Codenames – learn how to play with game rules

By: Dennis B. B. Taylor


Hey there! Welcome to the world of Codenames. The name of the game is to correctly guess all of your team’s code words on the board before the other team does, but be careful not to guess the assassin! How do you do it, you ask? Well, your brilliant Spymaster will give you a clue – just one word and a number to go along with it.

Now, armed with this hint and additional clues that will pop up throughout the game, your team will put their heads together to figure out what the Spymaster’s clue means and make their guesses for each code word.


Getting things set up for Codenames is a breeze. First things first, split into two teams. Each team will take their place on opposite sides of the table. One team will claim the blue agent cards, while the other team takes the red agent cards.

So, here’s the deal: when we play the game, each team needs to choose a spymaster. This person will be in charge of giving clues. Pretty important role, right?

Now, the spymasters need to distribute and arrange 25 codename cards in a 5×5 square. It’s like setting up the game board. But wait, there’s more! They also need to draw a key card that nobody else can see. It’s like their secret weapon.

Codenames - learn how to play with game rules

Alright, listen up! I’m about to break it down for you. Pay attention because this is crucial. This little code right here is the secret to sorting out the clues for each team. It’s like a guidebook, telling you which clues belong to you and your team.

So let’s get down to business. The blue squares? Yeah, those are all yours. Your team’s clues are wrapped up in those. You better make sure you’re keeping an eye on those blue squares, they’re important.

But hold up, the red squares? Nope, those aren’t for you. Those are for the red team. Yeah, they gotta figure out what those clues are all about. You just gotta make sure you stay away from those, they’re not your business.

Okay, now we got white squares. They’re just regular folks, civilians. They don’t belong to any team, they’re neutral. You can pass them by without worrying, they won’t give you any trouble.

Ah, but there’s one last square you gotta know about. The black square. That one’s no joke. It’s the assassin. And trust me, you don’t wanna mess with that one. If you uncover that square, game over. So be careful and stay away from the black square, got it?

Alright, buddy, now you know. Remember, blue squares for your team, red squares for the other team, white squares are neutral, and the black square is a big no-no. Good luck out there!

Codenames - learn how to play with game rules


Are you ready to dive into the world of Codenames? The adventure begins as the cards are laid out and the spymasters get ready with their first set of clues. To start off, take a look at the keycard. The color that runs along the border will indicate which team gets to go first.

Keep an eye out for the double agent tile! The starting team gets to have it, giving them an extra guess. The first spymaster will kick things off by giving their team a one-word clue.

Cracking the Clues

Only the spymasters can give clues, and this is the only time they should be doing the talking. It’s important not to give away any additional information, not even through nonverbal cues. Avoid eye contact and try to keep your facial expressions on the down low.

What’s the deal with clues in the game? Well, they’re like secret messages that give you hints about which cards belong to your team. A clue is made up of two parts: a word and a number.

So, let’s break it down. The word is the actual clue, and it’s all about the cards you want your team to guess. It’s like a little code that leads your teammates in the right direction. The catch is, you can only use one word to describe your clue. So choose wisely!

And then there’s the number. This is where things get interesting. The number tells your team how many cards your clue is pointing to. It’s like a little hint about how many words are connected to your clue. But here’s the twist: the number is only for the spymaster to share with the guessers. It’s not part of the actual clue. So be careful not to mix them up!

Remember, clues are like secret codes that guide your team towards the right cards. So choose your words carefully and use the numbers wisely. It’s all about teamwork and strategy! Good luck!

Codenames - learn how to play with game rules

I want to explain to you how a game is played, called Codenames. It’s a really fun game that involves words and teamwork. The goal of the game is to correctly guess all the words on a grid. And you do this by using clues from your teammate, who we call the Spymaster.

Getting Clues

The Spymaster’s job is to give hints to their teammates so they can guess the right words. The Spymaster can only give one-word hints and a number that tells their teammates how many words on the grid are related to that hint.

Here’s an example: Let’s say there are two words on the grid, the sea animals “whale” and “dolphin”. The Spymaster might give the clue “sea, 2”. That means there are two words on the grid related to the sea. But the Spymaster can’t use the number as part of the clue. So, if you’re trying to get your teammates to guess “lemon” and “octopus”, you can’t say “sour, eight”. It’s against the rules!

Another important rule is that the words used as clues by the Spymaster cannot be any of the words on the grid. So, they have to be different words.

Making a Guess

Once the Spymaster gives their clue, all the other teammates can discuss what they think it means. They can share ideas and theories about which words on the grid the clue is related to. And when they’re ready, they can start locking in their guesses by touching the cards on the grid. Once a card is touched, no changes can be made.

So, that’s how you play Codenames! It’s a game that requires teamwork, strategy, and a little bit of luck. Have fun guessing those words and enjoy the game with your friends!

When you’re playing a guessing game, there are some rules you need to follow in order to have a fair and fun experience. Let me break them down for you.

First, you have to make at least one guess. It’s the minimum requirement, but you can choose to stop guessing at any time. Keep in mind that the maximum number of guesses you can make is one more than the number your spymaster gave you.

Guessing ends for your team under certain circumstances. You’ll stop guessing if you’ve guessed all your clues correctly and won the game. You’ll also stop if you’ve reached the maximum number of guesses allowed for this turn. Additionally, guessing ends if you make a wrong guess, or if all members of your team decide to pass.

What happens when your team incorrectly guesses a clue? Well, there are a couple of scenarios. If you accidentally guess a civilian, the spymaster will cover that card with a civilian tile. It’s a small setback, but you can keep on playing. However, if you happen to guess one of the other team’s clues, their spymaster will cover that clue with one of their clues. This can create a bit of a twist in the game. But beware, if you mistakenly guess the assassin, the game automatically ends and your team loses.

Codenames - learn how to play with game rules

Codenames - learn how to play with game rules

Additional Guidelines

While there are some official rules about the words you can use as clues, the spymasters have the final say on any other words not covered in these rules.

The official rules state that a clue must relate to the meaning of the words and should not refer to the specific letters or positions of the words on the table. Clues involving letters or numbers are allowed if they pertain to the word’s meaning, but the number itself cannot be part of the clue. The game must be played in English, and players cannot use words that are already visible on the table or parts of compound words that are already present.

Ending the Game

The game can end in a couple of ways. Either team can win by covering all of their team’s clues before the other team, or the opposing team wins if your team ever guesses the assassin.

If you’re a fan of Codenames, then you should definitely give Codename Pictures a try!

Different Versions of Codenames

There are many variations of Codenames available. Here are some of the top choices:

  • Codenames Deep Undercover: This is the adult version of the game.
  • Codenames Duet: This version is designed specifically for two players.
  • Codenames Marvel: If you’re a fan of Marvel, this themed version is for you.
  • Codenames XXL: This is the massive version of the game that can accommodate up to 28 players.
  • Codenames Harry Potter: For all the Harry Potter fans out there, this version is a must-play.
  • Codenames Disney: If you love Disney, then you’ll love this Disney-themed version.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you set up the Codenames board game?

Once the teams are formed and the spymasters are chosen, you can set up the board. It consists of 25 cards arranged in a 5×5 grid.

What happens when you pick an innocent bystander?

If you accidentally choose a word that is innocent and not related to the secret agents, your turn to guess will immediately end.

Can you communicate with your team during Codenames?

The people trying to guess can talk to each other and exchange ideas, but the person giving the clues, known as the spymaster, is not allowed to say anything.

Can you use names of specific people in Codenames?

You are allowed to use names of real people in the game, but whether or not you can use names that have multiple words is a decision made by your group. For example, the name “Daniel” would be allowed, but it is up to your group to decide if “Daniel Radcliffe” counts as one clue or multiple clues.

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