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Subject: Friends' New Favorite Game rss

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Samael Otterson
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recently discovered Codenames in the recommended section of BGG and decided I would give this a try with my friends. This is the only game they have actively made an effort to play a second and third time. Absolutely fantastic game.

The rules were remarkably easy to figure out. The game has relatively few moving parts, as it were, and I think I could almost have figured out how to play without the rulebook. First, set up a five-by-five grid of words, and have two people (one from each team) pick a card that shows the layout of which words they want their respective team to guess. Then, taking turns, they say one word not on the table, and a number indicating both how many words on the table relate to that word, and how many guesses they get for the turn. Ideally, they guess their color word. If not, their turn ends. Sometimes you score a point for the other team, accidentally. Sometimes you pick the assassin, and you lose. Beginning blunders.

For our first session, as an example, I played as a guesser while one of my friends was the codemaster. The first clue he gave us was 'outdoor 2'. As blue, we guessed 'grass' and 'ground'.



On the next turn, our opponent's codemaster said 'Caesar 2', and his guessers decided on 'Shakespeare' and 'knife'.



Next turn, our clue was 'Girl 2'. We guessed 'chick' and 'Grace'. On the red team's turn, they guessed 'spell', which was correct, and 'nut', which was an innocent bystander. Their turn ended immediately after that.



When eventually blue ran out of blue tiles to cover the blue words, we won. Then, we eagerly began another game, this time with new codemasters. I played as the codemaster for blue, taking photos of the view from that seat:













As I mentioned, my friends absolutely love this game. It is now the go-to large-scale group activity. If you have a group of four to eight friends, I highly recommend you try this game.

As a game designer, I notice it has an interesting take on hidden information. Where many games have information printed only on one side of a card that you cannot see, such as Poker or Stratego, Codenames technically is no different. But, there is an aesthetic difference where the hidden information (the color layout) applies to perfectly visible information (the cards on the board).

I am also interested in the ways in which it utilizes player restrictions. A codemaster is not allowed to say certain words as clues, such as (obviously) any of the words on the table. But part of the rules of the game also necessitate their keeping a straight face. This extreme approach to hidden information has emerged in several games over the last five years, the most notable to my mind being Mysterium (which as a promotional offer, created a mask one could wear if they were bad at keeping a straight face).

Overall, I think that Codenames is not only an electrifying and fun game, but also holds potential for future study, and dissection of game mechanics, both in terms of game design and game design theory.
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Good to hear you found something to intrigue them. Now to expand and get them hooked. Have you tried Dixit? It's lightweight like Codenames but not as in-depth as Mysterium.
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Jason
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Campbell River
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We also have had a lot of success with code names when the group gets large. When the group is small, you can try Codenames Duet. Fantastic with two, but still works with small groups as you can play as teams. Plus it is cooperative rather than competitive.

We've only just started playing Dixit and I heartily agree: it is another excellent gateway into gaming, but still remains interesting for seasoned players.
 
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