in 2016. It quickly became a fan favorite in 2015 when it was released and it was considered the best party game of all time until 2018 when Decrypto came out and took the board game world by storm.

Versions and Editions


There are numerous editions and versions of codenames so you can spice things up and have a whole new experience with a familiar, yet different game. Most notable is Codenames: Pictures for those players who prefer a more visual experience.
In Codenames: Pictures, the words are replaced with pictures, which are mostly weird abstract pictures, and players must describe these pictures and their similarities to each other as clues. This makes for a whole different strategy and approach to the game, and for most of the game, players are huddled over the grid of pictures trying to make sense of them.

So what can you do if your friends bail on you and you only have two players? Not to fear, Codenames: Duet is here. Just as the name suggests, Codenames: Duet is designed for exactly two players. Similar to the classic version, 25 word cards are placed in a grid, and both players try to find all 15 of their agents before the game ends.

In this game, the key cards are double-sided, so players are spymasters and operatives at the same time. Each turn, one of the players gives a one-word clue for their side of the key card, and next the other player gives a clue based on the other side. If the players manage to find all of their agents in 9 turns without running into the assassins, they win the game.

There are also various themed Codenames. For example, Codenames: Harry Potter is a version of Codenames: Duet, but set in the wizarding world of Hogwarts, with different beasts and spells as codenames. Or Codenames: Marvel which is a version of Codenames: Pictures, pitting the two teams S.H.I.E.L.D and Hydra against each other using pictures of Marvel characters as codenames.

Other themes include Codenames: The Simpsons, Blizzard, Disney and even an adult version called Codenames: Deep Undercover and more.

Similar Games

If you enjoyed playing Codenames and want to experience board games similar to it, here are a few other games worth a try;
First of all, the game that replaced Codenames as the best party game of all time, Decrypto. Decrypto is similar to Codenames as it is also played with 4 to 8 players in two teams – black and white. But in this game, the words aren’t in the middle for everyone to see. Each team gets four keywords that the other team cannot see.

In each round, one of the players becomes the codebreaker, and gives three clues to point out three of the keywords. So where’s the challenge? Even though the opposing team can’t see your keywords, after a few rounds of listening to your clues, they can get a gist of it. In other words, the opposite team uses your clues to try to guess your keywords, and after that, break your code.

The objective of Decrypto is to correctly guess all of your team’s codes without letting the opponents crack them, and at the same time try to break your opponent’s codes. The game feels a bit similar to Codenames, but it’s a whole different experience.


Another game you may enjoy is Dixit. Contrary to the previous games, Dixit isn’t a team-based game, each player wins individually. In this game, players each get a hand of picture cards with abstract concepts. Each round, one player becomes the narrator and describes a card for the other players and places it face-down in the middle of the table. Other players must now choose a card from their hand similar to the description and place it face-down on top of the narrator’s card.

After shuffling all of the cards, they are revealed and spread out, and players must try to find the narrator’s card. Each player secretly votes for a card, and then they score points. Players score if they correctly find the narrator’s card, and also if other players mistakenly voted for their card.


Another similar game is Mysterium, a game where players are mystics communicating with the ghost of a murder victim trying to solve the mystery of the murder. In this game, one of the players becomes the ghost of the victim trying to give clues to the mystics so that the case can be solved and the soul can rest in peace.

The catch is that the ghost cannot speak. The only means of communication are visions that the ghost places in the mystics’ minds, represented by picture cards. Players must work together to put the clues together and solve the case once and for all before the ghost is lost forever.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Codenames is one of the most engaging and thrilling board games out there suitable for players of all ages and interests. Its simple and fun gameplay also makes it a great option for those who aren’t much familiar with board games. So the next time you’re looking to challenge your friends to a friendly contest of wits and creativity, be sure to give Codenames a try and share your experiences with us in the comments.

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