Button Men: Beat People Up is a game by James Ernest, published by Cheapass Games. It is for 2 players, but may be played with more. In this game, players take on the role of a gangster from a 1950’s era town on the Gulf Coast, known as Fight City. They will be trying to knock out the other player through hand to hand combat, capturing their dice. If they’re able to beat up the other player a total of 3 times first, they will be declared the winner.
For this review, I will mainly be discussing the 2 player rules. However, I will cover the multiplayer game a bit later in the Gameplay section.
To begin, players choose a character. They will take the character’s card and the corresponding dice for that character. It should be noted that the letter “X” on a player’s character card represents a Swing Die. A Swing Die can be any size die and is chosen by the player before the first round. The player with the smallest die on their character card chooses first. A player that has multiple “X’s” must use the same size die for each “X”. It is suggested that for the first game, players use characters from the core game. Later on characters from the West Side, Delta and Uptown may be used. However it’s recommended that when using new die types, players use fighters from that region only or mixed with the core cards until the new mechanics of the special die have become familiar. I will cover more on the special dice a bit later. Once players have their character and dice, play now begins.
The game is played in a best 3 out of 5 series of rounds. Each player starts off by rolling all of their character’s dice. They will then place the dice where both players can see them. The player that rolled the lowest number goes first. On a player’s turn, they will make an attack if able. There are two basic types of attack; power and skill. To perform a power attack, the player must capture one of the other player’s dice. This is done by using one of their own dice that shows a number greater than or equal to one of their opponent’s dice. The opponent’s captured die is then set aside near the attacking player, who then rerolls the attacking die that they used. To perform a skill attack, the player must use two or more dice to capture one of their opponent’s dice. The numbers on the attacker’s dice must add up to exactly the number of the die that the player wishes to capture from their opponent. The captured die is set aside near the attacking player. The dice used to capture are then rerolled. If a player is unable to make an attack, they must pass. A player may not pass unless they can not make a legal attack. Once both players pass, the round is over. Scoring will then take place.
Scoring is done for each player. Each die that a player captured will earn them a number of points equal to the size of the dice. They will also earn half points for each die of their own that they kept. Players add up their points and the player with the most points wins the round. A new round will then begin. It should be noted that the loser of each round has the option to swap their Swing Die if they choose to. The first player to win three rounds wins the game.
Earlier I mentioned the special dice that are used by characters from the West Side, Delta and Uptown. Each different region has a different type of special dice that are indicated by different colors on the character cards. It’s recommended that players use the white dice for normal attack dice and the black dice included in the box as the special dice. Now, let me explain the different types. The West Side characters have Poison Dice that are shown on the character card in green with a “p” for poison. Poison Dice are worth negative points. During scoring, if a player was forced to keep one of their own Poison Dice, they must subtract it’s size from their total. If they captured an opponent’s Poison Die, they must subtract half of it’s size from their total. Delta characters have Shadow Dice that are shown on the character card in blue with a “s” for shadow. Shadow Dice can not make power attacks. They may only make shadow attacks, which work a bit differently for these dice. The player may use a Shadow Die to capture an opponent’s die as long as the captured die shows a number that is greater than or equal to the attacking Shadow Die. However the number may not be greater than the Shadow Die’s size. Uptown characters have Rush Dice that are shown on the character card in orange with a “r” for rush. Rush Dice have an extra attack and an extra vulnerability. Rush Dice may be used to capture two of an opponent’s dice in a Rush Attack, as long as the numbers on the targeted dice add up to the exact number of the attacking Rush Die. Rush Dice can be captured in a Rush Attack in much the same way. This means that the Rush Die may be captured with another die of any type that adds up to the exact number of the attacking die.
The game comes with a big bag of dice in two colors, white and black. Actually the white dice are more of a cream color than white. There are dice of every size from 4 sided dice up to 20 sided dice. However there are no 10 sided dice in the mix. That’s because the designer wanted to make the game accessible to everyone and new player might have some difficulty with the 0 side of the 10 sided dice. They may have thought it meant 0 instead of 10. It was for this reason that they were left out of the game. Not that players couldn’t add some of their own as Swing Dice if they so desired. Players could also further customize the game by adding orange, green and blue colored dice for Rush, Poison and Shadow dice. Back to the actual components of the game. The game also comes with a stack of character cards. There are characters from each of the 4 different regions. The artwork on these is really great. I love the look and feel of each one. Each character has a distinct look and personality that really comes out in the design. The numbers on the cards are all large so that there’s no mistaking which dice the player should use. The cards have a really nice linen style finish that is just a big glossy looking. However with the linen, the cards don’t stick together. The game even came with an actual metal button with a few of the characters on it, just for added flair. I have to say that I’m pretty impressed with the overall look and feel of the components. Everything is really great quality and each part is well designed. I’m very happy with everything in the box.
9 out of 10
The rulebook for this game is a long double sided sheet of glossy colored paper which is folded up to fit inside the game box. There are a couple of picture on the sheet, a couple of which are pencil drawings. There are also several examples of gameplay to help understand the rules and special dice. The sheet has a bit of history on the original Button Men game along with some back story on the fictional town that the game is set in. I have to say that I originally thought that I was losing my memory, since I’d never heard of the Lawaree River or the town of Selaria. I’m happy to say that my memory is fine though, as neither of these exist in real life. The rulebook covers all the rules for the basic game, as well as the special dice in great detail. There are also rules for multiplayer variants included, as well as campaign rules for both 2 players and multiple players. The rules also include rules for drafting characters. I’ll explain these all in just a bit. In any event, the rulebook looks rather nice and covers everything quite well. It’s fairly easy to read and understand. Overall it seems pretty good to me.
8 out of 10
This is a very fast and fun game. It’s really simple to explain and so it can be taught quite quickly too. The game involves quite a bit of luck due to the handful of dice that you roll at the start of the game. The strategy comes in as you figure out how best to use what you rolled each turn. Should you take out that 20 sided die that your opponent rolled low on this turn using two of your dice, or do you use your 12 sided die that you rolled high on. Once you start using those special dice, you have to figure out the best way to use them too. It’s all about maximizing your points each round. As I mentioned earlier, the game can also be played with multiple players. The rulebook even includes several variants for games with more than 2. Most of the time however, you’ll need more dice than what comes with the game. There’s the Free For All, where any player can attack any other player. There’s the Cycle, which is much like Free For All except the player can only attack the opponent to their left. There’s Ping Pong, which is also like Free For All except that when a player is attacked, the turn moves to that player. There’s Around the World, where each player will play once with each character on the table. This one goes for as many rounds as there are players. These are all fun in their own way, however I prefer to play this as a 2 player game. The rulebook includes some Campaign rules for players wanting to play a longer game, usually involving drafting cards in one of the many ways included in the rules. Once again I prefer to play the basic game, however the Elimination series for 2 players is pretty cool. In this version, players choose a block of characters. For each battle, the players choose 1 card to fight. The loser of the battle discards their character card and must choose a new one. This continues until one of the players runs out of characters to fight with. As you can see, there are lots of different ways to play this game. I personally enjoy using this as a quick filler or when I only have a short amount of time to play. With a quick playtime, it’s pretty great. The dice and cards can even be removed from the box and thrown into a backpack or something and carried anywhere. The small footprint that this game has makes it very easy to play pretty much anywhere. I have to say that I really like this game. Fans of dice rolling games should really enjoy this one. I would also recommend this for players looking for a quick and portable game to take with them on trips or outings. Overall it’s a very good game that I would highly recommend.
9 out of 10
Button Men: Beat People Up is a game of dice rolling combat that involves a good bit of luck. It doesn’t take a long time to play. Most game sessions last around 10 minutes or so. The cards are very high quality and the artwork is really nice. I love the designs and finish of each one. The game itself is fast and fun. It involves quite a bit of luck but can be somewhat strategic too, especially when you use the special dice. The rulebook has lots of variations that can be played with 2 or more players. Each one adds a new dimension to the game. The game is quite portable. The small footprint of the game makes it easy to carry with you and play anywhere. Fans of dice rolling games or players looking for a quick and portable game should look no further. I really think they will enjoy this one. Overall I like it a good bit and would highly recommend it. Just try not to get beaten up.
9 out of 10
For more information about this and other great games, please check out Cheapass Games at their site.