Wednesday, 9 September 2015


As you can probably guess by the great pun in the title, we played Pairs today, but that was at the end of a long and varied evening of games.

We were seven in number: Joe (the host), Sam, Martin, Ian, Matt, Andy and me. We began with a new game: Codenames. In this cross between Dixit and the TV show Only Connect, there are 25 words in a 5x5 grid. Two teams are made, and each one has a spymaster. These spymasters know which of the words belong to their team, which belong to the other team and which are neutral. Importantly, they know which one is the assassin: if the team chooses this one, it’s game over and you’re a big loser. The spymaster has to give a one word clue followed by a number that refers to how many words the clue refers to.

We started with me and Martin as spymasters. Martin was giving clues to Matt and Joe, while I had Andy, Ian and Sam on my team. Annoyingly, Martin was able to use, as his first move, the example clue that Sam had devised while discussing the rules.

For my first go, and just to give you an idea of the kind of clues involved, I said “Flies, two” and my team successfully deciphered Eagle and Time. Other guesses were not so successful, and Martin’s team were left with just one word: Smuggler. Martin said “Tobacco, one” but then cursed out loud when he saw that one of my words was “Pipe”.

That’s the crux of the game: to give clues that only refer to your words. As it turned out in this case, Martin’s cursing alerted his team to the danger of going for the obvious choice (Pipe) and go for the less obvious one instead.

Martin, Joe, Matt 8
Andrew, Andy, Ian, Sam 6

We played again with different teams, and Martin brought this to a swift conclusion by finding the assassin, Joe’s clue had been “Massachusets, three” and we found America and State easily enough, but we missed England (as in New England). Instead Martin got it into his head that ketchup was the answer, because it’s so American. Alas, it was the assassin, and the game ended early.

Sam, Ian, Andy, Matt 2
Joe, Martin, Andrew 0

We played one more game with the same teams as the second game. This time it lasted the distance, with Joe offering a very neat clue “Pert, two” lead Martin and I to Part and Port. Sam gave a clue “hit” which could’ve matched with Sock, Crash, and Tap but instead his team went for Film, as in a very successful film. Alas, that word belonged to the other team.

Joe, Martin, Andrew 7
Sam, Matt, Ian, Andy 6

A great game, and I could’ve payed all night, albeit the amount of downtime between goes was pretty long.

Next we split into two groups. Joe, Sam and Ian played Safronito while Martin, Andy, Matt and myself went for Kingdom Builder, dropping 10 Days In Africa on the floor while plucking KB down from a high shelf in Joe's games vestibule. Sorry Joe.

I’ve no idea how Safronito went, but I messed up on Kingdom Builder, allowing everyone else to get bonus tiles, while I struggled with just one.

I thought Matt was doing pretty well especially after he stole a bunch of mountains from Martin, but it was Martin and Andy who ran away with it.

Martin 73
Andy 70
Matt 55
Andrew 33

Safronito had ended a few minutes before us and it looked like they were entertaining themselves with a little improvised game of their own. Safronito ended:

1. Sam
2. Ian
3. Joe

By now we were all seven again. We considered Take It Easy and 6nimmt, but instead went for the rarer choice of Incan Gold. The first temple was a real rollercoaster ride, with every kind of danger rearing its ugly head. It was enough to have us all scurrying for the exit. All except Andy who stared down fate and was rewarded with a healthy amount of treasure before he, too, left.

We slowly chipped away at his lead, but it seemed that we'd run out of time when the final temple fell on our heads almost as soon as we walked in. But Matt's dark-horsedness resurfaced and he took the win by the finest of margins.

Matt 22
Andy 21
Andrew 18
Sam 16
Joe 11
Ian 11
Martin 3

Finally we ended the evening with Pairs. And who can resist this luck-based battle of wits? Not us. Not even Sam, who reckoned he must've played it a hundred times recently. In the end it was a cake walk for Ian, who reached 19 points after only three rounds, and simply stuck in the fourth round to pick up enough points to get him past 21.

I came up with the hilarious word “Elemonated!” to describe Matt going bust on a lemon. Alas, it was my turn next and I just knew that, like Dr Frankenstein, I had created a monster destined to defeat me. And so it was, I was elemonated too.

Ian 23
Sam 17
Andrew 15
Joe 12
Martin 10
Andy 7
Matt 0

And so, to the Division! Martin still leads albeit by a smaller margin, and Sam has stolen back points ratio from Adam. With only three weeks to go, anything can happen!


  1. Like Mysterium, Codenames puts a lot of pressure on the clue-giver to think up something clever on the spot. It's great fun though!

  2. Yeah I enjoyed it, though the Spy Master role was tricky. Good game. Big fan of Safranito too.

  3. Yes inevitably I have secured my own copy of Codenames (I was always going to) and we played four times last night. In the third game our team came a cropper when spymaster Matilda used the clue 'animal' to point us to 'seal', having somehow neglected to notice the fact that the assassin word was 'scorpion'. I ask you.