One of my favorite publishers is Button Shy Games. Being 18-card wallet games, all of their titles are compact, affordable, and perfect for most gaming situations. Because they churn out a new game almost every month, it can be daunting to look at their catalog and determine what games to buy. Not to mention, some titles are out of stock right now, making it a challenge to pick them up.
So I wanted to get a holiday guide up, since I can never have too many of these wallet games. I’ve broken them down into categories, making up to 3 unique suggestions in each to try and help make sure you hit the free shipping amount ($25 in the US). Many of them also can add on expansions in the drop-down menu on their store (https://buttonshygames.com/collections/wallet-games-1)
And so, without further ado, here are my buying guide recommendations based solely on in-stock titles.
If you could only buy three: All other categories aside, these are the three “best” games in their lineup if I were asked to make a broad, general recommendation without any knowledge of the person looking to pick up some games. There is a good variety in here, with two of them having nice solo options (Circle the Wagons requires the Lone Cowboy expansion for that), two of them being for 2-players, and one being a cooperative game that goes up to 4.
Liberation – Hands down this is the best game in the Button Shy lineup for me. It contains so much tension packed into a 30-minute package, and with asymmetrical sides you’ll always want to play it twice to switch sides. It does a great job at replicating the cat-and-mouse hidden base aspect made popular in Star Wars: Rebellion.
Circle the Wagons – This is easily our most played game from Button Shy, and at a 10-15 minute play time it is easy to see why. This game has an interesting way of choosing cards, variable scoring conditions, and some card-laying to build your own little areas for scoring. A perfect game to always have present, as it is quick enough to play almost any time.
Sprawlopolis – Arguably best as a solo game, this delightful puzzle can crush up to four players with its challenging scoring conditions. If you like a game to play on your own, or are looking for something to play cooperatively with others, this one is one of the best-regarded titles. It has variable scoring conditions, the combination of which determines your win condition and don’t let the low numbers deceive you…those cards are among the most difficult to overcome.
For the Solo Gamer: While not an exhaustive list (Circle the Wagons & Sprawlopolis would be on here for sure. As would Antinomy, featured later) of the solo games worth picking up, these are three solo-only games that are enjoyable and provide three very different experiences.
SpaceShipped – If you like picking up and delivering goods – well, this might scratch some of that itch for you. You’ll be playing as a smuggler, like Han Solo, trying to buy and sell resources to collect gems. But watch out for marauders and untimely events that’ll get in your way and mess up your plans.
Banned Books – Even if you aren’t literary inclined, you will enjoy the simple mechanics and challenging task set forth in this game. The cycling of actions is a clever mechanism in this game, making it a very delightful solo experience as you push forward and try to avoid having your book banned from the shelves forever.
Twin Stars: Adventure Series II – If you like dice rolling, scenario-based gameplay, and endless variety then you want to check out the Twin Stars line of games. It integrates seamlessly with Adventure Series I (which is out of stock at the moment), so even if you begin with Series II you aren’t going to be missing anything critical.
For the significant other: Not limited to a spouse, but a category of 2-player games that are wonderful. Again, other titles like Circle the Wagons, Liberation, and others would fit here as well.
Seasons of Rice – A game that hit our table frequently when we tried the print & play during its Kickstarter campaign, it reminded us of Carcassonne with variable player powers and personal area-construction. Plus card drafting in two different ways, which presents plenty of interesting decisions to consider with every turn. This should be shipping next month, meaning it is likely to arrive in time!
Penny Rails – I’m not a train gamer by any means, but Penny Rails is a sheer delight. If you like perfectly-aligned maps then this game might trigger your OCD, but if you can think outside of that there are so many clever ways to interfere with your opponents’ route building while trying to enhance your own. With two different ways to score the game – offering drastically different experiences – this game has enough steam to power many plays in a collection.
Antinomy – A game that looks and sounds so abstract shouldn’t hurt the brain this much, but Antinomy does just that. It puts the Thinky into Thinky Filler, as cards have a color, a number, and an icon. You’re trying to move along a line of 9 cards to collect sets of 3 for Paradoxes, but moving forward can only be done using the numbers on cards from your hand and moving backward only to a matching color or icon. With a rotating tracker to mark an off-limit color for your Paradox, this game has so much brain-burn that it provides a delightful experience with some sharp elbows via Clashing.
For the group gamer: These are the games to look at if you consistently play with 3+ players, as they go up to 4, 5, or 6 players.
Handsome – Even if you never liked games such as Scrabble, there is a chance you will really enjoy the experience of Handsome. PLayable from 2-6 players, this word game is more about set collection and clever play rather than who can make the most impressive words. With a common pool of shared cards and cards in hand to make the word, and the cards being only consonants, there is a lot of open flexibility for wordsmiths and those who don’t enjoy words to equally enjoy the game.
Tussie Mussie – From the hit designer of Wingspan comes a game about using the language of flowers. Playable from 1-4, this one really shines at the full player count with a variation of the “I cut, you choose” mechanic combined with hidden information to create a quick and enjoyable experience that is perfect to break out during a game day.
Universal Rule: Second Wave – Another standalone game where the first entry is out-of-stock, but if you like 4X games this is a 3-5 player 4X game with 18 cards. Exploit, expand, explore, and exterminate your way to dominance against your foes by gaining Victory Points.
For the children: All 2-player games that are perfectly suited to play with children, or have them play with each other.
Why I Otter – A fun little game with otters of various shapes and sizes with art that little kids will love and cleverness that older ones should enjoy. Winning a hand will let you get more cards, but losing allows you to choose the scoring conditions so there is a nice layer of decision-making to be found in this small package.
Wonder Tales – A puzzly, tile-laying game about fairy tale creatures which children will delight to recognize. The cards are double-sided with the same character on each side, but different colored highlights. Players try to position the grid so that the right combinations of characters/colors are adjacent to their cards to gain the most points.
Potions Class – A game of set collection and press-your-luck, players will take turns putting three cards out: one in their potion, one in their reserve, and one in their opponent’s reserve. The twist, similar to Herbaceous, is that you see the cards one-at-a-time and must decide as you see them where to place the cards as you try to craft your own potions for points while trying not to help your opponent make their own.
For the Unique Experiences: Two games that don’t necessarily fit neatly into their own category, but are worth looking into if you want something that might stand out. If you can get your hands on a copy of Mint Julep (out of stock on their website), it would be a great choice for this category as well.
That Snow Moon – A dexterity game? Yep, and I have personally witnessed how much fun this game can be with the right pair of people. If you can set aside the frustration of cards not doing what you want them to, this will provide a unique experience set in the same Sci-Fi universe as many of the other Button Shy games.
Kintsugi – A very abstract theme with tile-laying aspects at unusual angles makes this one stand out as a unique game. With two different paths to victory, and a lowest-score victory condition this game for 2-3 players will be a standout game in your collection for how refreshingly different it is.
On the top of my wish list this season: I have a fair number of the above games (and there isn’t a single game listed above that I wouldn’t want to obtain!), but these three are the ones I’d be most likely to order for myself if I placed an order today.
HeroTec – It is a game with superheroes and it plays well (I’ve heard) solitaire as well as with others. Featuring card drafting and multi-use cards, this game speaks my language in all the right ways.
SuperTall – My wife will probably never try Sprawlopolis with me (cooperative games aren’t her favorite thing) so I need to turn to the competitive Supertall for city construction in our Button Shy collection. It sounds like a complete blast, especially since you can pass the card you draw to your rival – especially if you know that card is going to be worthless that round.
Seasons of Rice – For the reasons outlined above. I missed the Kickstarter, but I need to get this into my collection because I know we’ll play it a lot.