Codenames Duet (Boardgame)

In the cooperative game Codenames Duet, two players alternate giving one word clues to each other hoping the other player will select specific words out of a 5×5 grid. Clues must be flexible as the players have a limited number of clues available to suss out the needed 15 words, but they can’t be too general as several words on the grid result in an immediate loss when chosen. Codenames was a great party game (played between two teams with a clue giver for each) and Codenames Duet brings that fun gameplay to a cooperative, two person game.



Codenames Duet
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
Ages: 11+
Players: 2
Time: 15 minutes
(Review copy provided by Czech Games)

In Codenames, two teams share the same 5×5 grid of random word cards. Each team has a hint-giver who can see all the words for their team as well as words on their opponents’ team. The hint-givers try to give clues consisting of a single word and a number. The clue gives hints as to which words belong to that team and the number represents how many of the words (in the hint-giver’s opinion) match the clue. A hint giver gives the clue and then the team must make guesses as to which are the matching words. They get to guess until they decide to quit or they make a wrong guess (either a neutral word, or worse, a word belonging to their opponent.) Teams take turns giving hints and making guesses until one team identifies all their words or a team picks the one word that causes an automatic loss. It is a great game for small to medium sized parties (say 4 to 8 people.) Beyond that, players may start to feel out of the discussion. The game also comes in a Codenames: Pictures edition where the words are replaced by funny little clip art pictures (like a toaster with wings, etc…), and two new releases this fall including Disney and Marvel themed games.

Codenames Duet takes the same entertaining gameplay and sets it up as a two player cooperative game. Words are still laid out on a 5×5 grid, but now both players serve as the hint giver and guesser. Each player looks at their side of a clue card to see which 9 words they will need their opponent to guess. Most of the other word cards are “innocent bystanders” and simply stop your partner from any more guesses that round when picked. However, three of the words are “assassins.” If your partner picks an assassin card, the game is instantly lost. Each partner has 9 cards to find, but there are only 15 cards in total that need to be found. Some words are shared between players so only one player need identify them for them to count. Note, a player can end up (incorrectly) guessing a bystander card even though it is one they need their partner to find. Players are given nine rounds of guessing and then the game enters “sudden death” mode where players take turns guessing until they get one wrong. Find them all and win the game. In practice, I’ve found it challenging to find all 15 cards however the game supplies a couple extra tokens if you want to make the game a little easier.

Once you’ve gotten used to the basic game, there is an option to play a fun little campaign style game using an included map. Players start out with a standard scenario in Prague, but then players have the option to “visit” new cities on the map. Each city has a slightly different setup than the standard one. Each scenario changes up the available clue tokens (the number of turns of guessing) however they might also limit the number of “wrong” guesses that can be made (making incorrect guesses worse than just ending your turn.)


I enjoy the original Codenames (adding it to my Unplugged Holiday Guide in 2015) and changing it into a two player cooperative game is a great fit for me. I like cooperative games and have a much easier time setting up a two player game than a larger party. It is a relatively inexpensive game and its cooperative nature makes it a great couples game.


Kid Factor
The words in the game are “safe for all ages”, and obviously kids would need to be able to read. However, a few words in the game like Hercules, Lace, Moses, Yellowstone, or Ceasar may simply be unknown to them. The simple fix is to replace those when they appear and replace them with more common words like frost, hammer, pillow, or squirrel. There may even be some bonus educational value here as the game could serve as a way to learn new words as you play.


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