Codenames: Pictures is an immensely exciting and often tense game of wordplay and double meanings. The game is the revamped version of the 2015 game Codenames, but now instead of words, the agents are represented by pictures.
Players compete against each other in two teams: red and blue. There are two roles in each team: one spymaster, whose job it is to come up with one-word clues that relate to your team’s chosen pictures, and the field operatives, whose job is to decipher the spymasters’ clues. The two teams compete to decipher clues and find out where their agents are located.
There are three types of cards in the game: the picture cards, which represent the locations where the field operatives meet agents, the agent cards, which are used to mark the locations which have already been guessed, and the key, which indicates which locations belong to which team. The key also determines whether the blue or the red team starts and marks the placements of the innocent bystanders and the assassin. The cards are placed in a 5x4 grid like is shown in the key.
Spymasters take turns giving one-word clues, which relate to one or more pictures on the grid. The spymaster also gives a number, which indicates how many cards the word corresponds to, or in other words, how many guesses the team has. The players on the team try to guess which picture cards the spymaster meant and touch the cards they believe are correct. If they are, the spymaster marks the locations with their agent card and the teams may continue guessing. If the answer was incorrect, the other team’s turn begins.
If the incorrect card is an innocent bystander or the other team’s location, it doesn’t have any additional penalty other than the turn ending. However, if a team chooses the assassin card the game ends immediately and the other team wins. When either of the teams has guessed all their locations the game ends.
There are a few rules to keep in mind. The spymaster can’t communicate with their team in any other verbal or non-verbal way besides giving the codename. The operatives can advise the spymaster, but the spymaster can’t respond to indicate whether they are going to follow it.
It may sound like Codenames: Pictures is a complicated game, but I promise you that once everyone has got a hold of the rules, it is quite simple and very entertaining. The game is very enticing, and because of the short rounds, it’s excellent for playing multiple times in one sitting. The picture cards do not have the most beautiful illustrations unlike other games such as Dixit, but they are complex enough to get the job done.
Codenames: Pictures is also great because it can be played in any language if you, for instance, had some foreign friends over. It is also very flexible in the sense that it can be played amongst a group of friends who have known each other for years or complete strangers. All in all, it is a very thrilling way to spend an evening and practise your punning skills.
Designers: Vlaada Chvátil
Artists: David Cochard, Jana Kilianová, Tomáš Kučerovský, Filip Neduk, Michal Suchánek
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
Release Date: 2016
Number of players: 2–8
Playing time: 15min
Pictures taken by Aila Henriksson.
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