The gimmick in this Cheapass Game is a clever one. The game consists of a tiny sheet of rules and a button. Actually, two buttons come with each set. Each button features color art depicting a character, and symbols for a set of polyhedral dice representing that character. The theory is that you can wear your favorite character button around conventions, thereby advertising to potential opponents that you're willing to play the game (and not coincidentally, advertising the game itself).
Gameplay is simple, but diverting. Each player rolls all their dice and the player with the lowest value goes first. On each turn you must capture an opponent's die if possible, otherwise you must pass. You can capture with a single one of your own dice if that die's value is >= the value showing on your opponent's target die. You can capture with multiple of your own dice if you can put together a set whose values add up to EXACTLY the value of your opponent's target die. In either case the captured die is removed from the game, the dice used to capture it rerolled, and the turn passes to your opponent.
When one player is out of dice the round ends. For each die they've captured, players earn points equal to the die's size (d6 = 6 pts, d20 = 20 pts, etc). Each of your own uncaptured dice score half their size. High total wins the round. First to win 3 rounds wins the match. In practice, the player who captures all his opponent's dice usually wins, but different dice configurations mean that's not always the case.
Gameplay isn't taxing, and there seems to be some scope for strategy. Do you grab the low-valued 20-sider for big points, or grab a lower-scoring die showing a higher value? Do you use your highest-valued die to take the highest-scoring die you can, or take a less valuable die which lets you reroll your low-valued d20 to protect it? Most characters have at least one wild card slot which players can fill with the die of their choice, allowing each character to be somewhat customized. Big dice can provide big values, but they’re tasty targets. Small dice provide versatility and can give you the low roll needed for that crucial right to attack first.
As a way to make a game out of polyhedra, Button Men works quite well. Each round only takes a minute or less, so it rattles right along and is the perfect length for what it is- not always the case with Cheapass. And all the characters are posted on the Cheapass web site, so you don't even have to buy all the buttons to play with them.
Button Men may be a tad overpriced, even at $4.50. But the game works as advertised and makes a fun, light diversion. If you're not looking for one, skip it. Otherwise, enjoy.