A review copy of Button Men was provided by Cheapass Games. We would like to thank Cheapass Games for supporting our blog. All thoughts, comments, and pictures herein are our own.
I’m not sure if this has ever come up in our conversations before, but I am a teacher, and recently I came upon a bit of a problem in my classroom. The math curriculum that we have been following this year came to an end, but the school year still had two weeks left! I was left with ten days of planning to do, 10 days of trying to fill an hour and 25 minutes of math for a room full of 6 and 7 year olds. In my mind, this problem only had one solution, games! Math game, of course.
The first day I pulled together some review materials, and then brought out some dice. Each student got two D6’s, they were to roll them and then create , and solve, an addition problem, and a subtraction problem for their rolls. The kids loved it. And that got my mind turning. I had recently received a copy of Button Men: Beat People Up by Cheapass Games . Designed by James Ernest, this dice game is quick, easy, and very mathy (it’s a word, I promise, I’m a teacher, remember?). So I packed up my copy and headed to the classroom. What happened next was epic.
I taught the kids how to play, just like this. Each player choose a character card, the base game contains 48 to choose from, more than enough for each student to have their own character. The cards dictate which dice each player receives. The game includes black and white dice that range from d4’s to d20’s. Each player then rolls their dice, all of them. The player with the lowest value goes first, and chooses which of their opponents die they wish to capture. Capturing dice can be done in one of two ways. You can use one of your die of equal or higher value or you can use the sum (see? mathy!) of multiple dice to capture an opponents die of the exact value of the sum. If one of those two conditions are met, the die is captured, and the capturing die is rerolled and placed back into play. Captured dice are out of the game, or round, and will be used for scoring later. Play goes back and forth until no more dice can be captured. Scoring is easy too! Players score the sum of the size of dice they have captured (a d4= 4 points) plus half the sum of any dice remaining in front of them, ones that were not captured.
The characters in Button Men also include special powers such as poison, shadow, and rush die, but for the class I omitted these rules. However, I think you can handle it, so I’ll tell you a little more about those die. Character cards that include a green circle on the front use poison die. Poison are bad news, they are worth negative points. Capture a poison die and it is worth half it’s size taken from your score, if you manage to keep one of your own, at the end of the game you lose the full size amount from your score. nasty, right? Shadow dice are depicted by blue circles on the character cards. This one is a bit tricky, they can capture dice greater than or equal to, BUT, cannot be greater than the attackers size. What??? For example, a shadow d8 that was rolled as 4 can only capture dice showing a number from 4 to 8. The last special power is the rush dice, shown as an orange circle on the character cards. You can use a rush die to capture two of your opponent’s dice, however, both dice must add up to exactly the number of the attacking die. Now you know why I kept it simple.
The character cards are all very different and very cool. This made it fun for the kids to select their own characters. Each of the characters includes their own fun bio on the back. Some of the bio’s might not be 100% kid friendly, nothing too bad, but the game is about people fighting, and some of the characters are unsavory. We stayed away from the bio’s, but if you have time, they are a really fun read. The back also contains a reminder about ant special dice the character might have, and how to use them. The assortment of different dice was pretty exciting to them too. For some this was the first dice they had ever seen that were not d6’s.
To say the game was a hit is an understatement. The kids were lined up at the back table cheering for their classmates, and waiting for their turn to play. The kids were thinking about each and every move, planning their attacks, and definitely doing mathy things. This game was a huge success with my class. Button Men was the first thing they asked for each morning when it was time for Math. I have to admit, I was not too surprised, after all it already got the stamp of approval from Emmy long before it made it to my classroom. As I walked the game out of my house that first morning she made me promise that it would come back home that afternoon.
Button Men has an old school charm to it that really attracted me to it. The game itself has been around since the 90’s when the characters were actually printed on stickpin buttons. Button Men quickly gained a cult following, adding new buttons to the ever growing collection, often. It was designed to play quickly and be completely portable. The newer version stays true to the original in those respects. It is very easy to learn but is much deeper than it lets on. There are a lot of decisions to make, starting with which character, of the 48 included, to play. Some characters have a Swing Die, depicted by an “X” on the card, this is a die that can be chosen by the player. Want another d20, okay! Want to make it a d8? It’s all up to you! Choosing which die to capture and which die to capture it with can be a big decision.
This is a game that I would recommend for everyone, young and old. My kindergarten class loved it, and my daughter did as well. I love finding ways to incorporate gaming into education and this was a no-brainer for me. The variety of characters ensured that all of my students could find one that suited them, from gender to race, everyone was represented. The replayability is endless, the combinations of characters is amazing, and I love pimping my game out with cool, colored dice of my own. This game has made me reevaluate my collection, wondering what other gems I can share with my students.
“I like all of the dice. There are a lot of girls in this game. I like how different they all are, but my favorite part is taking all of Mommy’s dice! You should try it too, you can take all of your Mommy’s dice too.”
Button Men: Beat People Up gets a solid:
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