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Czech Games Edition (CGE)  Vlaada Chvátil & Scot Eaton
Around £16.00-£20.00 at Your Local Game Store   2 Players aged 11+   15 minutes per game

CODENAMES DUET is an ideal game for 2 players with 15-20 minutes to kill. It is easy to setup, easy to learn and easy to play, and yet it is still great fun.

​Born from CODENAMES and CODENAMES PICTURES, CODENAMES DUET has rules that are similar to each of the others but different enough to ensure that it is well worth adding it to your games collection, especially if you have a penchant for 2-player games.

In some ways it's like an updated version of Battleships (which it probably is, or maybe Vlaada Chvátil possibly got his inspiration from the old across-the-table favourite?) but with the player's grids already marked out for them on a randomly chosen double-sided KEY card. I know that the original CODENAMES was a solo design by Vlaada, so I would hazard a guess (maybe right, possibly wrong) that Scot Eaton saw the opportunity to expand the gameplay in a slightly different direction without losing any of the fun of the original game. I should also mention here, Tomás Kucerovsky, whose illustrations throughout are absolutely superb.

Players sit opposite each other with a 25 card grid made up from randomly dealt Code Words. To one side of the grid is placed the 15 Agent cards which are mostly coloured Green for quick identification and next to these the single Black card, the Assassin, sits waiting patiently. Finally a random Key card is inserted into the platic slot-holder and stood to the other side of the grid so that each player can see only one side.

On the Key card are 9 spaces coloured Green, 3 coloured Black and 13 Beige; the spaces on the Key card are aligned to the Word cards in the grid so that as each player looks at the Key card he associates each space with a card in the grid. Of course because the players are facing each other what they see on the Key card differs for each of them. My Top Right, for example, would be my partner's Bottom Left in my mind.

In turn the player's give each other one word instructions though these can be expanded to one Word and one Number. Cheating is easy but if you cheat you aren't playing the game and there's no point. You are playing together as partners, Secret Agents trying to find all of their friends in a web of spies. Giving clues is the hardest part of playing. It is easy to get your partner to score one card but there are only 9 turns to find all 15 agents so it's not as easy as it first looks. For example, if on your card there is a Green space on your Key card that coincides with the Word "Brain" you could say "Cerebral One" and then your partner would look at the possible words in the grid and (hopefully) recognise "Brain" as cerebral. If they do recognise your clue you say "Correct" and place one of the Green Agent cards onto the space on the grid with the "Brain" card.


If the words "Santa" and "Reindeer" are green on your side of the Key card and the word "Wish" is Black you might say "Christmas Two" hoping your partner puts Santa and Reindeer together and not say Santa and Wish. If they choose "Wish" then the Assassin strikes and the game is over. If the card has the words as I have noted them it is probably best to not say "Christmas Two" but hope that if you cannot think of anything else "Christmas One" would bring the answer "Santa". If you can, it is better to not give any clues that could lead to one of the Assassins on your side of the Key card. This isn't always possible, then you have to hope that your partner is on the same wavelength as you with your clue giving. 

I mentioned cheating earlier on and how easy it is to do. You could for example, say "Harmony 5" if there are Five safe Word cards on the grid beginning with "H" or you could give a clue to the line or column the Agent is in. But what is the point ? You can legally surpass your Guess limit (limited by the number in the Clue and whether you correctly guess) but if you do it costs you extra Time Tokens and you really cannot afford to lose Time Tokens; it's tough enough to succeed with 9 Turns, cut this down and you are sending you fellow Agents to the wolves.

I also mentioned that you only have nine Turns between you and these are noted by placing a Timer Token either onto the board (if a Beige Word is chosen) or in front of a player after a successful Turn; whatever happens in the Turn a Timer Token is used up. The game ends immediately an Assassin is discovered or when the last Timer Token is placed. There are a few other rules and ways to play but I need to leave you something to discover when you play CODENAMES DUET.

CODENAMES goes from strength to strength, with DUET definitely being my favourite of the three games I have played so far. I did see online an "Adult Edition" which of course intrigued me but I haven't seen it other than online and thus know nothing about it. Also I suppose if I did get a copy to play/review I would have to own up to being an "Adult" for at least 15 minutes, and I'm not sure that's something I could physically do as my wife thinks of me as Peter Pan (at least that's how she gets away with occasionally calling me Peter).

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015