Players are low-level wetwork operatives who have only moments to locate and liquidate targets based on nothing more than a single word and a number. Success means the right doors are kicked, the right throats cut, the right cars bombed. Failure usually means two silenced shots into a dude who was just mowing his lawn, and then going back for the wife after a brief argument in the van. But beware—your team is being stalked by a legendary rogue wetboy—and he's got claymores duct-taped to the door of his decoy apartment...
Though the team is supposed to confer, come to a consensus, and then—and only then—reach out to touch the agreed-upon cards to execute the contract, there are a shocking number of unprofessional "Here, hold my corndog—" moments where a single agent will suddenly bolt from the food court, sprint up the escalator, shoot three people on the mezzanine level, and then saunter back to take their corndog out of your stunned hand with an honestly unperturbed "What?"
The winning team will be responsible for their own individual exfils to safehouses of their choice; the losing team will spend the last thirty minutes of their lives jogging down the street with assault rifles and body armor before being "retired" by ex-DEVGRU CIA paramilitary dressed as local SWAT.
I'm not much for party-type games, and when people described Codenames to me I didn't really get it. But after playing, I loved this game. In fact, everyone loved it and rushed to get a copy of their own. It's such a simple idea, yet absolutely works. I've been cool on Chvatil for some time, often feeling like he never knows when to edit a game down, so it's nice to see such a straightforward design coming from him.