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The Brown Geeks Virtually Play ‘Just One’ and ‘Codenames’

Brown Geeks Playing Tabletop Games

One of the most famous quotes in the board gaming scene comes from none other than Plato, who said:

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation.

Still relatively new to the Brown Geek team, I decided to take the philosopher’s advice and host a Zoom session to play some party games with my new colleagues. I’m pretty sure that’s what Plato would’ve done if he’d had access to video conferencing software.

For my trial run, I picked two very popular party games from my cupboard. Both titles have won the Spiel des Jahres award (writer’s note: that’s like winning the Oscar for Most Accessible Board Game): Codenames did so in 2016, and Just One took the crown in 2019. 

These games require very little setup and the only person who needs to have a physical copy is the game host. That said, you could just as easily Google some online iterations of these games, or create your own version with some pen and paper. I guess I just prefer tactile components.

If you already know how the games work, you can dive straight into the videos. If not, then let’s quickly go over the rules.

Just One

Each round, there is an active player who needs to guess a word. The other players write down a 1-word clue in secret. Before the clues are revealed to the active player, the other players compare what they’ve written down. Clues that appear more than once are eliminated. The active player then gets to see the remaining clues and has one chance to try and guess the initial word.

Example: the word is ‘bread’. The clues are ham, grain, butter, cheese, and grain. Because the word ‘grain’ appears twice, it’s eliminated: the active player only gets to see the clues ham, butter, and cheese. He guesses ‘sandwich’. All players lose the round, because the active player didn’t guess the word.

The next player now becomes the active player. The game ends after 13 rounds have been played (or after the players decide they’ve had enough). If you play to 13 rounds, there’s a little score table included in the game that tells you how you’ve done.


The players are split into a blue and a red team. Each team appoints one captain, who will be giving the clues to his team. On the table, there is a 5×5 grid of seemingly random words. The captains share a key card, which denotes which words belong to the blue team and which belong to the red team. 

Each in turn, the captains give a 1-word clue to their team, as well as a number. The number determines how many cards in the grid correspond to the clue. The team members can then discuss which words they want to guess. If they guess a word correctly, they can keep guessing until they’ve reached the number that was stated by their captain.

Example: the blue captain gives the clue ‘bread: 2’. The blue team guesses ‘butter’ correctly and can now try to guess the second word. They guess ‘ham’, which is also correct. The blue team has now found 2 out of the 9 words they need to win the game. The goal of the game is to find all the words of your color before the other team does.

A few twists: there are also a number of beige words that don’t belong to any team. If you guess one of those, your turn ends immediately. If the blue team guesses a red word, not only do they lose their turn, but they’ve effectively handed the opposing team a point! Lastly, there’s also 1 black word in the grid: the assassin. If at any point a team guesses the black word, they immediately lose the game.

One last rule: if a team is not sure about the clue and thinks it’s too risky to take a guess, they can pass voluntarily. On their next turn, they receive a new clue: if the team manages to guess all the words for the new clue correctly, they can take 1 additional guess. It’s therefore important to remember the clues your team was given on previous turns.

What games have you been playing online during the Covid-19 pandemic? And what other games do you recommend we could play over Zoom? Tweet us what you’d like to see from us next!

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Jo is a freelance board game translator and content writer who has been active in the industry since 2012. He also runs an international gaming group in his hometown of Ghent, Belgium with 1000+ members of different nationalities. His favorite games include Troyes, Tzolk'in and The Castles of Burgundy.

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