Even More Button Men Theory

James Ernest and Rick Healey

James’ comments are in blue.

I’ve been pouring over the site over the essays given out on Button Men so far. I picked up the game when it first came out, and I now have at least two packs from each CAG expansion. Here’s a couple of things I have noted with the addition of the new die types.

With Shadow Dice, you can acheive something initially impossible – a stalemate. Let’s say you take Shore from Button Men: Soldiers and face him off against Buddy from Vampyres. We will wind the match down by assuming that the following values are left on the dice:

Shore(6): 2/4, 1/4, 1/20 points = 34

Buddy(4): Sh5/6, Sh18/20 points = 26

(Sh next to a die indicates a Shadow Die)

Shore can’t get at Buddy’s dice by any sort of attack, and Buddy’s values are too high to perform a Shadow attack. this leaves both sides with adding half of their remaining dice. Technically, the game rules don’t detail what happens in the event of a draw, but I play with both sides get half of what remains. This would give the following tally:

Shore = 48 pts.

Buddy = 39 pts.

Obviously, Shore won this round. It also helped that he did capture more dice in this example, but here is the strategy that someone is Shore’s position could use: capture only those dice which are a threat. Clearly, if all your rolls are under a Shadow Die’s purview, you can ignore it. of course, this can result in very humorous matches, such as when anyone from the first series goes against Peace or Wastenott – you could theoretically have a draw before any dice were taken (although it would take some incredible chance to pull that off).

Actually, while the rules in the core set don’t cover this case, the rules in Vampyres (and afterwards) actually do. The game ends no when one player is out of dice, but when both players pass. Thus, the situation you described above isn’t actually a stalemate, but just a game end.

I think you are scoring the game the way it’s intended, we just don’t call it a “draw.” It’s simply the end of the game. And it’s true: The existence of Shadow Dice makes the strategy of always trying to roll as high as possible no longer valid. Especially when those Shadow Dice are also Poisoned.

I personally love Shadow dice, and my current favorite to use of the buttons I have is Dunkirk. Even non-Poison Shadow Dice are excellent – the psychological advantage that they give over the opponent can allow you to rip through their dice as they ignore a normal d12 to eliminate a Shadow d6 with a 1 showing.

As for the scoring, since I think of it as a fight of sorts, I guess that’s why I see both opponents with dice remaining as a “draw”. So long as I score it correctly, though. Coincidentally, I have gotten one legitimate draw. I was playing Wastenott, while my opponent played Shore. I forget the exact Swing Dice values, but we ended up with an endgame scenario and both of us had the same points. We weren’t playing tournament style, so we just went at it again with the same Swing Dice (I sadly lost the rematch).

Poison Dice are rather fun, and can easily foul your opponent’s day. Poison Dice are hard to judge at the moment, especially for Reaver, with the Poison Swing Die. In my experience, players are a bit shy about taking the Poison Die in general, so a low Poison Die such as a d4 gives you two advantages – you can go first, and you also have a better chance to pull of a skill attack. However, if your opponent thinks that munching a Poison d4 is no problem, it may be time to shift over to the Poison d20, which has lots of stopping power and can make your opponent think twice before eliminating it. So far, I favor the low values, but the fact that they only lose two points with a Poison d4 doesn’t bother them as much anymore.

The way to force away your singular large Poison Dice is to constantly make attacks with them, until they are too small to ignore. If your p20 is showing a 12, roll it again and try for a 3 or 4. You will eventually force it away.

So far, this has rarely been an issue, as the only Button Man that I own with a Poison d20 is Jellybean (I’m a college student – I can only afford to buy half of CAG’s catalogue πŸ˜‰ ).

The strategy of rolling low on your biggest Poison Dice is never so important as when you are playing Max, a Freak with eight Poison dice, including: p12, p12, p20, p20, p30, p30, pX, pX. In a game with Max, the object is always to wind up with the higher negative score!

So I see. Given Max’s absurd values, I’d go for another pair of d20’s for Swing dice. Of course, I’m the only guy I know of that could handle rolling 4d20 simultaneously (although when I do pick up Max, I’m going to need to buy one more d30. Just one.)

Finally, the Speed Die. You opened up a can of worms with this one. Already, I get dirty looks from the other Button Men fans aong my friends when I pull out the Brawl expansion. If any die ever invoked irrational fear in an opponent, it’s that. Actually, it may be the best psych-out tool ever. While they concentrate on the Speed Die, fearful of its effects, you can mop up with the other dice. The only saving grace is that most of the Brawl buttons have either small Speed Dice or the ‘S’ swing to prevent them from taking a low swing and going first.

It’s true: Speed Dice look more powerful than they really are, especially in the particular recipes you find in the Brawl Button Men set. The only truly overpowered Brawler is Sydney, the rare, who we knew would be too powerful the moment we designer her. Some rares just need to be strong, to compete with, you know, the other strong rares. πŸ˜‰

Again, since I don’t have any rares outside of Gordo, I can’t really judge Sydney there. Of course, I don’t think that the rares are super powerful. Echo, for example, is just like a normal Button (literally). Giant is rather horking, but the fact that there is no way for him to go first takes some of the meat from him. Changeling is rather absurd, of course, but Zeppo isn’t that bad at all – he depends on good rolls and a good choice of Swing die each round. All in all, even the rares don’t hold a very large advantage over the opposition, with the exception of Changeling.

And then there’s Bennett. With a d6, he has a reasonable shot at going first against a lot of foes. Not only that, but unless you’re playing another Brawl character and Bennett’s unlucky with the roll, you’re going to have a decent shot at facing at least one Speed d20 on your turn. One friend of mine is still bitter when he watched Bennett take four of Stark’s dice at once with a Speed Attack. Granted, you don’t get that every day, but I had the largest score I ever had, including the time I endplayed Iago with a d20 swing.

Right now, the Brawl characters are absurdly too powerful. While it does add another dimension to the game (by rolling just one die, you could ruin a couple of Speed Attacks), it has too much power. It just munches the normal characters, and even the Shadow Dice have a hard time with them. Personally, I’m going to be wary of anyone walking in with Bennett pinned to their shirt/bag/Ass-kicker 2000.

I’m hoping that Something in Freaks will balance them out (personally, I’m hoping Max’s 8 Poison Dice will do the trick). Until then, I’m going to try to find strategies for facing down Speed Dice.

You’ll find them. Speed Dice were designed specifically to destroy the previous dominant Button Men set, the oft-overlooked Lunch Money girls. In the hands of a decent player, the six Lunch Money characters with their tiny dice and Trip Dice were by far the strongest in the set. The Speed Die characters take out anything with smaller dice, but fare rather poorly against heavy hitters like Bauer, Hammer, Crusher, and even Giant.

Perhaps that’s my catch. I like finesse moves more – I like to take small characters and use smaller Swing Dice to be able to have several options in terms of taking dice. Plus, if I go first, I have a good chance of endplaying my opponent, making him lose more sides than he can take from me. Of course, I mix up this strategy to keep my opponents from being able to read me like a book.

As for the Lunch Money girls, they aren’t sold in this area. I had to play at the local games shop owner (Pandemonium Books & Games of Cambridge, MA) to provide more Button Men. He didn’t start carrying the Brawl expansion until I asked him about it. I better get to work on asking about the girls (of course, since he is making an effort to carry them now, I really ought to by the Sailor Moon ones too).

So, when you see Bennett coming, grab your big hitter. Tune him high, take out Bennett’s big die, and protect the points you need. Bennett’s got so many points himself that you won’t need to protect much.

If that doesn’t work, call Nick Sauer. He wrote the damned thing. πŸ˜‰

I may ring him up… oh wait, I don’t have any way to contact him. I’m sure he will eventually see this anyways, so maybe I’ll talk to him eventually.

For Bennett… I guess it’s going to have to be a case of munch quickly at the Speed Dice and hope I don’t roll what he needs to Speed attack me. Either that, or I’m going to have to pull out Wastenott and hope for some good Shadow d20 rolls.

Thanks for the time, and I hope that you enjoy making these games (I own a lot of CAGs) as much as I like playing them.