No Swap No Pay, by Olivier Cipiere and Mandoo Games, is a fun little filler. It comes full of pirate loot, bluffing and bag building.
Straight out the box it is clear that No Swap No Pay is a well-produced game. The loot bags are of good quality; brown for all players and the main shared bag is black. The loot is quality, the coins are heavy plastic poker-like chips. During the game, you collect gold and silver coins. You might collect the cursed black coins or the wild card, purple coins.
The basic premise in No Swap No Pay is that your pirate crew have just come back from their adventures. Before they go their separate ways, they must share the booty they have picked up from their sea-bound travels. Each pirate starts with a silver and a gold coin in their bag. Two coins per player are drawn from the central bag and then each player, in turn order, drafts a coin from the table. Next, in reverse order, a second coin is drafted. Both coins are added to their secret loot bags.
Players secretly place one coin from their loot bags back in the shared bag before challenging each other in turn to swap bags. Do you trust your pirate friend and swap? Or would you prefer to keep hold of your own bag giving the challenger the chance to pick a random coin from your bag. Once all challenges have taken place and either bags have been swapped or extra loot taken, the next round starts.
The first player now changes, and the round continues as before. Each player’s loot bag starts to build, as does the tension. There is a fine balance between trying to keep track of where the good loot bags are, whilst attempting to improve the value of the loot in your own bag.
So, what are the tactics in No Swap No Pay? Well, there are choices to be made as you draft. Do you simply hunt for gold, worth three points each? Or do you go after the silver> They are only worth one point each until you get five coins, when the value increases to 15. What if you're unlucky and receive a cursed black coin (cursed as it renders your loot bag useless meaning an overall score of nothing at all)? Well... just collect another two as with three of the cursed coins the curse is broken and you score 10 points.
If you are struggling to create that winning combo and max out your loot, you might take the purple coins. They can be used as a wildcard and can be added to any type of coin. This, in-turn, could make all the difference during the end game scoring. Of course, you might have a great bag and be pretty sure you are on for the win, but one of your so called shipmates might challenge you right at the end. If you want to keep the bag, you might lose one coin that makes all the difference to a combo score. Even worse, you could remove a cursed coin rendering your bag useless.
Initial Thoughts on No Swap No Pay
No Swap No Pay is so much fun. It's simple to learn, teach and play. It also makes for a great filler on a heavier game night or a staple part of a really good family night in. Gather your crew, share the loot and see who is going to take the spoils! Will you become the best pirate captain to sail the seven seas? This game is due to be released at Essen 2019.