- Designer: Reiner Knizia
- Publisher: Mandoo Games
- Players: 2-5
- Age: 8+
- Time: 15 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Mandoo Games
No Mercy is a press-your-luck game in which you draw cards to get points — but you don’t want to draw too often because then you might lose all your gains! I thought that I had seen a similar game in the past from the more accomplished “Gaming Doctor”, but per BGG – this is a new design. There are a couple of different versions floating around in different languages – HIT! In French, Pelusas in Spanish – each with different art. This may also be the same as Family Inc (German, Piatnik) – but my google-fu and bgg-fu skills are not quite up to the task to know for sure.
Says Google Translate (as the rules are only in Korean): “It ‘s time to go hunting for the bounty ! Catch the criminals and become the best bounty hunter . Sometimes you have to take the bold challenge and steal your opponent’s bounty. But be careful , as you may lose all your bounties if you get too greedy . There is no mercy in the rules of No Mercy . Only a sober gamer can win this game. “
In more detail, the 90-card deck in No Mercy contains 11 cards each numbered 1-5 and 7 cards each numbered 6-10. This deck is shuffled and placed as a facedown pile on the table.
At the start of your turn, if you have cards in front of you, place them face down in a personal score pile, then take the rest of your turn. Namely, you flip over a card from the deck and place it in your area (organized by rank) and then, if you want, steal all the cards of the same number that are in front of other players. You can stop after each draw, or you can draw another card. If you draw a number that you already have lying in front of you — and you have at least three cards TOTAL face up in front of you — then you discard all cards in front of you from the game.
When the draw pile is exhausted, the game immediately ends. Each player scores any remaining cards they have in front of themselves, and then they sum up all the cards in that pile. Whoever has the most points wins.
My thoughts on the game
No Mercy was a huge surprise. When I read the rules, I thought that it would be a quick filler/trifle. However, after a first set of plays that had us laughing and nearly literally rolling on the floor from the unexpected busting… this game is a bonafide hit.
The game is as simple as you think if would be based on the description above. Simply flip cards, take matches if you want, but then decide on whether or not to press your luck. There is a bit of strategy in trying to calculate your odds of flipping up a matching card based on what you’ve already seen come out of the deck. There are times that you might also stop flipping just to protect your lead – for instance if you have four of the 10 cards, you might stop knowing that there is only one left in the deck, and you’re pretty good trying to wait it out and bank those 40 points.
Of course, if you perceive yourself to be losing, you will definitely feel the need to press your luck, and with each successive card, there will be much excitement… and then, when Ryan flips over the inevitable match after he’s pushed his luck one card too far, there will be incredible hilarity and laughter.
The game is clearly a filler, but man – the speed and fun of the game is perfect for when you have 10 or 15 minutes. I can’t remember the last time we laughed so much while playing a game – and for that reason alone, this one will become a staple here in the Gaming Basement.
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
James Nathan (1 play): What fun! Knizia has a series of push-your-luck games that are “reveal cards from the top of the deck until you bust or choose to stop”, usually with the bust happening if certain things match (e.g. Circus Flohcati, Cheeky Monkey, Katzenjammer Blues). Push Your Luck is a mechanism that I want to think I “love”, because when it hits, the moments are such pure joy and excitement and laughter and spontaneity and unexpected. There are, of course, games which don’t quite live up to that potential for me, and it sort of sours me on the genre’s promise. Then I avoid it for a while to skirt the disappointment.
But I play games to have fun. Sure, there are times when I want heads down strategic thought, but that isn’t always. I am, however, almost assuredly always ready for that child-like pure delight. (I watched a review for a game recently which used “fun” as a pejorative to describe a game, as if it was the antithesis of what the person wanted from games and I’ve been shook ever since.)
Anyway, No Mercy was a great time! The “just one more” of the flipping system shined here as you push to snake a stack of cards from your opponents. I also think the deflation of the system is clever; I may collect some of your cards with my early draws, and then if I bust, all of those cards exit the system! It’s an interesting design approach to protecting a lead. But up to then, you’re watching the snowball, as what starts as a single card gets pulled to a second player, now there are 2; then a third player, and now there are 3. That expanding jackpot is fun to watch. (But it can also be fun to watch explode!)
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Dale Y, James Nathan, John P
- I like it.
- Not for me…