February 18, 2019

Board Game Review: Codenames Duet


I thought I’d try something new and review a board game this time. I certainly play a whole bunch of them, so I have some experience in this arena.

Last time I took my kids to a toy store, my husband and I ended up buying a ton of games for ourselves in addition to letting the kids pick something out. One of the things we grabbed was Codenames Duet. I had heard good things about Codenames, but this one is a cooperative game, which should totally make it better.

Now, my husband is really good at board games. Not, I win more than I lose on family game night good, but more like, I have mathematically proved the optimal strategy while also having an encyclopedic knowledge of the English language and will win almost every game in a room full of geniuses good.

It's annoying.

I say all this because I've gotten sick of losing games all the time, yet somehow still enjoy playing them, so cooperative games are the way to go.

In Codenames Duet, you lay out a grid of words—these are the codenames—and each player has a secret grid of where all your allies and assassins are. One person gives a one-word clue and the number of allies on their secret grid that relate to that clue, then the other player guesses which words are codenames for those secret allies. Both players need to find all the allies to win, but accidentally guessing the assassin is an instant game over.

Being an author, I should be good at word games, right? Or maybe playing with an unabridged dictionary has eroded my self-confidence. Regardless of my level of skill with words, it's annoying when the person I’m playing with doesn't connect the word ‘lace’ to my clue of ‘delicate,’ yet they’ll make tenuous connections which they should be aware are outside of my knowledge base.

My point is that this game doesn't feel like you're working together when it's clearly the other person's fault for making you lose. And believe me, I’m a good sport when it comes to losing since it happens a lot.

Overall, this is a cool game with high-quality components that would be a lot of fun for the right people. Each round is pretty fast and cleanup is easy. I personally would recommend Forbidden Island over this game for a more cooperative experience, but Codenames Duet is fun and definitely worth a try.

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