Tuesday, December 31, 2013

On the button

Button Men was developed by Cheapass Games head honcho James Ernest as a game to be played at conventions. The game is played with polyhedral dice, which most gamers are likely to have on their person at a convention, and characters are printed on buttons that can be pinned to clothing or backpacks. A single game takes 5-10 minutes to play, so it can easily be played between longer games.

Each character is represented by a usually stunning piece of artwork, and several (usually four or five) dice of varying sizes. Cheapass released several sets of characters themselves, and they also opened up the field for other publishers to produce their own Button Men, usually as a promotional tool to advertise their other games (buttons frequently feature characters from other games such as Brawl or Lunch Money).

Play begins with both players rolling all their dice. Whoever rolled the lowest single die goes first. Players use their dice to capture their opponent's, either with a power attack (one die showing a higher number than an opponent's die) or a skill attack (several dice which add up exactly to the number shown on an opponent's die). All dice used to capture are then re-rolled, which risks rolling a lower number and making the dice easier to capture.

 The game ends when one player runs out of dice, after which players score points based on the number of sides of all the dice they captured, as well as any of their own that they still have at the end of the game.

It sounds simple but it is surprisingly compelling. Some characters have special dice with different abilities such as poison (worth negative points at the end of the game), shadow (capture a die showing a higher number) and speed (capture any number of your opponent's dice that add up to the number showing on one of yours). Since you have to re-roll any die used to capture, you have to make some agonizing strategic decisions over the course of a game.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) A great game for as simple as it is, but its nature as a short game to be played in between other games means you can only play it for so long.

  • Download the rules and trading card versions of many of the original Button Men characters from Cheapass Games
  • Button Men on BoardGameGeek.com

Date played: December 6, 2013

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