Pope or Nope
Updated: Feb 1, 2020
This is a fast fun 'take that' game notionally representing the contest between cardinals who are rivals for the Papal succession. It sounds faintly irreligious but there's really nothing here that's likely to cause offence.
Players (2–8; and the game is at its best with a 4+ player count) each have a hand of 5 cards. These may be made up of Deed cards (numbered I, II, III or IV), Cross cards with the same numbering and designed to cancel the corresponding Deed card, and special effect cards that variously allow a player to reduce the value of a Deed card, draw extra cards, cancel a card that has been played or start an additional stack.
If they have one, players start by each playing a Deed card to start a stack in front of them. They then play their other cards on their own or opponents' stacks for their effect - usually to sabotage the good deeds of others by cancelling them. Players want to end the game with uncancelled Deed cards as these score a point regardless of the numerical value. Over successive rounds, the first player to accumulate five points is awarded the Papal Mitre - and, yes, our prototype of the game came with a paper Papal Mitre for just this purpose.
The game is simple and straightforward enough to be quickly picked up and played. With just five cards in hand, it's possible you can end up with a selection of cards that don't allow you to do very much, tho' you're more likely to be able to make use of cards with a larger player count than if you get a 'bad hand' in a two or three player game. Often tho' the hand you are dealt will allow for some subtle card play: baiting, for example, an opponent to play the Cross card you think they probably hold so that you can safely play the Deed card you have been holding in reserve.
Pope or Nope is designed by Bryce Doubravsky, A J Gonzalez, Jonathan Lackey and Ryan Brown. We showed a pre-production prototype when we (p)reviewed the game on Board's Eye View during its Kickstarter campaign and at that time there was no box to show off. Now, tho', the game has been published so we've updated our review. We're happy to report too that the published version has better finished cards, so sleeving is no longer de rigeur. Our one regret is that the published version doesn't include the cardboard Papal Mitre.
If you're looking for a fun, easy to learn filler-length game, then Pope or Nope from Vector Arcade could well be your white smoke selection.