Linkage: A DNA Card Game Review

In all honesty, I was actually pretty sure I’d have fun with designer John J Coveyou and publisher Genius Games’ Linkage: A DNA Card Game. I love me some a-typical theming in my board games (as is probably obvious by now), and we really had a good time with his other sciency offerings, Peptide and ION.  Constructing RNA/DNA chains is right up my decidedly bizarre alley, and this is a small box game, which is always a plus in my book.

So it was kinda disappointing to come away from the game with an overwhelming sense of “meh.”

Match your card color with the "haze" at the bottom of the DNA cards.
Match your card color with the “haze” at the bottom of the DNA cards.

Like all of Genius Games’ science-based offerings, Linkage is functionally quite easy to pick up and play, despite being about genetic manipulation on a molecular level. It’s a simple matter of playing RNA cards that match whatever DNA card is revealed at the beginning of a round (it’s simple color-matching, really). This won’t always be possible, however, as your hand may be decidedly lacking in whatever color you might need. That’s where other actions such as replacing incorrect cards with better ones or stealing cards from an opponent come into play.

dianaasm Diana: That still didn’t make things very exciting.

robasm Rob: Things weren’t any kind of exciting.

dianaasm Diana: Ouch. But yeah.

It's alright.
It’s alright.

I honestly thought I was going to like this game but there just isn’t much to it. The theme is certainly interesting, and it’s incredibly accessible. The problem is that, once accessed, there simply isn’t all that much to keep you engaged. You match cards, sometimes you play other cards to maybe match cards better, and if you’re feeling particularly cheeky, you can spend extra cards in your hand to take additional actions. Coveyou is usually pretty great at turning scientific processes into interesting games, but unfortunately, this one falls a bit flat.

None of this makes Linkage a bad game, but it doesn’t make it a particularly memorable one either. It’s filler that isn’t very filling. If you’re looking to get your science on in board game form, you’d be much better off with other Genius Games releases like Peptide or IONboth of which are solid.

(Thanks to Genius Games for giving us our copy of Linkage for review. Their generosity didn’t influence our opinions)

2 thoughts on “Linkage: A DNA Card Game Review

  • July 13, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Haha, I love this review. I am sorry to disappoint you guys… but not THAT sorry… 🙂 That’s because along the way I’ve learned a TON of lessons from this (let-down, failure, lapse of…) game.

    Lesson # 1 – Don’t fall in love with your first game – your first game will always be bad. (Or the stars have aligned and by no fault of your own the game was an anomaly) This was my first game and I didn’t really understand all the ins and outs of how to create interesting decisions, tension, and engaging games mechanics, etc. (Whoops!)

    Lesson #2 – Just because a game “works” doesn’t make it good. Always ask, “what the worst part about your experience playing this game?” Then make that better. Increasing the lowest number of an average will have a much higher effect tweaking higher numbers, because that lowest number has so much more range to increase. (Whoops!)

    Lesson #3 – Never make a game completely by yourself. Always get others with design and development experience to play and help you think outside the box and even help develop the game (even consider pulling in a formal “developer”). (Whoops!)

    Lesson #4 – Theme alone won’t make a good game… (Whoops!)

    Lesson #5 – Theme alone WILL SELL a game (this game sells well), but it will harm other’s opinion of you as a designer… I think I am worse off for that because it discredits me as a designer. I probably won’t reprint this game… (Whoops!)

    Lesson #6 – Appreciate the time reviewers put into their reviews, don’t take it personally, and learn how to be a better designer (and person for that matter) because of it! (HOORAY!!! I did something right!!!)

    A HUGE THANK to Diana and Rob for taking the time to learn this game, play this game, and still post this helpful review even though it was not a hugely enjoyable experience! And thanks for still playing my other games and not writing me off. 🙂

    • July 14, 2016 at 10:01 am

      John, you rock. ‘Lessons learned’ are a huge part of any creative endeavor, and it takes a great person to face the withering power of Rob’s ‘Meh’ and get stronger from it. We’re glad you keep designing because we really do enjoy your other offerings, and we really appreciate you taking the time to share with us how you’ve grown from your experience with Linkage!


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