“A man provided with paper, pencil, and rubber, and subject to strict discipline, is in effect a universal machine.”
You don’t need to travel to Bletchley Park to crack some codes – just a group of friends. Preferably trustworthy ones who are good with words.
This game is for 3 to 8 players/code-breakers divided into two teams. You need to crack your own teams’ code whilst intercepting the other team’s code. Intercept it twice and you win!
Divide your group into two teams as evenly as possible (there are separate 3 player rules) and decide which teams will be playing the black or white sides.
Set up the two standing code boards so they each face their respective team and select 4 cards from the word deck. These cards have words on them that will only be revealed once they’re slotted into the 4 spaces on the boards (because they’re magic!). The cards have two words on both sides and can be placed either way up, which gives this game a lot of replayability. Shuffle the two decks of codes – one white, one black and place them face down in front of the matching team.
Each team should also be given a sheet from the decoder pad – note that it has two sides, one white and one black – I’ll explain that more in a bit.
Choose one person in your team to be the encrypter first – they’ll be encrypting your code in a way that (hopefully) your team will understand. This role rotates during play, so everyone gets a go.
The encrypters on both teams take a card from their code deck – this will have a 3 digit number on it between 1 and 4 – this is their team’s code. Your code board has the numbers 1 to 4 on it with the random words underneath that you slotted in during the setup.
The encrypters on both teams turn the decoder sheet to their team’s coloured side. The role of the encrypters is to write down a word or sentence that will help their team decipher the code. Using the examples above, say your encrypter picked the code 2, 3, 1. Your code board has the words “Key”, “School” and “Satellite” against those numbers in that order. The encrypter could write in the round one section of their sheet something like “skeleton” (for key), “chalkboard” (for school) and “space” (for satellite). Both encrypters start writing their words down at the same time, but once both one encrypter has written their words down, the other team’s encrypter has until the timer runs out to finish theirs.
Now for the tricky bit. The white team now read out their encrypted code (first one is “skeleton”, second one is “chalkboard”, third one is “space”) to the black team. Be aware, there are plenty rules about what you can and cannot write in your encryption – no sneaky “in jokes” between couples, for example. But you can do things like miming or humming if you’re so inspired. The black team turn their sheet over and write the white team’s encryption in the round one section. The white team’s decoders (everyone not who is not the encrypter) must now guess what the numeric code should be. If they guess incorrectly, they get a black “miscommunication” token – get two of these and your team loses!
This first round plays slightly differently to all subsequent rounds, in that there’s no intercept phase. So now, the white team will tell the black team what the numeric code is. You’ll see at the bottom on the decoder sheet there are blank boxes numbered 1 to 4. The white team will write the encryption words under their respective numbers in those boxes in order to help them in future guesses. Now the black team will repeat the same process that the white team just did – reading out their encryption words which the white team will write on the black side of their sheet and so on.
All subsequent rounds have an intercept phase. The white team continue to go first each round – after the encrypter has read out the encrypted words, BOTH teams must guess what the code is, using the encrypted words given in the previous round where possible (remember, you only start with 3 words and there are 4 possibilities). But of course, the white team can see the code words on their code board, whereas the black team only have the previous encryptions to use to guide them. After the white team has guessed and any miscommunication tokens are handed out, the black team guess. If the black team guess the numeric code correctly, they gain a white “intercept” token. Play then continues to the black team to repeat the same process.
Rounds continue until a team has either two intercept tokens, which means they win or has two miscommunication tokens, in which case the other team win.
Why should you play?
It’s quick – this isn’t a long, drawn out game. There’s not many things to do so you can easily play a complete game within 30 minutes.
It’s easy to learn – this game is basically word association, at it’s very core – there’s really not much more to it than that.
What might get on your nerves?
Your team-mates – if they get a bit carried away, they might blurt out the actual word on the code board so the other team know what it is. Or they might write an encryption that’s super obvious. Try to keep in character and be all sneaky and quiet, otherwise you’ll give the game away!
Appropriate Age to Play
The box recommends 12 or over, but I think you could play with slightly younger players as well, depending on their ability. The words aren’t especially complex and neither is the concept.
If you like … you’ll like this
In closing …
I really like the simple concept tied to the theme. Perhaps it’s too simple, but there’s something delightfully nostalgic about cards with floppy discs on them. It’s a fun way to take a straight-forward thing like word association and make it into a competitive game.
- Quick to play
- Easy to learn
- Nostalgic art work
- Tenuous word-associations from team-mates