Here is our guide to playing Codenames online.

We put this guide together after running thousands of successful virtual team building games that improve remote team dynamics.

Codenames online involves teams working together to uncover secret words based on clues from a designated spymaster, fostering collaboration and strategic thinking. This engaging activity promotes teamwork and communication skills. Team members must effectively convey and interpret clues, enhancing cohesion and problem-solving abilities within the group.

Ideal group size:

4 to 12 players

Activity duration:

20 to 40 minutes



What you’ll need:

  • Video conferencing software (e.g., Zoom, Microsoft Teams)
  • Access to a virtual Codenames platform or app
  • Optional: Purchased digital version of Codenames for additional features or expansions

How to play:

Step 1: Set Up the Game Board

First, launch the virtual Codenames platform or app. Then, create a room, choose your favorite settings, and send the link to your colleagues.

Step 2: Divide into Teams

The game will split the participants into two teams, with each team selecting a spymaster to give clues.

Step 3: Assign Roles

At the start of the game, designate one team member from each team as the spymaster responsible for giving clues. The rest of the team acts as field operatives trying to guess the words.

Step 4: Generate a Key Card

Use the virtual platform to generate a key card, which contains the secret identities of the words on the board and indicates which words each team must guess.

Step 5: Spymaster Gives Clues

The spymaster provides a single-word clue and a number indicating how many words on the board relate to that clue.

Step 6: Operatives Guess Words

Based on the spymaster’s clue, the field operatives discuss and select which words they believe match the clue, clicking on them on the virtual game board.

Step 7: Avoid the Assassin

Operatives must avoid selecting the word marked as “assassin,” as doing so immediately ends the game and results in a loss for the team.

Step 8: Rotate Turns

Alternate turns between teams until one team successfully identifies all their words or until one team selects the assassin.

Examples of games or activities:

Codenames Duet

If you want to play Codenames in groups of two, then Duet is the game for you!

Here is how to play the game:

  1. Set up the virtual game board with a grid of words visible to both players.
  2. Designate one player as the “clue-giver” and the other as the “guesser.”
  3. The clue-giver provides one-word clues related to multiple words on the board.
  4. The guesser attempts to identify the words based on the clues given.
  5. Both players work together to uncover all the “agent” words before running out of turns.

This exercise is great for pairs or large teams split into twos.

Codenames Online Tournament

Companies can host a fun Codenames tournament during a board game night!

Here is how to play the game:

  1. Organize teams of players to compete in a virtual tournament format.
  2. Set up multiple rounds of gameplay, with teams facing off against each other.
  3. Assign points for each round based on the number of words correctly guessed.
  4. Rotate roles within each team to ensure everyone has a chance to participate.
  5. The team with the most points at the end of the tournament is declared the winner.

After the tournament, give the winning team a fun prize!

Codenames word packs

During Codenames online, teams can choose from several fun word packs in addition to the traditional ones. The game offers words based on Halloween, holidays, board games, CGE games, Through the Ages, and Galaxy Trucker. Plus, you can pick your own custom word pack, so you can make fun cards based on your industry.


  1. Understand the Key Concepts: Familiarize yourself with the game’s key mechanics, such as the spymaster’s role, the importance of the key card, and the consequences of selecting the assassin word.
  2. Think Like a Spymaster: When playing as an operative, try to think like the spymaster by considering all possible interpretations of the clue given. This tip can help you make more accurate guesses.
  3. Utilize Association: Look for words on the board that are related to the spymaster’s clue in some way. Words may have multiple meanings or associations that can help you identify the correct ones.
  4. Be Creative: Spymasters should aim to provide creative and clever clues linking multiple words together. Think outside the box and consider unconventional associations to stump the opposing team.
  5. Communicate Effectively: Foster open communication and collaboration within your team. Discuss potential interpretations of clues and brainstorm ideas together to maximize your chances of success.
  6. Manage Risk: While taking risks can lead to big rewards, it is important to weigh the potential consequences carefully. Avoid risky guesses unless you are confident they are the correct words.
  7. Pay Attention: Stay engaged and attentive throughout the game. Pay close attention to the clues given by the opposing spymaster and adapt your strategy accordingly.
  8. Practice, Practice, Practice: Like any game, practice improves your skills. Play Codenames regularly to sharpen your ability to give and interpret clues effectively.

Final Thoughts

Playing Codenames online offers a fantastic opportunity for remote teams to bond, collaborate, and sharpen their communication skills in a fun and engaging way. Whether you are strategizing as a spymaster or decoding clues as an operative, the game fosters teamwork, creativity, and quick thinking. Be sure to embrace the challenges, celebrate the victories, and cherish the moments of laughter and camaraderie shared with your teammates.

Want more ideas? Check out our post on online office games. Also, check out Codenames online!

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