A few weeks ago, I introduced Nolan to this really fun, really simple dice game from Cheap Ass Games called Button Men. Distilled to its essence, Button Men is a fast-paced brawling game where two players roll and try to capture dice from each other. Small dice are considered "skillful" and big dice are considered "powerful." There are two ways to capture: have a higher number (more powerful: 17 on d20 captures 7 on d12, or 6 on d8 captures 4 on d10), or use two or more dice to match the number on one die (more skillful: 2 on d4 + 7 on d8 captures 9 on a d12, or 3 on d6+ 2 on d4 + 5 on d6 captures 10 on a d20.) Games take about 10 minutes to play. Normally, I don't like games that leave too much up to luck, but in this case, the unpredictability of the game adds to the fun, as I hope to illustrate here...
I stood up, stretched, and looked out the window. The sky was starting to cloud up and a light breeze stirred the trees. My thermometer said it was 46.
I rubbed my eyes and saw the afterimage of my monitor. I pulled my hands across my face and through my hair. It had been a good day – sales of Sunken Treasure were better than expected – but I'd been pretty much locked in my office since rolling out of bed, and needed some human interaction without the Internet acting as intermediary.
I walked out into the living room and found Nolan sitting at our iMac, playing Diablo.
"Hey, it's too dark and cold outside to throw the frisbee," I said, "but at the dining room table, it's perfect for throwing dice."
He spun around in his chair. "Two minutes. Then you are going down."
I walked back into my office, deliberately did not look at my desk, grabbed the bag of Button Men, and a bag of dice. I took them all out to the dining room, and untied the bag. I gleefully watched polyhedra spill out and clatter across the table.
"I hope that the simple act of watching dice fall always makes me this happy," I thought.
I looked up, and saw that Nolan was intently focused on his game. I picked up the bag of Button Men and gently shook it.
The buttons clattered. He did not turn.
I shook the bag harder. Still, he did not turn.
I shook the bag harder still, cleared my throat, and stomped my foot.
I think he's talking to you!
I noticed Nolan's shoulders were twitching just a little bit.
You win this round, kid, but I'll win when it counts.
"Dude! Come on!" I said.
He was smiling as he turned around and walked over to the table.
"I don' t know why you're in such a hurry to get owned," he said.
It's not about the game, it's about playing the game with you.
"Quiet, you. Do you want to do this randomly, or...?"
He pulled a character called Mischa out of the bag. "Mischa rules," he said.
"So I've heard," I said. "Let's see how Mischa stacks up against..." I blindly took out Chang.
Not all Button Men are equal, and there are times where you end up with a matchup that's so lopsided, you'd feel like you were watching the Kings play the Sharks. (As a Kings fan, you have no idea how it pains me to write that.) This particular matchup had the potential to be massively lopsided, or very even: Mischa is a "skillful" character with moderate power: she rolls 2d12, d10, d4, and d6. Chang is pure strength: he rolls 4d20. (Button Men geeks are freaking out at me right now, because it's possible to make Chang skillful, but this is already complicated enough, so just go with it guys, okay?)
Nolan gave me an incredulous look. "Chang?"
"Looks like it," I said.
"Okay, instead of rounds, how about we play points?"
"Sure," I said, "how much?"
"A quick game. Let's play to 100."
I grabbed a pen and a notepad. "100 it is."
"What?" He said.
"What?" I said.
"You're just looking at me." He said.
"Oh. Um." I realized that I had, indeed, been just looking at him. He's getting older, and he'll be off to college before we know it. He is such an awesome person, and we've grown so close, I find myself paying extra close attention to everything we do, like I don't want to miss a moment or take a single thing for granted.
"Sorry," I said. "I was just thinking about how Chang is going to tear Mischa apart."
Or about how much I love you. One or the other.
He picked up appropriate dice from the table. I did the same.
"Ready?" He said.
I nodded. We held our hands up and shook. A moment later, our dice clattered out onto the table.
God, I love that.
In Button Men, the lowest roll goes first, so a player who rolls 1,2,5,6,18 would go before the person who rolls 1,3,8,14,20. In the case of a tie, the player rolling the most dice goes first.
We looked down at our rolls. Four d20s sat in front of me, a beautiful display of symmetry and perfection. A more eclectic collection of dice sat in front of Nolan, a beautiful display of polyhedra that excites gamers as it confuses mundanes.
"What did you get?" I said.
"I am so screwed," he said. "I rolled 1,1,1,1,2. What about you?"
I looked down at my dice again, seeing numbers where before I had only seen objects. "18,13,11,6."
He went first, used all his dice to capture my 6 (which was on a d20) and re-rolled. (Another function of the Button Men rules: when you use a die or dice to capture, you re-roll.)
I don't know what happened next, and all I remember is how hard the two of us kept laughing as I rolled horribly and he rolled perfectly, but Nolan went on to win the round with 85 points to my 34.
I looked down at my button. "Dude, Chang, what happened, man?"
"Nolan is what happened," Nolan said.
"Okay, let's go again. Chang is more of a second round guy, anyway."
"Mmmhmmm," Nolan said.
"Are you humoring me?! Don't humor me. Humoring Chang angers him."
"Okay. I won't humor you," he said, humoring me.
I love it that you have my sense of humor.
I shook my dice-filled fist at him, and let them fall dramatically down to the table.
I looked at mine while he rolled his, and silenced a gasp.
"Oh man, this is horrible!" He said. "2,3,4,10,1!"
"Yeah, that's a real shame," I said. "Fear my mighty 1,2,3,4."
He looked at my dice. "You did not roll a ... oh man, you did!"
"I guess by 'second round guy' I meant, 'he waits until the second round to completely choke,'" I said.
We looked at the dice together for a moment.
"That's ... statistically unlikely," I said. "But at least I get to go first!"
I captured his 10 using all of my dice, and a moment later we finished the round much closer: I scored 54 and he scored 60. It pushed him past 100, though, so the game was over.
"Good game," Nolan said as we cleaned up the game.
"Yeah," I said. "Thanks for playing with me."
This was the best ten minutes of a day that was already awesome.
"That was fun," he said.
"It sure was."