CODENAMES: PICTURES is a game for an even number of players split into two teams. It is the next step up from the original CODENAMES that took the board gaming world by storm in 2015.
Published by Czech Games Edition and designed once again by Vlaada Chvátil it is every bit as better than its predessor.
The artwork throughout is stunning so full credit must be given to: Tomás Kucerovský, Jana Kilianová, Michal Suchánek, David Cochard and Filip Neduk
The components are several decks of cards; Locations, Red Agents, Blue Agents, Innocent Bystanders, Keys (layouts), a Double-Agent and an Assassin. If you are lucky you will have also managed to get the 5 card Promo pack consisting of 1 Red Agent (who strongly resembles Jason Statham), 1 Blue Agent (Jamie Lee Curtis ?) and 3 Innocent Bystanders. - there are no additional rules with these extra cards. The two teams are therefore the Red Team and the Blue Team and they are in a race to contact all of their Agents. I'm not particularly good with faces but I'm pretty sure James Bond is amongst the Agents, possibly more than once.
The setup is the same as for CODENAMES which is a random 5x4 grid (in CODENAMES it is a 5x5 grid) of Locations, one member of each team (known as the SpyMasters) sitting together at one end of the table and the remainder of the two teams at the other end. A KEY card is randomly drawn and placed on the plastic stand so that it faces the two SpyMasters, but must remain unseen by the other team members. The KEY card has two indicators as to which team begins - there are 7 squares of one colour and 8 of the other and there is a coloured light either side of the grid shown on the KEY card that is the same as the colour with 8 squares. Each SpyMaster has their own deck of Agent cards in the colour of their team. The Innocent Bystanders and Assassin remain available in reach of both SpyMasters. The Assassin is used in a special variant called Assassin Ending.
As in CODENAMES the SpyMasters take turns (which may be extended by correct guessing) in giving ONE word clues to their Agents. The word has to relate to one of the Locations on the grid which, apart from the 15 Agent squares also has a square for the Assassin and four squares for Innocent Bystanders. The SpyMaster at turn gives a clue to a Location and their team discuss amongst themselves which Location the SpyMaster is indicating. The Team leader then touches the card on the grid they think is correct. If the guess is correct the chosen Location will show one of that team's Agents on the KEY; the SpyMaster places an Agent card over the Location and the team can continue guessing Locations associated with the clue word they were given. Teams can decide not to continue guessing if they are unsure and thus likely to help the other team. If The team have chosen an Innocent Bystander their Turn ends and an Innocent Bystander card is positioned on the Location. Their Turn also ends if they pick the Location of one of the other team's Agents. If either team select the Location of the Assassin that team immediately loses.
SpyMasters want their team to win, obviously, but they may only give one word clues, they may not gesticulate or preface the clue with additional "throw-away" information; they should also keep a straight face if they can - faces give clues.
Like CODENAMES this is a simple game that is a lot of super wholesome fun. It's a bit like Pictionary meets Charades but without being able to legally draw or mime anything - it's great fun watching gamers struggling not to give extra clues. I, personally, am pretty useless at keeping a straight-face and not attempting to make jokes. The Locations are brilliantly conceived and extremely amusing in many cases; a Vampire taking a bite out of a Watermelon, a hand clutching a loo brush rising like Excalibur from the lavatory and a D20 held in the talons of what one assumes is a huge Dragon being just a few of them.
CODENAMES is a terrific game and now it has been made even better by the talented artists who have illustrated the cards in CODENAMES: PICTURES. Just for fun CGE have included ideas for two player games and for combining CODENAMES and CODENAMES:PICTURES if you have copies of both games.