You might not have noticed, but it’s been a bit of a rough year for, well, social activities of any kind. Suffice it to say that no one has really been meeting in person to do any sort of thing, let alone gaming. 2020 and 2021 have placed solo games at a premium, and if we’re honest, solo games that don’t require a long time to set up, nor hours and hours of play, fit this current moment very well. I don’t think most of us want to change out of our pajamas these days, after all.
And in to the gap steps Button Shy Games. A small business based out of the United States, Button Shy publishes games with a very specific set of conditions – a Button Shy Game has eighteen cards. Nothing more. Each game fits comfortably in a little wallet with the game’s logo that you can stick in your back pocket; the set up for each game takes all of thirty seconds, give or take how good you are at shuffling cards.
My personal favorite game from Button Shy is Sprawlopolis, designed by Steven Aramini, Danny Devine, and Paul Kluka. It’s deceptively simple. As the name implies, it’s a little city-planning game. Each card has two sides – on one, is a scoring condition, and on the other, four districts and a collection of roads. You shuffle up the set of eighteen cards, and then deal out three scoring conditions. Then, with a hand of three cards, replacing as you place, you set each card down horizontally.
While you can overlap parts of card, you can never cover a card entirely, and you have to align orthogonally with another card when you place. At the end of the game, you get a point for each colored district in the largest block of each color, points per the dealt scoring conditions, and then lose a point for each contiguous road.
Again, it’s deceptively simple. In practice, it means agonizing over your table for something like forty-five minutes, trying to figure out a way to get three parks next to each other, while still lining up the road, but you also don’t want to leave that industrial area and residential area next to each other, and, oh, by placing the card there you just severed the other road – and then, bam, it all fits together, and you feel like a genius. Alternatively, it doesn’t fit together at all, and you give up in a huff rather then lose.
Which, to be clear, may just be a me thing.
Sprawlopolis is the sort of game that I like to whip out while waiting for my food to finish, or while watching Netflix. It’s the perfect time-killer, if you just have a little bit of time. Alternatively, you can play three or four games in a row, if you want to have a bit more of an intellectual challenge. And, two, it’s fantastically cheap – you can print and play a copy for just three dollars and three pages of paper, and even the nice card copy, with the wallet, is just twelve dollars.
There is really no downsides to Sprawlopolis.
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