Guide to Playing Codenames Online and Offline

Do you enjoy playing spy games with your loved ones or friends? If that’s the case, then you’re in luck since Codenames makes for an exciting evening of gaming. During the course of the game, you will be tasked with revealing the true identities of your field agents. As a result of the increased difficulty, this game is recommended for groups of four or more adults or teenagers. Then, collaborate to finish the task before the rival group and a lethal assassin can.

What You Need to Play Codenames

When playing Codenames offline, you primarily need the physical board game of Codenames. It includes:

  • 200 cards with 400 codenames
  • 40 key cards
  • 16 agent cards in two colors
  • 1 double agent card
  • 1 assassin card
  • 7 innocent bystander cards
  • 1 assassin card
  • 1 rulebook
  • 1 timer
  • 1 card stand

Setting Up the Game

At least four persons are required to play, and an even number of players is recommended. The group of players is divided into the blue and red squads. Each squad has one member designated as the Spymaster, while the others act as field operatives.

The 25 codename cards containing a word are shuffled and then placed in a 5×5 grid. Words represent blue agents, red agents, an assassin, and the rest are bystanders. 

This means that:

  • 9 cards are agents by the first team to play (blue or red)
  • 8 cards are agents of the opposing team (the second one who plays)
  • 1 card is the assassin (the team automatically loses if they happen to recruit this card)
  • 7 cards are innocent bystanders (they do not bear points when recruited, but the team’s turn is automatically skipped)

The spymasters of the competing teams are each issued a key card with a 5×5 grid of 25 squares of different colors; each color represents one of the codenames on the table. Only the spymasters know which cards are the agents, the assassin, and the innocent bystander.

Before being placed on a stand, the key card can be turned at the discretion of the spymasters. Whichever team’s ‘lights’ are showing on the key card’s edges goes first and must recruit nine agent cards, while the opposing side only has to find eight.

Taking Turns in Codenames

Every turn will be each team’s chance to find their undercover operatives in action. Each team’s Spymaster will provide his squad a single-word clue and a number to assist them in finding their agents.

The word corresponds to the codenames of the agents listed in the table, and the number indicates how many agents share that codename. For example, suppose the Spymaster knows that “Egypt” and “Paris” are the codenames to be deciphered. In that case, they might simply say, “place, two,” as both codenames represent a place. There may be no dissenting speech, actions, or motions. When any of these are broken, the other team gets their turn.

Uncovering and Recruiting Secret Agents

The field operatives make informed guesses as to which codename cards include terms relating to the clue given by the Spymaster and point them out one by one. Each Spymaster has a map of the grid. When a codename card is pointed out, they cover it with one of four identity cards: a blue agent, a red agent, the assassin, or an innocent bystander.

Both disclosing an enemy agent and an innocent bystander terminate the team’s turn, albeit the former also gives the enemy team a slight edge at the beginning of their turn. If the assassin is exposed, the opposing side automatically wins the game.

In addition to the assassin, the game is over when all agents on one team are discovered and identified. Because of how the game is played, a team has a great chance of winning when it is their opponent’s time to play.

Preventing Cheating in the Game

Codenames is a party game where players work together to guess their team’s words. There might be some nice cheats who are trying to outsmart others. This necessitates the observance of some fundamental guidelines for the sake of maintaining the flow of the game. The Spymasters have the responsibility of reporting any violations. A violation cannot be punished in retrospect. Thus it’s essential to call it out as soon as possible.

Rules to Remember When Playing Codenames

  • Spymasters are restricted to providing only a single-word and single-number clue.
  • All other forms of body language are strictly forbidden.
  • The hint can’t give away the word’s specific spelling or letter sequence in any way, simply its meaning.
  • It is forbidden to use any other language outside the agreed-upon language.
  • For the sake of clarity, it is acceptable to spell out the clues given by the Spymaster.

Playing Codenames Online

You’ll need to invest some time and energy into setting up the game because it involves spies and agents. In spite of this, the game’s excitement will more than compensate for whatever blood you spill just to play Codenames online.

Here’s how to get started with Zoom or other video-conferencing software.

  1. Arrange the cards from Codenames in a 5×5 grid, as you would for a standard game.
  2. Collect a mobile device and a flexible arm holder. Arrange it so the camera has a good view of the cards.
  3. Start a meeting on the second device you’ll use to communicate with people.
  4. Invite others to join the video conference by sending them the meeting ID and the phone number they should use for the cards.
  5. After everyone has arrived, step five is to split everyone up into two groups and select leaders to act as Spymasters.
  6. Choose a key card for each Spymaster and communicate it to them privately.
  7. After step 6, you can continue with the game as usual.

However, if you find setting up the game online too complex, various websites on the Internet allow you to play Codenames remotely without setting up anything. Still, you need a platform to communicate with each other when playing the game.

Codenames is a fun and simple game for a group to play while trying to figure out hidden messages. Each side, red or blue, is led by a Spymaster whose job is to ensure his or her team wins the game. Because there is no hard limit on team size, Codenames makes for a fantastic party game. The game’s accessibility, simplicity, and appeal make it a hit with spectators. It doesn’t matter if you start with simply four persons on a team.