Codenames: Pictures Review
Players: 4 – 8
Time: ~15 minutes
Times Played: 7
If a picture is worth a thousand words, than Codenames: Pictures is going to take awhile to explain as this standalone expansion of the hit Codenames, which I reviewed here, exchanges the cards that had unique words on them with pictures instead. This version comes with 140 cards, which means 280 pictures as every one is double-sided. The other big change with this expansion is that the grid that players use is now 5×4 as opposed to 5×5. Maybe it’s because the cards are different or maybe it’s too speed up the game, I am unsure. In our plays, I can’t see it making any measurable difference, positive or negative.
I really enjoy the artwork and how absurd and abstract the pictures are. These are not simple images like an apple or a cow. You might have a wedding couple dancing above the ground or a rat eating dangling sausages. I think this is what makes the game shine as much, if not more, than the original. Your imagination is your only limit as you are not restricted from giving any clues as there are no words on the playing surface.
The pictures are also black, white and grey, which is a great idea in my opinion as Spymasters won’t focus on colors to give hints.
However, the genius design of the original (and Deep Undercover) where you can see the word no matter what side of the table you are sitting on has been removed as the new image takes up the entire card. The cards do include a little indicator in the corner to alert you which side is the proper orientation, which is nice and helps eliminate any confusion as some of these photos are quite weird.
The cards are now squares as opposed to rectangles and they are also larger than those from the previous two versions so seamlessly merging this with the prior versions is not an option if you like everything to be uniform. I understand why the cards are bigger as the images need more room to breath but it’s still a shame that everything is no longer uniform. Just bugs me for no real reason. Now obviously, if you don’t mind the cards being different sizes, you can merge the different versions together. To each their own.
My favorite aspect of this game, the absurd picture depictions, might also be the greatest flaw in the game. Whereas the other Codenames could have players analyzing and agonizing over the word choice for their clue, this game takes that paralysis further as the photos are not easily recognizable or stock pictures. A timer is really the only way to play but that also will hinder some of the creativity of the players.
Basically it comes down to this: If you like Codenames, you’ll like Codenames: Pictures. When it comes time to play, it’ll just be a matter of whether you want to decipher word clues or picture clues.