The two teams of two people were tasked with guessing words from this grid. The clue providers had to make their teammates guess words in the grid in order to claim those spaces in a way that would match the secret pattern - again, only the person giving clues can see the pattern that must be matched. One team was red and the other was blue. The pattern might look something like this where the word in parentheses must be guessed:
RED RED BLUE RED
(Paris) (garage) (shoe) (Tokyo)
The red clue provider must somehow make his red teammates choose the words to claim all of the red spots on the grid. He might say "Places, 2" which would mean there are two cards that signify places. Since garage is also a place, the two team members who are guessing the words have to make a choice: does the clue refer to a city or a location? If they guess correctly, their team claims those two spots on the 5x5 grid.
That's basically as much as I understood at the time. I found out later when I looked up the game at home that this is some sort of "spy game" with spymasters, field agents, bystanders and assassins. I didn't really care about the storyline or the more theatrical aspect of the game: I just like to guess words! To me, this is just a word game, where words invoke other words in logical patterns and you just have to figure out what those connections are. That is really fun to me.
And so are crossword puzzles, Boggle, Scrabble, and pretty much any game with words. Wheel of Fortune, The $25000 Pyramid, Words With Friends, etc. My boyfriend and I even sit around for hours thinking of wordplay from a single name or concept. For example, Old Man Gloom (which is the name of a metal band) turns into:
His father the janitor: "Old Man Broom"
His cousin the barber: "Old Man Groom"
His neighbor the amusement park ride operator: "Old Man Log Flume"
His brother who's into psychedelics: "Old Man Shroom"
...seriously, this goes on for hours. And sometimes days.
My exposure to Codenames reinforced what I love about words and I was finally able to enjoy something with the group that I have been participating in throughout the semester, instead of constantly feeling like an outsider who just doesn't get it. I felt normal for once and I felt like I was good at something. I'm not good at strategizing or dissembling, but I am good at synonyms!