Author: Charlie Wiedman
Category: Card Game
Company/Publisher: Atlas Games
Page count: n/a
Capsule Review by Jason Driver on 01/20/99.
Genre tags: none
Remember the old adage "There's nothing new under the sun"? I am firmly convinced that whoever wrote that, no matter how long ago, must have been referring to the gaming industry. Certainly there have been original ideas from time to time (Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer, Magic: The Gathering, Toon; you know, the classics). . .and countless bastardized clones from each idea. Not to say that I disapprove of this system; it's the sincerest form of flattery, it helps the industry grow, and many times these clones are an improvement over the original concept. My point is that all of the good ideas are taken. . . and to me, everything over the past few years has been a flashy new outfit over the same pimple-covered, squeeky voiced, prepubescent idea. There just is nothing new under the sun.
And then I played Lunch Money.
Wow. This is easily one of the most original and best games that I have come across in a VERY long time (and I started gaming when "tabletop miniature" was another term for "cardboard chit", so I know original when I see it). While most of you reading this have probably already played, let me explain the game for those of you who are not among the converted. Lunch Money is a card game (NOT COLLECTABLE!!! NOT COLLECTABLE!!!) where the players are children in a schoolyard playground. Your opponents have lunch money. You have lunch money. You want everyone else's lunch money. They want your lunch money. You all will do whatever you have to in order to get extra lunch money,including beating your school chums bloody and senseless until they scream for mommy to make the bad man stop (Ahhh. . .I can see heads perking up already).
Every player starts out with 15 cents (which you have to provide yourself unless you manage to get the ultra-rare, one per case, deck with the roll of pennies hidden in it) and five cards. There are three types of card: attack, defense & health, and special. Each attack card has a number on it denoting the number of pennies that it takes away from the opponent of your choice, while defense cards (block and dodge) help you avoid the pummeling. When you are out of pennies you are out of the game, left for dead under the swingset. The attack cards describe the pain delivery system used, and range from the basic punch and kick all the way up to the spinning backfist and the dreaded Pimp Slap. Some of the special cards include grabs, headlocks, choke, and the Big Combo ("I'll take an order of whup ass, upsized please").
However, as great as the concept of this game is, the cards themselves are worth the cost alone. Each card is a photograph, beautifully done with a little girl (evidently the photographer's daughter) running through a field, smiling or in similar cute poses, with little self-affirmations like "look at me while I'm hitting you", "stay down", and the ever-popular "call me daddy". The first few times I introduced this game to my playtest group, all we did was sit around and read the different cards. One of the ads for Lunch Money refers to it as "fascinating and amusing and disturbing all at once". I couldn't put it any better myself.
I struggled to find any flaws with this game, and all I could come up with was the $18.95 price tag. However, in a world where gaming supplements can cost upwards of $25, this is no argument at all (and you'll have more fun with Lunch Money). If there is one company to watch for releases, it has to be Atlas Games. They consistently release games and supplements that are well thought out and fun to play (and isn't that why most of us got into gaming in the first place?). In short, Lunch Money is a true original. No matter what kinds of game you like to play now, you need to play this one. Buy it, or I'll have to pimp slap ya!
Style: 5 (Excellent!)