Codenames Harry Potter

Codenames: Harry Potter
Codenames: Harry Potter

Can you find the hidden Order of the Phoenix members? Or will you be stopped by Ministry officials and run out of time? Codenames Harry Potter combines the classic clue-giving experience with the magical wizarding world. Cooperate with your partner(s) to find all the Order of the Phoenix members without running out of time-turners or picking a Death Eater.

Codenames Harry Potter is published by The Op, based on Codenames Duet by Vlaada Chvátil. It plays quickly in about 15 minutes, and is best for two players very familiar with the world of Harry Potter.

Setup

Setup for Codenames Harry Potter is much like you’d expect. Lay out a five by five grid of cards – showing words, pictures, or a mix of both.

Keep the Order of the Phoenix tiles at hand along with the Death Eater and ten small time turner / Ministry official tiles. When all else is ready, grab a key card from the middle of the deck. Place it in the stand so that each player sees only one side of the key card.

Codenames Harry Potter
Setup with a combination of words and pictures showing

Gameplay

In Codenames Harry Potter you want to find all fifteen Order of the Phoenix members before running out of time.

You need to give clues that align with the red cards you see on your key card. Each side has nine of these red cards; we’ll cover this in more detail later. Each side also has three black cards. These are the Death Eater cards, and it is critical to avoid them!

Whoever comes up with a clue can go first.

10 tokens. 2 show time turners, 8 show black and white portraits
Time-turner / Ministry official tokens: this is how many turns you have to guess all fifteen red cards.

Much like all of the Codenames games, a valid clue is a single word and a number of clue cards that clue relates to. The clue giver says the word and number, and the recipient identifies the matching cards one at a time. For each Order of the Phoenix card identified, place a red Order of the Phoenix tile over the card.

If you guess incorrectly and choose a grey spot, you have run into a Ministry of Magic official. Put the ministry token on the card you guessed with the arrow pointing from your partner to you (this is a mistake). If you choose to finish guessing without making any mistakes, take a time-turner token (the back side of the ministry token) and end your turn.

If you guess one of the black Death Eater cards, everyone immediately loses!

Find all fifteen members of the Order of the Phoenix by working together – before you run out of time turners! The rulebook provides some tips and tricks that might help.

If the base game isn’t enough, The Op provides a pad full of missions to tackle, too. These missions, much like in Codenames Duet, come with a two-number pair (e.g. 10/5). The first number is the number of turns for the mission. The second is the number of mistakes allowed in the mission (the number of ministry officials you can run into). Flip or remove the time turner tokens to remind you of the parameters for your given mission. There are rewards for each section you clear – handy for future games.

Codenames mission log

Impressions

Difficulty

Even with a decent knowledge of Harry Potter, Codenames Harry Potter is still hard. There are 200 clue cards in the box, but only 25 are needed for a given game. Nonetheless, there are only so many threads through the novels. There are many similarities that tie cards together, so providing clear clues can be very tricky.

To be successful, you need to be good at clues and have the same HP knowledge level. In this way, the game is great for two players and OK for teams. Cooperate & figure out who knows what. Once you’ve covered nine or more tiles, try to figure out which you have in common and/or which Death Eater gets covered. This is where the clues from the rulebook come in.

key clue card
You only know 9 of the 15 red Order of the Phoenix positions – and one of your 3 Death Eaters is a red Phoenix for your teammate.

Strategy

Though there are fifteen Order of the Phoenix cards per mission, each side of the clue card shows nine red squares. Every clue card face has three overlapping red squares and one square that is red on one side and a death eater on the other. By placing the Order of the Phoenix tiles facing a certain way, you can track who has guessed what and therefore deduce information about the cards your partner wants you to guess. Are none of your Death Eater spots covered? One of them MUST be an Order of the Phoenix according to your partners side. Remember this for the future!

Secrets of the Key Card: All key cards are designed according to this diagram. You can use this knowledge to your advantage.
This might help…

Art Design

Codenames Harry Potter makes use of the blended clue cards that we have seen in other branded Codenames titles; one side has words and the other side has pictures. The art on the picture sides of cards is great stills from the movies. These add a ton of thematic flavor and varity to the cards, but often made them hard to decipher. The word side had many references we couldn’t remember – or were so generic that it could be hard to tie together with other clues.

Seven cards from Codenames Harry Potter
The cards are gorgeous, but we’re not always sure what they’re supposed to represent.

Final Thoughts

Unlike some other games where knowledge of the theme isn’t necessary, it is absolutely critical in Codenames Harry Potter. Though players here will benefit greatly from encyclopedic knowledge of the source material, even then it isn’t a slam dunk. For these self-proclaimed Harry Potter experts, Codenames Harry Potter will still provide a challenge due to the necessity to relate clues in very particular ways.

In this way, Codenames Harry Potter shines. It is hard enough to be very rewarding when you win, and you’ll know it was due to a combination of knowledge and clever clue giving. The game is designed for two players, but scales up well to support a crowd. Codenames Harry Potter doesn’t iterate on a tried-and-true mechanic so much as it reimplements it with a very well-known theme. It’s wrong to ding it for that, because you know what you’re getting if you buy it.

For your Harry Potter superfans, we wholeheartedly recommend Codenames Harry Potter.

You can find Codenames Harry Potter at Amazon or directly from The Op.


The Family Gamers received a copy of Codenames Harry Potter from The OP for this review.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

Codenames Harry Potter
  • 9/10
    Art - 9/10
  • 9/10
    Mechanics - 9/10
  • 7/10
    Family Fun - 7/10
8/10

Summary

Number of Players: 2+

Age Range: 11+

Playtime: 15 minutes

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