Lunch Money, by Charlie Wiedman, is the mother of all playground battle royals! Each player gets 15 life points and five cards in hand and it is time to rumble!
The player to the left of the dealer goes first and may take one of three actions: Play an attack on the discard pile and name a target, discard any number of cards from hand and draw back up to five, or pass. Passing or discarding/drawing cards do not effect other players and thus once completed the player’s turn is over and the next player in clockwise position may go. When an attack is played the target of said attack may respond with a basic defense card(Block/Dodge) to avoid the damage. In the case of a Block, the defender may play a Grab card followed by a basic attack that becomes unstoppable unless the Grab is defended with the play of a Freedom card. If the initial defender plays a Block and does not have a follow-up attack to play, the initial attacker may play a Grab and proceed with a now indefensible basic attack. Once this situation results in a player being damaged successfully or no player is able to respond with any further actions the turn ends and all players draw back up to 5 cards. The one exception to this rule is the play of a Humiliation card, which can be used by any player to cancel any card and followed up with an indefensible attack. Once this effect is resolved, the current player’s turn ends and all players draw back up to five cards in hand. Each player repeats this process on his or her turn until there is only one player left standing!
Lunch Money is a game of smack talk and beatdowns being handed out with extreme prejudice on a grade school playground! Sure it is not the best game out there, but it is fun to take a break from trying to rule the world and settle for ruling the playground for a change. After all, conquerors have to start somewhere, right? Lunch Money actually performs pretty well in a casual crowd, but a group of hardcore gamers can ruin the game. While the casual crowd revels in wading in with Uppercuts, Headbutts, and Lead Pipes, the hardcore gamers discard their hand trying to stockpile Humiliations, defensive cards, and look to use diplomacy in an effort to direct the attacks on to other targets. When Lunch Money is played as an aggressive free for all everyone tends have a good laugh regardless of the outcome. If players try to play “strategically” it turns into a standoffish arms race where everyone fears to make the first move and drags the game out into a boring mess.
In conclusion, I would rate Lunch Money a 5.5 out of possible 10.0. It is most certainly not for everyone, and if you can’t handle conflict or a little trash talk, I would recommend avoiding it altogether. While I rate it fairly low, I will note that the game is fun when not taken too seriously. I find that the artwork and flavor text on the cards help to create a mood of violence and chaos befitting an all out playground brawl. It is a nice filler game if you are looking for something light and easy as a break from heavier games. See if you have what it takes to be the last kid standing on the playground and walk off into the sunset with all of the lunch money!