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Button Men is a classic dice game from Cheapass Games, returning in a new starter set!
1,346 backers pledged $69,415 to help bring this project to life.

The Origins of Button Men

Posted by Cheapass Games (Creator)

Happy Friday, button folk!

With just one week to go, we have just crushed our "Mutton Ben" stretch goal, and we've added a couple more below. But first, here's a brief history of the early days of Button Men.

From Origins to Awards: Creating Button Men

Button Men wasn't originally designed for pin-back buttons. It was invented in 1998 as a coaster game for Dalmuti's restaurant. Dalmuti's was located next door to the Wizards of the Coast flagship retail store, in Seattle's University District.

In late 1998, Dalmuti's hired James Ernest to create games with short, simple rules that would fit on menus, business cards, and coasters. James had demonstrated a talent for such short-form games, with things like his business card games "Flip" and Fight" (also known as Pennywise).

After delivering a package of four new games within a week (yeah, he does that), James did some more thinking about the situation, and decided that what Dalmuti's really needed was not a game with the rules on a coaster, but a game where the coaster is the primary game component.

Based on an earlier version of Pennywise, where different business cards had different sets of coins, James designed a game called "Killer" with several different characters made of polyhedral dice. Wizards sold dice next door, and this seemed like a great way to sell more of them.

Early prototype Button Men, with art borrowed from Brom!
Early prototype Button Men, with art borrowed from Brom!

However, they felt satisfied with the first wave of games, so Dalmuti's passed on Killer. This was just one of several times in the early days of Cheapass that James Ernest wound up owning a game design he didn't know what to do with. But soon after, he decided to make the coasters into buttons, and hired artist Brian Snoddy to draw the characters.

Halfway through the art creation, James hit on the idea to call the game "Button Men." The buttons literally did come before the title. 

The original Button Men logo
The original Button Men logo

Designer Ellis Bojar created the Button Men logo for us, and the original ten Soldiers characters were printed and ready for the world in April 1999. (Hannah and Kublai were not in the original edition.) That year, Cheapass also released the Vampyres and Brom sets, and licensed several sets including Lunch Money and Legend of the Five Rings. The following summer, Button Men won the 1999 Origins Awards for best Abstract Board Game and Best Graphic Presentation of a Board Game. 

If you run a gaming-themed restaurant, please let us know. We still think the coasters would be a good idea.

The original Soldiers set, including the rare "Changeling"
The original Soldiers set, including the rare "Changeling"

Stretch Goals Ahoy!

We're starting to unlock stretch goals! So far, we have unlocked a trading card for "Mutton Ben" and a pin-back button in the core game. We've also announced that the game will be printed in the USA with genuine Koplow dice, but that was more like a command decision and not a stretch goal. Next, we want to upgrade to a pin-back version of Mutton Ben, to make room for four more cards in the funvelope! 

Stretch Goal at 55k: Promote Mutton Ben to a pin-back button! Nate Taylor is super-excited to draw Mutton Ben, and we'll have a sketch as soon as we can. The current thinking is that he is a Fight City cab driver who is also secretly a sheep. We think he might have drawn-in mutton chops on his woolly face.

Stretch Goal at 60k: Fight City Mapple Board. This will be a freebie for everyone, but backers will get the first link to it. We have a cute little territory control game called Mapple (see several different versions here). If we hit 60k, we'll create a brand new Mapple board based on James' amazing maps of Fight City, and post it for free!

Stretch Goal at 65k: Four more characters in the Funvelope. We'll add four more Fight City character cards, for a total of 12, to the funvelope. What's more important, if we reach this level we can produce this 12-card booster at the same factory as the core game cards, and on the same paper, so that they will match exactly

More Stretch Goals to Come! We have ideas for a few crossover products, a Skully patch, a Button Men coin, and maybe even a reprint of the Fight City Card Game. Let's keep the ball rolling!

If you're a regular Kickstarter backer, you know that the energy always picks up in the final week. That final week starts right now - let's do this thing! 

Thanks as always for your support, and thanks for playing Button Men.

Erik W., Nick Sauer, and 11 more people like this update.


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    1. Joe on

      I suspect that there are intellectual property issues that might make this untenable, but it would be super crazy awesome if you were able to include some cards with the prototype art in the funvelope. (Maybe it's just me, but I'm always fascinated by backstory like this, and it would be really neat to have replica prototypes. If they could be a set of actual buttons as an add-on, I'd spend an embarrassing amount of money on them, I suspect.)

    2. Missing avatar

      Keiya on

      Hm, is there any chance the rares from the sets that were released as print-and-play could be added to the kickstarter as a digital extra or something? I looked them up and surprising my less-enfranchised friends with Echo or Giant sounds fun, but playing without art of the character just isn't as fun :P

    3. Mark Levad on

      I have several of those originals in a box around here somewhere.

    4. Tyler Tinsley on

      I can't wait to see Mutton Ben!