Buzzworthiness: No Thanks!

For my review today, I’m going with a classic filler game called

image by BGG user Zman
image by BGG user Zman

No Thanks! first came out in 2004, designed by Thorsten Gimmler.  The original edition was published by AMIGO in Germany, with Z-Man picking up the rights in the US.  No Thanks! is a 3-5 player game that lasts 20 minutes (if that).  It’s compact nature, quick playing time, and simplicity of rules makes it a popular filler for those moments when you have some time between games or at the lunch table.

No Thanks! comes with 33 cards (numbered 3 to 35) and 55 small red plastic chips.  The object of the game is to have the lowest score.  On your turn, you’ll flip over the top card of the facedown draw pile (which had nine cards removed at the start of the game).  You can choose to either take this card, thus giving yourself that many points, or you can pass by playing a chip on the card.  If you have no chips to pass with, you must take the card.  If you pass, the next player can decide to take it or pass.  When someone does take the card, they get all the chips on the card as well – this means you can pass on more cards, plus the chips are worth negative points to lower your score at the end.  If you ever have a sequence of 2 or more cards with consecutive numbers (like 24-25), those go together and only get you the amount of points on the lower card.  So, if you have the 23 and 25, and take the 24, those three cards are now only worth 23 points (rather than 72).  The trouble with that is you can never be sure what is in the deck since nine cards were removed at the beginning.

Once the last card has been taken, players add up their points from cards and subtract their remaining chips to get their total.  The player with the lowest score wins.

COMPONENTS and THEME: Not much to say for either of these categories.  There’s no art to speak of, just a number on each card. The plastic chips are fairly cheap, though they are perfectly serviceable for the game – they’re small enough that you can hold a handful of them (chips are supposed to be kept secret, though they can theoretically be tracked).  There’s no theme at all – just numbers.  So if either of these categories are super important to you, this game is not for you.

MECHANICS: No Thanks! is kind of an anti-set collection game.  You are collecting numbers for in front of you, and you want to be collecting sequences.  However, you really don’t want to be collecting anything.  You are almost guaranteed to take at least one card during the game, just because you’ve got a finite number of chips.

It’s also a bit of a push-your-luck game.  If you have a 26, you may take a 24 in hopes that you’ll find a 25.  But you may not, and wind up with 50 points.  You can also see a card that would be helpful to you, and pass on it in order to accrue some more chips.  There’s always the possibility that someone else will take it, so you need to be careful if it’s an important card.

BGG lists auction/bidding as a mechanism.  Honestly, I’ve never thought of it like that, but it makes since – you are bidding not to take the card, but for someone else to get it.  And instead of the bank getting the money of the winner of the bid, the player who takes the card gets the money of everyone else who bid to pass.

STRATEGY LEVEL: The basic strategy here is to not take cards.  At the same time, you know you’ll have to take something eventually, so you want to take low cards and cards where you can get some chips.  I find that it’s not necessarily a good idea to think of it like a profit margin – “that 18 has 9 chips on it, so it’s really 9” doesn’t really work when you think that you’ll be spending those chips to avoid a 35.  Just think of it as “18 isn’t too bad, and those 9 chips will be helpful to me later” and move on.

The other thing I find with the game is that the strategy of trying to mess up someone else doesn’t always work.  “He has a 33, and now there’s a 32.  I’m going to take it so he doesn’t get it” is a ridiculous idea.  Sure, my score doesn’t drop by ONE POINT, but your score just went up by 32.  It’s a rookie mistake that you see in a lot of new players.

Overall, I’d say there’s a lot of luck in the game, but also  decent amount of strategy for such a quick filler.

ACCESSIBILITY: As mentioned, No Thanks! is a ridiculously simple game.  All you have to do is decide if you want to take a card or not.  It’s really easy to learn, and something all levels of gamers can get into.

REPLAYABILITY: I took this game with me on an orchestra tour a few years ago.  I shared it with the other trombone players, and they wanted to play it ALL THE TIME.  We played it on the bus, in our hotel, and backstage while waiting for our performances.  And it never got old.  Every game was different, and we had a great time every time.  So yes, this game is very replayable.

SCALABILITY: The game is for 3-5 players.  I think later editions might have options to go up to seven, and I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work.  I doubt it will work for 2 players (no guessing about how many chips the other player has), and a solo variant has been designed by BGG user GaneRulesForOne.  The stated 3-5 players works very well with each number.

IS IT BUZZWORTHY? Yes.  This is one of the best filler games out there.  I highly recommend it.

Thanks for reading!

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