Kyle Coburn

Custom Codenames

Gift Idea

Codenames is a great party game that plays quickly, works for any size group, while being extremely approachable for new players, and good fun. When I heard a Harry Potter edition was coming out, it seemed like it could make for a great themed game. But it used images from movies (the CG pixies were particularly garish looking) instead of original art, or even, as it occurred to me, Marie GrandPré's chapter art for the US editions that were much more nostalgic for me.

Quickly I was down the rabbit hole of how to make a homemade card game, with the idea of making a Christmas present for my sister. This was my first time trying to make a "professional" looking printout game at home, but I'm happy enough with the results.

Harry Potter Codenames

Supplies

Art

harrypotterfanzone.com/book-1/chapter-art/ was the best collection of chapter art I found, but I also used others from Google Images with higher scan quality for some chapters.

redbubble.com/people/clairecrisci/works/13525136-time-turner-flat-art I liked this time-turner token design (for Codenames Duet)

deviantart.com/zukasi/art/Harry-potter-meme-245196634 was the best collection of square character portraits I could find. These aren't needed for gameplay.

Process

I laid out 8.5x11" sheets of paper with a 4x6 grid of chapter art images I found online, and a corresponding sheet (flipped so that they would match up when glued back to back) of chapter names, using Pixelmator (my image editor). I bumped the constrast and sharpness of the chapter art, and so they were all roughly balanced (since many of the images came from separate scans), and printed them in greyscale on linen paper. Our printer is bad, but they came out well enough.

Next I coated the back sheets with glue spray and pressed them together with a rolling pin (using wax paper to protect the print). After drying, I cut them on along the grid lines and used the corner rounder to complete the look.

Companion app

Codenames requires a secret key card that tells the codemaster which cards on the grid belong to which team. I did't want to have to design and print all those key cards to go with the game, so I figured I'd offload that to a website/app players can use on their smartphone. There are existing solutions for this, but they didn't quite do what I wanted. So I made my own, and printed a QR code card that links to it.

ky.is/codenames (layout intended for mobile)

Verdict

This was a really enjoyable project, and I'm glad I now have the supplies/skills to make more like this in the future. I'd like to eventually clean up the files I have and share this as a print-and-play for other people to try. We only got to playtest the game a little before she left town again, but I think it turned out really well. And with the chapter names and numbers printed on the back, they also function as fun trivia cards.