Codenames was a breakout hit. The accessibility and price made it a staple of many game nights. It even claimed the Spiel des Jahres of 2016. CGE could have gone the easy way and created an expansion with more words to add to Codenames, but instead they added pictures to the mix to give us Codenames: Pictures.
The basic fundamentals of Codenames still applies. Players break out into two teams. Two players are assigned as spymasters who will give the clues and sit on one side of the cards. The rest of both teams, the field operatives, sit on the opposite side of the game area. The key is given to the keymasters to indicate which pictures both teams must guess, as well as which team starts.
Teams alternate in giving a one-word clue followed by a number used to suggest how many pictures are associated with the clue. The field operatives choose a picture. It is then revealed if it is for your team, for the other team, neither team (an innocent bystander), or the assassin. If the picture is for the current team, then the field operatives may continue to choose pictures as long as they haven’t made one more guess than the number given by the keymaster. If the picture is associated with the opposing team or neither team that team’s turn is over. If the assassin is chosen the game is over, and the other team wins.
The most noticeable change with Codenames: Pictures is the fact that the cards are square with pictures on them. While the monochrome pictures don’t provide the same exuberance of Dixit, they provide enough detail that give them a fantastical look. They might look like ordinary pictures at first glance, but they have little details that give them multiple ways to describe them. While I had a hard time to get four or five pictures associated with one word, it’s easy to get two or three under the same clue.
The other noticeable difference comes up when looking at the grid containing five cards in a row but only four rows instead of five. The team going first needs to get eight pictures correct to win, while the second team only needs seven.
If there was any complaint, I do wish that more picture cards were included. However, with the upcoming new versions of Codenames coming out in the not too distant future, I can see mixing them up with this version. The instructions even suggest mixing Codenames: Pictures with regular Codenames for a unique experience.
Designed by: Vlaada Chvatil
Published by: Czech Games Edition
Players: Two to eight
Ages: 10 and up
Time: 10-20 Minutes
Mechanics: Word game, party, teams