Codenames: Analysis and Background Information

In the first week of our BCM 300 Class, we were asked to begin our journey into game production by experiencing board games first hand. The group I was placed in decided to play Codenames, a guessing game that required very little explanation and was an interesting and enjoyable first step into the world of board gaming. The following is an analysis on the rules of the game, as well as some background information on the designer, publisher and developer. Furthermore, my own opinion on the game itself will help tie together the post.

 

Front covers of two versions of Codenames.

 

Codenames was published by Czech Games in 2015, and was created by a board game designer named Vlaada Chvátil. Vlaada is well known in the board gaming industry, both for winning coveted awards such as the German Game of the Year in 2016 (‘Spiel des Jahres’), and working on famous games such as Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization and Original War. His partner and publisher for Codenames, a company called Czech Games, is also highly renowned in the world of board gaming, with famous releases such as Galaxy Trucker, Alchemists, Dungeon Lords, Tzolk’in, Last Will, Space Alert, Dungeon Petz, Tash-Kalar, among almost forty other games. The company has worked with mostly Czech and Slovak game creators, such as Vlaada, but has also helped others in Croatia, Italy, Hungary and the US.

 

Vlaada Chvátil

 

Codenames is a guessing game at its core, and requires between 4 – 8 players. At the beginning of the game, the players are split into two even teams, with one person on each team given the role of the ‘Spymaster’. Each groups Spymaster sits opposite their team, and provides one word clues to them verbally to help them try to discover the names of ‘secret agents’, which are written as random words on the cards provided by the game (code names). The players must attempt to make sense of the clue, and pick out the agents names by using the words theme as a clue, whilst also trying to avoid guessing words that point towards the other teams agents.

 

A game of Codenames in action

 

The group I was a part of spent some time reading through the rule book, and watching Youtube videos to begin to understand the qualities of the game. Once we had an understanding, we began to play our first few rounds, and after a very short period of time, we found ourselves understanding and truly enjoying the game play experience. Each team member swapped roles, or even swapped teams to change up the dynamic between players, which we found was a good way to give the game a bit of longevity, as it could be dull when one team were winning every single round. From this point, we also played another version of the game which asked us to use pictures instead of words, and we found that this was also easy to understand, and could be enjoyable, although personally, I liked the words game better.

 

 

Overall and in conclusion, Codenames by Vlaada Chvátil is a fun gaming experience that could provide hours worth of entertainment at parties or board gaming conventions. There were a number of times when I thought that it would be an excellent drinking game, or by adding our own rules to the game it could be changed for the better. However, the game stands by itself as an interesting and quick start gaming experience that many budding board game aficionados could use as a gateway into the larger world of board gaming.

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