The deck consists of 81 cards. Each card has a single letter on it, along with a cartoon of a letter-shaped bugs. Why bugs? According to the manufacturer, there is “no particular reason – we just liked the bugs.” Players are dealt hands of 7 cards. After the first card is played, players compete to put the next card down – while saying a word that starts with the letter on the card, and is related to whatever word the previous player used. Let’s say Tamara starts with the letter “A” and say “Apple.” Let’s say Rick throws down his “S” card and says “Slice.” And then Celia, throwing down her “G” card says, naturally, “Golf.” See, the word “Golf,” though having nothing to do with the original word “Apple,” can be demonstrably linked to the word “Slice.” Hence the name of the game: Linkity.
Each player (3-8) begins a round with seven cards. Players don’t take turns, they simply go as soon as they can think of a contextually appropriate word that starts with a letter that appears on one of their cards (though you can only put one card down per turn) and has something to do with the word just said. And yes, of course, players can challenge each other (greatly adding to the intrigue and potential silliness of play). The first player to use all her cards wins the round. The rest are penalized one point for each card remaining in their hands. A full game requires three rounds and takes maybe a half-hour.
Since there are no turns, you really have to think fast, and often creatively in order to win. It’s this creativity-under-pressure that adds both to the hilarity and intensity of the game, and adds to the temptation to try words that aren’t quite exactly, well, linked. Which adds correspondingly to the party-like spirit of the whole game.
When playing for the first time, disregard the first round. This gives everyone a chance to get a good understanding of the slightly subtle concept that a word needs only to relate to the immediately preceding word. The game works best when players are of roughly equal ability. So, if there are kids around, let them play their own game. They deserve it.