About the Game
During our Amsterdam vacation we picked up three games. One of which was Codenames Duet published by Czech Games Republic. This is the two-player take on the original Codenames game.
Codenames Duet is a co-op card game where you and your partner take the role of spies. You and your partner are tasked with making contact with your other (hypothetical) team members. All the while trying to avoid bystanders and getting caught by the assassin.
In order to make contact with the other spies, you and your partner must work together to locate them. To do this you are each given code words which your partner needs to guess. The code words are displayed in 5×5 grid among several ‘bystander words’ (words which lead to nothing and ends your turn) and the assassin word (the word that immediately ends the game).
The words displayed in the 5×5 grid are the same for each player, as you share one play space. However, each player receivers a different key card which shows the words your partner must guess (in green). Additionally, the key card has 3 spaces that are the words that you DO NOT want your partner to guess (in black). Meaning your challenge is to think up single-worded clues that your partner will guess correctly, without guessing the assassin word.
The clues can include a number to hint at how many code words the clue applies to. The clue can not contain the word or part of a code word.
Sounds easy, right? Well, then you need to do all of that within 9 turns. Each turn ends by running into a bystander. So you better be able to relate a single clue word to multiple code words.
When we play games which are language heavy in game play, we often get quite interesting results. Timo, although his English is very good, is not a native speaker as he was born in the Netherlands. I – on the other hand (Hannah), am. So games like Codenames Duet where much of the game play requires you to solve riddles, come up with clues, and/or understand references in those clues can be VERY difficult for us.
That being said, it can also be a very hilarious experience to play games like this when you are from different cultural backgrounds. For example, often when giving a clue that I thought was a dead-on clue for multiple code words… Timo immediately picked the ONE card that could have (maybe) been related to my clue… which was the assassin card. When explaining our clues and guesses he had guessed based on how the clue was relevant in his own context. Whereas I had imagined the situation that prompted the clue from a completely different context. Because we had pictured what that clue word meant to us from the cultural context we understood it, we ended up losing multiple times.
Eventually, instead of using the real meaning of the words we would start to use clues in more out of the box ways. Like if 3 of our clues started with the letter B. And there were no other words with B (especially not the assassin word), we would say Bees 3. This clued the other partner that there are 3 words that start with B. BAM! Immediately get 3 words (3 spies contacted), unless your partner has absolutely NO IDEA why you just tried to relate Bees to Bell, Baboons and Battery.
A play through of one side of the key card lasted about 15 minutes after the first couple tries. This is a fantastic game if you are just in the mood for something quick. But it also has the ability to last longer in multiple ways. The first is the basically unlimited amounts of code word variations you can get from all of the cards they provide.
Second is a very cool extended game feature that includes a world map and instructions to complete your next mission. Each mission varies by intensity and gets harder as you progress.
This is definitely a game we will be considering for one of our future On the Go boxes. Codenames Duet is a perfect on the go game. It is packaged in a small sturdy box with bags and everything needed to store the game. It is just the right size to take on a trip. And it is a good duration to play if you are on vacation or just want a quick game. The flexibility with having the ability to play a longer version of the game with a real end goal is also a nice alternative to the shorter 15 minute version. Codenames Duet should be a must-have on anyone’s board game wish list!