Codenames: Pictures

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN ‘Water. 3’?!”

Last December, I had participated in three separate Secret Santa gift exchanges. I’m sure you know how it works. You are randomly given a name in a Secret Santa pool and just buy a gift for this person.

In all three of these gift exchanges the organizer used Elfster to sort out the Secret Santa name pool. For those who have never used Elfster, it’s an online website that emails a random name to everyone who is involved in the secret Santa. It’s assumed that everybody who is on Elfster will click the “I’m getting this gift” option. That way other people don’t get the same gift on different gift exchanges.

Well turns out that people didn’t click this option, because in two of the three gift exchanges last December, I got the same gift, Codenames: Pictures. I didn’t mind though. The game’s so nice, I’m glad I got it twice.(Yeah I deliberately rhymed)


Codenames: Pictures is a spinoff of the popular game Codenames. It is created by Vlaada Chvatil and published by Czech Games Edition. You can take a look at my first review of this game here, but as a quick rundown of the original Codenames, two teams of players will each have a Spymaster and that person will give a one word clue and a number corresponding to how many words on the table relate to the clue word. The rest of the team has to pick out these words before the opposing team does in order to win the game.

Codenames: Pictures takes the exact same mechanic of Codenames, but instead of using words as the agent contacts, you use abstract pictures. The game consists of 140 unique double-sided cards, each with an obscure picture. When you setup the game, you create a 4 x 5 grid of pictures as opposed to a 5 x 5 grid with the word edition.


I’m not going to lie to you. This review is a little tough for me, because there aren’t really any major differences between the two games, with the exception that one uses words and one uses pictures. The challenges of trying to link the words or the pictures together using one word clues exists in both games. In both versions of Codenames, you still get the same tension in the hopes that your team picks the right words while avoiding the assassin. But it does beg the question, which version is better?

Here’s my opinion. I believe the picture version is better than the word version. This is because I find that the picture version can be universally translated to everyone who plays. When you play the word version, especially with little kids or with people who may have challenges with the english language, there may be some challenges with understanding the meaning  of the words or even recognizing that some words may have double meanings. When you have a picture version of Codenames, the pictures are pretty obvious in what they are, so this becomes a lot easier for players who are not as strong in their English skills to come up with clues.

I also love the pictures that are provided by the game. They are beautifully designed and so ambiguous, that it allows for more creative interpretations of the card. In that sense, the game becomes just slightly more challenging; not only do you have to come up with a clue that links the pictures together, but also hope that your team is following on an identical wavelength and interpret the pictures in the same way.


Overall, Codenames: Pictures, just slightly overtakes the original Codenames because I find this game to be more inclusive. Generally speaking, they are practically the same game, and picking between the two just becomes a matter of preference. The question you should ask yourself is, do you want to play a word association, or a picture association game. Worst comes to worst, just must mix both games together, for an extremely challenging game. Codenames just provide instructions for that too. It really doesn’t matter, because Codenames is still a great party game to bring to get-togethers and small social events. It is an absolutely fun game to play and definitely one to have in your collection.

Pros: (I’m practically saying the same thing as my last blog)

  • It’s a unique word game that’s similar to Password, BUT NOW WITH PICTURES!!
  • Quick and easy to teach
  • Great board game to socialize with
  • Just slightly 1ups the original version for inclusivity


  • Not much depth to the game.



2 thoughts on “Codenames: Pictures

  1. Another great post! I have the original codenames but haven’t been able to play it with my kids because many of the words need to be explained, which of course you can’t do. Reading this gives me the opportunity to rethink the purchase now that I see it’s easier with children. Again, thank you so much and keep writing please!

    Liked by 1 person

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