Cinelinx made a great first impression on me. What initially looked like yet another movie trivia activity turned out to be an actual game, with a touch of dominoes-like strategy thrown in on top of a foundation built around the classic Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon trivia game. After getting Cinelinx home from PAX Prime 2015 and playing a full game, Cinelinx's true identity, and its intended audience, became apparent. Cinelinx is a game by and for people who eat, sleep, and breathe movies. Everyone else should be prepared to make heavy adjustments to the game in order to keep all players competitive.
What is Cinelinx?
The core concept of Cinelinx revolves around players playing cards from their hands onto the table that in some way match the card or cards that connect to it. Players can use 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-degree connections to match cards to one another. For example, Bruce Willis can be connected to John McTiernan because McTiernan directed the greatest movie of all time, Die Hard, in which Bruce Willis was the star. Essentially, cards are played using rules familiar to anyone who has played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
Where Cinelinx diverges from a simple trivia activity and becomes a game is in the physicality of the cards themselves as they are played on the table. Each card has movie reel symbols, one along each edge, that must be directly connected to the card or cards that it is played next to. This means that players often have the choice of which direction the card they played is oriented to on the table.
This becomes more important as more cards are played onto the table and especially important when playing for points instead of simply trying to play all cards from hand. Players can attempt to create favorable situations for themselves and unfavorable situations for their opponents based on the direction and orientation of the cards that they play. Skilled players can attempt to block possible matches for their opponents and even maneuver themselves into favorable matches.
Knowing Movies is the Key to Success in Cinelinx
Cinelinx also has some cards, called Director's Cut cards, that give players special powers. Players acquire a Director's Cut card whenever they successfully play a card that names a director. The Director's Cut cards can be a great boon, but, as with the rest of the game, it will generally be the person who knows movies the best who gets their hands on the majority of the Director's Cut cards, potentially enhancing an already wide handicap between the player who is a movie-buff and the rest of the players.
Cinelinx does come with a catch, and it is a rather big one. People who aren't movie-buffs will have a very difficult time being competitive if the deck isn't pared down significantly or unless players make liberal use of house rules. Paring the deck down can be a hassle as there are over 200 cards in the game, and it can take quite a bit of time to go through the entire deck. Even once the deck has been pared down, it will inherently favor the person who pared it down in the first place.
House Rules Can Improve the Experience
Instead of paring Cinelinx down, we most often employed a house rule. We usually gave players the option to check IMDB between their turns in order to attempt to make connections with the cards in their hands that they weren't familiar with. While this rule did even the playing field, it is really inelegant in action in that it almost completely removed the social aspect of the game, with players being nose-to-phone nearly the entire game in order to try to determine which card to play next.
A deep knowledge of all things movie related is required to get the most out of Cinelinx. Cinelinx is a good game if you have the right audience, and that audience will most likely love the game, but that really limits the game's appeal to a very niche group of people who have a large knowledge base of all things movies prior to playing the game.
There isn't a lot to say about the components of Cinelinx. The cards are of decent quality, although they are fairly sparse and utilitarian. The Director's Cut cards have the same back as the regular gameplay cards, which can be confusing as they need to be separated from the remainder of the cards, but it really only affects setup and doesn't negatively affect gameplay.
Is Cinelinx Worth My Money?
Cinelinx is a good movie trivia game that takes the activity of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and smashes it together with dominoes to create a fun, competitive game. There is a gigantic caveat here, though; people who are unfamiliar with movies or who only have a passing interest will be absolutely lost and will not be competitive without heavy house rulings or active use of IMDB. The inverse is true as well; people who absolutely love movies and have a deep knowledge of movies, genres, actors, and directors should also absolutely love Cinelinx.
Rules for Cinelinx can be found here. Cinelinx can be purchased here or from Amazon here. The copy of Cinelinx used for this review as well as a copy of The Red Band Expansion for Cinelinx was provided by Gabriel Barboza of Cinelinx.