A few months ago we reviewed Codenames, a game which demanded some ingenious ideas and clues if you were going to stand a chance of beating the opposition team. It’s a great game, one which needs no board game experience to enjoy and would prove a huge success at any family party, especially one which is fuelled by the occasional class of Rioja. Apparently.
So how do you make a great game feel new, while at the same time keeping the core values that made the original game such a joy to play? Well, if Czech Games are to be believed (and they are) you add more pictures. Simple.
I’m not going to go into huge detail here about how Codenames works, or why we liked it so much – you can read our original review here for all of that info. No, all this will be is a bit of an update, an idea of just how different the pictures make the game and whether or not the new formula actually works. After all, we’ve seen before how messing with a hugely popular idea can provide appallingly bad results (*cough* Phantom Menace *cough*) so is Codenames Pictures just another Jaja Binks?
Cutting straight to the chase, the good news is that this new version of Codenames is every bit as much fun, maybe even more so, than the original. The genius lies in the pictures themselves, and the fact that there are loads of ways to see each one. Take the following combination of cards for example:
Id look at these and give the clue of “House, 3” thinking that the birdhouse, lighthouse and small house in the suitcase would be a nice, obvious combination. Sadly, my team start arguing about whether the ancient looking building is housing the weird creature inside, and as such call that out as one of their answers. At best, it’s a bystander which ends the turn. At worst, it’s the assassin and it’s game over. Booo. But the image above gives a great idea of how varied your interpretations can be. Do you go for “Garden, 2” thinking they might think a birdhouse goes in the garden, and the suitcase looks a bit like a house with a garden… sort of… It’s the same dilemma as before, but delivered in a very different style.
The artwork is awesome, the black and white images give an additional ambiguity to the already varied images, allowing for a far more interesting range of clues than you’d have got from, say, a picture of a tree with nothing interesting about it. There are a few new agents and bystanders too, and although this serves no purpose other than giving you some new people to look at, it’s still a welcome touch, as is the fact that you can mix and match the two games together – yep, if you fancy something even more bonkers you can shuffle the pictures and original word cards together (they’re the same width, so it’s not really a problem, although the pictures cards are taller) and give yourself and your team even more to think about. It works too, so is definitely worth a try.
So should you buy Codenames Pictures if you’ve already got the original Codenames? Yes, you should. Should you buy it if you haven’t bought Codenames before? Yes, you should.
Short version: You should buy it. It’s great.
Available Now, RRP £15.99
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