The Hungry Gamer’s Pope or Nope Preview
Before I begin. I received a prototype copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is NOT a paid preview.
If you would prefer to watch a video preview, then check it out below.
When I got the opportunity to preview a game about cardinals doing their best to sabotage each other in order to become the next pope I jumped at it. Why? Because that just sounds ridiculous to me. Then the more I thought about it, the idea of politics and backstabbing at the Vatican struck me as, most likely being closer to reality than one would think. So I was in.
Briefly, here is how the game works. Each player draws five cards, and has the opportunity to play a “good deed” face down. Once that is done everyone flips their card and in turn order you get the chance to play cards, or pass. (Note that the round will end when everyone is out of cards or everyone passes.) When you play cards you have a couple of choices. You can either play a cross, which nullifies another players good deed (you have to place the same number cross on top of their card), you can play one of the special cards; which do things like allow you to play another deed, cancel another special card etc, or you can improve upon your own crossed deed.
So if, for example, I played a deed marked II, and someone put a cross on it to cancel it. I could place a deed marked III to make the deed valid again. Once the round has ended everyone who still has a deed gains a point, and you start a new round, by drawing 5 cards and passing the first player token. The first player to get to 7 points is the winner. The winner gets to wear the papal mitre…literally. My copy came with one for the winner to wear.
So what do I think? (please keep in mind that I played a prototype and some things may change. I will make edits as I learn about changes.)
I really enjoy the theme of this game. I mentioned it briefly above. It is different and clever. I also really like the idea behind the mechanics. I think it is cool that you are performing a good deed to gain notoriety, and that you can sabotage each other, and then make your deed even more special after the fact to keep it in the public eye. It is clever, and it is a good balance of playing cards on yourself and on others.
I also like the art style. I think the box (at least the images I have seen) is gorgeous. The cards have these lovely roman numerals, and it is an attractive game. I also love the art on the reverse side of the cards. More on this below also.
I will start with what I finished with above. The art. While I just said that I like the art, I do think that there could be more of it. The NOPE card is just a black card that says NOPE on it. Give me the same style as the other cards, I think there could be gorgeous script here, something to rival the cards counterpart “POPE”. Also while I just said that I like the art on the cards, and I do, I think that they could also have a bit more on them, instead of just having the numerals, I think they could certainly have something added around them to make them pop more.
My only other quibble comes with the special cards. They have latin names (with the exception of Draw Two), and I had to go to the rule book to find out what they did the first few times we played, because there was nothing that told me what it meant. I think the inclusion of a small player aid, or adding the effect to the card would be great.
Happily my first issue is easily fixable prior to the KS launch. This is the rule sheet. I really struggled to figure out exactly how to play. I had to read the sheet multiple times, and we had to discuss it and figure out what made the most sense. We were not clear where the initial deed is played, and we were confused as to whether a deed with a higher number was worth more, or if that was the only deed that would a point at the end. We really struggled here. I think just a simple diagram with a sample round would go a long way to clarify how this works.
The second quibble is with the the pace of the game. We found that sometimes for a whole round you might be passing while other players played simply because your draw was not useful. This lead to some players being left out for an entire round, essentially. I do think that this is part of the game, and while it did not bother me specifically, it did bother some of the folks I tested the game with. So I think that is just something to be aware of. It is not a game for everyone.
Bringing it all together
I enjoyed playing this game. I think the mechanics are interesting, the art style is cool, though it could use more of it in some places. I really like the theme behind the game (and the delightful hat the winner gets to wear). I think the rule sheet needs some work to make the game quick to get into, and a player aid would be useful. I think that this is not necessarily a game for everyone, as you do get hit with downtime some rounds, but for someone who does not mind that it is definitely a different feeling take that card game. Definitely worth checking out their Kickstarter when it launches to see for yourself.
I am too busy reading my holy texts to bother with all that
*Fun concept, plays quickly
*Interesting mechanics that have you playing cards on yourself and opponents
*Good art, though I want more of it
*There is a papal mitre!
*Rule sheet needs some clarification (note I had a prototype), and a player aid will help
*You do wind up with downtime on occasion due to the draw of the cards