The Big Cheese
Steve D. asked "But could someone for once do a _decent_ review of a Cheapass game?" We are nothing if not accommodating, so I thought I would ry to do a proper job with "The Big Cheese". We'll start with the bit he hates (copying the hype) and then work on a real review.
Rats! That's what you are. Big, hungry rats. You're all VP's at Rat Financial Incorporated, and you're all striving for a slice of the Big Cheese. The President is retiring next month, and whoever can score the most points with him gets to take his place. And his Big Cheese.
It's a clever game, easy to learn, and seems to have good replayable value. I believe I can get my nieces into it without trouble, yet the overall play is not inherently simplistic. It is also highly portable. When weighted against the relative merits of, say, carrying a regular deck of cards, the primary advantage this game has is the incredibly cute artwork.
Note that I'm a card fiend, so I was very interested in this bidding-type game. So an initial comparison to me isn't just 'is it a good game', but how well it compares to games such as Setback or Hearts or I Doubt It.
But I couldn't get that far. As a fan of postmodern comics such as "Cynicalman" and such, I just was totally enamored of the evocative sketchwork of the artist, Carol Monahan. I really like cute little rats and cheese. I don't know why (and neither does my therapist), but it is a driving factor in this review. Quite simply, the art is precious and cute. Almost as cute as the Button Men "bunnies" button, which, alas, is only available off their web site (so I guess I'm out of luck, since I like to browse their games at my local game store.)
Back to "The Big Cheese" and its art. I can imagine this rating of 'cute' driving away hordes of hardcore ButtonMen gamers, but don't worry, it's not cloying. It does enhance the gameplay, and it also makes this one of the games I'll be trying to introduce my nieces to.
So we have cute down-- how about playability? Here, I have to make a confession. With CG's not-quite-related "Button Men", I was initially unimpressed, and only really 'got' it when they demoed it to me. From this, you can gather either that their rules are generally too subtle to grasp quickly, or that I personally am a moron. More on this in a bit.
On the other hand, with CG's "Before I Kill You, Mr. Bond...", my friend Greg was able to fairly quickly come up with a degeneracy, a way (in a two player game) to win just about every time. And this was a game I initially thought was full of possibilities.
So I have become leery of games that sound clever yet don't hav enduring play value. I also seriously doubt my ability to effectively review such games, since my initial forays are apparently either frought with enough errors that I rate the game poorly, or else I love the game right up until someone else points out its weaknesses.
This, as you can imagine, leaves me in a bit of a conondrum. If I rate "The Big Cheese" well, does this imply it sucks? If I rate it poorly, will the average RPGnet reader accept that such a rating really means it's a great game? I have no wish to lead people astray, yet even the simplest games can cause such reviewing paradoxes.
Given this crippling self-doubt, then, I really don't believe I can fulfil Steve D's request, and give a Cheapass Game a decent review. My own inherent limitations are just too overwhelming.
So I find I must fall back on the cry of Cheapass Reviewers everywhere. "It's cheap, it's fun, get it." It'll be the game I'm carrying around at GenCon, so anyone that wants to stop me to see it/play it is welcome to try (I walk quickly, though, and may have Ivy the Wonder Baby with me, which tends to preoccupy me a bit).
Oh, okay, I'll try harder at this actual reviewing stuff. There are two ways to play, depending on whether you have only a six-sider die, or the whole 'ButtonMen' assortment (i.e. d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20, d10000). The primary difference is the point totals that result, but there's some wonderfully subtle probability differences that impact play from that. Essentially, the yield of a d20 vs a d6 is different from the yield of a 20*1d6 vs 6*1d6, so the dice choice before playing can lead to different bidding strategies. Oh, this sounds complicated-- let me cover the simple stuff.
You start with worker rats, and project cards are put out, one per turn. You bid workers for a project, highest bid wins. Workers leave projects at a rate of one per turn; when all the workers are off the project, it's 'matured' and you get a payout.
So it's a mix of bidding, timing/tempo, and resource management, with a dose of luck. Plus the cute art and great setting. I'm working on using it in a LARP, actually, since it's just effective enough to simulate high level board meetings without getting cluttered in details.
And we'll see how well it goes over at work.
Style: 3 (Average)