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Subject: About proper nouns as clues rss

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Andreas Lang
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We recently had a very heated discussion during a session about which nouns would be regarded as "proper nouns" and which not.

For example, we used the clue "wild west, 2" to connect "americans, trains". Nobody complained. However, we then later on had "red button, 2" to connect "death, key" and met immediate resistance from several people.

It seemed that the main issue the people had was that not everybody immediately associated "red button" with the nuclear football of the US president.
People argued that "wild west" would be a unique, fixed term while "red button" isn't because it can also define a plain red button (for example on your shirt). (However, "wild west" could also just define an arbitrary west which is wild ^^ its just that pretty much all of us got so used to the term that we immediately associate cowboys with hats on horses )

Now, I very well know that in the end it is up to the players to decide how they want to play the game, but what I would like to know now is wether it can still be viewed as "legit" by the game's official rules to use proper nouns which can also be viewed as non-proper nouns (especially if a person doesn't have the necessary knowledge necessary to identify the proper noun).

It seems that it could become a major problem down the road if someone for example likes to draw associations with historical terms, for example "balance of power", "princeps inter pares", "american frontier" etc.. In my opinion, these nominal phrases have over the course of time all become complex proper nouns dereferencing a very specific element in history. I think the game would lose lots of it (great) potential if such associations were by definition forbidden just because of their potential semantical and morphological ambiguity.

Btw. if someone of the original developers could answer on this, it would be really awesome I think the official rules would profit from some offical further explanation on that topic
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Matt Williams
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Officially the rules state that the clue must be 1 word 1 number and as such all of your above examples would be invalid. However the rules also state that you can choose to allow multiple words in the form of place names or book titles (for example). In this case it is entirely up to the group to decide and there will not be an official correct answer to your question.

My opinion on the matter would be that in both cases you have mentioned above you are going for clues that make the game very easy, the skill in codenames is finding a single word that encapsulates the idea you are trying to convey. So you may want to say 'Wild West' but that is two words so you need to look for a single word that gives the same idea maybe you would go for 'Cowboy'. To my mind 'Wild West' is not the name of a place it is more of a concept or blanket description of an era. I would not have allowed it as a clue. As for 'Red Button' it is almost certainly invalid as while is as a description applied to the nuclear trigger it is not specific in any way and if allowed would open the game up to almost any multi-word clue.

If you choose to allow these clues and it works for your group then that is all that matters but I don't feel that either is in the spirit of the game as intended and I would side against them.
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M. B. Downey
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"Red button" is definitely not a proper noun.

I would limit proper nouns to people, places, and maybe book/movie/song titles (so Wild Wild West would totally work). I could see arguments for things like The Monroe Doctrine or Manifest Destiny because those are defined concepts. I don't think that I would even allow "nuclear football" despite its association.

But as always, YMMV. When in doubt, consult the other spymaster. If they nix it, then you're out of luck.
 
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Andreas Lang
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Well, the game officially states that you can bend the rules to allow complex proper nouns. Therefore, its basically an official variant of the game and therefore it is not too far fetched to expect an official answer.

Once a group decides to allow complex proper nouns, I find it arbitrary to discriminate one complex proper noun against another. What's important is that this proper noun is widely known as a proper noun. Coming up with some proper noun thought up by your local newspaper 2 years ago clearly doesn't amount to enough significance to claim that this is an "official proper noun". Using a proper noun that is used in newspapers, tv-shows, history books etc. is a whole different story.


I can understand that you might prefer to stick to the strict rules. However, we didn't, and therefore my question is beyond this.
But on a side-note, chaining your game to 1-word clues also can steer the game into silly directions. For example, in this session, I also used "Leonardo Da Vinci, 2" to associate "Artist, Back". Technically, this is a 3-word proper noun specifying a person. If I really had to rely on 1-word clues, I had to say "Leonardo" or "Da" or "Vinci", which in my opinion would make the game needlessly obstructive. Of course you could argue now that by looking at the cards, players might like to find the connection of "Leonardo" to "Leonardo Da Vinci" themselves. But I could also render this kind of "sports" absurd by just saying the name of another famous artist, who by mere coincidence isn't known by his full name, but only his forename "Michelangelo" (surname: Buonarroti, FYI).
Needless to say that "Michelangelo" was originally "Michael" and "Angelos". It's also mere coincidence that language decided to draw these 2 together, and ultimately, this was more an effort of making things better understandable when read in text. The concept expressed by this 1-word instead of 2-word nominal phrase is still the same person. Nothing has changed on the semantics side.
THAT is what you have to look out for.
If the constituents of a nominal phrase in the respective usecase work as modifiers for the phrases core, then you don't have a proper noun anymore. Because proper nouns are not a morphologically coordinated phrases anymore, they've become an "amalgam" of their constituents and refer to one specific, individualized reference point. When you use "Wild West" in its historical sense, it refers to a singular, unique concept. Same goes for "The red button", "Silk Road", "Spacerace", you name it. Hyphenate them, interspace them, pull them together: It doesn't matter. You might still use them outside their historical usecase. Problem is your partners in dialogue will have a very hard time following your thoughts...

 
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M. B. Downey
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Note that Wikipedia doesn't capitalize football in Nuclear football:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_football

That's a pretty good indication it's not a proper noun. Similarly:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_button (not a proper noun)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_West (proper noun)
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Andreas Lang
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downeymb wrote:
"Red button" is definitely not a proper noun.

I would limit proper nouns to people, places, and maybe book/movie/song titles (so Wild Wild West would totally work). I could see arguments for things like The Monroe Doctrine or Manifest Destiny because those are defined concepts. I don't think that I would even allow "nuclear football" despite its association.

But as always, YMMV. When in doubt, consult the other spymaster. If they nix it, then you're out of luck.


As a linguist I'm just having a very hard time with this because there ARE hard lingual criteria which define proper nouns, and which make it entirely unnecessary to use such vague and imprecise/arbitrary rulesets for defining proper nouns. Asking the other spymaster also is kind of a makeshift solution, although very popular in such games because it seems one tends to do what the entertainment industry does: Finding the smallest common denominator...

Hence why I don't really enjoy high-profile entertainment products
 
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M. B. Downey
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Narktor wrote:
Asking the other spymaster also is kind of a makeshift solution


It's not a makeshift solution, it's the game's defined rules. The designers decided this was the best way to have their players enjoy the game.
 
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Bill Cook
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If someone used Michelangelo or Leonardo, I look for turtles or pizza.

One of the interesting things bout code names is that it plays differently in languages with different ideas about compound and proper nouns, eg German.

Meanwhile, a song

 
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Andreas Lang
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downeymb wrote:
Note that Wikipedia doesn't capitalize football in Nuclear football:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_football

That's a pretty good indication it's not a proper noun. Similarly:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_button (not a proper noun)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_West (proper noun)


First I must admit that I jumbled the terminology in english (I'm german).
We are talking about proper names here.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proper_noun#Proper_names

Second, proper names are explicitely NOT restricted to single-word nominal phrases: "When the distinction is made, proper nouns are limited to single words only (possibly with the), while proper names include all proper nouns (in their primary applications) as well as noun phrases such as United Kingdom, North Carolina, Royal Air Force, and the White House.[c] "
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proper_noun#Proper_names

Third, at least in english, capitalization is not necessarily required
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proper_noun#English_capitaliza...

Fourth, concerning the definite article in "The red button":
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proper_noun#Strong_and_weak_pr...

And ultimately fifth, the maybe most important aspect:
"As with proper nouns, so with proper names more generally: they may only be unique within the appropriate context. For instance, India has a ministry of home affairs (a common-noun phrase) called the Ministry of Home Affairs (its proper name). Within the context of India, this identifies a unique organization. However, other countries may also have ministries of home affairs called "the Ministry of Home Affairs", but each refers to a unique object, so each is a proper name. Similarly, "Beach Road" is a unique road, though other towns may have their own roads named "Beach Road" as well. This is simply a matter of the pragmatics of naming, and of whether a naming convention provides identifiers that are unique; and this depends on the scope given by context."

Context is the most important element in the identification of a proper name. Yes, there are other red buttons, but this is THE red button. And since the "nuclear football" was brought up, yes, there may be other nuclear footballs (but I really cant think of any other, and I wouldnt even know WHAT another nuclear football is supposed to look like, since the term itself is highly lexicalized https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexicalization xD) but this is THE nuclear football. The context in this case must be provided by the general education of the people around you. But this is the case with other proper names as well. As I said, "wild west" is almost meaningless if someone has never heard about it. This proper names individual elements don't come close to the amount of information carried by the proper name "Wild West". "American frontier" IS without question, same as Wild West, a term specifically tailored to describe this one cultural phenomenon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_frontier.








 
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John Anderson
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Personally my rule would be no proper nouns except names and movie/book titles. If you want to open it up to all proper nouns, I'd consult with your fellow spymaster for each one you want to use. I think they're too ambiguous though.
 
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Andreas Lang
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downeymb wrote:
Narktor wrote:
Asking the other spymaster also is kind of a makeshift solution


It's not a makeshift solution, it's the game's defined rules. The designers decided this was the best way to have their players enjoy the game.


I know that it is said in the rules to do so, and it clearly is the last advice a gamedev can give you in a game which offers the players basically limitless possibilities. I called it "makeshift" because in respect of the use of proper names, it introduces subjectivity where it isn't necessary. So makeshift might have been the wrong term, but it clearly is suboptimal.

My problem is that the most fun in this game comes from drawing clever associations. If the rules aren't clear on the definition of proper names, your entire gameexperience can be put on the grace of the lingual understanding of others.
I'll give you the list of words we had to associate when I came up with the red button:
"Inka, fork, genius, key, death, snowman, eagle, ball".
So, the problem wasn't that these words couldn't be associated. The problem was that most associations which came to my mind were connected to concepts which are expressed through proper names. Lets say I wanted to connect "Death, Fork" with "The Reaper, 2". Now I know that the association with a fork isn't too close, but that also kind of makes the game funny. If the other spymaster wants to troll the shit out of me, he just denies me "The Reaper". So Id have to go with "Reaper" which is potentially misunderstandable, because it could also be an agricultural machine. The result: In case you really had bad luck with the combinations in front of you, the session becomes dull and frustrating for both you and your team. Wether you win at a game or not should in my opinion never be the most important thing, but when the core principle of the game is being creative and drawing associations between a random collection of words, then it should be ensured that the players are granted enough freedom to make associations happen even in more complicated situations. Putting such an essential element into the hands of one single random player in a session should be avoided if anyhow possible.

 
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we keep it simple.... if it is not one word, then we get the permission of the other spymaster before using it. For example, 911 is usually said as "nine one one" and not "nine hundred eleven", so get permission on the former. The same goes for "great dane". It's not one word so get permission to avoid conflicts.
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Regardless of what Wikipedia says, I would be surprised if stock phrases like "the red button" were intended by the designers as clues even when playing the proper-nouns-are-okay variant; there's a sense of "proper nouns" which is commonly used in English-language board games that is more limited than the technical one you point to, and generally means, as someone said upthread, the capitalized* names of people, places, organizations, and artworks.

But okay if you really want to do this, I would lean heavily on the rule about needing to use the meaning of a clue, not its form. In which case "red button" is an acceptable clue for DEATH and KEY, but could not be used for APPLE or FASTENER. The fact that "red" is in the clue has to be treated as a coincidence of orthography, just like "boil" can't be used as a clue for PETROLEUM even though "oil" is part of the clue.

I think this would lead to a lot of arguments, and temptations to push the edges, but any other way to work loosening this particular rule seems even worse.

[* Which is to say, things of types that would be capitalized in conventional orthography, even if a specific one is not, such as "bell hooks" or "fun."]
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Alison Mandible
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Narktor wrote:
My problem is that the most fun in this game comes from drawing clever associations. If the rules aren't clear on the definition of proper names, your entire gameexperience can be put on the grace of the lingual understanding of others.


Codenames is entirely about your experience depending on the understanding of others. That is literally the whole game.

Quote:
If the other spymaster wants to troll the shit out of me, he just denies me "The Reaper".


Yes. Codenames does not work when played with jerks or poor sports. You will find other problems if you play with such people, which no ruling about proper nouns will fix.

Quote:
So Id have to go with "Reaper" which is potentially misunderstandable, because it could also be an agricultural machine.


Yes. Your clue could potentially be misunderstood. That is the challenge of being a spymaster.

The type of limits you're objecting to are built into the game. Being a spymaster means sometimes realizing it's too risky to use a clue that you love, that would be brilliant if only your team knew some additional context which exists in your head. Knowing which of those clues will work, and which won't, is the game.
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John Anderson
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Yeah, a lot of the fun for me is coming up with that perfect single word.
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M. B. Downey
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Narktor wrote:
If the rules aren't clear on the definition of proper names, your entire gameexperience can be put on the grace of the lingual understanding of others.


A party game should not require being a linguist to be playable.
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Andreas Lang
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grasa_total wrote:
[...]; there's a sense of "proper nouns" which is commonly used in English-language board games that is more limited than the technical one you point to, and generally means, as someone said upthread, the capitalized* names of people, places, organizations, and artworks.

[..]

[* Which is to say, things of types that would be capitalized in conventional orthography, even if a specific one is not, such as "bell hooks" or "fun."]


I think these restrictions to a semantical subcategory of proper names is familiar to me from games like scrabble. However, if I remember correctly, then scrabble EXPLICITELY states that only these are deemed legit. Codenames does so implicitely at best, since in the rules section their examples are restricted to proper names for persons, like George W. Bush.

Fun btw. is not a proper name (or did I miss out on something?), but a mere proper noun. Why should fun be capitalized? "computer", "cablecar" etc. aren't either.

 
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Narktor wrote:
Fun btw. is not a proper name (or did I miss out on something?), but a mere proper noun. Why should fun be capitalized? "computer", "cablecar" etc. aren't either.

Alison is using the example of the band Fun, which stylizes its name as "fun." on its promotional materials. Even when spelled "fun." this could be considered a proper noun and a proper name. It is also, of course, a common noun, but with a different meaning in that case.
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Andreas Lang
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downeymb wrote:
Narktor wrote:
If the rules aren't clear on the definition of proper names, your entire gameexperience can be put on the grace of the lingual understanding of others.


A party game should not require being a linguist to be playable.


Yes, and thats exactly why the rules mustn't be ambiguous. Where things aren't set in stone, people are required to use their own knowledge to extrapolate, and especially a game having language as its core-gameplayelement shouldn't be left to the player.

Want an example?

"Spymasters should not be allowed to make up
names, not even names that turn out to be
real.
Sue Mee
is not a valid clue for CHINA and
LAWYER."

I don't find this very useful for preventing discussions on the gametable. If there is a an official proper name hinting at the association like that, what then? "make up" names clearly refers to cases where people use names which aren't officially acknowledged, but what if it actually IS? Maybe 20 years ago when the internet wasn't much of a thing and when one didn't even think about smartphones having the whole worldknowledge at hand, such a statement was of value, but nowadays it will only be an incentive to play google instead of codenames...

I know that it is an almost impossible task to give the players the 2 million degrees of freedom of language, while also specifying a certain type of playstyle. But that's why one needs to be bold. You either take the leap and tell people that proper names are really only names for persons, organisations etc.. Or You at least give a list of representative examples of what is NOT considered a proper name in the sense of this particular game. And these are basically the details I was asking for, and you dont need to be a linguist to understand them. The rest of the discussion was only arguing which set of rules for proper names would give a better gaming experience.
 
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Andreas Lang
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grasa_total wrote:
[q="Narktor"] [...]

Quote:
So Id have to go with "Reaper" which is potentially misunderstandable, because it could also be an agricultural machine.


Yes. Your clue could potentially be misunderstood. That is the challenge of being a spymaster.

The type of limits you're objecting to are built into the game. Being a spymaster means sometimes realizing it's too risky to use a clue that you love, that would be brilliant if only your team knew some additional context which exists in your head. Knowing which of those clues will work, and which won't, is the game.


I do see your point, but let's take your premise of "intended limits" into consideration and take another look at the round I was talking about.

So my team had, as already mentioned, these 8 words.
"Inka, fork, genius, key, death, snowman, eagle, ball".

The words of the other team I don't know anymore, but they were lucky and could draw an association between four words which could easily be connected by the clue "smith, 4". Now that's okay, games, and especially a game like this one, need a certain amount of randomness. The problem was that ultimately, the other team's spymaster then refrained from playing seriously and simply put out "X, 1" clues. This was only intensified since I was denied trying to work around the issues our combinations had. Ultimately, except for the discussion about the red button, the whole round was utterly boring.

And now I ask you: Where has there been a challenge? Nobody turned any smarter through this, nor did anyone learn mindreading. Oh and cold-reading isn't allowed by definiton . When the players stop trying to associate more than 1 term, in my opinion the experience is ruined. And why that? Because one puts form over meaning. One might argue that this was intended and built-in for that extra challenge, but be serious, how should the gamedevs EVER have tested that this actually is a good idea concerning the limitless possibilities this game has to offer?

Putting form over meaning in a game which puts such a huge emphasis on meaning doesn't make that much sense on first sight, and on second sight it doesn't either, at least to me. If the game really made clear from the beginning that it had a very restrictive understanding about proper names, then I wouldn't be sitting here anyway, because I don't expect the game to change just because I'm rambling on these forums But since it wasn't stated explicitely, I tried to give it a shot. I really enjoyed the game for the short time I played it, and I think its a great game-idea with lots of potential. But it also became clear to me that I would never play this game with rules being restrictive about proper names. This just adds another randomfactor to the game which makes it quite unenjoyable when you get a poor set of words onto the table, and not just that, it also destroys quite a few awesome moments in a game.
Of course this is a question of personal taste, but I also just liked the link of "death, key" with "the red button", especially since it kind of fits the current geopolitical situation. But hey, going for "asia, 1" to point at "china" is also "fun"...
 
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Narktor wrote:

Of course this is a question of personal taste, but I also just liked the link of "death, key" with "the red button", especially since it kind of fits the current geopolitical situation.
I'm really okay with your decision, to each his own. But I always wonder what the other players in the group thought about making rules tweaks on the fly. Bottom line is do what the game group decides is fun. If they want to allow what you did, then get the opposing code master's consent and do it. If the opposing code master doesn't want it, then is it really "fun for all"? (seems like not all in your group agreed)

For me "Skeleton-2" would have worked for both "death" and "key" and avoided your rules tweak.

 
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Andreas Lang
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klbush wrote:
Narktor wrote:

Of course this is a question of personal taste, but I also just liked the link of "death, key" with "the red button", especially since it kind of fits the current geopolitical situation.
I'm really okay with your decision, to each his own. But I always wonder what the other players in the group thought about making rules tweaks on the fly. Bottom line is do what the game group decides is fun. If they want to allow what you did, then get the opposing code master's consent and do it. If the opposing code master doesn't want it, then is it really "fun for all"? (seems like not all in your group agreed)

For me "Skeleton-2" would have worked for both "death" and "key" and avoided your rules tweak.



Considering your solution for the "death, key" problem, this only works in english ^^ we are german players. In german, it is "Tod, Taste". "Taste" is a word which really only means those things on writing machines and computers There is no second meaning you could go for.

Yeah well we played the game for the first time and the "ask the other spymaster" wasn't introduced to us by the owner of the game (maybe he forgot about the rule when explaining the game to us). So I wasn't really tweaking the rules on the fly, and "The red button" came after "Wild West", and I had asked for permission from the entire group to use complex proper names before I said "Wild West". But that's not important here, just wanted to show you that I'm not the type to run rules over without asking I am the type to disagree though and I'd rather not play at all than following rules I deem silly.
 
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Alison Mandible
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Narktor wrote:
The problem was that ultimately, the other team's spymaster then refrained from playing seriously and simply put out "X, 1" clues. This was only intensified since I was denied trying to work around the issues our combinations had.


I agree "1" clues are super boring. But if your opponent goes there, you can beat them!

Quote:
"Inka, fork, genius, key, death, snowman, eagle, ball".


Possible avenues of attack that come to mind without using multi-word clues:

- "Sphere 2" would get BALL and SNOWMAN easily. Maybe we could get a third word with something similar. "Circle 3" with EAGLE , because eagles circle in the sky?

- "Construction 2" might get INCA and SNOWMAN, though it's a stretch.

- GENIUS could probably be combined with nearly any other word using a distinctive last name. "Navratilova" is a BALL GENIUS, "Lecter" is a DEATH GENIUS, etc.

- BALL and KEY are both parts of a "typewriter". Depending on what's on the rest of the board, you might even get GENIUS with "typewriter". It's not a close link, but if you say "typewriter 3", your operatives will be looking for *something*.

- BALL and SNOWMAN are both childhood things. In the US, you might get those and EAGLE with "childhood 3", because of the Eagle Scouts.

- "Quetzalcoatl 2" would probably get me INCA and EAGLE, though I would have to keep a straight face while the operatives discussed whether I knew the difference between the Aztec and Inca civilizations and that while Quetzalcoatl can fly, it's not an eagle. If I were really desperate (and the other words on the board were cooperative), I might even try "Quetzalcoatl 3" and hope for DEATH just in case death was one of Quetzalcoatl's domains (I looked it up and it's not, but on the other hand an operative might be similarly ignorant and try it).

- "Civilized 3" might get some of INCA, FORK and GENIUS, maybe?

And so on. Some of these clues wouldn't work because of other things on the board. But on the other hand, the rest of the board can also enable clues. "Simple 4" isn't a great clue for BALL, FORK, KEY and SNOWMAN, but if the rest of the board is NEW YORK, AIRPLANE, UNICORN, STADIUM, PIRATE and other things that aren't particularly simple, then maybe?

Sure, it doesn't feel great when the other team gets all of RAT, DOG, GIRAFFE and TURKEY with "animal 4", and then you have to catch up by actually thinking. But these aren't crossword clues; they don't have to be perfect or even (as above) factually correct. You just have to get your team to the cards.
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Sounds like your "problem" could be solved by playing Codenames: Pictures (a slightly inferior game, but one I much prefer to use when playing with non-native English speakers).
 
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*ahem*

 
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