Gaming Unplugged: No Thanks!

November 8, 2009

Games don’t get much simpler than No Thanks!, published by Z-Man games and designed by Thorsten Gimmler. But simple doesn’t mean a game isn’t fun, and No Thanks! will quickly earn a reputation as an enjoyable filler game after just one appearance at the game table.

The game itself consists of a deck of cards numbered from 3 to 35. Each player receives an allotment of tokens, each worth -1 point once the deck has been exhausted. The top card of the stack is turned over and each player in turn can either pass on the card by placing one of their tokens on it or accept the card (and any tokens already on it) and the points it represents. Once the card has been collected the next player turns over the top card and the process continues. Each card is worth its number in points, minus however many tokens a player has, and the lowest score wins.

That probably sounds incredibly easy, and it is. However, the game has two twists that keep things interesting. First of all, if you manage to collect a run of sequential cards, then you only score points for the lowest card in the run; for example, collecting 10, 11, 12, and 13 will only penalize you 10 points rather than a whopping 46. Most of the time it’s worth it for the other players to automatically pass you a card that fits into a run you’re constructing rather than take the often significant points attached to it, which results in “free tokens”. That is, assuming they all have tokens to use; many attempted runs have been sabotaged by the presence of a player who can’t “afford” to refuse the card that’s supposed to be coming to you. While that is an obstacle, the second twist is what makes collecting runs truly risky: at the beginning of the game, nine cards are randomly removed from the deck. Is the card you need to bridge the gap in your run one of them?

You can probably pick up No Thanks! for around ten bucks. That’s a bargain-basement price for the amount of entertainment packed in those 33 cards and plastic tokens. It will never be the “main event” of a game night, but it’s a great ice breaker, warm-up, or filler that will see play time and time again.