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Subject: Barring stupidity, luck determines the winner nearly every time. rss

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Ralph T
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No Thanks! is pretty well regarded on the 'Geek. After the first game I played I thought, there are some clever things going on.

I liked the fact 9 cards were taken away so a player could not rely on any card appearing. I also liked the element of putting chips on the card you don't want, to increase the incentive in taking the cards. This design mechanic appears in other games like Small World.


By the third game, at a different sitting it was apparent these clever mechanics were trumped by the fact that luck was overwhelming in the game.

In the five games I've played, luck of the draw always determined the winner. There has been no indication that the better player is more likely to win. The game is purely a mechanical exercise. You don't take a card that you don't need unless it has enough chips on it to be worth taking. You push the card you want if only you benefit from taking it, so you get more chips. In my last game, I was inattentive watching the game on TV at the same time. My luck was overwhelming, I ended up with only twenty points. All of my cards (and I only had three) were part of consecutive series. I was so inattentive that twice I passed on cards that would have lowered my score but which were snapped up by other players because it was also part of their series. It didn't matter.

Therein lies the problem with the game. It is so shallow. There is only one element, luck of the draw. You could so say "intuition" is an element, but it's just guessing whether you should start a series when say, the 27 card is up first and has 10 coins on it. If the 26 or 28 card never show up, then taking the card was a mistake. If the 26 or 28 card shows up, then taking the card was the right decision.

There are few filler games that take up 15 minutes of game time. This is one. However, considering there's more strategy to a game of 6 nimmt! or For Sale and more than just luck at play, I do not recommend No Thanks!, unless luck is what you're after.
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Jonty
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So...you're saying no thanks to No Thanks.

When I played it with my family, we also didn't find it as fun as I thought it would be with the praise it gets on BGG. I can see it being a nice party game with the RIGHT crowd though. It can also be boring without that right crowd.

I have Slide 5 coming so I'm excited to try that out as a quick filler.
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Ralph T
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Yep, no thanks. Maybe I'm too math oriented. Everyone has fun the first game they play and have a shot at, but once you have the experience of playing the game and there's absolutely no way you can win because another player is lucky, then the game loses its appeal. The fact there is no other element at play other than not running out of coins (i.e. bluffing, hand management, memory, etc.) makes the game essentially even more based on luck than a game like UNO.
 
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CW Lumm
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I've never played with taking 9 cards away, as the rules suggest - I've only ever taken 3 out, and it's always been a very satisfying, light game that way. (Calling it "so shallow" seems beside the point - were you expecting maybe Diplomacy?)

It's particularly unfair to complain that
Quote:
There is only one element, luck of the draw.


- not only in light of the title of this review, but also because, as you admit, there is a balancing act between extorting your opponents for more chips and just taking what you can get and relying on the point values of series to carry you. There is certainly more than one strategy available - you could simply take cards freely and assume that chips on hand + points you will regain from series that crop up will more than compensate for the negative points you will get.

I think there might be an optimal strategy in game-theoretic terms, an algorithm you might be able use to determine inflexibly how many chips to accept for any given card - but I'm not sure what it is. Besides that, it can be exceedingly difficult to play against opponents who use the take-everything strategy, because they'll often end up with cards you need.

Is it a game of chicken?
Yes.
Is it a push-your-luck game?
Yes.
But I don't think that makes the game comparable to rolling a die and seeing who gets the highest score. That's just hyperbole.

(edited because I type faster than I think)
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j b Goodwin

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Simply put, this is one of the best psychological thrillers I've ever played. People's fingers actually twitch as they try to decide whether to push it or not. Amazing game. I think you miss the point. Take another look at it.
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.308 Jake
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I don't think your using the game for its intended purpose. It's not a game you invite people over to play. It's just something to do when your sitting around shoot'n the shit with people. It's not meant to be a stategy game. It's very fun when played at the right time.
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Geeky McGeekface
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ralpher wrote:
The fact there is no other element at play other than not running out of coins makes the game essentially even more based on luck than a game like UNO.

But not running out of coins is the whole point of the game and its main skill element. You have to pull the trigger at some point (maybe more than once), so when do you do so? You have to consider how your position compares with your opponents' and how your chip totals compare with theirs. There's a surprising amount to consider.

Have I seen the game won by dumb luck? Yes. But much more often, the player who makes the best choices wins. As Swandive says, it's a great psychological game, not because of bluffing or any of that nonsense, but just because of the angst the players put themselves through when deciding whether to pay or fold. And all this in less than 15 minutes. I happen to think the basic idea is brilliant in its simplicity. It isn't E&T, of course, but it's a near perfect filler.
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Ralph T
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Well, the rules say take 9 cards away. It's a lot. Taking out fewer cards might reduce luck of the draw, but I'm just going by what I know. The chips don't matter as much as the high valued cards. We've had players try to stop a runaway leader by taking a bad card, and they only end up digging a bigger hole.
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Ralph T
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trippercook wrote:
I don't think your using the game for its intended purpose. It's not a game you invite people over to play. It's just something to do when your sitting around shoot'n the shit with people. It's not meant to be a stategy game. It's very fun when played at the right time.


Nothing wrong with that, a short game where pass or pull the trigger and you don't really need to think. But the BGG forum and past reviews see a lot more to the game, and in my opinion it's not.
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Peter Folke
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ralpher wrote:
... You don't take a card that you don't need unless it has enough chips on it to be worth taking...


How do you define "worth taking"?

I'd say the point of the game is determining exactly WHEN cards are "worth taking". My opinion is that there are tactical considerations in this decision.
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CW Lumm
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ralpher wrote:
Well, the rules say take 9 cards away. It's a lot. Taking out fewer cards might reduce luck of the draw, but I'm just going by what I know.


Yes, I am actually aware of what the rules say. But why wouldn't you try a fix that could lead to enhancing your enjoyment of a game you seem to have bought but haven't had that much fun with?

I understand that you might be disinclined to try something like this, but keep track of scores over a large number of games with the same people - like, say, twenty or thirty. If anyone comes out way ahead or way behind, then there are clearly strategic elements that you are missing.

Quote:
The chips don't matter as much as the high valued cards.


Boy, is THAT untrue. They don't matter as much pointswise, but they do keep you from having to take a high-numbered card that you don't want to. It's definitely worth taking even a card as high as an 8 or 9 if doing so means you don't take a 23 later.
 
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Andrew Walters
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I've rated No Thanks a 10. I think luck has precious little to do with the game. You make a lot of decisions in this game, and they out weigh the luck.

Is thirteen chips enough to take the 27 if it's the first card? If someone has the 27 do you want to take the 24?

You cannot avoid all risk. You also cannot, practically, calculate the exact odds you're facing (except maybe at the very end). You have to use judgement, and you have to exude so much confidence that your opponents believe your winning, and make desperate mistakes.

You can't avoid getting hurt, so you have to take the pain when it's small, or when it will let you avoid bigger pain later.

You can't wait until there are 26 chips on the 27 card, if you're going to take it you'll probably only get ten to fifteen chips (at the start of the game, when people have chips and no one has a run yet). But it's not simply +15 -27, those fifteen chips are fifteen chances to say "no" later in the game, they are freedom, the right not to have a card not of your choice foisted on you. Best of all, it's fifteen chips the other players don't have, so they'll be compelled to accept cards that hurt, hurt, hurt.

Those chips are worth a point each at scoring time, but during the game they're worth much, much more. Haven't there been times when you were out of chips that you would happily accept a two or three point loss to have just one chip to pass on a card? You bet.

You don't know what's coming, but you know approximately what's coming, and there are several ways you can go about getting ready for it.

Not only is No Thanks no luck-driven, but I don't even consider it a push your luck game. Can a player make very good choices and still lose a round? Sure. But a player who consistently plays well will beat someone playing it mechanically far more often than he loses because of an unlikely arrangement of the cards.

Andrew
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Jens Alfke
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With all due respect, I think you need to play more than five games before making up your mind. I've played the game a moderate amount (maybe 20-30 times) and I strongly disagree with your conclusion about luck. There are definitely tactical decisions involved, and psychology. This is one of my family's favorite games, and it's not a brain-burner by any means, but it takes thought.

Also, have you played against any experienced players? I know several situations where someone has dismissed a particular game as "all luck" after a few games with other newbies, only to change their mind after being taken to the cleaners by experts
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Wystan Benbow
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While there is no discounting that there is a significant amount of luck in No Thanks. I completely disagree with your premise. I taught a bunch of occasional gamers No Thanks & won nearly every time. Having played the
game quite a bit more than 5 times, I had the advantage based on a deeper understanding of the game. It's a simple & quick, but clever, filler game & one shouldn't expect more....

Of course, if every player were at an equal skill level & did not make mistakes, luck would by definition decide this game, as well as just about any other...
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Andrew Walters
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Let's not make the mistake of confusing luck with randomness.

Chess has no randomness. Candyland is all luck. Most games are in between.

Poker has randomness in it, but the skilled player will always win if you play more than one or two hands. Agricola has randomness in it but I'm sure most of you could beat me four games out of five. Luck does not drive those games, you're decisions are more important than the randomness.

There is certainly randomness in No Thanks. And as in Dominoes or Poker you could make good decisions and still lose one round, but you'll win a lot more than you lose to the inexperienced player, or the one who thinks they can evaluate each card and decide on analysis alone...

Andrew
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Erik Henry
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ralpher wrote:
In the five games I've played, luck of the draw always determined the winner. There has been no indication that the better player is more likely to win.

So, you lost all five games, huh?

Seriously though, luck does play a part but I find there's quite a lot of strategy involved, and you have to adapt your tactics based on how your opponents are playing. Maybe you've completely mastered the game after five plays, but I'd bet against it. Try playing against someone who's an experienced player. Or try a different strategy -- perhaps take the card quite a bit earlier than when your group would normally judge it to be the proper time. That can often lead to wins until they adjust and you have to try something new.

Anyway, there's certainly luck involved and there's always only one decision to be made -- but it's still a great, light, elegant, tense, and fun game! (At least in my opinion....)
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Eric Brosius
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ralpher wrote:
there is no other element at play other than not running out of coins


It's just like investment banking: Trivially easy as long as you have unlimited access to liquidity!

My favorite aspect of this game is the way it confuses people who try to make a math problem out of it.
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Ralph T
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No, I won one or two games out of five, and the wins were not very satisfying because they was nothing that any player could do to stop them, and nothing that I had to do to get the win. We had a runaway winner in a majority of the games.
 
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Linda Baldwin
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Confession/caveat: I haven't played this -- yet. I picked it out from a prize table based on the high regard I remembered on the 'geek.

The other day I pulled out the rules. I was knocked out. Glaringly simple, of course. But my hands were already shaking.

The game it reminds me of most? Poker, actually. Not as deep, certainly, but there's that "what can I get away with?" aspect.

But then, I've heard a lot of people, when first introduced to poker, also dismiss it as "pure luck -- you either have the cards or you don't."

Tell that to the guys who make their living at it.

I'm dying to play this game. All I could think of was "11 chips -- that's not a lot ..."
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David
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My friend Ben introduced me to a great variant last night - in addition to the normal rules, he adds a new rule where on your turn you can pay three chips to completely remove the current card, and all the chips on it, from the game.

This means someone can't continually send a high valued card (that doesn't hurt them) around the table, collecting chips until someone is forced to take it, or they think they've been greedy enough. Now there's always the risk someone will nullify the card and throw away all those chips. To me, it seems to even the game out a bit and makes you think more about the consequences of someone picking up a card. And now, you can do something about it without taking yourself out the game.

I've only played this twice (with 5 players) so far but I really like this variant and will probably suggest it in future.
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Patrick Hanley
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meowsqueak wrote:
My friend Ben introduced me to a great variant last night - in addition to the normal rules, he adds a new rule where on your turn you can pay three chips to completely remove the current card, and all the chips on it, from the game.

This means someone can't continually send a high valued card (that doesn't hurt them) around the table, collecting chips until someone is forced to take it, or they think they've been greedy enough. Now there's always the risk someone will nullify the card and throw away all those chips. To me, it seems to even the game out a bit and makes you think more about the consequences of someone picking up a card. And now, you can do something about it without taking yourself out the game.


Geez, that's like playing Catan without the trading!

Deciding on whether to let a high card go around or not is one of the basic decisions in the game.
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Ralph T
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I think that variant sounds pretty good. 1) Giving up 3 coins to stop a runaway leader is a big deal. It's likely you would lose the same or less anyway from the player pushing the card. You also will want someone else to take the bomb, not you. 2) It makes coin management and bluffing more important. A leader might push a card if he thinks players are down to 3 coins.
 
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ralpher, after reading your review of Alhambra I was pretty sure you and I work on completely different game wavelenghts. But this review has solidified that assumption. For example, to me a 10 minute game of No Thanks! has more strategy, interesting decisions player interaction than a game of Alhambra.

ralpher wrote:
Therein lies the problem with the game. It is so shallow. There is only one element, luck of the draw. You could so say "intuition" is an element, but it's just guessing whether you should start a series when say, the 27 card is up first and has 10 coins on it. If the 26 or 28 card never show up, then taking the card was a mistake. If the 26 or 28 card shows up, then taking the card was the right decision.

There is luck with regard to what cards get removed. Gambling on what cards will be available is part of the fun. If the 34 is the first card, then having the 35 come out at a later time is like winning the lottery (if all the other players have a hand full of coins). If the 35 isn't in the deck then the 34 can be a pretty big liability. So the question is how valuable is the 34 when the presence of the 35 is uncertain? And even more imporantly, what value will your opponents apply to the 34?

That particular analysis is pretty simple, but as the game goes on, cards will have wildly different values to each player. It becomes next to impossible to apply a "proper" value to each card.

You want to set up situations where you can extort coins from other players without forcing the other players to take cards that you want and have plenty of coins available to duck unhelpful cards.

ralpher wrote:
No, I won one or two games out of five, and the wins were not very satisfying because they was nothing that any player could do to stop them, and nothing that I had to do to get the win. We had a runaway winner in a majority of the games.

Luck is an important part of the game. Gambling heavily on a particular card coming up at exactly the right time is fun. But let's say you have the 33 and the 35 and the 34 comes up. The 34 is worth at most -35 points (but could be worth even less) to you and at most +34 points (but probably less depending on coin plays) to any other player who takes it. At what point are the other players going to take the 34 just to screw you? At what point are the other players going to take the 34 because they have run out of coins? At what point will there actually be enough coins on the 34 to make the other players not mind taking it?

But if you are getting consistent run-away leaders it's because the other players are letting them run away with it. Players need to proactively interrupt other players' runs of cards and diffuse situations that can lead to another player walking away with it. It's often worth it to take 10, 20 or even 30 points to keep another player from reducing their score by 50 points or more.

If we go back to my previous example of a player getting the 34 on the first turn. That player is more likely to try and pick up other high cards with the 33 and 35 being ideal. He may get lucky and have those cards come up next. But let's say the 31 comes out next and another player picks it up. Now the guy with the 34 can't pressure the other players for as many coins for those 30+ value cards because he has competition for them.

If the guy with the 34 takes the 31 he has much more power to extort money for other 30+ cards that show up and the 30+ cards have become even less worthwhile to take by the other players since it will be harder for other players to make straights out of them.

Of course, since we are gaming opposites everything I have just said will probably make the game seem even more undesriable to you.
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David
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quardlepleen wrote:
Geez, that's like playing Catan without the trading!

No, not really. It's more like playing No Thanks with an extra rule that lets you discard a card, for a cost.

Quote:
Deciding on whether to let a high card go around or not is one of the basic decisions in the game.

You still have that decision, obviously. Now you have one more thing to worry about. And if you're not the person who can take it "safely", then you now have an extra option that keeps you in the game, rather than throwing your game away to stop someone else cleaning up.

I've played 40+ games of No Thanks, and it was getting quite dull. This variant has intrigued me. It works, try it.
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Andrew Walters
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One of the fun thing about No Thanks is playing it with new people. I don't expect that to get old...

Andrew
 
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