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Subject: Geeky Gamer Review - Codename: Oracle rss

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Stephen Hall
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Tucson
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Codename: Oracle is the upcoming release from Wishing Tree Games, the publisher of “Seven Sisters.” It is a card game for two players that plays in 20-30 minutes. The game’s theme is CIA vs. KGB, and its primary mechanics are memory and deduction.

When I first learned about Codename: Oracle, I didn’t know what to expect. It looked like “Concentration” meets “Twilight Struggle.” Odd combination, to be sure, but I gave it a fighting chance to prove itself.

And, as it turns out, it’s actually a pretty fun little game.

To set up the game, players secretly select 5 cards from their 50-card deck and place them face-down in a single “Code Row.” Above this, players each create a 4×5 grid of face-down cards, called their “Mind-Field.” Each player then takes a hand of 5 cards, and play begins. The goal of the game is simple: deduce the contents of your opponents Code Row. The player who cracks their opponent’s code wins. Alternatively, if a player sustains 9 hits of damage, they are eliminated.

On a player’s turn, they may carry out several actions in any order. These include:

1) Peek at up to 2 cards from your Mind-Field.
2) Swap the position of two cards in your Mind-Field without looking at them.
3) Discard a card from your Mind-Field without looking at it, and replace it with a card from your hand.4) Reveal a set of cards in your Mind-Field and resolve it (more on this below).
5) Guess your opponent’s Code Row.

The cards each bear one of a handful of symbols. Thus, to elaborate on #4, when revealing a set of cards, players are looking for 3 matching cards in a row, horizontally or vertically, or four in a square. A vertical set launches an attack on the opposing player, dealing them 1 point of damage and, more importantly, forcing them to reveal one of the cards in their Code Row. A horizontal set gives the corresponding player a means of defense against an opposing attack. A set of four cards in a square (called a “Focus”) can have one of several effects, depending on the symbol.

On that note, whenever a set is resolved, it takes on a unique effect, according to the type of set (horizontal, vertical, or square) and the symbol shown. This is one of my favorite aspects of the game. One set may gain you 3 life points, while another may let you see all of one type of card in your opponent’s Code Row, while another may let you deal a devastating 3 damage to your opponent. Each of the 15 possible effects are powerful in their own ways, and I find that they are quite well-balanced. Players will have to think long- and short-term to develop a winning strategy.

The variable order in which players can take their actions, combined with the wide variety of card effects makes Codename: Oracle a surprisingly meaty game. For only having 100 cards and a few other bits, you get a lot of game in C:O’s smallish box. The game seems very expandable, with new symbols and formations of card sets (corners? diagonal?). There is a great deal of replay value, and, since the game length is very manageable, it’s easy to play a few rounds in one sitting. If you’re looking for a fun, engaging game that promises many plays in the future, give this one a try.
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Chris Patrick
Canada
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Thanks for the review. I'm currently backing this on Kickstarter and the Kicktraq data is making me sad because I don't think the Kickstarter will be funded.
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Brent Cunningham
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Lake Geneva
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IHateThatGuy wrote:
Thanks for the review. I'm currently backing this on Kickstarter and the Kicktraq data is making me sad because I don't think the Kickstarter will be funded.


Have faith! We're doing everything we can, and have more reviews coming (Dice Tower and others).

Feel free of course to pass on the link to anyone you know that might be interested...even if they aren't, they might know others that would be!

Thanks so much for your support.
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