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[Review] No Thanks!

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Joined: 03/23/2011

When Zev from Z-man Games explained a little of No Thanks! (Z-man Games, 2005 - Thorsten Gimmler), I was immediately intrigued. It sounded like a reverse-auction sort of game but simple enough to immediately appeal to all who tried it out. Z-man Games has done a tremendous job at bringing to English some fabulous games, and this "filler" seemed like a winner.

And indeed, it did go over extremely well. I probably played it ten times in the first week that I owned it, with people requesting "just one more game." The idea is very simple, there's a smidge of luck, but the entire game has a "push your luck" feel that immediately charms those who play it. It's a great three player game, but works just as well with up to five, and is one that I think will see tons of play time in the coming years. And I love the ironic name; it causes some interesting conversations when we talk about playing it.

The game consists of thirty-three cards, numbered from "3" to "35". Nine cards are secretly removed from the deck and placed aside; the rest are shuffled and placed face down in a pile in the middle of the table. Each player takes eleven chips into their hand, and one player is chosen to start, with play proceeding clockwise around the table.

The player flips the top card from the deck and must make a choice. Either they can take the card, placing it face up in front of them on the table, or they can decline the card ("No thanks!") and place one of their chips next to the card. If a card is declined, the next player has the choice to take it or decline it. When taking a card, if there are chips next to it, a player receives all of the chips into their hand. Likewise, if a player has no chips left, they have no choice but to take the card and place it in front of themselves.

Players certainly do NOT want cards, as any cards they have at the end of the game will be worth points; and the lowest score wins. However, if a player has a sequence of cards, such as "23", "24", and "25"; only the lowest card will count for points. At the end of the game, chips are also worth "-1" point each, helping a player's final score. The game continues until all the cards have been taken by players; at which final points are determined, and a winner is established.

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: There isn't much in the game - only a small pile of cards and several, red plastic chips, which are almost identical to the small ones used in the Axis and Allies series. The cards are of high quality - stating their number six different times on them - and everything fits easily into a small box with a lid. It's a very easy game to transport and set up.

2.) Rules: The rules are on two sides of a long, folded sheet of paper. They are actually quite a bit longer than needed; but there are tons of examples and small illustrations, and it's one of the best formatted rules I've ever seen. The game itself is easy to teach - "Take a card, or toss a chip". It's very easy, and everyone picks up on the game's simple but delicious strategies rather quickly.

3.) Tactics: The rules include some tips, which to me were rather obvious anyway. First of all, a player must learn when to take a card and when to throw a chip away. This differs quite a bit depending on the number of players - as in a three player game I know that there are fewer chips and more cards, with the opposite occurring in a five player game. It just might be worth it to take the "15" card with four chips on it, rather than being forced to take a "32" card with fewer chips on it later on in the game.

4.) Push your Luck: My favorite part of the game, however, is the fact of pushing your luck. If a player has the "33" card and the "32" card appears - why not take it? It causes you to lose one point (which is good)! However, it's tempting, and often expedient, to allow the card to go around the circle one or two times, to load up the number of chips on it. Why should I take a "32" card with one chip on it, when I can get it with seven chips on it! However, if a player waits to long, another player may be tempted by the pile of chips and take it themselves, or even be forced to take it! Now, this isn't a big deal, but it can be worse when the card is a "32", and the player has the "33" and the "31". At this point the card has an even greater value and probably should be taken regardless of number of chips on it. At the same time, a player could (usually out of spite) take such a card even at a devastating cost to themselves, just to make sure that you don't finish your sequence. This can lead to some funny banter, and adds some interesting decisions to the mix.

5.) Luck: With nine cards being pulled out of the mix, one is never certain which cards are gone, making strategy a bit uncertain, since you can never really count on a specific card being in the deck. The rules suggest a tactical variant with "10", "20", and "30", being pulled from the deck along with six random cards - giving players a bit more knowledge. This has been vetoed with everyone that I've played the game with, as they enjoy the lack of knowledge over the missing cards. And I must say that I agree - for a light game such as this, a bit of mystery is a good thing.

6.) Fun Factor: For me, most of the fun came from pushing one's luck as far as you would dare. Each game is fast enough that it's entertaining to see if you can grab the card to keep a person from uniting a critical sequence, or just how many chips you can snag when forced to take that "35" card. It's very enjoyable and one of the biggest hits I've played in months.

I love complex, meaty games - games that take 90 minutes to two hours with lots of options and fascinating choices. But the importance of having a good, quick "filler" is important, because sometimes time constraints necessitate a faster game. No Thanks! does a tremendous job of this, packing a lot of fun into only a deck of cards and pile of tokens in only about 15 minutes. It's one of my favorite games from 2006, and I'm certainly glad to have picked it up. Don't miss out on it!

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"

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