Button Men is minimalist, polyhedral dice dueling game. The game is sold in the form of 2.25" pin-back buttons, each with a character portrait and series of (usually five) numbers representing types of dice. For instance, the Hammer character button has a portrait of a Roman gladiator and the numbers 6, 12, 20, 20, and X. This means that Hammer fights with a d6, d12, d20, and variable dice in the range of 4-20. Because of the simplicity of design, numerous buttons have been created by various publishers with their original IPs.
Gameplay is as follows: Each player gets a button and matching dice. Your goal is to score the most points by capturing your opponent's dice. Each die represents attacking power and one hit point. You begin play by rolling all dice. If a variable dice is in use by a character, a dice is chosen before rolling. You can capture any die if your dice value is greater than or equal to your opponent’s dice value. Thus if I have a d6 with a value of 5 and my opponent has a d20 with the value of 4, I can capture that d20. Each die size is also its victory point value, hence a captured d20 earns 20 victory points. You can also capture dice equaling the face value of your opponent's dice by adding the face value of two or more of your dice. The dice you use to capture your opponent's die are rerolled and then it is your opponent's turn.
Some advanced characters have Shadow and Poison dice. Shadow dice are the reverse of normal dice, allowing you to capture a die that has greater or equal value of the shadow die, but within its range of values. For example if you roll a 3 on a Shadow d8, then you can capture any die with the value of 3 through 8. The Poison die is bad to be stuck with. A captured Poison die costs half the size of die, or full value to the owner. Thus a captured Poison d20 is -10 victory points while if stays with owner, it is -20 victory points. Since if a capture is possible, you cannot pass, you want to force your opponent to capture your Poison die. Additional advance dice types are explained in the full rules.
Design-wise, Button Men does a great job of putting tense brinkmanship and risk management into a tiny package. Although there is an ample amount of luck, Button Men is a game of skill. I like how balanced the game is. If you roll high, you can easily capture other dice but in the capture process, the die you use to capture must be rerolled making it potentially vulnerable. Large dice like d20 can roll high but have a large range, making them difficult to predict and rely on, while small dice like d4 are more predictable and useful when they are used in conjunction with other dice. So both big and small dice are equally valuable.
Copies of Button Men are hard to find but a free print-and-play version is offered by the publisher and there is an excellent Button Men iPhone app, from Thrust Interactive. Since Button Men app uses a three round fight, I wish for a tag team option that is common in many fight video games. Tag teams would add an another layer of strategy without adding real complexity.