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November, 2023 STEAM Game Staff Pick: Codenames by Vlaada Chvátil

By December 1, 2023No Comments2 min read

Codenames, created by Vlaada Chvátil and published by Czech Games Edition in 2015, is an engaging party card game that has captured the attention of players worldwide. The game’s unique concept involves two teams competing against each other, each led by a “spymaster” who provides clever one-word clues to guide their teammates in identifying words on the board. The objective is for the players to uncover their team’s words while avoiding those of the opposing team.

In this strategic game designed for 4 or more players, participants are divided into red and blue teams. One member from each team assumes the role of the spymaster, while the rest become field operatives. The ultimate goal is to successfully place all of the team’s agent tiles on the board.

The game setup involves 25 cards with words arranged randomly in a 5×5 grid. Among these cards, some represent red agents, some represent blue agents, one signifies the assassin, and the rest are innocent bystanders. Spymasters receive a card with colored squares corresponding to the words, guiding their clues. The key card indicates which team goes first and includes an extra agent that must be identified.

Each turn, the spymaster issues a verbal clue consisting of a single word and a number. This clue should creatively link to the words of the spymaster’s color. For example, if the words are ‘beach,’ ‘whale,’ and ‘water,’ the clue ‘ocean’ would be fitting. The number specifies how many words match the given clue. The challenge lies in delivering a meaningful clue that avoids phonetic connections and excludes any uncovered words. An invalid clue, challenged by the opposing spymaster, results in the opposing team randomly revealing one of their agents.

Field operatives then strive to connect the given clue to the words on the board. The spymaster covers guessed words with agent, bystander, or assassin tiles. Operatives must make at least one guess per turn, with the maximum number determined by the clue plus one. A correct guess allows for further attempts, but revealing a bystander or opposing agent concludes the turn. Uncovering the assassin results in an immediate loss for the guessing team. To add urgency, a timer, such as the hourglass included in the game, can be used in fast-paced or time-sensitive situations.

The game concludes when either all of one team’s agents are found, securing victory, or if the assassin is revealed, resulting in defeat. Codenames blends strategy, wordplay, and teamwork, making it a deserving recipient of the 2016 Spiel des Jahres award for the best board game of the year.

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter is an accomplished author and passionate advocate for the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) toys, books, and games. With a keen interest in educational products that spark curiosity and creativity in children, Rachel has dedicated her career to exploring and promoting the best in STEM-related content.

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