Spying for Two: A Review of Codenames Duet | Casual Game Revolution

Spying for Two: A Review of Codenames Duet

Codenames Duet

A two person version of Codenames, Czech Games Edition's Duet has new rules and a progression system that forces players to alternate their strategies between games.

The popular party game Codenames already has a lot of versions from the original to Pictures and Disney — most of them are all more or less the same game with different cards. But Codenames Duet brings something a little new to the table.


Twenty five word cards are laid out on the table. A key card is then drawn. The player drawing the key card makes sure that he only sees one side of it and then sets it between himself and the other player so that each player can see a different side.

There are fifteen spies that the players are trying to find. Each word on the table is either a spy, an assassin, or a passerby. Unlike in previous Codenames games, each player knows who some of the spies are. The key card tells each player who nine of the spies are (with some of the spies overlapping each other). The keycard also shows each player three assassins.

Players alternate giving out clues. When you give a clue, you may say one word followed by the number of spy cards on the table that this word relates to. The other player may then guess, one at a time, which cards they think you were referring to. If they guess a spy correctly, they may keep guessing, or they can choose to stop guessing. If they guess a passerby, their turn ends. If they guess an assassin, you lose. When you are guessing, you ignore the information on your own key card. If a word is a passerby on your key card but an assassin on your teammate’s and you guess it, you still lose. Or a card may be an assassin on your side of the key card but a spy on your teammate’s side of it.

If you guess a card and it turns out to be a passerby, you mark it with a passerby token. Each game, you only have a certain number of passerby tokens and these are also used as a timer. If you choose to end your turn, you still discard one. Once you run out of tokens, players may try to guess any remaining spies but no more clues can be given. If the players manage to guess all the words that are spies, they win the game.

Codenames Duet also comes with a mission map. This shows a map of the world and players can play across the different cities. Each city has its own mission parameters which lists the number of turns players have (how many passerby tokens are available) and the total number of mistakes players can make before it starts costing them two tokens each time they guess a passerby. This means different missions require you to alternate between aggressive guessing, big clues, or slow and steady.

Codenames Duet Components


Codenames is a ton of fun. Both giving the clues and guessing is challenging and enjoyable, and the fact that you get to take on both roles in a game of Codenames Duet is a great feature. The shared key grid, and the fact that a small number of your spies will overlap, also adds an additional layer that you can consider when guessing and giving clues.

The mission map poses a neat challenge as you try to beat the mission in each city and it ties in nicely with the spy theme of the game. It gives you something to work towards and makes you shake up your strategies as you go.

While the game does have a suggested team mode, it does work best with two players and doesn’t have the player count versatility that other Codenames games have. The word cards can be shuffled in with the cards from the original game, so the two pair nicely together.

If you’re only going to have one Codenames the original is probably still the best, but Codenames Duet brings something new, and turns the game into a really solid two player experience.

Pros: Missions map forces players to adapt their strategies, players get to alternate between clue giving and guessing

Cons: Loses the player count versatility of the other Codenames games

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.