It’s been quite an exciting week for board games as the Spiel Des Jahres was announced! It’s like the Oscars of the board game world, when some of the finest board gaming minds come together to pick the best game of the past year. I’m glad I don’t have to decide, as it feels like an impossible task! Almost every game we play we absolutely love and to have to pick just one out of all the games that have been released in Germany in the past year… well… I don’t envy that job at all!

We actually thought that Karuba would win as it’s definitely family-friendly and such a different style of game to the hundreds we have played, plus every time we play it the game makes people laugh, agonise and panic, but the committee of Germans has spoken and we have a winner!

Let me tell you about Codenames. The hardest thing is probably splitting your gaming group into two teams – how do you choose which side to play on? There is a red and a blue team which each having its own team leader, so dividing Liverpool against Everton fans would work… But I would suggest pick the people who know you best – this game is all about giving cryptic clues to your partners and hoping they understand what you are trying to tell them.

The playing field
The playing field

Next, you create a grid of 25 cards in a 5×5 pattern and each card has a random word on it, for example ‘ham’, ‘buffalo’ or ‘opera’. Then in battle-ship style, the red team leader has to get their team to guess which of the 25 words belong to red and the blue obviously are looking for the blue cards.

The team captain (or 'spymaster') uses this square as a key to what colours the words need to be in order to win the game.
The team captain (or ‘spymaster’) uses this square as a key to what colours the words need to be in order to win the game.

The way you guess, is by giving a one-word clue and a number to say how many cards have that one clue in common. I have no idea how you would come up with a clue that connects ‘ham’, ‘buffalo’ and ‘opera’, but that is the challenge. You also have to be careful that another random word can’t be accidentally and confusedly connected to the clue. There are some words that are “innocent bystanders” and one word (the black cross) that makes your team lose instantly if guessed.

Here you can see that both red and blue are neck-and-neck, both needing just one more correct guess to win. You can also see the 'innocent' grey cards that were wrong guesses...
Here you can see that both red and blue are neck-and-neck, both needing just one more correct guess to win. You can also see the ‘innocent’ grey cards that were wrong guesses…

It’s a hilarious and silly game, full of confusion and bizarre clues. I (Vanessa) am a bit 50-50 on it, as I think it can be pretty dull waiting for someone to come up with a clue for a few minutes. Obviously using one clue for one word is boring, so you try and get creative to use one clue for a few words, but it seems not everyone is skilled in this way. I certainly am not. I would ALWAYS recommend using the timer to speed things up and the more players the better. Even though it says the game can be played from 4 players, to me it just doesn’t really work unless you have at least six or better still eight players. It’s been interesting to see the reviews about Codenames since winning the prize as it’s been very mixed. Many people are delighted and absolutely love the game, however there are also lots of people who don’t really see it as a ‘family game’ or a very fun game… Luckily for all of you, we have a copy of Codenames at Sugar and Dice so you can find out for yourself!

Congratulations to Codenames
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