Codenames: Deep Undercover takes the formula of the word association game Codenames and fills the game’s lexicon (deck-xicon?) with the contents of Urban Dictionary; profanity, innuendo, slang, it’s all there. Among all the dicks, wanks, and scrotums, you have perfectly innocent words that take on a deliciously rude context once surrounded by these newer risque words. Even the innocent bystander cards got an “adult” facelift as well as a little backstory for each of them in the manual.
If you don’t know Codenames, a quick primer. The game is played with two teams (Red and Blue) consisting of a code master and agents. Before the agents is a 5×5 word grid. Secretly, some of the words are red, some are blue, some are neutral and one is black. Code masters are the only ones who know which words are which colour. Code masters must guide their teams to the appropriate words via clues that consist of one word and a number. The word relates to the words on the table, the number tells you how many words it relates to. Essentially it’s next level word association.
Codenames is simple to teach, infinitely replayable and as creative as its players. The better you know your team’s minds, the more elaborate the clues you can give. Undercover improves the formula in two ways. Firstly there is an inherently immature joy in seeing rude words laid out on the table. It’s a similar feeling to the first time I ever played Cards Against Humanity. However, unlike Cards against humanity, when the initial novelty wears off there is still a game to enjoy. Rather than a finite pool of snap fit ‘jokes’, the potential for humour in Codenames: Deep Undercover is down to the players’ creativity, and so is unlimited.
When you play with someone you know well, there is nothing more satisfying than giving a tangential clue and having them get it because they know your mind. Deep Undercover has a real knack for exposing how smutty your friend’s minds really are.
You don’t even have to make lewd clues, it is entirely possible to play a game with clean, family-friendly clues. so many of the words they have chosen are perfectly innocent until they are put into an adult context alongside the ruder words. However, you’d have to be a real saint to totally avoid adult clues as the game has a brilliant way of exposing your dirty mind. It’s a game that will have you thinking to yourself “is that too rude? is that too far?”. What’s more, Code Masters aren’t allowed to say anything other than their clue. You’ll desperately want to explain your outrageous clue but you’ll have to restrain yourself till the end of the game. As soon as the game ends there’s usually an explosion of frantic justifications, “Oooh, that’s what you meant” and “Smell is ‘romantic?!'”.
Vanilla Codenames at times, I found, could be a little dry when players aren’t particularly creative with their clues. In Deep Undercover, NSFW cards add a dash of spice that works to break the ice and help to add amusement where there otherwise might be none.
While I somewhat enjoyed the original Codenames, Codenames: Deep Undercover has earned its place as one of my go to light games alongside Coup, One Night Ultimate Werewolf and Mafia de Cuba. If you’re in the market for a game night appetiser, you can’t go far wrong with Codenames: Deep Undercover. It serves up the ingredients for humour while, crucially, leaving it down to the players to do the cooking.