“No Thanks” isn’t exactly a name that’s likely to be catchy or draw a gamer in, unless you already know what the game is. I mean, the game’s basically saying “Don’t. Just.. don’t.”
But if you pass on this game, you’ll kick yourself. No Thanks is the type of game that grabs you with its simplicity, gets its tiny little claws into your heart and brain, and won’t ever let go. That inescapable essence is most likely thanks to the push your luck/slight gambling aspect to the gameplay.
The game consists of one deck of cards, numbered from 3 – 35, and 55 playing chips. Each player starts the game with 11 of these chips, and that will be what is used to pass, or say “no, thanks!” to a card. 24 cards out of the deck are dealt face down into a pile, and the rest are placed back in the box as they won’t be used for the game. And that’s where things get even more interesting! Why is that?
The aim of the game is to be the player with the least points at the end of the game. Each round consists of one card being flipped up, revealing its value. Each player in turn can choose to pass on it, throwing in a chip, or take the card and its subsequent point values, plus all of the chips people have thrown in. So, while you may take a card with a value of 20, perhaps it’s gone around the table a couple of times so you can at least offset that amount of points with the chips (any of which left at the end of the game will be negative points, which is nice!).
As the game goes on, the basic “should I or shouldn’t I” decision becomes tougher as you end up taking more cards to place in your tableau, and you’re spending more and more chips to pass on the ones you don’t want. Worst of all, if you spend out all your chips, you’re forced to take the card when it comes back to you. This could mean sequences become impossible, and you’re collecting all sorts of cards that will add up to a huge score – normally in games this is great, but No Thanks wants you to have the tiny golf-like score, remember?
If you are lucky, and can end up with a sequence of cards (for instance, 18, 19, 20), then you’ll only be docked the points of the lowest card in that sequence (in this example, 18). But remember the part where there’s 9 cards that aren’t in the game? Are you willing to grab a 20 value card, and maybe a 17 value card and hope that the 18 & 19 turn up, and you’re able to grab them to create a sequence, instead of ending the game with the 37 points they’d tally to otherwise?
So the cards are flipped, the opportunity to take them goes around the table again and again until all 24 cards are taken and the game ends. Once you’ve played a few times, you’ll see the fun and engaging ways to really get the most out of how social and addictive this game can be. Are you in a position to snap up that connecting card someone else might need, and all the chips with it, without it impacting on your score that much? Can you see that the card you’ve just flipped looks like a pretty terrible option for the other players at the table, so maybe you can send the option to take it around the table a few times, draining people of their precious player chips? Oh, it’s so delightful!
Once your tough decisions and vindictive plays are all done, everyone tallies up the points in their tableau, all of the lowest cards in each sequence and all single cards – then offset that with the negative points your player chips provide, and see who was able to squeeze out the lowest score! Then shuffle the deck and start all over again, as I guarantee it’ll be one game people will have a hard time playing just one round of. Because this game’s so easy to teach (even I can do it!) and to learn, and plays quickly, it’s an ideal filler on bigger game days, and also a simple concept for non-gamers to be introduced into these sorts of engaging and clever games.
Fun fact: when originally published in German, the game’s name was Geschenkt …ist noch zu teuer!, meaning “Even given as a gift, it is still too expensive!” which is amazing and spot on for what this game is.
No Thanks was designed by Thorsten Gimmler, with art by Oliver Freudenreich and Atelier Löwentor, and is published by Z-Man Games. It plays from 3-5 people, and takes approximately 20 minutes. (Although bear in mind you’re likely going to set it up over and over again once you play one game, and I’ve spent many fun rounds playing this for about an hour or so with friends!)