Time: ~10 minutes
Times Played: 20+
I am always on the lookout for quick and easy games that can kill downtime. Bonus points for games that are portable. No Thanks! checks off all of those criteria and more. No Thanks! is easily one of the more simple games I own but don’t confuse that simplicity for a lack of depth.
The premise of the game revolves around thirty-three (33) cards, numbered individually from three to thirty-five. At the start of the game, nine of those cards are randomly removed from the deck without the players knowing what is missing. The remaining cards are shuffled to form a face-down deck. Depending on the number of players, a set of chips will be distributed to each player. A start player is chosen and play proceeds clockwise around the table.
The current player flips the top card from that shuffled deck and reveals it to the table. It’s at this moment that the game begins as that player has to make a choice: they either take the card that was just placed and add it to their collection (face-up) or they decline the card and place a chip near it. Once that card is declined, the responsibility now moves onto the next player who has to decided whether to take the card or pass. If a player takes a card with chips next to it, they get all those chips. If a player has no chips, they must take the card. This style of play commences until the deck is empty.
Unlike most set collection games (and most board games in general), No Thanks! has players actively trying to avoid adding to their collection and they want to score the lowest amount of points possible, like golf. The chips that are being used to pass on a players turn also count a negative point (1) each come end of the game. All of that makes the game have some semblance of strategy but there’s also a nuance as to grabbing cards as well. Having a set of cards in sequential order means that a player will only score the lowest card in that set. For example, if a player has cards numbered thirteen (13) to seventeen (17), they’ll only score thirteen points for those five cards. If they have thirteen (13) to fourteen (14) and sixteen (16) to seventeen (17), then they’ll score twenty-nine points (13 + 16) for the two sets.
This sequential set collection is what provides No Thanks! it’s depth and can turn this from a simple game into something more cutthroat.
With nine cards being removed from the deck at random, players will have to take risks when completing sets as the card they’re looking for to bridge their sets might be sitting in the box, never to see the grace of the table during gameplay.
This is a fascinating game to play with new players as certain strategical conundrums will confound players organically. For instance, when a card comes up that doesn’t hurt the active player but could hurt their opponents, a moral dilemma arises. Does the player play nice and take the card, adding it to their score like nothing happened or do they try and extort players by passing, forcing players to add chips to the card and taking it with a bonus? How many times does a player let it go around before claiming the card? With the hidden information that is the chip count of each player, the active player must decide if this is a worthwhile use of chips. There’s a possibility that the card may not make it back to them due to someone being out of pass tokens. Or worse, someone takes the card out of spite as the bounty is too good to pass up or maybe even as the risk to them outweighs the reward to another player.
No Thanks is designed to fit anywhere from three to seven players but it’s at its best with a group of four to five. I definitely don’t turn it down when the groups are larger but the scoring is too close without players having to do much of anything that it doesn’t feel as much of a game as it is an excuse to flip a card over from the deck. At four- and five-players, all players will make multiple decisions as opposed to the few made with six or more players. Three players isn’t bad and it plays incredibly fast but there can be a major chip issue if one player ends up in possession of a majority of them.
The game itself involves the luck of the draw but the game goes by so fast it’s never really a problem for any of us. It’s so simple to teach that it’s great to introduce to family and friends that may not be into such games.
This has become a quintessential filler in our household and has produced one of our more memorable gaming moments from 2018. After a four-player game, Mike finished with the best score any of us had seen over the course of our twenty-plus plays, three. His wife, Claire, wanted another round of the game and as it plays in about ten minutes, who am I to say no? That game concluding with Claire snatching that best score ever from her husbands mantle by finishing with a negative one (due to excess chips). It’s one thing to get the best score we’ve ever had in a game right after another player set the previous record. It’s another thing when that player was your spouse.
I absolutely love No Thanks! and cannot recommend it enough. It’s light enough to play with people that don’t play board games, it’s casual enough to play with people that want some quick and easy to occupy their time with. and it’s got enough meat on the bone to give experienced players a reason to keep coming back to the game.