Author: Charlie Wiedman
Company/Publisher: Atlas Games
Playtest Review by Jonathan Witt on 11/03/99.
Genre tags: none
I had high hopes for Lunch Money, I really did. The art was incredible, the concept killer, and the game itself was a fast play. I had great expectations, and while the game is a fun diversion, it doesn't quite deliver in the replayability department.
For those of you who haven't heard of Lunch Money before, the premise is that you and your fellow players are small children in a schoolyard. You want your friend's lunch money, and they want yours. What ensues is a bloody hand-to-hand struggle complete with head buts, backhands, and lengths of lead pipe.
Players start with fifteen pennies, which act as damage counters. As you take damage, you start discarding pennies until you are all out of coins. In your schoolyard battle you can play four types of cards: attack, defense, special, and the much sought after first aid card. With the right cards you can unleash devastating combos of jabs, stabs, stomps, and gouges. You can even Pimp Slap your foes into submission. Each move is represented on sturdy cardstock and illustrated with beautiful and disturbing images of a little girl in a series of bizarre poses, with quotes like "The end is near," or "Stay down." I cannot tell you how much my group and I liked the look of the cards. They add to the feel of the game immensely, giving it real character. The best part about the photos is that they are not gory, or, in most cases, even overtly violent. They convey a sense of silent menace I really enjoyed.
On the other hand, gameplay is, by definition, where a card game stands and falls. The first two or three times my group played this game, we got a kick out of it and had a great time. After that, it began to get old. We still play once in a while when someone is late for our weekly RPG session, but only rarely. It isn't that the game mechanics are bad, or unfair, the game itself just gets old fast. Because of the emphasis on attack, you don't really get to many different options, high strategy is finding the most damaging attack card in your hand and playing it. And then there's cost. Even with it's excellent artwork and sturdy cardstock, at almost nineteen dollars, the price is a little steep for a game I played a few times and then set down.
To sum up, if you are looking for an intelligent, interesting card game with high replay value, try Steve Jackson's Knightmare Chess. If you are hell bent on Lunch Money for the artwork or the buzz, go for it, you could easily do worse.
Style: 5 (Excellent!)