Code Names – analysis: can you guess the spy ?


Players: 4 – 8 competitive or 2 – 8 non-competitive

Ages: 10+

Genre: Party game and Mystery

DeveloperVlaada Chvátil

PublisherCzech Games Edition

IllustratorTomas Kucerovsky

Game Mechanics

After a quick read through the rules, the game seemed quite convoluted, but we slowly got the hang of it more as we played the game; looking back at the rules if there was anything we weren’t sure on. For example, we didn’t know when to use the one-minute hourglass that was placed in the box, we didn’t end up using it unless it was in a passive-aggressive way if the other team took too long to think of a clue or guess. The game is recommended for 2-8 players and has been suggested to play with 4+ but we felt it worked well with 4 and maybe too stressful with more players.

There are 25 cards laid out in a 5×5 rectangular grid, randomly with a different word on each. The game aims to have two rival spymasters who know the identities of 25 agents (agents being the words on the cards), and their teammates only know the agents by their ‘code names’. The spymasters give their team one-word clues along with a number with how many cards match the clue word. Their teammate points to which word they think the spymaster has chosen. If a word is chosen that belongs to the opposing team, they get the point. If an innocent bystander card is chosen, there are no points for anyone, and that team skips their go. If the assassin is chosen, the other team automatically wins the game.

After each round, we changed teams which made the game more interesting as you had to try and find words that your new team player would make sense of. To know which code names belong to each player and which cards are the innocent bystanders/assassin, there is a map card that can be shown below:

Response to the game

I enjoyed this game for several different reasons. One of these being the game’s mechanics, they were simple and logically, making the game very easy to pick up quickly which is perfect for the party game genre. I also felt as though the mechanics allowed for you to focus your energy on using your imagination and strategy when it came to creating and guessing clues, this harmonious relationship made the game flow very nicely. Although the game can challenge you at times you never feel overwhelmed because the game is so simple in its mechanics.

I also felt the rules did a great job explaining the game mechanics and setting the boundaries for the game. One thing I did notice was that the story of the game gets a bit lost when playing, though it is established well in the rule book and reasonably in the visual imagery of the game, the game’s story isn’t as strong as many other games with a mystery theme. I don’t necessarily believe that this harmed my game experience but perhaps if the story was more prominent throughout the gameplay my response to the game might be that bit better.

Another part of the game that for me made it that much better was, getting to play it with a great group of people. Of course, I am going to have a good response to a game when the people I got to play the game with made it that much better, everyone got into the game and got competitive and that is the way I like to play my games.

One annoying aspect of the game that is didn’t enjoy though was the ability of the field operatives to guess the correct spy’ and be able to win the game on chance. 

I could point the exact point to the thing that made this board game so fun was that there were two levels of hidden communication, with the cards themselves and the clues that are given and that is what made me really enjoy and highly rate this game, rather it is the cohesive relationship between its mechanics, strategy and imaginative elements and players that make up my fondness response to this game.

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