After becoming a smasher in 2015’s Gen Con and winning the Spiel des Jahres award in 2016, Codenames is now one of the most popular and successful tabletop games ever. Below, we will help you understand the differences between two versions of the game, Codenames vs Codenames Duet, so that you can decide which one that’s better for your peers.
Below, you can find out further about:
• The box content of each version of the game
• How to play Codenames and Codenames Duet
• The recommended number of players and minimum player age
• The fundamental differences of Codenames vs Codenames Duet
• Which version of the game that is the most suitable for you
Let’s start by taking a look at the original Codenames game which was designed by Vlaada Chvatil and released by Czech Games in 2015. It is essentially a social word-guessing game, in which players of the same time must work together to make the right guesses. See also: Gloomhaven vs Massive Darkness.
In this game, the players are split into two teams, red and blue. One player of each team must act as the spymaster, who is responsible for giving clues to his teammates about the whereabouts of their team’s secret agents. The other players are field operatives, who must guess the codenames of their team’s secret agents based on the spymaster’s clues. The first team to discover all of its secret agents wins the game.
It is the players’s best interest to play carefully so that they only pick up their team’s secret agents. Opening a card that turns out to be the opposing team’s secret agent will not only end their turn, but also giving an advantage to the opposing team. In addition, opening a card that turns out to be an assassin will automatically result in their team’s defeat.
One fundamental difference between Codenames vs Codenames Duet is the nature of the game. The original Codenames is competitive by nature. It has two teams that compete against each other. Meanwhile, Codenames Duet is a cooperative game, as you will see below.
The box of the original Codenames game looks rather plain and simple. It is colored in gradations of purple and orange. You can find a short description and guide on the back of the box. The box itself includes:
• 8 blue agent cards
• 8 red agent cards
• 1 double agent card
• 1 assassin card
• 7 innocent bystander cards
• 40 key cards
• 1 timer
• 1 card stand
• 200 cards with 400 codenames
• 1 rulebook
Codenames: How To Play
Now, we will see the more detailed gameplay of Codenames. Before we can play the game, there are some things that need to be set up first. First of all, you need at least four players who split into two teams. Try to balance the teams’s sizes and skill levels.
Each team must choose a player to become their spymaster. The spymasters of both teams sit on one side of the table. The rest of the players, or the field operatives, are supposed to sit across their spymasters.
Then, you need to shuffle the codename cards. Pick 25 codenames randomly and put them in a 5×5 grid. Next, prepare the key on the spymasters’s side. This key will reveal the secret identities behind the cards on the table. Only the spymasters may see this key. The spymasters must choose a key card randomly and place it into the card stand without being seen by the field operatives.
The key card corresponds to the 5×5 grid on the table. There are blue squares, which represent blue agents that the blue team must guess, and red squares, which represent red agents that the red team must guess. There are also pale squares, which represent innocent bystanders, and a black square which represent the assassin.
Every key card also has four lights on its edges. The color of the lights indicates the team that starts first. Usually, the starting team has 9 words that they have to guess, whereas the other team has 8. The blue agent cards must be put in a stack in front of the blue spymaster, likewise for the red spymaster.
The double agent card will act as a fill-in for the starting team, which has one more word to guess. The innocent bystander cards and the assassin card are put in-between the spymasters so that they can be accessed easily.
The starting team’s spymaster may give one word as a clue for their field operatives, followed by a number. The clue word can be chosen freely as long as it doesn’t belong to any card on the table. The clue word may relate to multiple cards. Meanwhile, the number indicates how many secret agents that are related to the clue word. For example, “sweet, 2” means that there are two agents whose codenames are related to the word “sweet”.
Afterwards, the field operatives must guess which word(s) on the table that are their team’s secret agents. After a field operative chooses a word, the spymaster reveals the chosen card’s identity by placing an identity card (secret agent, innocent bystander, or assassin) on its place.
If it is their team’s secret agent, they may continue guessing. If it is an innocent bystander or an opponent’s secret agent, the turn goes to the other team. If it is an assassin, the team loses. You win when you have discovered all of your secret agents.
Codenames: Players and Game Length
If we compare Codenames vs Codenames Duet, the original may seem to be smaller because it has fewer pieces in its box. However, the average game length actually doesn’t differ much from the cooperative version. One game can last for about 15 minutes on average.
Before choosing the original Codenames game, you need to consider if the people that you are going to play with are cool with the competitive nature. There are some people that are extremely too competitive and can’t withstand losing. If this is the case, you may want to avoid this version and go for the cooperative Codenames Duet. However, if your peers are cool to play with, the original Codenames can be really fun and challenging.
As mentioned above, Codenames requires at least 4 players. The game can be played by up to eight people in total. The minimum player age, according to the box, is 10 years old.
Codenames Duet: Overview
Now, we will discuss about Codenames Duet. It is a cooperative version of the original game. While still using the same core concept, there are new rules and mechanisms that alter the gameplay considerably. Codenames Duet was designed by Vlaada Chvatil and Scot Eaton.
In Codenames Duet, you only need 2 players. You can play the game with more players, who will split into two teams. In this version of the game, you know the agents that the other team can contact safely, but you don’t know your own agents. So, you need to rely on the clues given by the other team to find your agents, while also helping them to find theirs.
Despite the cooperative nature, Codenames Duet can be even more difficult and challenging to complete. It has a campaign mode, in which you will go across various locations around the world with different levels of difficulty. There are also 100 key cards that vary in difficulty. Plus, to keep you on your toes, there are timers that will limit how many rounds that you can get for discovering all your agents.
Note that Codenames Duet has green agent cards. This game is stand-alone, so it does not require the original to be played. That said, the word cards here are compatible with the original, and vice versa, meaning that you can mix all their word cards without any problem. The box of Codenames Duet contains:
• 15 green agent cards
• 1 assassin card
• 100 key cards
• 200 cards with 400 new words
• 1 card stand
• 11 timer tokens
• 1 rulebook
• 1 pad of mission maps for campaign mode
Codenames Duet: How To Play
The initial preparations are quite similar. Split the players into two teams that sit on the opposite of each other. Shuffle the word cards and pick 25 randomly. Place them in a 5×5 grid. Meanwhile, the agent cards and the assassin cards can be put in-between the teams beside the grid.
Then, choose a key card and place it in the holder on the center of the table. Each team may only see one side of the key. Note that the two sides of the key show different information. There are actually 15 agents on the table, but each side only shows 9 green squares. Information about the locations of assassins may also differ.
You all need to work together to find all the 15 agents without revealing an assassin before the time runs out. Either team may start as the first clue-giver. As usual, the clue may only be a single word followed by a number. Then, the other team should make a guess by pointing a card.
If the guess is correct to be a green agent, the guessing player may try to identify another one. However, if the chosen card happens to be a bystander, their guessing time ends and they must take the turn to give a clue. If the chosen card turns out to be an assassin, both teams lose.
Codenames Duet: Players and Game Length
When choosing between Codenames vs Codenames Duet, consider whether you and your friends will enjoy a competitive game or a cooperative game more. Codenames Duet is highly recommended if you are looking for a game which requires the players to work together.
You may also want to pick this game if some of your friends are way too competitive and can’t enjoy a game without winning. In this game, you win together or you lose together. The higher difficulties can be really challenging – they can include two or more assassins! So, you must think carefully before giving a clue that may accidentally lead the other player to an assassin.
Codenames Duet can be played with as few as 2 players. There is no maximum number of players, but apparently having 8 players in the game is already quite enough. The minimum player age is 11 years old. According to the box, the average game length is about 15 minutes.
Codenames vs Codenames Duet
|Key features||• Competitive; has two teams that compete to win the game • Each team must find 8 or 9 secret agents • Includes 40 key cards • No campaign mode • Requires at least 4 players||• Cooperative; has two teams that must work together to win • There are 15 secret agents that both teams must find • Includes 100 key cards • Has campaign mode with a pad of mission maps • Requires at least 2 players|
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Codenames is good if you are looking for a competitive game that can be enjoyed by your peers. However, if you are not specifically looking for a competitive game, Codenames Duet is generally more recommended because it has more content. It has 100 key cards and a campaign mode. The higher difficulties can be very fun and challenging. In addition, the cooperative nature of the game can be enjoyed by a wider range of people.