Codenames: Deep Undercover Review
Players: 4 – 8
Time: ~15 minutes
Times Played: 10+
Codenames: Deep Undercover is an expansion to the smash hit Codenames, which you can find my thoughts on here. This expansion can be used as a stand alone game or can be paired with the original base game. We have played it twice as a stand alone and every other time we just combined it with the base game.
Codenames: Deep Undercover (CDU for short) is like a “Cards Against Humanity”/Adult party game combined with the winning formula provided by the base game. I’ll be blunt right out of the gate: it falls flat.
The game itself plays no differently from the base Codenames. The box says 4 – 8 players but that’s not true. It can be played just like the base game at two or three players but again, this is better at the higher player counts. One glaring omission, to me at least, is that no sand timer was included in this game. I wonder why it was omitted, especially as this can function as a stand alone game?
So what is the difference between the base game and CDU? The cards. More precisely, the content on those cards. CDU comes with 195 new cards (which is 390 new words) that are more adult orientated and deal with topics such as sex, slang, genital and reproductive regions, swear words, drugs, alcohol and bodily functions. It also comes with new keys and agent cards but I don’t think anyone is buying the expansion for that variety.
Full disclaimer: I have no issue with the harsh language or pushing the envelope and not treading the line that is political correctness. Would I say these words to someone’s face? Of course not but I’m not offended by what is included in the box. CDU does not cross the line with anything that could be deemed hateful towards LGBTQ rights or anyone’s belief’s and they do include their take on all orientations and terms. They tried to spare no one.
But CDU isn’t just about sex. There are other topics that they tried their hand at. And maybe that’s where they faltered. Sure, cards like “slut” and “gangbang” blew by subtlety but at least they went straight for the Adult route that this game promotes. Because, and lets be honest, how many cards are needed that talk about “poop”? Or “breasts”? Now, I’m sure some of you are rattling off twenty or more ideas for both of those examples but do remember, Codenames only use one word on their cards. In fact, they actually use so many synonyms for some of these that it actually becomes quite difficult to think of another word that you could use as a hint. Maybe that’s why they didn’t include the sand timer.
The idea for this game was/is sound. Half of the cards for this game were exactly what I think this game should have been. The humor shouldn’t come from seeing a card that says “tit”. It should come from having to use “tit” as your hint word. There are cards that do this well. They take words and because of the subject matter, make you think of dirty things, such as “cucumber”. Even some of the more derogatory and dirty cards (depending on your background and tolerance) work for me as they are a nice shock value. But, on the other hand, the other cards just say “poop” or “turd”. CDU unfortunately feels like someone just went through young teens Snapchat filters and Instagram hashtags to see what is currently crude and possibly funny.
As a game, CDU is a fine standalone. The game is sound and it was enjoyable seeing all the new words the first time but personally, I prefer to combine it with the base game as it adds more variety and makes the cards from this edition much more fun when they appear.
Whereas I said Codenames was a must include, I would not say the same for CDU. But if you found it on clearance or even on sale, it would not be a bad addition to the base game. All the components fit in the base game as well, which is nice for storage options.
I wish this game was better at what it set out to do as I have a group that could really enjoy it, but alas, not everything can be a winner.