Some games often get overlooked because of their ‘simplicity’ and card games are a big part of this category. Board gamers often look down on a little deck of cards as if they couldn’t possibly contain the mechanisms to keep you as entertained as much as a box of cardboard and plastic. But simplicity doesn’t always equate simple. 2004’s No Thanks! from designer Thorsten Gimmler appears incredibly simple. In the box is simply a pack of playing cards all numbered from one to thiry-five and a bag full of plastic chips. The rules are simple, the lowest total on cards in your hand at the end of the game wins. And if you get a run of cards in numerical order, you simply only count the lowest card in that run. Simple! But how do you decide who takes what card?
Each player starts with several chips depending on the player count. The bigger the group, the fewer chips you start with. On each turn a card is drawn and players decide whether they play a chip onto that card, saying ‘no thanks’, or take it into their hand. A simple idea but the tension that that decision creates is far from it. There are a number of things going through your mind as each card appears and passes you. As there are nine cards removed from the deck before the game begins you can never be sure if a run of numbers is going to be possible.
You don’t have perfect information and so luck plays a huge part of the gameplay and how far you can push it before getting burned. Another factor is the limit of chips available. There is a closed economy of chips in the game. So when you use yours and when you take others is one of the toughest decisions in the game. After all, if you can place a chip then you have no choice but to take the card on offer instead. Do you play your last chip on this card only to have to take the next one? Of course, if decide to take the card then you also get any chips that are on it. So do you push the card you want around the table to maximise your chips and risk someone else drafting it? Not to mention that each chip in your hand at the end of the game count as minus one off your final total.
The final rule to mention is that all chips are private and so you have no idea if your opponent can afford to pass on that card you desperately want. You also have no idea how far they can push you to take that big number that nobody wants. So many thoughts for so few cards.
There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of connecting a huge run of cards. Much like a game of poker, you wait for that queen to complete your flush or that ace to pop up in blackjack to take you to that sweet twenty-one. That adrenaline rush of getting that one number you need to join two runs together is unmatched. Taking your score from a sixty-seven down to a twenty-three in one swift turn. Not to mention the satisfaction of taking that card from someone else when they got greedy and sent it around the table one more time.
For such a small game there is so much satisfaction to be had. It does however struggle at lower player counts. Although possible to play it at three, you lose a lot of that tension of whether a card will make it back around to you. At the upper end of six and seven there is a great atmosphere as everyone checks out who needs the card and who is going to stop them from getting it. Despite the personal objective, there is no getting around the take-that element of No Thanks!.
The group will always chase the leader and come together to stop someone from a runaway win if they can. If that is something you don’t like then this game may not be for you. But, if you like short, snappy games that force a lot of interaction then I can highly recommend adding this to your collection. And despite it being a very easy game to make yourself, the component quality and this price point make it an obvious buy.
Its big cards with numbers printed in both directions are great for everyone to see. And the fantastically tactile plastic chips are satisfying to play with in your increasingly sweaty hands as you panic about what to play. When it comes to whether to own this game, ignore the pleasantries of “no thanks” and shout “gimme gimme” instead!