The juggernaut that is 2016’s Spiel des Jahres winner Codenames (here’s my review on Codenames) was bound to spawn more than one spin-off. Codenames: Pictures takes the concept and adds plenty of trippy visuals. Before we get to the game, let’s look at some particulars.
The Fiddly Bits
Players: 2-8 (many more can play with two teams)
Play time: 15 minutes
Intended audience: 10+
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
Designer: Vlaada Chvatil
Year Published: 2016
Quick rundown of gameplay
Players form teams—there is a single team variant, but usually, players split into teams—and teams are further split into one person as its clue giver and everyone else as clue decipherers. Clue givers are trying to give clues that will have their team (of clue decipherers) guess which pictures are assigned to their team, while avoiding clues that will lead to the assassin card (instant loss) or the other team’s cards. The first team to discover all its cards wins.
Clue givers and clue decipherers sit on either side of a table, and a 4×6 grid of cards with pictures on them rests between the givers and decipherers. It should look like this.
The clue givers also have a key that tells them which cards are their team’s pictures.
Each clue giver takes alternating turns, giving one word clues that tie multiple pictures of theirs together and provide a number of the cards (pictures) that fit that clue. For example, “Food 3” could be a valid clue if a clue giver is trying to get their team to guess pictures depicting “a gorilla eating grapes,” “a bagel with a space shuttle flying through it,” or “wine spilling out of a bottle and forming a topographical map of Michigan.”
Clue decipherers touch the cards they think match their clue. They keep guessing if they guess correctly or they can pass their turn to the other team if they don’t want to risk choosing an incorrect card. A team’s turn ends immediately if they pick a picture that isn’t one of theirs and play passes to the other team.
The first team to guess all their cards wins.
There are a few more twists and turns to the rules, but that’s the gist.
Again, most gamers have a preference of Codenames or Codenames: Pictures. If you’re more of a word game pro or you like word play, you may like Codenames (here’s a link to its review). If you’re more of a visual person, Pictures may be for you. I didn’t like Pictures at first. It took some plays for me to grasp what was on the cards. I missed a space shuttle flying through a bagel the first time I saw the picture and I gave a clue of space or Milky Way. One of my teammates picked the bagel and I thought they were mad. No. They’re not made, the pictures can make little sense.
After I grew accustomed to the odd pictures Codenames: Pictures grew on me. The gameplay’s the same as the original Codenames. Some folks don’t like the grayscale images, but the designer couldn’t add color to them. Every game would have someone saying a color and the number of pictures their team has with that color. And even though I still don’t get some of the pictures on the cards, a few are beyond bizarre, they have an endearing quirkiness.
Codenames: Pictures is a worthy sequel to 2016’s game of the year—I’m sorry Spiel des Jahres. I just hope Czech Games Edition doesn’t crank out too many sequels.
Which version of Codenames is your favorite? Let me know in the comments. I’ll be playing some more games but until then, thanks for reading.