Codenames: Harry Potter – USAopoly – Review

It is a particularly satisfying game to play with other fans that can give extremely obscure and unique clues and have them interpreted successfully. 

Joseph Summa



Theme and What is it?


Codenames: Harry Potter is a themed version of Codenames Duet.  The Duet style game is a cooperative experience that is ideal with two players but can also be played with two teams.  For those familiar with the basic Codenames experience, you have a pretty good idea of what you are in for.   If this is your first Codenames game, I urge you to play the original or the Duet version before attempting a themed game.  

The themed games are excellent for fans and a great experience but they are far more difficult to play cleverly since everything naturally has some association right from the start of the game.  Distinguishing between several similar things can be very difficult.  

Gameplay Mechanics


Codenames is a game built around alternating clue givers to attempt to link as many of the correct words as possible.  A clue grid indicates which cards in the display are the ones the clue giver needs to link and which words will result in an instant loss (an encounter with a death eater).  

The duet version that Harry potter mimics has a very intentionally built double sided clue card.  Both sides have a few positive overlaps and a negative overlap but the rest of the clues can only be given and only successfully identified by a specific side of the board.  Understanding the way the clue card is constructed is critical to winning this version as a team.  One of the three death eaters each side sees is a necessary friendly card from the other perspective for example.  

Initial Impressions


I love Harry Potter! And I love Codenames!  This was a very exciting game to add to our collection.  We had played it once before with friends before getting a review copy.  It is a particularly satisfying game to play with other fans that can give extremely obscure and unique clues and have them interpreted successfully.  

Game Build Quality


The game is great!  I am particularly happy that one side has the classic version with words and phrases and you can flip the card over to do pictures side.  You can use the pictures (or vice versa) to remember what a certain thing is if you need help with it.  Play with either of the two basic codenames games using just words or just pictures or make your own version with a mix and match.  

Artistic Direction


The artwork is photorealistic snaps from the Harry Potter movie scenes.  They mostly are what you expect for the words on their backsides with some exceptions that seem to feature something else just as prominently as their goal word.  It works out in the end and is still a really nice feature to have artwork as an option in a codenames game.

Fun Factor


What can be better than giving the name of an obscure Harry Potter character or using a funny adjective and your teammate correctly interpreting what you were going for?  It is a great deal of fun.  I am a huge fan of the duet version in general.  Now that I can play this with my wife when we have a spare 15-20 minutes before dinner or heading out to the store, I couldn’t be happier.

Age Range & Weight


11+ is probably a fair rating for a themed version of codenames.  You can customize the difficulty how you would like and only give a few linked words at a time with a younger player at the table.  It still requires memory of the characters, locations, events, and careful consideration of the assassins when giving a clue.  Codenames in general is not a particularly complex game and is one I often bring to family gatherings to bring some new players into the experience that wouldn’t touch a more complex game.



Are you a fan of codenames and Harry Potter?  BUY THIS GAME!  If you are only one or the other, it might not be the best place for you to start.  If you enjoy Codenames, you should read the books or at least watch the movies and see if Harry Potter is something you could enjoy enough to take on the themed challenge. Not quite as strong in your Harry Potter knowledge?  You could always cull some of the cards in the deck that are not familiar with your group and stick to more mainstream words. 

If you are a Harry Potter fan, you might be able to jump straight into the codenames: Harry Potter version and appreciate the word association game for what it is.  Or you might have trouble giving rewarding clues for many words at once given how everything is naturally associated in the same general realm.  The more basic versions of codenames make the word play more likely to work out in a satisfying way when getting more skilled at the game.