Wednesday, 24 June 2015

No Thanks / Geschenk

Plays: 4Px3 recently, 2 plays many years ago.

I played No Thanks recently at Witch House, Taipei. I have played it before, but I have not written about it at my blog. I hadn't started blogging when I first played it. I chose to play it during my recent visit to Witch House because it was a simple game I could quickly pick up and teach my family. It was fun, and we played three games back-to-back. Later when I checked my rating for the game from 11 years ago, I was quite surprised to find that I had rated it a 5 (out of 10). It is now updated to a 7.

The Game

The game consists of a bunch of plastic chips and cards numbered 3 to 35. At the start of a game everyone gets the same number of chips, and some cards are removed from the deck face-down. You don't know which cards are out of the game. The start player for a round reveals the top card from the deck, and then has two choices. Claim the card, or place a chip on it and pass it clockwise. If the card is passed to the next player, then that player faces the same two choices. The round progresses, and the chips accumulate, until finally someone claims the card and all the chips on it. That player then becomes the start player for the next round - reveal a new card and decide what to do. The game ends when the draw deck runs out.

Here's how scoring works. Every card gives a negative score based on the card value, while the chips are worth 1pt each. The catch is if you have claimed cards in a running series, only the smallest card in the series counts. E.g. if you have 24, 25, 26, 27, you are only penalised 24pts.

That's all there is to the game!

The Play

In the first game we played, we had the misconception that it was good to collect cards in sequence. It's actually much better to not collect any cards at all. If you already have 24, and 26 comes up, it is not the right thing to do to claim it and hope for 25. 25 may be among the cards removed from the game. Also even if it does come up, someone else might take it just to spite you. In fact, if you can get someone else to take such a big number as 26, that's a good thing. This is not a set collection game. It is a pain avoidance game.

Michelle had a misdirected strategy in our first game.

I also learned that collecting chips is not the best way to gain points. A chip is only 1pt. The most important value in the chips is pain avoidance, not scoring. You use them to push cards to your opponents. You can't completely avoid taking cards, because eventually your chips will run out, so you need to pick the right time to take a card and the chips that come with it. Managing your supply of chips is key to maintain flexibility in controlling when you want to accept or reject a card. Running out of chips is very dangerous because it means you have no choice but to claim a card passed to you, which may be disastrous.

When a card you do not fear comes up, e.g. the 33 card when you already have 32, it's usually time to extort chips from the other players. There is no hurry to claim such a harmless (to you) card. In fact, if an opponent happens to be short on chips, it might be an even better idea to force him to swallow poison.

We overlap cards which are in sequence, so that it's easier to read everyone's play area.

Chen Rui was rather pleased with the chips she had amassed. That pile there is not the supply. It is all her money.

The Thoughts

No Thanks, like 6 Nimmt / Take 6 / Category 5, is a how-far-you-fall game. Everyone scores negative points. It's about making others do worse than you. You can try to play nice and focus on damage control in your own area, but it's more fun watching others burn harder than you. The rules are very simple, but the game has a unique and twisted evil streak which is rare, which I appreciate. Imagine noblemen smiling and pushing a gift around, saying oh no this is too precious and I do not deserve it, you must have it. The game is easy to teach, and when it clicks, the players will narrow their eyes knowingly and start nodding and smiling at one another.

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