Players split up into two teams of similar size and skill. You need at least four players (two teams of two) for a standard game.
Each team chooses one player to be their spymaster. Both spymasters sit on the same side of the table. The other players sit across from their spymasters. They are field operatives.
The grid shows 25 codenames in a 5-by-5 grid. Each codenames has a secret identity that the spymasters know. The spymasters can view the identities on a separate device by entering the same board ID in the input box, selecting 'Change' and then 'Hide/Show'. Don't let the field operatives see it.
Blue squares correspond to words that Blue Team must guess (blue agents). Red squares correspond to words that Red Team must guess (red agents). Gray squares are innocent bystanders, and the orange square is an assassin who should never be contacted at all!
Spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents. Their teammates know the agents only by their codenames.
Spymasters take turns giving one-word clues. A clue may relate to multiple words on the grid. The field operatives try to guess which words their spymaster meant. When a field operative selects a word, it reveals its secret identity. If it is one of their team's agents, the operatives may keep guessing. Otherwise, it is the other team's turn. The first team to contact all their agents wins the game.
Teams take turns, starting with the red team.
If you are the spymaster, you are trying to think of a one-word clue that relates to some of the words your team is trying to guess. When you think you have a good clue, you say it. You also say one number, which tells your teammates how many codenames are related to your clue.
Example: Two of your words are NUT and BARK. Both of these grow on trees, so you say tree: 2.
You are allowed to give a clue for only one word (cashew: 1) but it's fun to try for two or more. Getting four words with one clue is a big accomplishment.
Your clue must be only one word. You are not allowed to give extra hints. For example, don't say, "This may be a bit of a stretch…" You are playing Codenames. It's always a bit of a stretch.
Your clue cannot be any of the codenames unselected on the grid. On later turns, some codenames will be selected, so a clue that is not legal now might be legal later.
When the spymaster gives a clue, his or her field operatives try to figure out what it means. They can debate it amongst themselves, but the spymaster must keep a straight face. The operatives indicate their official guess when one of them selects one of the codenames on the grid.
The field operatives must always make at least one guess. Any wrong guess ends the turn immediately, but if the field operatives guess a word of their team's color, they can keep guessing.
You can stop guessing at any time, but usually you want to guess as many words as the spymaster said. Sometimes you might even want to guess one more:
Example: Red Team's first clue was tree: 2. The red operative wanted to guess ORANGE and NUT. She guessed ORANGE first. That was an innocent bystander, so she did not get a chance to guess NUT.
Blue Team took a turn and correctly guessed two words. Now it is Red Team's turn again.
The red spymaster says river: 3. The red operative is pretty sure the AMAZON is a river, so she selects that word. The word is red, so she gets to go again. A river has a BED, so she selects that codename. It's also red, so she can go again.
She's not sure of the third river word. She picks NUT. This has nothing to do with river. She is guessing a word from the previous clue.
NUT is a red word. The operative has made 3 correct guesses for the clue river: 3. She is allowed one final guess. She can try to find the third river word, or she can try to find the other tree word. Or she can stop at three and let Blue Team have a turn.
You are allowed only one extra guess. In the example above, the red operative would be allowed 4 guesses because her spymaster said the number 3. When the field operatives say they are done guessing (or when they guess wrong) it is the other team's turn.
Spymasters take turns giving clues. Each turn covers up at least one word, which makes guessing progressively easier.
The game ends when one team has all their words covered. That team wins.
It is possible to win on the other team's turn if they guess your last word.
The game can end early if a field operative makes contact with the assassin. That operative's team loses.
Do other players want a chance to be spymasters? Setup for the second game is easy. Refresh the page or choose a new board ID to get a fresh board, and you're ready to go!