History Repeating – Button Up! review

Sometimes a great game is huge, a sprawling extravaganza of a thing with countless wooden bits, huge amounts of depth and a playtime up in the multiple hours. Sometimes it’s the flipside of that, an idea so simple and straightforward that makes you wonder why the hell you didn’t get it first. Button Up!, a Bruno Cathala design from Jactalea, falls firmly in the second category – a tiny box, a handful of simple components and a wonderfully easy to grasp concept.

Three beermats, a set of instructions and a bunch of buttons. That’s all you get in the box. It’s not a lot, but then there’s not a huge amount of stuff you get to do in the game – however, in order to come out victorious in this lovely little two player release, you’ll need something that can be hard to come by that isn’t packed in – a bucketful of forward planning. Taking on the role of either Napoleon Buttonaparte or his nemesis General Ludwig Yorck von Buttonburg, you’re literally trying to end up on top…

Prepare for battle!

Nine large buttons, three each in three colours – red, black and white – are dropped and randomly arranged around the central beermat. It’s here where battle will commence and your points will be scored. The aim is to move said buttons in a clockwise manner around the mat, forming stacks that will quickly grow into a single tower. However, only the white buttons (or stacks containing one) can be moved by the players.

If you’ve ever played Mancala, you’ll have a head start on the way it all works. Pick up a single white button and you’ll place it on top of the next button. Pick up a stack of two and you’ll be adding to the next two piles. Each pile may only be added to once, meaning that it’s perfectly possible that you could create a massive one quite early on. The trick to the game, of course, is to engineer it so that your coloured buttons – red for Buttonaparte, black for von Buttonburg – end up as high in the final tower as possible.

Von Buttonburg dominates the stack – for this round anyway…

Once the stack is complete, points are scored. The highest gets nine, then you work all the way to the bottom with its value of one. White buttons, the spies of the game, score nothing. Both players determine their scores and whoever has the highest total is awarded the difference between the two – for example, say I scored 17 and you totalled 11, I would be awarded 6 points. The first to 15 points or more is declared the winner of the battle and claims bragging rights aplenty.

And that’s all there is to it. I could see Button Up! included in a larger scale game as a way of settling combat, but Jactalea have seen enough potential in it to release the whole thing on its own – and why shouldn’t they? It’s a lovely little two player filler (remember, that shouldn’t be a dirty word in the gaming world) that plays out in ten minutes. If you’re looking for a quick playing little game that, it’s an ideal way to kill a wee while. The fact that Bruno Cathala’s name is on the front of the box should help with getting Button Up! out there a bit more than your average small scale new release, but in all honesty I’d heartily recommend picking this one up.

Button Up! by Bruno Cathala was launched at Essen 2012 by Jactalea. Only two people can play, and games take around ten minutes. Copies outside of France are few and far between, but you can order it directly from the company site for only 10 Euro by clicking on this link!

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