Fresh from winning the prestigious Spiel des Jahres Game of the Year for Codenames, Czech Games Edition has reinvented its signature title as Codenames: Pictures—and improved it in the process.
The basics of the two games remain largely the same. A grid of clue cards is laid out randomly in a 4×5 array (5×5 in the original). In the original, clues were single words. In Codename: Pictures, words are replaced with amusing, sometimes highly imaginative, art.
The game can be played by two people with special rules, but it is best with four or more. On one side of the grid sit the spymasters, side by side. On the other side are their field operatives. The two spymasters can see what each clue card represents on the key card, chosen at the beginning of the game. This key shows the layout pattern of the grid, with each card corresponding to a red agent, a blue agent, a civilian, or the assassin. For example, the cards in the bottom row may represent, left to right, two red operatives, a civilian, and a blue operative.
The goal is to be the first player to uncover all his agents without triggering the assassin (which ends the game). This is accomplished by providing a one-word clue. You can also provide a number indicating how many clue cards might work with that clue. For example, for a picture of an avocado wearing sunglasses, you can say “guacamole, 1.” If there are cards depicting a cactus in a sombrero and a hand grenade combined with a pineapple, you can say “prickly, 2” and hope they figure it out.
Whichever cards your operatives choose get marked with the corresponding agent cards. If they choose the correct cards, you’re closer to winning. If they choose civilians, there’s no penalty except a missed chance to find the correct cards. If they choose the assassin, you lose.
The trick is trying to get as many cards as possible identified correctly with a single, one-word clue. The pictures are easier to play than the words since you can simply name an object, although rules can be modified by agreement to prevent this. Due to the high quality and visual cleverness of the art, Codenames: Pictures is a more appealing game that the original, even if it can be a bit easier.
– Thomas L. McDonald
Publisher: Czech Games
List Price: $19.95| Playing Time: 10-15 minutes | Players: 2+
OVERALL RATING: A