If you've played the simple card game War, then you are well on your way to understanding the dynamics of No Mercy. At its simplest, the game consists of two players (there are rules for more players as well), one being the aliens and one being the cats. Players go head to head, drawing a card from their deck, and whoever has the highest number on those cards adds both cards to their deck. Easy, right? Well, in No Mercy, there is a twist. There are modifier cards.
Whoever draws the lowest scoring card has the option of drawing a modifier card to shake things up a bit. There's a risk involved, though. Sometimes the cards add points, but sometimes they subtract. There is a card to swap decks with your opponent, so if you are winning, you might have to give your opponent your fat deck while receiving their thin one.
And then, of course, if you draw a card equal to your opponent's, you have war. This can be a way to gather up several cards at once, but again, the results can be unpredictable with the modifiers. My son and I had a double war, and at the end, I had the highest value card. Then, he drew the "Ceasefire" card which meant he got all the attack cards in play. I believe it added up to be fourteen cards in all!
The artwork on these cards is adorable. The cats and aliens all have personalities, and they are very colorfully rendered. Their names are amusing as well (Claudius von Flufferpants is my personal favorite!). The cards themselves are high quality, like anything you'd expect to find at the game store, and its packaged nicely as well. The instructions are written quite clearly.
All in all, I think this is a great game to play with your friends or with your kids. It's fun and light, can be competitive, and with the modifier cards, is definitely not boring. The playtime on the box says 30 minutes, but I have found it to be closer to an hour the few times I've played so far, with both two and three players. But even if you have a short time, you can always just count the cards to see who has the most to call a winner. I think this is the kind of game that would be great to play while waiting for food at Denny's.
My son has asked to play this game every day since we first got it--he thinks it's a lot of fun to trip things up with the modifiers. The age range is 7 and up, but with some reading help, I think a younger kid would enjoy this a lot as well.
The retail edition of the game is coming very soon, but if you can't wait? Travis has the game on Backerkit so you can order it right now! And also check out the other marvelous things he has for sale, both there and on his website. His comic Bean is also a delight, and I can't wait to see So You Want to Buy a Robot Dino?! Travis Hanson's artwork never fails to bring a smile to my face.
Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy and science fiction stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her work has been published in several magazines, and she was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. Melanie is also a freelance author publicist and publicity/marketing coordinator for both Ragnarok Publications and Mechanical Muse, an independent gaming company. She blogs regularly for GeekMom and The Once and Future Podcast. Her short story “A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, available now on Amazon. She is the co-editor of Hath No Fury, an anthology celebrating women in speculative fiction, which is currently on Kickstarter and includes stories from Seanan McGuire, Carol Berg, Elaine Cunningham, Bradley P. Beaulieu, Philippa Ballantine, Anton Strout, and more. Follow Melanie on Facebook and on Twitter as @MelanieRMeadors.