Sometimes we really are about the new hotness! Join me for a look at Mr. Lovenstein Presents: No Context, a new game from Skybound Tabletop that is hitting store shelves May 31st.
No Context is a party game about trying to make connections without a lot of information. The fun of this game comes from the interactions between the players as they attempt to justify their choices.
Disclosure: Thanks Skybound Tabletop for sending a review copy of this game our way. No other compensation was provided. Links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Amazon associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
What is Mr. Lovenstein Presents: No Context
Mr. Lovenstein Presents: No Context (which I’m just going to call No Context for the majority of this review) is a party game based on, and featuring artwork from, the popular Mr. Lovenstein webcomic by J. L. Westover.
This simple to learn game was designed by Banana Chan and Jason Slingerland. It plays two to six players ages 13 and up (mainly due to some slightly adult content) in half an hour to an hour depending on how many people are playing.
This game will be released on May 31st 2023 with an MSRP of $24.99 US.
No Context is a party game that feels like a mash up of Venn, Dixit, and Mysterium. Each round of No Context players are randomly assigned one pane of a Mr. Lovenstein comic as their target. They then draft three other panels that either have something or nothing to do with their target.
While this is happening, other players are placing bets, trying to figure out what your target is based on what panels you’ve drafted. After all of the bets are placed, players reveal their targets and explain why they drafted the panels that they did. Then everyone gets points based on the bets placed.
This card based party game comes in a small box with a cover that is immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with Westover’s work. Inside you’ll find a short, clear and concise, rule book, a large player board, a deck of voting and target cards, and a ton of square comic panel cards.
All of this is held in a cardboard box insert that does a good job of holding the components.
The component quality in No Context is good, though the board really is quite big. It is larger than I expected. The size actually makes sense, as it has to be large enough to hold three cards for each of six players, with a place to put bets as well as spots at the top and bottom of the board for targets and draftable cards, but I was surprised by the size when I first opened the box.
That said, once you know the game you could pretty easily play without the board at smaller player counts if you are somewhere with smaller tables, like at a coffee shop game night.
No Context Overview of Play
A full game of No Context is played over three rounds. Each round players are assigned a target, draft cards related to that target, and place bets. After all bets are placed points are awarded. At the end of the game, the player with the most points wins.
At the start of each of the game’s three rounds, you seed the board with target cards showing comic panels. These are placed in the Target Row above the board and the number displayed is based on the player count. A matching number of cards that can be drafted are placed below the board in what is called the Comparison Row.
Players get a set of numbered voting cards in their colour and then are randomly given a numbered target card which they keep secret from the other players. They match this target number to the same number in the Target Row to see what card is their target for the round. Once everyone has had a chance to look at all of the cards and locate their targets the round begins.
On a player’s turn, they will draft one card from the Comparison Row and place it on the board under their colour, then draw a new card, from the deck to replace the one they took. Players will be looking to draft cards that are in some way related to their target. These cards can be placed one of two ways. They are either placed on the green checkmark side, to indicate “this card has something to do with my target”, or they are placed on the red X side, to indicate “this card is not related to my target”.
The choice of what card to draft and what side to use is very subjective. There are no right or wrong answers, though players do need to be aware that a big part of this game is going to be having to explain why you chose the cards you did to the other players.
Once a player has placed a card, play continues with the next player drafting, refilling the market and placing a card. Turns continue until everyone has drafted three cards or everyone has placed their last bet.
Speaking of bets, while players are drafting and playing cards the other players can be placing bets. There’s no turn order here, you can place a bet at any time.
To place a bet each player has a set of numbered bet cards, which match up to the numbers on the Target Row. When a player thinks they know what target a player has they place a bet card with the appropriate number on it in that player’s area of the board face down. The order of these bets matters as points are awarded based on the first two correct bets. So there is a push your luck element to the betting in this game, as you want to get your bets in early but you also need them to be accurate.
Once all bets are placed each player, in turn, reveals their target card and explains why they chose the cards they drafted. After this explanation and potential discussion, they then flip over the betting pile for their colour. Starting with the first placed bet, the first player to guess the correct target takes two of the drafted cards from the active player’s area of the board, and then the second player with a right guess gets the third card. As long as at least one bet was correct, the active player gets to keep their Target card.
This continues for three rounds in total. At the end of the third round, after all scoring is complete, everyone counts up their cards and whoever has the most, wins the game.
What we thought of No Context and who should pick it up?
As expected from a party game, the actual rules in Dr. Lovenstein Presents: No Context are quite simple and easy to learn. There isn’t a lot going on here mechanically and the fun comes from the interaction of the players more than anything else.
The real fun here is the requirement that players justify their choices. As the title of the game implies, when people are drafting and placing cards, you really do have no context. When it’s not your turn, you are trying to get into the active player’s head and figure out why that person chose that card, and players choose cards for all kinds of reasons, many I found to be rather surprising.
Some players draft cards based on their predominant colour, while others chose based on the style of the art. Some players draft panels based on their own past experiences, while others only read the words. I’ve played with players that drafted based on the other cards they had already drafted and I’ve played with players who were trying to tell a story with all three cards. One game even had someone so into the webcomic theme that their thought process was that the three drafted cards were three panels in a comic with the target card as the punchline.
This method of drafting and then justifying what was drafted is the most fascinating part of this game.
I loved being able to see how different people think and what kinds of connections they made between the cards.
No Context, more than any other game we own, really highlighted how my two daughters think very differently from each other and how my one daughter, who has multiple sensory processing disorders, thinks about the world in some very unique ways.
One aspect of this necessity of reading other people is that the game is significantly impacted by just how well the players playing know each other. Playing in a six player game that included two couples, plus my daughter and I, it was very clear that the pairs who knew each other were better able to bet on each other’s plays than the semi-strangers were. This trend continued in other games where close family members always had more accurate bets.
That said, I don’t think this is really a problem. No Context is one of those party games that is all about the fun you are having together and not the final score or figuring out who won. If you are having fun sharing your card draft justifications, players are laughing, and someone is cursing the fact that they placed a bet without enough information, you are all doing it right and it doesn’t really matter who outguessed anyone else.
For the competitive types, I will say, that at least the scoring here made sense. It’s not just about personal opinions and is in no way a popularity contest. Unlike many other party games where players toss out scoring, the scoring system in No Context works just fine and there’s no reason not to use it. Except for the fact that no one should really care all that much who wins in the end.
One concern I do have with this game is that if you play it a lot with the same group of people it may start to feel samey. This will be especially true if players get into a funk of drafting the same or similar cards for the same targets. I’ve already seen one instance where a player drafted a card and their reason was “Well, last time we played…”
Due to this, I think No Context is a now and then party game. This is not a game you play every week with your regular group but one you save for lighter casual game nights, special occasions, or for playing with groups of players you may not game with regularly.
The game is especially fun when playing with strangers. The wildcard effect of playing with people you don’t know intimately really enhances the game.
After bringing out No Context to a public play event, I learned that it’s a great icebreaker. This is a great game to get people talking to each other and for getting to know your fellow gamers. Unlike many other Get to Know You Games players have total control over what they want to share and the game isn’t going to ask for any personal information you may not want to give.
I’m personally not a big party game fan, and neither is my family, but there are a few party games I do like and No Context now joins that group.
This game reminds me of a mash up of the voting and justification system from Dixit, with the image based connection making from Venn, and the attempt to convey ideas through art from Mysterium. Except for the fact that it’s more than that. All of these parts combine with the simple rules in No Context to create something that is unique and stands on its own, even if inspired by these other games.
No Context is a party game though. There’s really nothing here to win over your Euro loving friends and family. While you are keeping score and technically there’s a winner, it’s really about the social experience and due to that this game isn’t going to appeal to anyone who only plays board games to win. You aren’t going to find a puzzle to solve, a test or a contest to win.
Overall I was impressed with Mr. Lovenstein Presents: No Context. It’s a solid party game that’s a good mix of engaging mechanics and social interaction. I appreciate the fact that it presents a party game with no bluffing or playing favourites. This game is about trying to get inside each other’s heads and figuring out what clues someone is trying to convey with their cards drafted.
If you are a party game fan this is a great one to add to your collection. Despite having some similarities to existing games, No Context is its own game and really stands out as something different.
Fans of the Mr. Lovenstein webcomic and of the author’s other work won’t be sorry to have this in their collection, even just as a display piece. It’s a great collection of Westover’s work. There’s also a good chance that those fans will also enjoy playing the game.
If you prefer to avoid party games because you dislike overly offensive content, having to lie to your friends, having to share information you may be uncomfortable with sharing, or taking part in popularity contests, you may want to give No Context a try, as it avoids all of these things with its unique target and voting system.
One warning if you are considering playing with kids: The content in No Context here is a bit mature. I wouldn’t call it adult, but there are some mature themes. I had no problem sharing with my kids who are both in their teens but a few years back I probably would have removed a few cards before playing.
As someone who runs public play events, I’m always looking for party games with a higher player count that are easy to teach and to play but aren’t pure silliness or overly random. My quest for that perfect public play party game is what got me to agree to review No Context, and I ended up with a pleasant surprise.
No Context was not only exactly what I was looking for to bring out to our local gaming events here in Windsor, but it also ended up being a game that my family and regular game group enjoyed.