Base Game Review
Play Time (Box): 15mins
Play Time (Goof): 10mins-20mins
Producer/s: Czech Games Edition
Designer/s: Vlaada Chvatil & Scot Eaton
Hey! Let’s play a game! Seriously. You and me, right now.
It’s called ‘Codenames Duet’. Now sure, it’s going to be slightly different, given we’re not at a table together. But I’m going to give you a clue, and you guess which words are linked to it. Then you can give me a clue back and I’ll guess yours. It’ll be fun!
Fair warning. I’m really bad at this game. I once linked Kirk (2) to Captain and Pew. Thinking of like pew pew laser guns. We’ve lost two thirds of our plays, and I’ll stick my hand in the air to claim responsibility (so will the rest of the table I guarantee you). And yet Codenames Duet is my second most played game of 2017 to date.
Let me tell you why.
I like to consider myself a decently skilled gamer. When I’m at a table, I’m playing as hard as I can to win. And while it sounds like I’d be a sore loser/bad winner. I don’t actually care if I’m at the top of the leaderboard once the game is over. What I care about are close tight games with everyone playing their hardest to emerge victorious. Once the game is over, I rarely remember who won. I remember the stories, the clutch decisions, the skill building which happened.
And the skill building is why I love Codenames Duet.
I’m not overly a fan of trivia games. But much like the Timeline series, games which can educate me while I’m having a good time are golden. And I learn so much about the way in which words connect, my friends schemas, and which movies I’ve seen which my friends clearly need to catch up on.
Every game you feel like you’re learning something new. You get better at giving clues and seeking them out. And although I suck at Codenames Duet, I can feel myself getting better (and Stats tracking helps back this up).
This upskilling doesn’t come with the requirement of knowledge about specific topics. You simply try to connect words in a way which makes sense for the person sitting across from you. Codenames Duet gives you a real insight into how your friends and family think. Which… in my case I’m realising is pretty scattered.
A complaint I often have about tabletop games is the downtime. Waiting for your next damn turn. But Codenames Duet honestly has next to no downtime. When you give a clue you’re watching anxiously to see if they respond correctly. When you receive a clue, you’re talking through your thought process, seeing which words fit best. And when the other player is thinking of a clue, you’re thinking of the next one you want to give.
The randomness of the set up and the large amount of components gives Codenames Duet a huge amount of replayability. Sometimes this does accidentally create super easy or torturously hard combinations. But it happens so rarely, and makes for some funny moments so you can’t really be too mad at the tradeoff.
One of the other reasons Codenames Duet has reached the heights of my second most played game of 2017 (an honourable title), is the speed at which it takes to set up, play, refresh and go again. You can get through a play in about 10-20 minutes. And I guarantee you’ll flip the cards over to go again.
Is there an ethics committee for lying board game box art? Stop it with the false advertising! Okay yes… so TECHNICALLY you can play with 2+ players. And TECHNICALLY they’re not lying. But it feels pretty damn close to a lie when more players heavily detracts from the fun. Adding even one more player increases play time dramatically. And once I’ve got my clue I really dont want to sit there and twiddle my thumbs for five minutes while you come to an agreement on which clue to give. Admittedly I haven’t tried alternating clue givers on each “team” to speed up play. But it’s something I’m pretty keen to give a go.
The cards and everything are fine. Not exciting, just fine. However, I have a couple complaints. Firstly, I don’t think it’d have been too hard to give players more of a distinction of who guessed the clue than rotating the agent card a certain way. It’s not I can’t work it out. But with so much going on trying to combine words and themes, I don’t think card orientation is even a minor challenge the game needs. I’ve seen people get confused and think they’ve guessed a word they haven’t, such as when a bystander is placed and you eliminate the card from being an option when you shouldn’t. The skill and challenge should be in the clues.
I’ll admit the only Codenames Game I’ve played so far is duet. But I am super excited to get more and start mixing in words with the sets which allow for it.
There’s a reason the Codenames series has started to become household names. They’re fun, simple, and quick to jump into.
So how about it? The clue is Reptile (2). Lets play a game.
Post your answer to the clue in the comments or on one of our social media pages. I’ve got more clues lined up. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.
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