Codenames Duet is a word game based on the popular Codenames but specifically designed for two players to play co-operatively.
As with the original game, the ‘spy’ theme is just that – a theme – and it’s really about lateral thinking, in that you’re trying to get your opponents to guess certain words.
Twenty-five of the 200 word cards are laid out in 5×5 formation on the table. One of many grid reference cards is placed in a stand between you, with each side showing the (mostly different) words you want your partner to guess. You now have a limited number of rounds to complete the challenge – on your turn you simply say a word that links in some way to at least one – hopefully more – of the words on the grid you want your partner to guess, and also give them the number of guesses you’d like them to make. Having done so, you give them no further clues – no grunting, no shaking of head or face-pulling! – and hope they guess right. If they guess wrong, that turn is instantly over and the roles reverse, with you now the guesser and your partner giving clues.
Your goal is merely to guess all the correct words before you run out of time ( – there’s a maximum of nine rounds) but obviously you can challenge yourselves to do it in less! As well as the basic concept of guessing there are one or two other things at play as well – three words are the assassin (in the original game there is only one) which instantly end the game as a loss. But one of the assassins you can safely guess, and one your partner can safely guess. A third means an instant loss.
I love the original Codenames and for two, this is a decent spin-off from it. Simple yet really clever and one of those games that people who ‘hate games’ can find themselves enjoying – it’s not competitive, the rules are dead simple, but it’s a mental challenge rather than a dice-rolling luckiest.
I love the Codenames series of games – and this is a great version for two. Trying to find connections between seemingly disparate words, and then hoping to convey that connection to the other player with a single word, is just hugely, endlessly satisfying. Brilliant.
There may be pauses whilst each person thinks up a clue that relates solely to the cards they want it to!
Rules-wise, very little at all. But coming up with clues (and guessing them right) can be a cognitive challenge...
Lots of cards mean lots of variety. The game functions on the strength of the deduction and lateral thought, so those that like it will probably love it. If you want this type of thing but for more than two players, the original Codenames also has rules for two (but not the double-sided grid references that come with Duet)