For those of you who are not familiar with Button Shy Games, they are a small publishing company from the United States (New Jersey, to be precise). They have an extremely specific and unique product that they sell: Games that consist of 18 cards shipped to you in a sleek bi-fold wallet small enough to fit in almost any pocket. The company is run by Jason Tagmire and he puts tons of love and care into his games, to the extent that he personally puts the wallet games together by hand.

Now, I know what you are thinking, “an 18 card game, how fun can it be?” While not all of their nearly 100 games will blow your mind, there are quite a few that could go head to toe with most of the big box games out there, and for a mere fraction of the cost and storage space.

Let’s take a look at a few of Button Shy’s noteworthy wallet games, then we’ll talk about their board game design contest in case you want to try your hand at designing their next game.

Sprawlopolis

  • Players: 1-4
  • Time: 15-20 Minutes
  • Mechanic: Cooperative Tile Placement

In Sprawlopolis you are working together to build up a city filled with parks, industrial, commercial, and residential blocks. Every card can be played on top of previously played cards to optimally build your city and gain the most points, but beware, the folks in the city absolutely hate roads and you will lose a bunch of points for having too many unique roads. Pair that up with a really neat variable scoring mechanic that gives you 3 unique scoring objectives each game and you have a deeply complex puzzle to manage.

Stew

  • Players:2-4
  • Time: 10-20 Minutes
  • Mechanic: Push Your Luck

Stew is a game that is charming from the theme and artwork all the way through to the devious gameplay. It has such simple mechanics, you take a card from the deck and you can do one of two things, stick it facedown into the stew or feed the ingredients face down to 1 of a few vermin who are hanging around your campgrounds.

Eventually, when players feel the stew is hearty enough to eat, someone will call Stew and begin chowing down. The catch is that the unfed vermin will come and hand-pick their favorite ingredients straight out of your bowl, leaving you with nothing but some broth and a flavorful stone.

It is a tense but light-hearted social game that will always provide some hearty laughter and frustrating bellows.

Circle the Wagons

  • Players: 1-2
  • Time: 15 Minutes
  • Mechanic: Drafting and Tile Placement

Circle the Wagons is a drafting game that has a couple of unique features. 15 cards are sprawled out in a circle and you take turns drafting any card you want, but any cards you pass over in the circle are given to your opponent.

It creates some tough decisions regarding which cards to draft and just how much you are willing to give to your opponent to get that card that you want oh so badly. In addition, whatever cards were not placed in that circle during setup are flipped over and placed in the center of the circle to provide the players 3 unique scoring objectives for this game.

The tense decision making and the huge combination of scoring objectives provide a plethora of replayability with virtually no rules overhead.

Button Shy Board Game Design Contest

Among all the publishers out there, Button Shy does more than anyone to promote and encourage amateur and established designers to produce unique and interesting games.

The restriction of designing an 18 card game alone is a true creative feat, but their newest monthly 18 Card Challenge series pushes the envelope even further by including some additional and quirky restrictions.

Entering these competitions is hugely valuable to aspiring designers and seasoned designers alike. It offers you lots of experience with creative problem solving, the opportunity to be published, and the chance at winning $100 via PayPal.

September Design Challenge:

The September challenge required designers to create a game using 18 identical cards. Think about that for a moment, what kind of game can you create with 18 Ace of Spades? It almost seems impossible. Yet, somehow 228 people managed to submit unique games that fit those ridiculous restrictions and some are extremely cleverly designed.

Here are examples of a few interesting games:

The Button Shy YouTube channel has made a playlist with a number of the entries and they will be covering the September finalists and winners in the upcoming weekly Tuesday episodes. You can follow along here:

October Design Challenge:

Click here to read the full terms and guidelines for the October challenge.

Obviously, if you are reading this now, you have missed your chance at entering the September Design Challenge, but October is still here and there is still plenty of time to put an entry together. This month, the challenge is to create an 18 card game that does not utilize a playing surface or the packaging during the game, i.e, cards will need to remain in your hand or exchanged among the players hands from the moment the game is setup to the moment the game ends. It is yet another interesting and difficult design challenge that myself, and many others are eager to overcome.

Stay tuned for more challenges in the coming months and be sure to check out and support Button Shy Games.