Guide to Codenames (online game)

Taking place: 17 September, 5-6 PM on Zoom.


Codenames is a game where opposing teams (red/blue) compete to describe their team’s words.

There is a 5x5 grid of tiles with a word on each. Each group will have a customizable URL with a different grid from

Each team has one spymaster who gives a clue to help their teammates guess the right words.

They can only use one word as a descriptor, and the number of tiles it refers to. For example, “Water, 3” might describe “pool”, “fish”, “bucket”.

The aim of the game is to be the first team to guess all of your tiles.

Don’t guess at random - you might choose the assassin by accident which automatically ends the game!

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1

People will be assigned into groups via breakout rooms on Zoom.

Each team will be given a customized URL on the day. Open these with your browser (on your computer, table or phone). Stay on zoom with your microphone enabled (or join in via the chat). If you are able and willing, please keep your video on. 

Check that everyone in your group has the same board by asking if everyone has the same word in the top left of the screen. If someone is out of sync, click next game (bottom right).

Step 2

Divide yourselves into red and blue teams.

Select a “Spymaster” for each team. They will be describing the words to their team-mates.

The aim of the game is for each team to guess all of their colour tiles before the other team.

It says which team goes first above the grid in the middle.

The number of cards left to guess for each team is noted on the top-left.

Step 3

Everyone automatically joins the game in player view where all tiles are grey.

Press the settings wheel (bottom middle of the grid), to enable full-screen mode, colour-blind mode, or darken the screen.

ONLY the “describer” from each team should click on the “spymaster” button on the bottom right. The rest of the team (guessers) do nothing.

(If someone accidentally clicks on “spymaster” who isn’t describing, everyone should click next game (bottom right) which will generate a new set of tiles.

The 2 spymasters (one for red, one for blue team) will now be able to see which tiles belong to their team or the other team.

The light-grey tiles with black text are “innocent bystanders”. If your team guesses one of these, play passes back to the other team.

The shaded in tile with a black background is the assassin. If your team guess this card, they automatically lose and the game ends.

Step 4

The red team’s describer will give a clue: a single descriptive word and how many cards relate it e.g. “Light, 2”

The guessers might choose “ray” and ”moon”. One person click on the tile to select it.
If you are right it will appear in your team’s colour.

One person click “end turn” (top right) when your team is done guessing.

Step 5

It’s now blue team’s turn.

The describer might give the clue: “Olympics, 3”.

If things go perfectly, the describers might guess “Olympus”, “Cycle” and “Figure” (for figure-skating). One person click on each tile to select it.

If it goes less well, the blue team might guess “boot”. This is a grey “innocent bystander” card belonging to neither team. This ends blue team’s turn (regardless of how many other guesses they have left) and play will pass to the red team.

Once you’ve finished guessing, don’t forget to click “end blue’s turn” (top right).

If things go really badly, the blue team might guess “row” for rowing (another Olympic sport).

Row is the assassin (a black tile) so that would end the game immediately and the red team would automatically win.

When the game is over – because one team has guessed all their cards, or the assassin has been chosen – then the board shows everyone the answers. The faded red/blue tiles are those cards that weren’t guessed.

To play another round, click next game (bottom right). Choose new describers/spymasters from each team.


The rules

Read the official rules of Codenames (the original card game)

Download the guide

You can download the Codenames guide with images (PDF, 250KB, 8 pages). This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology..