Tuesday, 1 May 2018

How to Win at Codenames (Part 2: Field Operative side)

Welcome to the second half of this ruthless, no holds barred, ultimate guide to beating people at Codenames. We’ll cover the Field Operative side this time. (Read Part 1 here!)

I have listened to your feedback. I accept again that Codenames is designed as, and is most often received as, a light-hearted game for casual gamers.

You want to hear another game which was originally designed for casual gamers? Super Smash Bros. Melee. It’s all a matter of how much you want to take something seriously, design intent be damned.

That being said, let’s get into some hot Codenames advice action!

-- Field Operatives --

Field Operative Overview

-- Listen, Listen, Listen --

As with the Spymaster side, keeping engaged with what players are saying is key. I won’t beat this argument to death, but it is worth saying a few things specific to the Field Operative side.

The most obvious difference moving from the Spymaster side to the Field Operative side is that you don’t know which tiles belong to which of the two sides. Your main source of information about this comes from the Spymasters. Your own Spymaster tries to herd you toward correct answers, but the rival Spymaster (and the rival Field Operatives) are actively trying to expose their own team’s tiles.

I want you all to channel the listening skills of this CREEPY-ASS emoji

If you can solve the rival Spymaster’s clues better than your rival Field Operatives can, you will gain some advantage in a crunch. It could mean the difference between a miss or a hit at a critical point in the game. Getting a hard read on your opponent's clues will also help you avoid falling foul of Fucker Tiles (tiles with related meanings that happen to belong to opposing teams) so keep listening!

But one party that we haven’t covered yet are your fellow Field Operatives. If you have them, they can be a help or a hindrance depending on how you all work together. That’s worth considering in it’s own section, so we will.

--  Get your Teammates Talking! --

If you’re playing with some fellow Field Operatives, you’ll probably have a difference of opinion at some point during the game over one of your Spymaster’s clues at some point during the game. You’ll be at an impasse until you come to a consensus.

At this point it can be tempting to turn this discussion into an adversarial debate where your theories about the Spymaster clues are placed in opposition to the theories of the other Field Operatives. This is often not the most productive way to conduct the discussion.

I’m taking huge cues from Edward de Bono’s book, Six Thinking Hats when I say that trying to get everyone on the team speak their piece without fear of failure or chastisement is the way to go.  

Image result for six thinking hats book
I overthink casual games, so you don't have to!

Keep a mental note of what proportion of the theories has come from which members of the group and try and get theories on the table. This achieves two big things for your team. First, you are allowing possibly excellent theories to enter the discussion from people for whom the high stakes adversarial debate style just does not work for.

Secondly, it improves the overall quality of the discussion by encouraging people to talk through their theories, which is a lot easier to do in a welcoming environment. Talking through these theories allows other members of the team to benefit from any insights that previously only existed in that player’s head beforehand. You’ll also build up a better toolbox of reasoning for your future sessions with Codenames.

Tl;dr be a co-operative and likeable human being to succeed.

-- Feedback should be Limited, but Constructive --

Playing as the Spymaster is often incredibly frustrating as you cannot meaningfully comment on the guesswork that your Field Operatives are doing. Not so much as a ‘Nice One!’ or a ‘Dammit!’ should be appear on the Spymaster’s face.  Field Operatives, on the other hand can have a field day.

As a field operative, you should have an idea about how well you personally know the Spymaster. How well do you think you can read their clues? Do you know how they think? If you and your team all have a deep psychic link that reliably produces wins for you, then ignore this section of the guide, then ignore this entire guide, and congratulations on your dominance of your local Codenames meta.

For the rest of us, read on. 

You ever have that moment where your Spymaster appears to just give the most outlandish, impossible clue? The kind of clue that makes you say ‘What!?’ out loud? That reaction, on its own, is of no use to your Spymaster. Vocalise your thought process as you struggle to find a valid answer. Don’t just ‘Pass’ the turn huffily. Do your best to enable your Spymaster to do better next time.

tl;dr for this section

When you give this feedback out loud, you are practically giving info away to the other team, but I wouldn’t let this concern you. If your Spymaster isn’t delivering top tier clues yet, the trade-off ends up being in your favour. You’ll not solve your communications problem by letting it fester.

-- Wrap-Up --

The Field Operative job involves a healthy balance between going with your own gut, communicating with your team-mates, and considering all the angles. Overconfidence can lead to missing out on better possibilities, but overthinking clues often leads to talking yourself out of sound intuition. Achieving this balance is something that comes with practice, but this involves some introspection. Do you need to believe in yourself more? Can you listen to others better? Or do you need to hold your horses and practice some more caution? All these skills are worthwhile both in Codenames, as they are in life.

Simply put, playing Codenames, will make you a better person. I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to winning at life.


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