PuzzleNation Product Review: Ricochet Poker and Button Men

[Note: I received free copies of these games in exchange for fair, unbiased reviews. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that. And this concludes the disclaimer.]

For today’s post, we’re doing things a little bit differently by exploring two games sure to test your tactical skills and adaptability to make the best of whatever hand fate deals you.

Not only that, but you can play both of these games in less than ten minutes! Enjoy a double-shot of quick-play gaming as we look at Ricochet Poker from Hip Pocket Games and Button Men from Cheapass Games!

Virtually everyone has played a hand or two of poker at some point. You know all about the secrecy, the bluffing, and the patient use of positioning, betting, and strategy to win the pot.

Ricochet Poker turns the concept on its head, because there’s no bluffing. The game is played out in the open, and it’s more about playing the odds than playing your opponents. The goal is still to end up with the best cards at the end of the hand, but you get there in a different way.

After each player antes one chip into the pot, you get a card. But this card isn’t a secret. It’s played face-up in front of you for everyone to see.

Now the player with the lowest card showing is the first to act. In fact, the player with the lowest card or hand is always the one in the driver’s seat in Ricochet Poker.

On your turn, you can either fold or buy cards by wagering chips. Folding takes you out of this hand, just like in regular poker. Buying cards is a matter of playing the odds, since your goal is to no longer have the lowest card/hand by the end of your turn. For each card you want, you must put a chip into the pot.

Here’s a sample hand. Each player antes one chip (with holiday mint M&Ms subbing as chips), and gets one card. From lowest to highest, there’s a 4, a 5, a 6, and a King.

The 4 acts first, wagering two chips for two cards. Drawing a 3 and 2, this player is eliminated, since they still have the lowest top card. Play passes to what is now the lowest hand, the 5.

Wagering three chips, this player draws a 4 and two 3s. A pair! She’s gone from lowest to highest and her wager has paid off for now.

Play passes to the 6, who wagers two chips. The first card is a 6, giving the player a pair of 6s and the highest hand, so this turn is over. Unfortunately, they’ve paid double for a single card. Play passes to the King, who also wagers two chips. Drawing a 10 and an Ace, the King is eliminated, facing two paired hands.

Play passes back to the pair of 3s, who can only wager one, since there’s a hand limit of five cards. (Of course, you could always play six- or seven-card poker, but we’ve stuck with five cards for this demonstration.) Unfortunately, she draws an 8, losing the pot to the superior hand.

Play continues like this around the table, moving from lowest to then-lowest, until players have folded or busted by failing to top the next-lowest card on the table, and only one player remains. That player collects the pot.

Ricochet Poker is an immensely clever addition to the world of cards, because it still relies on both luck and wagering, but everything has to be played out in the open. It really evens the playing field between experienced poker players and newcomers, since the rules are different, and the advantages of standard poker play — positioning, forcing players with large bets, and other tactics — are negated by the new rule set. (Plus you’ll find additional rules online for a dozen other poker variations you can play with the deck!)

Button Men operates in a similar fashion, but adds dice to the equation to spice up one-on-one combat.

In Button Men, each player selects a character from the deck, then rolls a handful of dice that represent that character’s potential attacks. Players then go back and forth, trying to remove dice from the other player’s hand in order to win the fight.

The player with the lowest die roll is first to act, and they can attack their opponent’s dice in one of two ways, either taking down a die of lesser or equal value with a single die of their own, or using two dice to add up to the exact total of one of the opponent’s dice.

Any losing dice are removed, and any winning dice are rerolled.

Let’s look at a battle between Gilroy and Montserrat for an example. Gilroy is armed with a d4, a d6, a d8, a d20, and one die of his choice. Montserrat is armed with a d4, a d6, a d8, a d12, and one die of her choice. (For the sake of simplicity, I’m ignoring the special attacks each player has, marked in blue on Gilroy’s card and orange on Montserrat.)

He chooses another d8 for his set, and she chooses a d20 to balance his. They then roll all of the dice and see what they’re working with.

Gilroy has two 2s, a 3, a 6, and a 7. Montserrat has two 2s, a 4, a 5, and a 6.

Lowest value goes first, and since their 2s cancel each other out, his 3 (lower than her 4) makes him first to act.

He captures her 5 with his 7 (thereby mathematically removing the chance she could capture his 7 with a 5-2 combination, the only way he could lose his 7 as the board currently stands). He rerolls the die and now has an 11.

She replies by taking his 6 with hers, and rerolling, ending up with a 20. The momentum has now gone her way.

He takes one of her 2s (the one rolled with a d8) with his 2 (rolled with a d8). This ensures both that, if she used that die against him, she couldn’t reroll it and end up with a higher number the next round, and that his own d8 would get rerolled, hopefully giving him a higher number. His gambit works, and he rerolls a 7.

She takes his 11 with her 20, but then rerolls for 7. Both of the highest numbers are now off the board. He trades his 7 for hers (removing her d20 from the game) and rerolls for 7, a lucky break for him.

At this point, it becomes a battle of attrition. She takes his 2 with her own, and rerolls for 5. That 5 is captured by his 7, and he rerolls for 4. She takes his 4 with hers, and rerolls a 1. He wins the game by taking her 1 with his 3.

Even in this quick exchange, the advantage swung back and forth several times, and luck played as big a role as tactics.

With dozens of characters to choose from — plus additional character packs, including soldiers, vampires, fantasy, and more — and a healthy pool of polyhedral dice to play with, Button Men is designed for endless replayability.

If you need a fun, competitive way to open up a night of games, either of these clever and calculating offerings would be the perfect way to kick things off.

Ricochet Poker is available from Hip Pocket Games and Button Men is available from Cheapass Games. Both are also available from participating retailers.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

PuzzleNation Product Review: Schrodinger’s Cats

Even if you don’t know the science behind it, you’ve probably heard of Schrodinger’s cat at some point in your life. If you haven’t, let me give you the short short version: there’s a box with a cat in it, and a substance that may or may not release inside the box and kill the cat.

So until you open the box, there’s no way of knowing whether the cat is alive or not. Schrodinger posited that, since we can’t know which is the case, both are true until the box is opened. It’s essentially a thought experiment which delves far deeper into quantum mechanics and particle physics than I’m going to in this review.

But the idea that someone created a card game based on the concept of Schrodinger’s cat is not only audacious, but pretty impressive. (And the puns are just the icing on the cake.)

[Some of the cat physicists in the game: Sir Isaac Mewton,
Sally Prride, Madame Purrie, and Neil deGrasse Tabby.]

Schrodinger’s Cats was funded through a Kickstarter campaign last year, and it’s the brainchild of Heather Wilson, Heather O’Neill, and Chris O’Neill. A mix of bluffing, deduction, and wagering, this game combines Name That Tune-style bravado and strategy with Poker-style game play.

Each player is a cat scientist forming hypotheses on how many boxes contain live cats, dead cats, or nothing at all. (While Schrodinger is away, of course. As the old saying goes, when the scientist’s away, the cats will play. Or something like that.)

Every player receives one box card for each player in the game (so if there are three players in the game, each player receives three box cards), as well as one cat scientist card.

Once the cards are dealt, players look at their box cards and see what each box contains, hiding this info from the other players. Then the players begin hypothesizing. They wager on how many of each result are in ALL of the boxes on the board. So, in the game layout above, there are nine boxes, and each scientist has to wager what’s in all the boxes.

But instead of starting with a high guess and then wagering lower totals (as you would in Name That Tune), you start low in Schrodinger’s Cats and wager upward. Scientists can also affect the wagering by “showing findings” — revealing one or all of their own boxes to either prove their hypothesis or make the other players doubt their own — or by swapping out some boxes. (Each cat scientist card also allows for a one-time-use special action for a player, which can also prove useful.)

When a player either refuses to wager higher or challenges another player’s hypothesis by yelling “Prove it!”, all of the boxes are revealed and the hypothesis is proven or debunked (meaning the player stays in the game or leaves). After multiple experiments (rounds of play), one character remains and wins the game (and an honorary doctorate from Cat Tech University).

What I enjoyed most about this game (other than all the pseudo-scientific jargon involved in playing the game) was the wagering, bluffing, and reading of opponents that is integral to the game play. With so few possible cards to reveal (only four, in varying quantities, as opposed to 13 different cards across four suits in poker), it’s not nearly as challenging as the classic card game, but offers a lot of similar game mechanics.

It’s great fun to try to outwit or read your fellow players in order to make the best hypothesis, and that’s a sort of puzzling that is often left behind in puzzle games. Often, you’re so busy trying to achieve a certain goal or acquire points that you stop actively interacting with the other players; but in Schrodinger’s Cats, a lot of puzzling and game play takes place in the actions and reactions of the other players. It’s a delightfully social game.

Although you can play with as few players as two or as many as six, I recommend playing with at least four characters to keep the game moving and interesting. Between raising hypotheses, showing findings, and trying to puzzle out what your fellow players are hiding, the more uncertainty you can introduce to the game, the better.

Schrodinger’s Cats is available from 9th Level Games and can be found here.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!