Table of Contents
|No Thanks! (2004)
|Meeple Like Us
No Thanks is a marvellous design for a game. It’s like a behavioural economics experiment in a box, teaching you which of your friends will jump on a grenade to save the group. Spoiler – it’s probably none of them. We gave it four stars in our review, although it has to be said I feel that the shine does wear off somewhat with repetition. The sharpness of the character observations it permits is very pointed, but there’s only so much you can do in the end with the insights. Still a game that is very much worth your time though.
Or… is it?
We take two swings at a game here on Meeple Like Us. The first tells you if we believe it’s worth playing. The second tells you if we think it even can be played. So, let’s get swinging.
Just stick your car keys in that bowl over there.
The cards in No Thanks use a colour gradient to indicate the degree to which they represent bad news. At one end is blue, showing the low value cards. At the other is purple, showing the horror. However, while this does exclude colour blind players to an extent it’s not remotely a problem because of the size of the numbers on each card and the different ways in which they is presented. It’s in the centre, for both orientations, and in each corner.
Seriously, you can’t miss it.
The passing tokens are all of a single colour and convey no information beyond ‘This is a pass, the only way to survive in this brutal economy’.
We’ll strongly recommend No Thanks in this category.
Contrast is almost universally good. Almost, because the yellow and light green cards suffer a little even though they use outlines to properly differentiate foreground and background.
It’s not a massive problem because all the card information in No Thanks is entirely open, save for what’s left to come out the deck. Everyone plays their collected cards face up – only the number of pass tokens they possess is secret. That means that if there’s any confusion or uncertainty on the part of a player they can simply ask. This might not be 100% desirable in some circumstances… for example, if you don’t want to draw attention to the fact that you benefit from a card that has a particular number. In those circumstances, close inspection would likely be a suitable approach. Again though you might not want people paying too much attention to the cards to which you are paying too much attention.
Play is entirely verbalizable, meaning No Thanks would likely be suitable for players with total blindness. Pass tokens are physical, and the number that have been spent passing on a card can be ascertained by touch. Players will rarely have so many cards that the game state can’t be held at least partially in mind, but in the circumstances where that’s not true it’s straightforward to offer meaningful summaries. ‘Jasmine has the 8, 9 and 10 so if she takes this 11 card that just got dealt out she’ll still have a straight and it won’t cost her’, versus ‘Michael already has 88 points on the board and the 28 that was just drawn is no good to him’. You can provide overviews based on what cards do for players rather than how they specifically continue, or not, sequences of cards in hand.
We’ll strongly recommend No Thanks in this category, with a little demerit for the contrast issue.
No Thanks puts some stress on memory because pass tokens are held secretly and remembering who got them and what their likely balance is will be important for playing well. Honestly though I don’t think you lose all that much if you play with them open. While some gameplay options are lost doing this, as is some of the suspense when sending a bad card down the line, the impact is minimal. Normally the hidden draw deck would be a problem, but a number of cards are removed from the deck before every round and as such there’s so much uncertainty about what’s actually still in there that it shouldn’t be a major issue for those with memory impairments.
No literacy is needed for play. The game though does stress numeracy and probability. Each card has a semi-predictable impact on score but it modulates and changes as the game works through its course. Cards are, on the face of it, worth their value minus the number of tokens they have on them. However, the value of those tokens lies in more than just being a discount. They represent a kind of asymmetry of power in the value of cards that come around. If someone puts a twenty in front of me and I have no pass tokens it’s a very different calculation to the same card if I have ten tokens. Likewise taking a twenty with ten tokens is very different to taking a ten with no tokens. The tokens then have a value in terms of tradable points but also in terms of a buffer against future misfortune. Valuing them accordingly is complex.
More traditional numeracy comes in through the heavy reliance on seriation (putting numbers in order) and the scoring system which values straights only as their lowest card. That means two very expensive sets can become merely one very expensive set if you can get the right card. That creates a value, as discussed in the review, that spreads across the entire table. Passing at the right time, and collecting cards at the right time, is as much a function of what everyone else has as it is what you have.
Given how straightforward the rules are to understand, if not to act upon, we can still give a tentative recommendation (just) for No Thanks. We’d recommend it for those with memory impairments alone if the pass tokens were played open, and tentatively recommend it otherwise. Let’s average that out to a recommendation with a minus.
There are two primary issues here that might be trigger areas, and they’re both related to the ultimatum game situation we discussed in the review. Let’s say Player A is the one sitting directly upstream of Player B. The card coming round is very much to Player B’s favour and to no-one else’s. Everyone else passed on it, so it’s now down to Player A to decide what happens.
If you’re Player B, and Player A takes your card… well, that’s infuriating because it means they take a point penalty of their own in order to damage your score. It’s an act of self-harm that can never be rationalised away as being in their best interest.
On the other hand, if you’re Player A – you probably don’t have a lot of positive feelings towards Player C because keeping that card from Player B was a task that basically got forced on you because nobody else want it. It’s like you’re manipulated into being the deciding vote in a kingmaking scenario and everyone gets to see what you chose. You get to choose between giving one player a massive advantage, or taking the bullet for everyone else.
This isn’t the only possibility of course. It might happen that you actually value the card that got sent your way, but what that means is that this exact dyad of problems just happened one further up the chain.
To be fair, this is really a core aspect of the game and it’s baked into the design – if you’re sitting down to No Thanks you should be aware that this is going to happen. If everyone is going to find it funny, it’s great. If you have a player that takes things too seriously though… mmm. Cause for concern.
One other issue is that it’s possible to be left without pass tokens and in that case you’re forced into taking a card no matter how bad it is for you. That at least is a situation for which a player takes the blame themselves.
All this said, we’ll recommend No Thanks in this category. It’s a mindset issue rather than a game design problem.
The only thing players need do in No Thanks is place cards in front of them, spend tokens, and collect up cards. All of these things can be done on another player’s behalf without any problems. The game is also fully verbalizable since decisions are simply ‘Pass’, which costs a token, or ‘take’ which involves the card being added to the player’s collection. Both options have zero ambiguity about how they should be resolved.
The deck in No Thanks though has a tendancy to become semi-ordered as cards are collected up between rounds and as such there is a heavy burden on the player shuffling to make sure there is proper randomisation. It need not be any specific player that handles this, but it will be tiring to do properly in the event there is no suitable physically abled player available. Given that No Thanks requires a minimum of three players though the statistics are against that scenario.
We’ll strongly recommend No Thanks in this category.
The manual makes no assumptions about gender, using second person perspective throughout. There is no art in the game that represents people. No art at all, really – just graphic design.
You can pick up No Thanks for around a tenner if you find it in a games shop, although it depends on the specific edition. Some are selling for closer to about £15, although you could workshop your own version easily enough using a deck of blank cards and some pennies lying around the house. As such, the cost is pretty much whatever you want it to be.
It requires a minimum of three players and goes up to seven. BGG seems suggests it gets ropier the more players you add after five though, but I haven’t had the pleasure myself. In any case, it represents a pretty good price per player point especially since there’s virtually no learning curve to picking it up and playing it.
We’ll strongly recommend No Thanks in this category
As long as players can indicate in some way the choice to take a card or pass on it, there’s no communication required during the game and no literacy needed throughout. The only requirement is an understanding of Arabic numerals.
We’ll strongly recommend No Thanks in this category.
We’re mostly clear here. The only serious intersection issue is that if one has a visual impairment linked to a memory impairment, holding a meaningful representation of the game state in mind is going to be very challenging and would likely invalidate our recommendations. I would also be inclined to be critical of the game’s suitability in the event a fluid intelligence impairment intersects with a memory impairment.
Choices in the game are a binary ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Even in the event of a severe physical impairment linked to a severe communication impairment it’s possible to play right down to the level of eye-blinks. Blink once for take, blink twice for pass.
I see no other serious intersection issues that can’t be relatively easily resolved.
No Thanks plays very quickly, and to bulk out the play-time the manual recommends players decide on a number of rounds and play to that. There are no real strategic decisions that you’d make in a round that would change depending on the number to which you’re playing – you’ll always want to minimise your score. As such, even if the round count has to change in the middle of a session it wouldn’t seriously impact on players.
No Thanks is one of our unicorn games – a game we really, really like that also has an excellent accessibility performance. Sure, that tentative recommendation In the fluid intelligence category is a shame but it’s otherwise green across the board. Given it’s also a cheap game, it gets to go on our special list of games for people looking to build up an accessible library on a budget. Only a handful of games get added to that list on a yearly basis.
There are a few minor things we might recommend got fixed in a future edition. It would be nice if the contrast was better on a few cards, for example. There aren’t many of those fixes though and at best they would remove some of the minuses I’ve thrown around here and there. There are no changes I can really suggest that would result in anything approaching a category shift.
We liked No Thanks a lot, and gave it four stars in our review. I love it when a game does well in both of our posts because what I want to be able to do is make sure that everyone, regardless of accessibility needs, has great games they can play. No Thanks is a great game that (almost) anyone can play, so I happily commend it to you attention.
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Meeple Like Us is engaged in mapping out the accessibility landscape of tabletop games. Teardowns like this are data points. Games are not necessarily bad if they are scored poorly in any given section. They are not necessarily good if they score highly. The rating of a game in terms of its accessibility is not an indication as to its quality as a recreational product. These teardowns though however allow those with physical, cognitive and visual accessibility impairments to make an informed decision as to their ability to play.
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