Thursday, January 19, 2017

Button Shy, Avignon and micro games

And This is a little bit late, since the Kickstarter is almost over, but Button shy Games is kicking off the year with the standalone expansion to the game that they kicked off last year with, Avignon.

Button Shy has been on my radar since they're 2015 kick starter for Cunning Folk but Avignon is what really made me check on what they were doing on a regular basis.

You see, their wallet game line ticks off two of my board game interests. One, they are micro games, hence the full idea of being able to stick one in your wallet. Second, you can get them as PDFs and I like to dabble with Print and Play.

Micro games have long been part of  the hobby. Heck, if you count games that you just need a couple of dice to play, for a very, very long time. However, there has been a definite surge in interest in them after Love Letter.

And not all of them have been that great. I'm not a huge fan of every game in Button Shy's wallet line, even as I'm praising it right now. 

However, one of the things that I like about a lot of their wallet line is they push the line what you can do with just a handful of cards.

Seriously, there are games out there that are just one card. The test for how small you can make a game is a moot point. And Charades beat that test into the ground ages ago anyway. The real test is how much fun a game can be and how deep a game can be. 

Cunning Folk gave me a game that I had been looking for. Something that gave me the feel of playing Coup but I could play with two people. Avignon, on the other hand, give me something that I didn't know I was looking for.

Avignon, at its heart, is a game of tug-of-war. You are trying to pool three of the cards on the board over to your side in order to win. It is themed around the historical schism in the Catholic Church when they had two popes (okay, one of the times)and the theme does work but the mechanics are the real center of the game.

One of the things that I like is how the cards create a board for the game and how playing in dimensions is a definite part of the game. That isn't anything new or innovative. Games like Verrator and Meuterer did that and did that well. Soccer 17, a game I think needs more love, did it with just two cards. Still, when you have that  dimensional space as part of a game, it adds an extra layer of depth and engagement.

Avignon also adds special powers to the mix. There are two copies of six different characters (without only a random five on the board at any time) and they all have a special power to help mix things up.

By far and away the most interesting is the Noble, which doesn't have a special action. Instead, the Noble adds two more game ending conditions. Which adds a lot to the game in general.

Every element of the game is very simple. But when they are all combined, they definitely become greater then their parts. It is a simple game. It is a quick game. But it has a lot of variety and replay value and it keeps you engaged for the duration of play.

The expansion, Avignon: Pilgrimage, adds six more roles so you can play it on its own or mix it in. Come to think of it, there are also expansions for both versions that add a few more cards.

I do like these kind of expansions. They don't make the game longer or make it a different game. They just add variety. (Hence my love of Dominion)

For me, Avignon represents what I like most about Button Shy. Taking the concept of the micro game and pushing it further. Exploring what you can do with 18 cards.

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