The Cards Against Humanity-sponsored indie tabletop area at PAX had a number of great demos running but, when I caught a glimpse of Cinelinx’s tagline — “A card game for people who love movies” — I had to check it out.
The premise couldn’t be simpler: each player starts the game with a hand full of cards referencing famous actors, directors, and film titles and the goal is to be the first to rid your hand of all cards. This is achieved by playing one card per turn onto a communal board. Each card displays four film reel-like half-circles and, in order to place card on the table from your hand, these must line up with one or more symbols from previously played cards. In order to make a valid play, players must then dictate the connection between the newly introduced card and the one they’re attempting to link it to by using “degrees of separation” based on the card grouping criteria in the game — specifically, actors and directors. For example, there is a card that reads “Adrien Brody” on the table and player has a card in hand with “Juliette Lewis” on it. That player can connect their card to Adrien Brody in the orientation of their choice by explaining how they can be linked through mutual cast in their films — “Juliette Lewis starred with Nick Nolte in Cape Fear and Nick Nolte acted alongside Adrien Brody in The Thin Red Line.” Another option for a savvy film buff could be “Juliette Lewis was in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape with Leonardo DeCaprio, who starred in The Departed with Jack Nicholson. Jack Nicholson acted in Chinatown, which was directed by Roman Polanski, who also directed The Pianist with lead actor Adrien Brody.” There are likely countless ways to connect all of Hollywood’s A-list celebrities through the people they’ve worked with but the challenge is to recall a solid connection on the spot.
Of course, players can always challenge each other if they don’t believe a valid connection was made and the group verifies the relevant info on Google or IMDB. If either the player of the card or the person challenging them is incorrect, they lose a turn. There are also several gameplay variants that encourage different play styles and the game lends itself well to house rules to change things up. Each game will last around 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the group and their general film knowledge. Being an entirely card-based game (even the rules are on cards), the box has an extremely small footprint and is perfect to pack up and bring to conventions of anywhere where quick setup/playtime/breakdown are ideal.
As far as trivia games go, Cinelinx is a top-notch test of modern cinema knowledge for film nerds while keeping the subject light enough that casual moviegoers will recognize nearly all the the actors and movie titles. It plays like a light party game should as it’s great fun in a large group and gets people talking. The first expansion, called the Red Band Expansion, adds an adult/comedic skew to the game by adding cards depicting raunchy comedies and the actors frequently associated with them to the mix. Really, the game lends itself extremely well to limitless expansions, but I really hope they begin putting greater weight on older films as opposed to leaning heavily towards the last decade. In any case, it gives players an excuse to think about films that may not have been on their minds in a while while enjoying a beer-and-pretzels kind of game without any crazy in-depth mechanics or brain-burning strategy to obsess over — just good fun for the cinephile in all of us.