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Vlaada Chvátil – if that is his real name – tells Owen Duffy how growing up in the Soviet bloc, his dad’s homemade Monopoly and learning to code video games led to the creation of his acclaimed party hit

“I tore up a piece of paper and wrote some words on it, drew a grid, borrowed some components from other games – and within a few hours the first game of Codenames was being played.”

Vlaada Chvátil.

I the space of just over a year, the wordassociation party game Codenames has become one of board gaming’s greatest hits. Critically acclaimed and massively popular, it’s been translated into over 30 languages, racked up huge worldwide sales and received the hobby’s highest accolade: the 2016 Spiel des Jahres, or Game of the Year award.

All of this success might be enough to satisfy some designers, but not Codenames’ creator Vlaada Chvátil. Far from resting on his laurels, he’s been taking the game in new directions and making some big plans for it and other upcoming releases from his design studio, Czech Games Edition.

Tabletop Gaming recently spoke to Chvátil to find out about his life in gaming, and to learn the story behind one of the tabletop industry’s biggest breakout hits.


Ask a few game designers about their earliest tabletop experiences, and you’ll hear the same influential titles mentioned again and again: Dungeons & Dragons, Cosmic Encounter or perhaps the classic 1980 empire-builder Civilization. Vlaada Chvátil had a very different introduction to gaming. Born in 1971 in the Czech city of Jihlava, he spent the early part of his life living under Soviet rule.

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About Tabletop Gaming

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