No Swap No Pay!
The premise of Oliver Cipiere's No Swap No Pay! is that the 3-5 players are a band of pirates divvying up their booty. Of course, you want to end up with more loot than anyone else - which is the heart of the game, me hearties!
Each player has their own loot bag. In addition, there's a central treasure bag that holds the supply of coins for the game: pre-determined according to the number of players. Coins in No Swap No Pay! come in four varieties: gold coins are worth 3 points apiece; silver coins are worth 1 point but every set of five silver coins is instead worth 15 points. If you end the game with one or two black coins in your bag then your entire bag is valued at zero. However, if you have three or more black coins then they are collectively worth 10 points. Finally, purple coins are wild: any that end up in your bag can be counted as whatever you like - so you can, for example, use one to turn your black coins from liability to asset.
Players all start off with just one gold and one silver in their bag, but each round the player whose turn it is to be captain draws a number of coins from the treasure bag equal to twice the number of players. From these, the captain selects a coin and then players each take a coin in turn. The order is then reversed to select a second coin. With the drafted coins now in front of each player, they then toss them into their bags and the 'swap or pay' begins... Players each get to challenge another player to either pay them a coin from their bag or to swap bags. Each round players select a coin from their bag to return to the treasure bag. This process is repeated until the treasure is empty bar the final round of 'donations' and then the players tot up the value of their bags to see who has won.
It's a simple idea, combining push your luck with a good measure of bluff and bluster. You can peek into your own bag at any time but the trick will be to try to keep track of what's in the other players' bags so you know who you can risk challenging without emerging the loser. A good memory will help but coins passed between players and donated back to the treasure bag are concealed: so a bit of dexterity or sleight of hand may be called for if you are going to maintain the requisite secrecy.
No Swap No Pay! can be enjoyed both as a family game and by gamers looking for a super-light 20-minute filler, and Mandoo Games have done a solid job with the presentation. The beige player loot bags are supposed to represent the leather purses beloved of cutthroats but younger players might have preferred something more colourful. The coins tho' are great: tho' smaller than conventional poker chips, they have a similar satisfying poker chip weight to them. The art by Jonathan Aucomte is appealing, even if it's really only used on the player aid cards and box. All you need to complete the atmosphere is a parrot in the background squawking 'Pieces of eight!'
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