Calvin’s Commentaries: Button Men

Button Men has been around for a while now. Debuting back in 1999 when the characters were actually on pin-backed buttons, which was a rather cool idea.

You wore your button, and others, during game conventions and the like, wore theirs. Players would meet up and start rolling dice in a game based on the ‘button men’s’ stats.

In brief, “Button Men is a dice game about fighting. Each fighter is represented by a set of dice, and players take turns capturing each other’s dice. It’s a compact game that only takes about 10-minutes,” details the ruleset.

The game was popular and won the Origins Award for Best Abstract Board Game and Best Graphics Presentation of a Board Game.

“Over the years there have been several expansions to the game, from Cheapass Games and many licensees. There are more than 300 characters in the game, with new ones being added all the time.”

Fast forward to 2017 and the game has been re-released sans buttons, with the characters now on cards. The game lost a touch of its character with the switchover, but there is a cost-saving to production I am sure.

The game setting is now one centered on gangsters.

“Selaria, better known as Fight City, is a lawless town on America’s Gulf Coast. The year is 1952, and Fight City is in the middle of a never-ending crime war,” details the rules sheet.

“Fight City was founded in 1788, by shipwright Solaris Kronauer, and it has always been a strange world unto itself. The city sits at the mouth of the Lawaree River, between Alabama and Mississippi. Fight City is a haven for crime, double-dealing, and shady characters from all walks of life.

“Needless to say, everyone in this city has a good reason to pick a fight with just about everyone else.”

Of course, the background doesn’t influence gameplay, but it is a nice add-on in terms of flavour.

Button Men does remain a strategy dice game. It was designed by James Ernest.

The new ‘starter set’ contains 48 characters and enough dice to play. The suggestion it is a starter hint at expansions to come, which is not surprising given the number of characters in the earlier button run.

While this is basically players rolling a handful of dice, D4s through to D20s, and comparing numbers, there are some nice options to play as well.

For example, poison dice are worth negative points. If you keep one of your own poison dice, subtract its full size from your score. If you capture an opponent’s poison die, subtract half its size.

Poison dice can often be the deciding factor in a game, and they do influence play when used.

Shadow dice are another option. They cannot make power attacks. Instead, they make shadow attacks, which works slightly differently: use one of your shadow dice to capture one enemy die. “The captured die must show a number greater than or equal to the attacking die, but not greater than the attacker’s size,” states the rules.

And there is a rush attack: “use one of your rush dice to capture two of your opponent’s dice. The numbers on the target dice must add up exactly to the number on the attacking die…

“Rush dice also have a weakness. They can be captured in a rush attack by any type of die.”

The game could benefit with some alternate coloured dice to easily designate the specialty dice, although most gamers have tons of dice on-hand.

You will have to play with the specialty dice because they add some nice strategy to an otherwise rather boring dice-rolling contest. With the special dice, the game is well worthy of exploring.

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