2–8+ (competitive: 4–8+)
words association, deduction, team play
Codenames is a 2-8 player board game designed by Vlaada Chvátil and published by Czech Games in 2015. Two opponent spymasters know the identities of 25 secret agents. Their teammates know the agents just by their CODENAMES.
The teams contend to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give single word clues that can point to numerous words on the board. Their teammates try to guess words of the right color 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.
Teams take turns. The starting team is indicated by the 4 lights on the edges of the key card.
GIVING A CLUE
If you are the spymaster, you are trying to think of a one-word clue that relates to some of the words
your team is trying to guess. When you think you have a good clue, you say it. You also say one
number, which tells your teammates how many codenames are related to your clue.
Example: Two of your words are NUT and BARK. Both of these grow on trees, so you say tree: 2.
You are allowed to give a clue for only one word (cashew: 1) but it's fun to try for two or more. Getting
four words with one clue is a big accomplishment.
Your clue must be only one word. You are not allowed to give extra hints. For example, don't say,
"This may be a bit of a stretch…" You are playing Codenames. It's always a bit of a stretch.
Your clue cannot be any of the codenames visible on the table. On later turns, some codenames will
be covered up, so a clue that is not legal now might be legal later.
When the spymaster gives a clue, his or her field operatives try to figure out what it means. They can
debate it amongst themselves, but the spymaster must keep a straight face. The operatives indicate
their official guess when one of them touches one of the codenames on the table.
• If the field operative touches a card belonging to his or her team, the spymaster covers the word
with an agent card in that color. The operatives get another guess (but not another clue).
• If the field operative touches an innocent bystander, the spymaster covers it with an innocent
bystander card. This ends the turn.
• If the field operative touches a card belonging to the other team, the word is covered by one of
the other team's agent cards. This ends the turn. (And it helps the other team.)
• If the field operative touches the assassin, the word is covered by the assassin card. This ends the
game! The team that contacted the assassin loses.
Tip: Before saying your clue out loud, make sure it doesn't relate to the assassin.
Number of Guesses
The field operatives must always make at least one guess. Any wrong guess ends the turn
immediately, but if the field operatives guess a word of their team's color, they can keep guessing.
You can stop guessing at any time, but usually you want to guess as many words as the spymaster
said. Sometimes you might even want to guess one more:
Example: Red Team's first clue was tree: 2. The red operative wanted to guess ORANGE and NUT.
She guessed ORANGE first. That was an innocent bystander, so she did not get a chance to guess NUT.
Blue Team took a turn and correctly guessed two words. Now it is Red Team's turn again.
The red spymaster says river: 3. The red operative is pretty sure the AMAZON is a river, so she touches
that card. The spymaster covers it with a red agent card, so she gets to go again. A river has a BED,
so she touches that codename. It's also red, so she can go again.