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Codenames: Disney Family Edition Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Vlaada Chvatil
Artist:Varies by character and film
Publisher: USAopoly
Year Published: 2017
No. of Players: 2-8+
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 15 Min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


Rules and Setup: Codenames: Disney Family Edition follows the same rules and setup of the original Codenames (if you are unfamiliar with the original Codenames, you can find more information here), with one major difference - the base version of the game uses a 4X4 grid of cards, rather than the 5X5 grid that is instead considered "advanced."

The films represented in the game span from Snow White to Moana, including the Pixar films.

Theme and Mechanics: The game has been re-themed to a kid-friendly Disney version and the naming of some of the components have been changed to stay with this theme. The "assassin" spot on the key card is simply known as "game-over", and the cards are referred to as "treasure cards," so instead of revealing the secret identities of a spy network, players are revealing treasure.

Guessed Treasure Cards are covered by red, blue, or neutral colored cover cards.

The game continues as a team vs. team game with a co-op variant and like its predecessors relies on teamwork, pattern recognition, and press your luck.

Game Play: While the rules and setup of this Disney Family Edition are the same as Codenames, there are a few notable exceptions. First, the treasure cards consist of a pictures of one side, and words on the other. This makes the game accessible to younger players that may be too young for the other Codenames variants, while offering the traditional challenging option for older players. Second and as stated above, instead of using the cards the standard 5X5 grid, the Disney version set-up consists of a 4X4 grid, and the 4X4 key cards do not include the "assassin" spot, but instead is a race to find all of a team's treasure.

Artwork and Components: The art is Disney and a reminder of why Walt Disney holds the record for most Academy Awards (26) and that Disney films have won 9 out of the last 10 Oscars for Best Animated Feature. I do not think that there is any new art on the cards, but instead the card art uses screen grabs from the films. This helps with recognition and even if a player doesn't recognize a secondary character on the cards, they may be able to deduce the film by recognizing the art and style.
 The game includes 200 double-sided cards so players can choose from pictures or words, or a combination of both, to create the grid.

The game components consist of 200 double-sided treasure cards, 60 key cards (20 4X4, and 40 5X5), a card stand for the key cards, and 25 cover cards (8 blue, 8 red, 1 extra, and 1 game-over).

5X5 and 4X4 Key Cards make the game easy enough for younger players, but still challenging for older players.

The Good: It's Disney and anything that Disney puts its name on must meet the lofty Disney standards. Codenames has developed a reputation as one of the best party games, appealing a strategy gamers and party gamers alike. This game delivers on both accounts. The art on the cards is sharp and clear. The components are high quality and should withstand several plays without much sign of wear. The rule book is thorough, yet concise, and includes illustrated game play examples. It is exactly what you should expect from something with the Disney and Codenames branding.

I appreciate that the treasure cards are not all new Pixar films, or all early animation like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, but instead a mixture of old and new films that can appeal to a wide range of ages.

Another good thing is that the game can be played as stand-alone re-themed version of Codenames, or the cards can be mixed and matched with other versions of the franchise to serve more as an expansion to the other games. This keeps things fresh and creates a higher level of replayability that traditional re-themes lack.

What I liked best about this game is that is that though the game is designed for play with younger audiences, the game play is largely the same as the standard version. It's a "my first..." version without the feel. I was very impressed and pleased at the balance between the traditional game play of Codenames and the simplification for younger players.

The Bad: Describing any of the following as "bad" is a stretch, but there are couple of items worth mentioning.

There seemed to be balance issues at times. On one particular play through, there were several cards that came from the same film that seemed to all be on the spaces for one team. This made the game go by very quickly as they one team was able to guess the majority of their cards on one turn by simply giving the movie as a clue. Did it happen again? Not to that extent, but yes. I would recommend shuffling and re-shuffling, and when you think you've shuffled enough, do it one more time. We ended-up creating a house rule that required a re-deal if too many of the same film were represented on the grid.

The other issue is flip-side of something I listed as good. The pictures used span a wide breadth of Disney films, going back as far as Snow White, and as recently as Moana. So during play-throughs with the family, my daughter would recognize the princesses Snow White and Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, but could not recognize some of the secondary characters from the films. This put her team at a disadvantage as she could not give or understand poignant clues. Conversely, the grandparents were not familiar with some of the newer Disney films and were put at a similar disadvantage, though not as extreme as their clues were a little better anyway. If you are playing with younger players, meaning children younger than the recommended age, you may want to hand pick the cards that make up the grid to ensure that they are familiar with the characters.

Codenames: Disney Family Edition didn't shy away from including older, and more obscure characters.

Final Thoughts: I feel that any time a publisher releases a Disney, Jurassic Park, Looney Tunes, Lego, or any other themed version of an existing game, the term "cash-grab" gets thrown around. Is Codenames: Disney Family Edition simply a quick cash grab? In my opinion, no. Though I believe that Codenames and all the variations (with the exception of Deep Cover) are very family-friendly, the series did not start as a "family" game. Codenames: Disney Family Edition does tweak rules and alter game play enough to make it feel different and, more importantly, a game geared towards playing with younger children.

If you are looking for a Codenames variant and will have younger kids, or Disney fans (or both) at the table, you should strongly consider Codenames: Disney Family Edition.

Comparing Codenames: Disney Family Edition to other family variants, or "my first ______" versions of games, it easily one of the best I have ever played. The designers managed to keep the spirit of the original game alive, while making it accessible to younger audiences. I never felt that I was playing a "dumbed-down" version of the game as is the case with other strategy-turned-children's games. The majority of my plays leading up to this review were with children, but it played just as well with a group of adults.

In my opinion, the Codenames franchise is the pinnacle of party-games-that-don't-feel-like-party-games genre and Codenames: Disney Family Edition just reaffirms this belief.

Players Who Like: Codenames and any of its variations, Disney themed games.

I am giving 9 out of 10 super meeples.

Check out USAopoly and CODENAMES: Disney Family Edition on:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/220775/codenames-disney-family-edition   http://usaopoly.com/games/codenames-disney-family-edition   https://www.facebook.com/usaopoly/   https://twitter.com/USAopoly?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XZ42AZOH6A   https://www.amazon.com/USAopoly-Disney-Family-Codenames-Card/dp/B06Y3NLK6Q   

Nick Shipley - Reviewer

Nick is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. Nick lives in Oklahoma.

See Nick's other reviews HERE.
Codenames: Disney Family Edition Review Codenames: Disney Family Edition Review Reviewed by Nick Shipley on February 27, 2018 Rating: 5

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