The chair creaks as you settle onto it. The candlelight flickers. All around you the ravenous faces of your so-called friends twist in delight as you slowly open the box laid out on the table. Welcome to Dangerous Games! Each week, we'll feature a horror/thriller/monster tabletop game you should be playing. Don't be scared… roll the dice… what's the worst that could happen?
Okay, Lunch Money is a weird one. Here's one hell of a premise. You and your friends are all creepy, nightmarish-looking little school girls. You all have lunch money. You all want to beat the crap out of each other and steal each other's money. Last one with any lunch money wins. Um… what!? In this fantastically creepy and totally weird card game from 1996, players will do just that. Through fast-paced gameplay and darkly haunting images, this game is a treat for the casual or in depth horror board gamer.
Lunch Money is a game best played with three or more players, though it can be played with as little as two. Each player starts with fifteen counters in front of them. This represents your "lunch money" and it is the goal of each player to be the last person with counters left. When a player loses his or her counters, they are "unconscious" and knocked out of the game.
The way a player makes their opponents lose counters is by playing attack cards. These cards, with names like "Hook," "Jab," "Hail Mary," "Haymaker" and "Uppercut" seem grisly when attributed to the creepy little girl photos on the cards. You know the type, demonic-looking little ones in white dresses, with creepy eyes and in spooky environments. It smacks of possession horror, where a creepy kid could be scarier than any demon Greg Nicotero could cook up.
Players will also, of course, be attacked by their opponents. So there are defensive cards like dodge and block. There are also weapon cards, combo moves, and specialty cards like "Poke in the Eye." Each card causes a player to lose a certain amount of counters, and like I stated above, last man (err… little girl) standing wins!
Lunch Money is a quick game. It's the type of game you bring to the bar (so much so that they've made another version of the game called Beer Money) and play with your friends. If you've got two copies of the game, you can turn it into a (violent, macabre) party game and play with eight or more people. There are tactics to the game as well. Do you come out swinging and strike early? Or save your cards for your combos?
This is one of those games where the mechanics are solid but you look at the game design and just go "what?" This would be a normal, straightforward game if the cards featured pictures of street fighters or brawlers. But it's given such a creepy tinge with the artwork.
It's very popular in a cultish way. It's the type of game people seek out, it's the type of game people play once and then have to search for. If you find Lunch Money by Atlas Games, you should grab it before someone pokes you in the eye or uppercuts you and steals your lunch money!