OBJECTIVE OF CODENAMES: To be the team to guess all their clue first.


MATERIALS: 8 Blue and 8 red agent cards, one double agent card that is blue and red, 1 assassin card that is black, 7 civilian cards that are white, double-sided codename cards and key cards.

TYPE OF GAME: Verbal cooperative party game

AUDIENCE: For adults and children 14+


The objective of codenames is to correctly guess all of your teams’ code words on the board before the other team does and without guessing the assassin. This is possible because your Spymaster will give you a one-word clue and a number. Using this information and similar clues throughout the game your team will try to interpret the spymaster’s clue and guess each code word.


The game needs the players to split into two even teams. One team claiming the blue agent cards and one team claiming the red agent cards. Each team should then appoint a spymaster, they will be the clue giver for the game.

The spymasters then should shuffle and deal out 25 codename cards and arrange them in a 5X5 square. Then shuffle and draw a key card that needs to be kept secret from everyone but the spymasters. This will be the key for which clues belong to which team, with the blue squares belonging to the blue team, red squares belonging to the red team, white squares are civilians, and the black square is the assassin.


The game begins once the cards are laid out and the spymasters are ready with their first clues. The team that goes first is indicated on the keycard by the color that runs along the border, and this team will also take the double agent tile because they will have one more card to guess. The first spymaster will start the game by giving their team the first one-word clue.

Giving Clues

Clues are only given by the spymasters and these clues are the only time during the game that a spymaster should talk. The spymaster should make a point to not give away any additional information, even nonverbal information. It is best to not make eye contact and keep your facial expressions to a minimum.

Clues consist of one word and a number; The word is what the clue is and should focus on the cards that belong to your team, while the number is for how many cards this clue alludes to. The number is used only for the spymaster to tell the guessers how many code words his clue refers to, and can not also be a part of the clue. For example, if two of your clues are sea animals like whale and dolphin a spymaster might say “sea, 2”, but you can not use the number as part of your clue, so if trying to get your teammates to guess lemon and octopus you can not say “sour, eight.” The words your spymaster uses for clues cannot be any of the words visible in the grid either.

Making a Guess

The next part of the game is guessing the cards that go along with your spymaster’s clues. All other teammates may discuss on what they think the clue could mean. Once they have their guesses they may start locking them in, and this happens when a teammate touches a card. No changes can be made once a card has been touched.

When guessing you must guess at least once, but after one guess you may decide to stop guessing at any time. You may only guess the number of times equal to one more than the number your spymaster gave you. Guessing ends for your team when you guess all your clues and win the game, guess the max number you are allowed this turn, make a wrong guess, or when every team member decides to pass.

If your team incorrectly guesses a clue a few things can happen. If a civilian is guessed the spymaster will cover that card with a civilian tile. If your team guesses one of the other team’s clues then their spymaster will cover that clue with one of their clues, but if your team guesses the assassin then the game is automatically over, and your team loses.

Additional Rules

There a few official rules about words you can use for clues, but any other words not falling into these categories are up for the spymasters’ decisions. The official rules include: a clue must be about the meaning of the words and must not allude to letters in the word or the position on the table, Letters and numbers are valid clues but only if they refer to the meaning of the words, the number after the clue cannot be part of the clue, you must play in English, you can’t say words visible on the table, you can’t say parts of compound words on the table.


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

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