You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Review: Button Men

May 12, 2010

The Overview

Winning an award at the annual Origins gaming convention is nothing to sneeze at and James Ernest and his company, Cheapass Games, have won many, many Origins awards. In 1999, the original Button Men won for Best Abstract Board Game. Over a dozen expansions, variants and crossovers with characters from other companies appeared soon after. To this day, people still walk around gaming conventions with Button Men pinned to their shirts, ready to take up dice against other players. In the game, each Button Man has stats that let you know how many and what dice to roll when you compete against other Button Men. You use your dice to capture your opponent's dice for points (or force them to capture your Poison dice so they lose points). Highest points gathered when there are no moves left wins the round - best 3 out of 5 rounds wins the match. While it seems relatively simple at first, Button Men is deep with strategy. Sometimes you want to capture a lesser die of your opponent's just to prevent them from capturing one of your high scoring dice on their turn. The Shadow dice allow lesser dice to capture more powerful dice. Poison dice are worth negative points. And the Swing die (or dice for a few characters) allow you to change up your strategy when you lose a round. Of course, you are playing with dice, so some pure, dumb luck is involved, also. :)

The Features

Button Men includes the 12 Soldiers from the original release of the game, the 6 Vampyres that introduced the shadow die, as well as 6 characters created just for the iPhone version. The AI has three difficulty settings for single player mode and you can play a live opponent over Bluetooth or in HotSeat mode. The dice animation can be turned off to speed up gameplay.

The Breakdown

The Good It's Button Men! There's a reason why the game won 1999 Origins Award - it is fun, engaging, addictive and a wonderful cross between quick, casual gameplay and serious strategic gamesmanship. The Bad The soundtrack is ANNOYING! And it cannot be shut off independently of the game's sound effects - either put up with it or play in silence! :( Quite a few of the character illustrations are bland. The original game had some excellent fantasy illustrators such as BROM and Phil Foglio. But the pictures for Karl, Niles and Stark.....really? This passes as game art? The game seems to be sluggish at times and eats battery power fast. Feels like it needs a LOT of spit and polish and a 1.1 release. Sometimes I want to be able to choose my opponent and/or have my character chosen at random....but I can only do the opposite (choose mine and my opponent's is always random).

The Verdict

With the number of things in the 'Bad' outweighing the 'Good,' you'd think I'd call this game a stinker. Not true. I think this is a great game that desperately needs an update. It was released 6 months ago as of the time of this review. Where are all the promised features listed on the developer's web site? I want the campaign mode, the save/replay feature, statistics, online play, new characters (new art) and new rules dice. And until I get all these features, I want Cheapass to send me a button to wear at cons that says "I'm an iPhone Button Man" so others can challenge me over Bluetooth. :)

Related articles