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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Codenames Online is a free-to-play online board game. Players won't see ads or inappropriate content, and because they share the URL for each room they create to play with friends, it should be a safe experience. The site serves as the digital version of the Codenames board game, but, surprisingly, there aren't really any direct links or plugs to buy the game. Kids can click through to a separate site with more information about how to play, though, which will be helpful -- and potentially necessary -- if they don't already know the rules and basic format.
What's it about?
Like the Codenames board game, red and blue team members try to uncover their agents' cards in CODENAMES ONLINE. Most team members see a board with 25 cards marked with a word. Two players who are designated as each team's spymaster can see where the red, blue, and innocent bystander cards are. They offer clues to help their team choose cards -- the word "ship," for example, to steer them toward one with the word "pirate." A turn ends if a team picks a card with an opposing agent or a bystander. The first team to uncover all of its agents' cards wins.
Is it any good?
The basic goal is the same in the digital and board versions of this game: to find cards featuring your team's agents, using clues your team spymaster provides that relate to codenames listed on the cards. In Codenames Online, players click on a button to create a room and then share the URL with friends to invite them, so the playing environment should be secure and safe. But it's not overly dynamic. Cards are revealed when you click on them, but a brief flash is the only real visual effect you'll see, and there's no sound or other bells and whistles.
Spymasters can enter the number of cards that players should try to guess for a particular clue because hints could, in some instances, apply to more than one card. A clue like the word "color," for example, could correspond to both the "olive" and "ivory" cards on the board. But having the spymaster select a number of intended guesses seems somewhat unnecessary, since players can often pick a second card, even if their spymaster indicates they should try to guess only once. If they happen to choose a card featuring one of their agents on the second try, the team gets credit for it. The site design makes the next steps in the game pretty clear: Players will see whose turn it is and how many agents each team has left to uncover. The spymaster doesn't identify which cards he or she intends clues to correspond to, though, and kids have no way of knowing where any cards might be on the board, so it really ends up being a random guessing game. The site is still in beta, so some tweaks may be made in the future. Until then, players could be confused, since there are virtually no instructions given when you start. It isn't even initially clear how many people you need to play. Four seems to be the minimum. Technically, you can set up a game with just two, but players will find they can't get far without at least one designated spymaster and operative on each team. But to fully enjoy Codenames Online, players will need to already know how to play the board game version -- or visit a separate site and watch a video to learn.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the guessing that's involved in Codenames Online. Players randomly choose cards on the board here, but in real life, how can you make an educated guess about something when you don't have much information?
What lessons can you learn from competing with other people? How can you handle the excitement of winning -- and feeling disappointed if you lose?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love board games
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.