No Thanks! is a simple game that’s both quick and a lot of fun to play. Utilising push-your-luck and set collection mechanics, it provides an experience that takes around a minute to learn and 5-10 minutes to play. Suited to all ages it is simple enough that my six year old enjoys playing it (despite the 13+ age recommendation on the box) but interesting enough to make it a regular with adults as well.
The premise of No Thanks! is incredibly simple – you must finish the game with the lowest score. In the box you’ll find 33 cards, numbered from 3 to 35, and a bunch of plastic tokens. Cards are scored on face value and tokens are worth -1 each, so it’s not hard to surmise what your goal should be. To start the game the cards are shuffled, nine are removed (without revealing their values), and the remainder placed face down as the draw deck. Players are then issued 11 tokens each and you’re ready to play!
The first player reveals the top card from the draw deck and must decide whether to take the card or pass. If opting to pass, the player must place one of their tokens on the card after which play continues clockwise. Passing might seem like the most prudent option however the associated cost should give you pause as tokens are worth negative score and, if you run out of tokens, you will be forced to take a card.. This continues until someone chooses (or is forced) to take the card. When a player takes a card they put it on the table in front of them and collect any tokens that may be on the card. That player then reveals the next card and another round begins. Play continues until the draw deck is exhausted – at which time the points are tallied and a winner declared.
By itself, this would make for pretty boring gameplay, which is where No Thanks! set collection and push-your-luck mechanics come into play. When collecting cards you may end up collecting sequential sets (11, 12, and 13 for example). When a set is collected you only score the lowest card value in that set. So, if you had the cards 6, 10, 31, 32, and 33 you would calculate your score as 6 + 10 + 31 as the 32 and 33 cards were part of a set. This makes for some incredibly tense decision making. If you have the 12 and 13 card in your hand will you take that 15 and hope you have opportunity to get the 14 later? If you’re one of the other players and the 14 then appears do you grab it (taking 14 points) in order to sabotage the first players’ set? And don’t forget the nine cards removed at the start of the game. By removing them from play the risk of a gamble is further compounded! There is only one card for each number and the 14 card may not even be in the draw deck!
This is where No Thanks! begins to shine! The tense nature of the decision making really changes the dynamic of the game and adds an enjoyable element of strategy. For example, if I had the cards 30, 31, and 32 when the 33 card was revealed I may choose to pass on the card. Gambling that the other players wouldn’t want to add 33 to their score I could spend a few rounds letting the card accumulate tokens thus giving me a better negative score for a high scoring card.
The only negative I can attribute to No Thanks! is that I find my desire to play dwindling after a few rounds. This is most likely due to its simplicity as I feel similarly when playing games like Uno, Yahtzee or Love Letter. That said there are other games with simple rules like Coup which I could play for hours! I think the main reason for this is the difference in the strategies used to win. In No Thanks! there are a small number of strategies you can employ whereas, in games like Coup, there are considerably more.
That said, with its simple mechanics and non aggressive competition, No Thanks! is well suited to a variety of gamers and a lot of fun. It mixes equal parts luck and strategy to create a balanced experience and, in my opinion, no game collection is complete without a copy.