Codenames: Review



Our Rating:

You and your fellow spies must make contact with the agents in the field. The only problem is that the spymaster is the only one who knows their secret Codenames and must direct you to them! Time is short, so they can only give you a one word clue and the number of agents it connects. Find the right ones and you win, however, don't help the rival spies along the way or it will cost you. Also, beware the assassin looking to end your run as a master spy!

== Click to learn How to Play Codenames (the simplified version) ==


My Rating:


  • Amazing replay-ability.
  • Easy to learn and anyone can play.
  • Easy to setup and start playing.
  • Quick games.
  • Lots of play involvement.
  • Challenging in a different way than other games.
  • Great price point.


  • Can be easy to cheat.
  • Not as much yelling and screaming as other party games.
  • Games can slow down if you have bad spymaster.

Intro/First Impressions

I had heard this game was really good from a number of people, yet no one explained exactly what it was or what you did while playing it. Also, for some reason it took us a while to actually play this one. After finally getting it as a gift, I was amped to try it out, but also a little worried that there was so much hype around it. If you’re like me, too much hype can lead to a letdown, so could this one possibly live up to it? Well… Yep, it did. I don’t know what I was expecting it to be, but it was simple and lots of fun.


When you open the box for this one, you will quickly see that there isn’t really too much to this game. There are a bunch of cards with names on them, some colored spy cards, a bunch of master key/solution cards, and a timer. Simple games like this usually attract a broader range of people, so that explained its mass popularity among fellow board gamers.

If you’re unfamiliar with how this game is played, refer to our How To Play – Simplified Edition, as this review will focus more on the thoughts about the game.

This game is super easy to set up, you lay out the name cards, nominate a spy master from each team, give them the answer key card and away you go. I really enjoy this about this game. It is meant to be a party game, and to me party games are quick to get going so you can harness people’s excitement.

As mentioned earlier, it is very easy to learn this game. Basically, the spy master gives you one word and a number of cards that connects, and you have to guess which cards they are referring to without guessing incorrectly. You could teach this game to anyone really. Again, a big selling feature of party games. Even if you don’t get it at first, you can sit back and watch your team mates for the first round and pick up on what’s happening.

There is a lot of player interaction during Codenames. To me this is a huge plus. You are constantly debating with your team to decipher what the heck your spy master is trying to tell you. It’s very easy to give the first thing that came to mind or how you got to your idea.

“Oh man, did she mean Orange or Apple or Mask when she said Peel for 1?!”

You can also try to screw up the other team up by planting a thought in their head. Which is my specialty. However, this has back fired and helped them out on more than one occasion!

You would think the team going first would have a huge advantage, despite needing to get an extra word. They can pick from all the words and link them so easily you say to yourself. Not so fast, it is HARD as the spymaster. Surprisingly hard actually. This is where the game can slow down a bit actually. Trying to link two or more cards can be very tough, especially when your opponent (or the assassin) is very similar to your cards. You can use the timer to keep things moving, which really helps from making this game drag too much.

That being said, when I was waiting on clues, or when the other team was playing, I found myself staring at the cards trying to link them in my head so I could be prepared for the next round. Alternatively, I was also trying to figure out the other team’s clues for fun, and so I could throw them off the obvious answers.

Games are fairly quick with this one, which is nice, so everyone can have a turn in the hot seat as the spy master. It seems every time we play with new people they always beg to be the spymaster because they say “it is so easy’’, until they get in said hot seat, then things TOTALLY change.

As the spymaster, it is extremely hard not to cheat. In fact, almost every game we have to tell the spymaster to ‘shhhhht’. You have to say your clue then shut your mouth and keep a straight face. You have to sit there and listen to your teammates run through their train of thought in agony. They may be way off track, yet you can’t give them any indication of how they’re doing. This is tough and painful, but in a fun way. People tend to cheat out of forgetfulness by saying things like ‘this is a stretch’, which is very easy to let slip, so that can change the game a little too easy. Really though, it’s a minor gripe, it happens to everyone and you can call people out for doing it.

The other thing I love about this game is its amazing replay-ability. If you are dealing randomly, there is no way you would ever get the same game twice. Like I mentioned at the start, there are hundreds of (double sided) cards with names on them, and tonnes of key cards. To add to this, you randomly lay out the cards, you randomly pick a key card, you randomly decided which way is up on the key card (giving you 4 options per card).

There is a very very slim chance that someone who has played lots has the advantage because they can link certain clues. Yes, you will get better with time, but those clues have to end up on the board at the same time, plus they have to be the ones you are going for, PLUS you have to hope that clue in your head isn’t going to help the other team get an agent on the board.

The last thing I want to note as something I enjoy is that after every round you get to talk about what just happened. Maybe someone gave an obscure clue or you accidently guessed one correctly. People start explaining their thoughts and what not. I found myself laughing so hard after rounds sometimes and really figuring out who I think the same as.


Lots of party games involve trivia, or categories, or picking something from a list. That means the games get old eventually because you know all the answers. That is my biggest pet peeve of party games, yet this one eliminates that almost completely. It is super simple, so anyone can play, yet very engaging at the same time. It might not get everyone yelling and screaming like some party games, yet you will be laughing and talking about this one long after you are done. I highly recommend adding it to your collection!

About the author


I love playing board games with my family and friends when I am not busy playing sports or working away. Check out my full Bio on the About Us page!

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