Codenames: Pictures review

14 December 2016
DSC_3643-28934.jpg Codenames: Pictures
The wordy game of tactical description paints a pretty picture in its illustrated follow-up

Vlaada Chvátil’s 2016 Spiel des Jahres winner Codenames is an idea so simple and brilliant that it’s hard to imagine exactly how the one word clue party game could be improved.

New follow-up/spin-off Codenames: Pictures may not outdo its predecessor – almost solely a result of hitting tabletops second – but its use of pictures in the place of the original’s words is so well implemented that it easily equals it for sheer enjoyment.

As a quick refresher, as in Codenames, players are split up into two opposing red and blue teams of spies (two- and three-player modes included in the rulebook allow fully co-operative play between all the players), with a single spymaster on each team attempting to convey the position of friendly spies relating to each picture in the shared grid by giving a single word clue each turn. This word can relate to multiple spies, with the first team to correctly guess all of their cards – avoiding enemy spies, innocent bystanders and the instant-loss assassin – wins.

Codenames’ original five-by-five grid of 25 word cards is truncated into a five-by-four layout of 20 abstract monochromatic illustrations, meaning that the key cards denoting which spaces relate to which team’s spy, bystander or assassin can only be used in two orientations rather than four as with the equilateral configuration of words. This, ultimately, is hardly an issue given the almost limitless combination of the 280 pictures and the healthy stock of 60 double-sided key cards.

As an upper hand over the relative plainness of one-word text clues, the images are often strange and laugh-out-loud funny in their combination of multiple disparate elements to encourage more complex hints. Alongside a biscuit sewn with needle and thread, some of our favourites included an egg in sunglasses, snowboarding Santa (the definition of ‘cool’ if ever there was one) and a vampire eating a watermelon.

Codenames: Pictures is as hilarious, quick and easy to play as its namesake and, best of all, the two packs can also be combined to offer a mixed grid of words and images, expanding the potential for fresh connections and a more varied challenge in attempting to summarise both single-word terms and multifaceted images. Where the concept goes from here is anyone’s guess, but for now Codenames remains fittingly succinct to describe: perfection.


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Publisher: Czech Games Edition

Price: £15.99

Genre: Party

Players: 2-8

Time: 15 minutes

Age: 10+




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