Codenames is the party game of now. It came out in 2015 and took the world by storm, but you are here so you probably know that. Many editions have spawned and this one in particular “Pictures” is a personal favorite. The difference is the original uses words for options, where this one uses photos instead. That’s it. Much better for those with language barriers in the group. This is How to Play Codenames Pictures Edition.

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There are two teams, the blue team versus the red team. You are each a team of spies and you are trying to rescue your operatives from the field without freeing the other teams.

A grid of clue cards 5 across and 4 down (20 total) is placed out into the field. Each card is going to have a red agent, blue agent, neutral pedestrian or the one dangerous criminal in each space. No one can see what’s under the clues. The only people who know are one representative from each team who is charged with giving the clues for that round. Those two people (one blue and one red) draw a decoder card, which shows them where everything is.

How to Play Code Names - Grid Example


It is is the clue-givers job to say one word and one number to the rest of their teammates. Anyone can get one clue, the key is to find that one word that applies to two, three or four cards. You see a monkey with a helmet as one of the images, instead of saying “monkey 1” and just getting that, go for something that may apply to many more like “space 4” which is broader and applies to more.

Your team should go for obvious choices first because guesses happen one by one. If you find one of your agents, you get to keep going, if you get it wrong and you get the opposite team or a neutral pedestrian, the turn ends immediately. The guessers guess the total number they said with their clue, plus one. If they say “fish 2” you can guess up to three spaces that turn. This comes in handy if you missed one the turn before and want to make up for it the next turn or if you need to throw a hail mary to win the game.

How to Play Code Names - Spy Overlay

The team who rescues all their spies first is the winner. One round typically lasts about 10 – 15 minutes. A good length of play is a best of seven match, which will go around 40 minutes – hour.


You are going to want 4 – 12 people to play. Larger teams are ideal so you can discuss clues so you want at least 6. After 12 it gets a little too much. Though you could play this 10 on 10 or something crazy like that and make it work.

The way a game starts is that the decoder card that the clue givers draw will have a color on the side. They not only have to go first, but they get an additional agent they have to save.

How to Play Code Names - Decoder Card


I hope now you can say you have mastered How To Play Codenames Pictures Edition. Your friends will thank you!

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