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Finally, three great card games to play instead of Cards Against Humanity

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The Indie Megabooth has become a fixture at PAX Prime, and this year its  lineup is better than ever. But it's not just packed to bursting with video games. It also has a sizeable area devoted to tabletop games, with 10 games (in various stages of completion) ready to play.

Here are three great card games that Polygon had an early look at. Each one is a great solution for a gaming group stuck in a rut, or for a party drifting wildly out of control.



There are moments when you open a new tabletop game and instantly know that it will be in heavy rotation with your friends and family for years to come. I had that moment again when I cracked open Monikers for the first time.

It's a box full of cards. Cards with names on them. Hundreds of names. The goal of the game is to get your team to guess as many of the names from the top of the deck as you can before time runs out.

It sounds simple, really. But it's who is on these cards that makes this game so special.

Mrs. O'Leary's Cow. LeVar Burton. The Earl of Sandwich. A honey badger. Frida Kahlo. Carl Sagan. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Royal Tenenbaum. Clarence Thomas. Rasputin.

That's just a random stack, from near the middle of the stock deck as it came out of the box. I immediately started laughing. How, exactly, am I going to get my friends to name Brian Boitano in less than 60 seconds?

People get intimidated by regular old charades though. What makes Monikers so inviting is that everyone has a hand in selecting the cards in play.

Each player is dealt eight cards at the beginning of the game, and selects six to contribute to the stack of 40 to 50 that will comprise each round of play. Everyone knows they have a card or two in the deck that they're looking forward to, and that helps those who might be otherwise hesitant to participate.

Play proceeds in three rounds, each one progressively harder than the last. Round 1, you can use any words, sounds or gestures save the name itself. Round 2, you can only use one word. Round 3 you have to play charades. With a slightly competitive — and moderately intoxicated — group of friends, you'll get lots of fun out of this deck of 550 cards before you start wondering about an expansion.

Monikers is available now.



Put simply, Cinelinx is The Kevin Bacon Game on hard mode.

Well, that's probably taking the analogy too far, but the comparison is apt; if you know movies, you're going to have a blast with this game and score quickly. If you don't, it might be a little harder for you. Allow me to explain.

Each player at the table has a hand of 10 cards. Play proceeds around the table with each player, in turn, linking card in their hand to cards already in play. String together movies, actors, quotes and movie titles. The first person to empty their hands wins.

It's a set of directions that's slim enough to fit on a single playing card, but in execution it could prove a bit more difficult to execute on. For some groups, it might take a bit longer to verify precisely who the cast of The Manchurian Candidate was. But I guess that's what smartphones are for, right?

Cinelinx, as well as its first expansion — a 54-card set of more adult, R-rated movies, quotes and actors called Red Band — is out now.



In Paperback you and your friends play the role of budding pulp fiction novelists, trying to get more words out before your neighbor has the chance to publish. You'll play cards from a hand of letters, using them to create words with the help of a pool of common letters that change as play progresses. After your turn, use your earning to buy more letters.

The game gets interesting when powers come into play. Have a ghost writer on your side? Then get a chance to draw more letters from the pool. Good at finding typos? Once per turn, earn a bit more money.

At the end of the game, players earn awards. For example, the player with the fewest wild cards in their deck gets an editor, as well as the five fame points that rides along with them. The player with the most fame wins — unless you're using the rules for cooperative play. It's a very versatile system.

The illustrations by Ryan Goldsberry an evoke an art style that celebrates women writers, and the great dime store novels of the 50, 60s and 70s-era genre books. Paperback is compact, built sturdy for travel, and already out.

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