No Thank You Evil hasn't come out yet, unless you're reading this a month or so after I posted it. It's being published by Monte Cook Games, which is an awfully good pedigree. I don't know if Mister Cook himself worked in the game but the fact that he put his name behind it is a feather in its cap.
The previews give me a decent idea of how the game works and what kind of stories you're probably going to come up with using the system.
It's very mechanics light, which is really what you would hope for in a game aimed as young as five-year-olds. Character creation consists of coming up with a sentence with up to three characteristics for your character. For instance, your sentence could be I am a thoughtful prince who likes sailing.
You also have trait pools, a certain number of tokens that you assign to tough, smart, fast, and awesome. The pools act like stats in Robin Law's Gumshoe system. You spend them to get bonuses in the appropriate action.
(There, I have compared a game that five-year-olds can play to Trail of Cthulhu. I feel proud of myself)
As for actually resolving decisions, the GM sets the difficulty level and you try to roll under with a six-sided die.
The preview hints at other rules, like having pets that do tricks. Obviously, you're going to have to actually buy the game if you want to get all of the good stuff.
Oh, the preview does mention a special rule for very young players. They get a No Thank You Evil token, which can be used to get out of jail for free. If the game ever gets too intense or too difficult, they can just give that to the GM and the GM will sort things out.
The game is set in Storia. It is the land of make-believe, no brakes applied. Is your kid into dinosaurs or robots or fairies or ghosts? Well, then they will be there. Peter Pan's Neverland has nothing on Storia.
Obviously, since the game hasn't come out yet and I haven't been able to actually read all the rules or see all the things that come with it, it's hard for me to really judge what No Thank You Evil would really be like.
It definitely stands on the other side of the line from Hero Kids as far as design philosophy is concerned. Hero Kids is a very mechanics driven game that you're even supposed to play on a grid. The base game is very solidly set in the Sword and Sorcery genre, although there is a science fiction setting as well. It creates a very concrete, dare I even say rigid, structure for the game.
No Thank You Evil, on the other hand, is much more free-form and built on the imaginations of the players. It takes the games of make-believe all kids play and adds a few rules to them so that there is some suspense to what the heroes are doing.
Which one is better? Honestly, I think that all depends on what your kid likes and what they need. I like the fact that there is a game out there like Hero Kids that has a strong rule structure. I think that is a good tool to have in your gaming bag. On the other hand, I can also easily see the kids might respond much better to the more imagination-based and whimsical No Thank You Evil. I think the way that it fully embraces make-believe opens up a lot of potential story doors.
So, if you are looking for role-playing game for very small children, I like the fact that there are good options out there. You know your kids. You know what they need and what will work for them. I'm just highlighting what seems to be some good options to my mind.
I will say, one thing that I really like about No Thank You Evil is the title tokens. I think firmly establishing a way for kids to say I'm scared or I'm frustrated or I'm unhappy is a really good tool to communicate where they are at with their parents or whoever is running the game.