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Subject: Better than the original - The Board Game Family rss

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Trent Howell
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When I first heard a new version of Codenames was being published using pictures, I thought it sounded ridiculous.

After all, how could Czech Games Edition improve upon the original Codenames?

Codenames became an almost instant hit with our family when we got it. It quickly achieved a place among our Family Favorite Board Games.

We even included it in our 2015 Board Game Gift Guide.

We love the challenge of giving, as well as understanding, one-word clues to guess multiple cards on the table.

One of the best parts of the game is not being able to use any of the words on the cards as a clue.

So when we heard that in Codenames: Pictures players could use direct word clues of what’s in the picture, we thought that sounded crazy – like it defeated the purpose and challenge of the game.

Boy, am I glad we were wrong!

Because we’ve found that we actually like Codenames: Pictures more than the original!


How to play Codenames: Pictures

If you’re already familiar with Codenames, you can easily jump straight into Codenames: Pictures. There are only a couple differences that you’ll pick up rather quickly.

If you’re not yet familiar with the original Codenames, you can take a look at our video review as well as our written review of Codenames.

The objective in Codenames: Pictures is to be the team who finds all their agents first.

Players divide into 2 teams and select one of their team members to be the spymaster. Both spymasters sit on one side of the table and the rest of their team members sit on the other.

Picture cards are placed on the table in a 5 x 4 grid and the spymasters draw 1 code card that will show where their agents are located in relation to the grid.

On the sides of the code card is a color indicator – either red or blue. This determines which team will play first. The team who goes first will have 8 agents to find and the team who goes second will have 7 agents.

On a team’s turn, their spymaster can only give a 1-word clue to help their teammates find one or more of their agents. After giving the 1-word clue, they will state a number. The number refers to how many picture cards relate to the clue.

For example, if a spymaster says “Construction, 3” it means that there are 3 cards that relate to the clue “Construction”.

The spymaster can't give any other clues, sounds, or visual motions to assist their team.

The team members then discuss which cards the spymaster might be referring to. Once they think they know a picture card of their agent, they touch the card.

The spymaster, without speaking, places a blue agent, red agent, innocent bystander, or assassin board over the selected card.

If the card is one of their own team’s agents, they may select another card. As long as they keep guessing correctly, they can select up to 1 more than the number specified by the spymaster in the clue.

If the picture card was the opponent’s agent or an innocent bystander, their turn is over and play goes to the other team.

If the picture card is the assassin, the team who touched that card loses.

A team can also choose to stop guessing even after getting a card correct.

Play continues back and forth between teams until one team has either found all their agents (win) or has mistakenly uncovered the assassin (lose).


The differences between Codenames and Codenames: Pictures

The most obvious difference is right in the title of the game – Pictures.

In the original game, the cards are all words. Players try to get their team to guess different words from the 1-word clues.

Codenames: Pictures replaces the words with pictures.

But these aren’t just any pictures. These are wacky, crazy pictures!

And to use a Shrek reference, that means they also have multiple layers.

Each picture stirs up many different thoughts. And because of that, the possibilities are endless!

With the original game, there are only so many things you can conjure up when you see the word “leaf” for example. But a picture of a leaf in Codenames: Pictures is anything but simple. Mostly because there will be something combined with the leaf. So immediately minds will wander to other possible uses of the image.

When playing Codenames: Pictures, we’re able to be more creative in our clue giving as well as finding more combinations of cards that tie to our clues. And we love that!

The other difference is that the gird of cards is one row less. Instead of the 5 x 5 grid in the original, Codenames: Pictures uses a 5 x 4 grid.

This reduction also helps the game play faster because there are less cards to focus on when both giving and receiving clues. Which in turn means we can play more games in the same amount of time.


Can the whole family enjoy playing Codenames: Pictures?

Absolutely!

No longer are players limited by having to be able to read the cards. Now everyone in the family can play!

Not only does this make the game great for younger players (who have creative imaginations already), but it also makes the game mostly language-independent so you can play with a wide range of players.

Everyone we’ve played Codenames: Pictures with has loved it – young and old alike.

(We know the box says ages 10+, but you can ignore that.)

And no one wants to stop with just one play.

Everyone wants to take their turn as the spymaster.

We’ve found this to be another reason why we’ve enjoyed Codenames: Pictures more than the original. When playing with word cards, some players have been reluctant to be the spymaster. They find it particularly challenging to come up with 1-word clues that tie multiple cards together. So much so that they always opt out of being the spymaster.

But no one holds back being the spymaster with Codenames: Pictures.

Everyone wants a shot at it (repeatedly).

Perhaps it's because Codenames: Pictures triggers different parts of the brain. Not everyone is comfortable with word games. But put a picture in front of them and ideas will flow.

We still love the original Codenames and will play it with certain groups of friends and family.

Codenames: Pictures we'll pull out and play with everyone.


How does Codenames: Pictures score on our "Let's Play Again" game meter?

If you haven't guess yet, Codenames: Pictures scores very high on our "let's play again" game meter.

There's simply no stopping after just one play.

For starters, since the pictures cards are double-sided, setting up the next game is as simple as flipping over the cards, selecting the new spymasters, and secretly drawing a new code card.

Plus, the double-sided nature of the cards means there are a ton of pictures!

With a random bunch of 20 cards in the grid each game, the combinations are endless.

Games also move along quickly. They don't take long to play at all.

But the biggest reason it scores so high, is simply because it's a blast to play!

The first time we played Codenames: Pictures we played 6 games straight!

And there's plenty more to come.

We definitely recommend picking up a copy of Codenames: Pictures for your family!



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Tilou
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Quote:
With the original game, there are only so many things you can conjure up when you see the word “leaf” for example. But a picture of a leaf in Codenames: Pictures is anything but simple. Mostly because there will be something combined with the leaf. So immediately minds will wander to other possible uses of the image.


Funny, I thought the exact opposite. I found the images to be much more evocative of specific references than the words and prefer therefore the original game.
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Susan
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We find pictures to be a bit harder than the original. Not sure why that is. We still enjoy it, but the original is tough to beat.
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Darryl with one "R"
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tilouboy wrote:
Quote:
With the original game, there are only so many things you can conjure up when you see the word “leaf” for example. But a picture of a leaf in Codenames: Pictures is anything but simple. Mostly because there will be something combined with the leaf. So immediately minds will wander to other possible uses of the image.


Funny, I thought the exact opposite. I found the images to be much more evocative of specific references than the words and prefer therefore the original game.

I agree -- in the original, I find it easier to come up with clever clues that tie multiple cards together. That said, I'm also not much of a visual person, so I wasn't surprised to find that Pictures was more difficult for me. YMMV.
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Russ Williams
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TheBoardGameFamily wrote:
Not only does this make the game great for younger players (who have creative imaginations already), but it also makes the game mostly language-independent so you can play with a wide range of players.

This language independence is a decisive advantage of Codenames: Pictures for me and my wife (who do not have the same first language). We have enjoyed playing it several times already in Esperanto with people with various first languages.

After playing the text version and the picture version, we both agreed we liked the picture version better (and recently bought it).

I also like that it sidesteps the problem which often comes up in word/clue games: uncertainty or debates about whether a clue is valid or "too" similar/related to the goal word.
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Trent Howell
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tilouboy wrote:
Quote:
With the original game, there are only so many things you can conjure up when you see the word “leaf” for example. But a picture of a leaf in Codenames: Pictures is anything but simple. Mostly because there will be something combined with the leaf. So immediately minds will wander to other possible uses of the image.


Funny, I thought the exact opposite. I found the images to be much more evocative of specific references than the words and prefer therefore the original game.


Some of our friends also like the original better. Which one we play will totally depend on the players.
 
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Trent Howell
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nbread wrote:
tilouboy wrote:
Quote:
With the original game, there are only so many things you can conjure up when you see the word “leaf” for example. But a picture of a leaf in Codenames: Pictures is anything but simple. Mostly because there will be something combined with the leaf. So immediately minds will wander to other possible uses of the image.


Funny, I thought the exact opposite. I found the images to be much more evocative of specific references than the words and prefer therefore the original game.

I agree -- in the original, I find it easier to come up with clever clues that tie multiple cards together. That said, I'm also not much of a visual person, so I wasn't surprised to find that Pictures was more difficult for me. YMMV.


That may have something to do with it. We tend towards visual learning and expression in our crew.
 
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David B
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I have not played the picture version of the game, but after watching a few videos, I think my opinion would align with that of Ben Bateson's in this case:

Quote:
Disappointing when put alongside the original. The ability to just call out stuff that is on the pictures erodes all the creativity and imagination from the game, and it just comes across as a cash-in.


I could easily see people identifying an image common to two or three pictures and just calling out that image ("fins 2" since two cards have fins and your team will simply hunt for two cards that have fins). I can imagine that making word associations requires much more creativity and results in more discussions among team members.
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Susan
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pfctsqr wrote:
I have not played the picture version of the game, but after watching a few videos, I think my opinion would align with that of Ben Bateson's in this case:

Quote:
Disappointing when put alongside the original. The ability to just call out stuff that is on the pictures erodes all the creativity and imagination from the game, and it just comes across as a cash-in.


I could easily see people identifying an image common to two or three pictures and just calling out that image ("fins 2" since two cards have fins and your team will simply hunt for two cards that have fins). I can imagine that making word associations requires much more creativity and results in more discussions among team members.


This is a pretty big simplification of how the pictures codenames work.

If only all the cards had similarities that you could just tie together like you described. More than likely, a couple of your cards would have a fin and oh look, is that a shark I see on the assassin word?



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Trent Howell
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pfctsqr wrote:

I could easily see people identifying an image common to two or three pictures and just calling out that image ("fins 2" since two cards have fins and your team will simply hunt for two cards that have fins). I can imagine that making word associations requires much more creativity and results in more discussions among team members.


Yes, that's a possibility. And some may play on that level.
But similar things can be said for the original. The words could be names of countries and the spymaster just say "country, 3".
But like the original, it all comes down to the location of the agents. Similar picture elements may be found, but they may not be for the same team.

We've actually found that our clues can be more evocative with the pictures version. The images bring out more emotional responses than the words do.

But again, it may be because we also don't tend to enjoy many popular word games and lean to the visual.
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