Wednesday, September 20, 2017

For Your Eyes Only (Codenames)

Agents, important information has come up.  Traditional contact with the Agency has been compromised, as have multiple forms of our backup.  Our solution is this: Codenames.  All agents are now assigned an innocent, everyday word, listed alongside this message, and it is your job to confirm when a Spymaster comes calling.  But be careful, as there has been at least one assassination attempt on our agents lives.  In addition, there is a rival agency across the pond following the same protocol.  Good luck, and remember your Codenames.  Also, eat this message.

GAME DESCRIPTION:  Codenames is a word based games published by Czech Games Edition for 2-8 players.  Players must attempt to find and contact their "Agents" by guessing words correctly.

SET-UP:  Players split into teams of 2.  The "Spymaster" for both teams sit at one end of the table with the rest of the players, or "Agents" on the other side.  Deal out a set of single word cards in a 5 x 5 grid.  The Spymasters place a Key card, the one marked with red, black, white and black squares, so that side faces them and the back faces the Agents.  The key has lights around the grid to determine who goes first.

CLUES:  Each team is either Red or Blue.  During the Spymaster's turn, they give a one word clue that matches word(s) on the board, and a number equal to the number of words that match the clue.  A player may also give 0 or Unlimited as a number.  They cannot say anything else, and must try not to give any other kind of help.  A clue may also not be any word actually on the table.  Spelling the clue, letters, numbers, and parts of compound words that are not on the table are all valid clues.  You may also choose to allow or block proper nouns, acronyms/abbreviations, homonyms, rhymes, etc.

GUESSING:  Once the clues have been given, that team must choose 1 word at a time that matches the clue.  Once a team's Agents have chosen a clue, The Spymaster compares it to the Key, top left to their top left word according to their perspective.  If the Agents guess a word that matches their teams color, the Spymaster places an agent card over that word, and guessing continues until they run out of guesses, or choose either the opposing teams card, an innocent bystander (Grey on the key), or the Assassin (Black).  Agents may also get 1 more guess if they so choose, i.e., in the middle of the game the Spymaster may give 2, but the Agents know a word from a previous clue, so they may have 3 guesses.

END:  A team wins when they have successfully covered all of their words with agent cards. If any player has chosen the Assassin, they lose automatically.

CONCLUSION:  Codenames is a fairly fun, but rather difficult game.  However, the difficulty lies not in the game itself, but rather the players.  The layout is simple, and easy enough to understand so long as you have basic reading comprehension skills.  The difficulty comes more from knowing the clue giver than knowing the words.  Obviously, this is not a game for those where reading is difficult, but it could help those learning to read, and an easy work-around would be to give that team enough people to read off the available clues.  All in all, a pretty solid game with solid mechanics, and it's easy to see why there's a Disney and a Marvel variation, as well as other variations with more rules

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