Whilst trying to angle for a game of Adrenaline at the Czech Games Edition stand at Expo my cohort Gaz and I sat down to get a quick game of the forthcoming two player variant of the incredibly popular Codenames. For more on what I thought of that game check out this review.
This starts out like a normal game of Codenames with a grid of words like so:
Much like it’s parent game you are looking for agents by giving word clues but this time you are cooperatively working with your partner to find 15 agents before the time runs out, a limited number of turns. Gaz and I both had information as to where those agents could be found on the little grid you can see to the right of the picture.
Whereas in Codenames the two spymasters are looking at 1 grid in this version you are each looking at a different grid, on either side of a single card. To add complication to this there are 3 assassins, as oppose to the usual 1 and also an assassin on my grid might be an agent on Gaz’s!
There are some nice little graphical touches as well to make things go smoothly. The innocent bystanders are no longer represented by cards, but instead by tokens that can be pointed in the direction of whoever’s grid they belong to, essential when you are both looking at different information for the same grid:
That’s it really in terms of changes, the core gameplay remains largely unchanged. I do think they have succeeded in a really neat adaptation of the core game, with enough interesting changes to make it feel like a two player game that has been built like that from the ground up. I do wonder if Codenames loses something going down to so few players, but the frustration of your opposite number not getting one of your clues is still ever present and it was certainly difficult enough to flumux us.
Codenames: Duet is really worth checking out if you find yourself playing a lot of two player games, and need a wordy addition to the collection.