When LUNCH MONEY first came out in 1996, I thought it was twisted and gross.
So naturally, I bought a copy.
Ya, it's an older game, but one a lot of people have overlooked but now love.
It's the Blade Runner of card games.
Lunch Money is an elimination-style card game by Atlas Games.
In 1997, Lunch Money jointly won the Origins Award for Best Card Game of 1996.
The art on the cards consists of dark, somewhat Gothic photographic images of a small girl, usually accompanied by humorous quotes pertaining to the card's name.
In the game, players control a character with fifteen "health" points, and draw a hand of five cards. The players take turns playing cards to "attack" other players, who try to block, dodge, and counterattack the attacker. When the defender is done responding, he or she takes any applicable damage, and both players then redraw their hands to five cards, passing the turn to the next player. When a player loses all her health points she passes out. The last one "conscious" wins the game.
There are several types of cards, including Basic Attacks, Special Attacks, Weapons, and Defense cards. Each is distinguished by a different background color to the artwork: for example, the images on Defense cards have a blue tint.
Basic Attack cards do a set amount of damage (i.e., take away health points) if not countered. Damage ranges from two to seven points depending on the card played. Basic Attacks can be countered by Block or Dodge. If not countered, the targeted player marks off the appropriate number of points, and the turn ends.
Special Attacks usually do damage, but have other effects as well. For example, Poke In The Eye does only one point of direct damage, but also renders the target unable to defend against a follow-up attack from the same player who used Poke In The Eye, and either leaves the target defenseless against an attack from the next player to take a turn, or, if the next player is the victim, makes the victim lose a turn. Special Attacks can be countered by playing Block, Dodge, or, in the case of Grab (which does no initial damage, but sets up the victim for other attacks like Headlock and Choke), Freedom.
Weapons, like Basic Attacks, do simple damage (always three points) without additional harmful effects to the target, but unlike all other cards, they are not discarded when played. A player can thus use the Hammer, for example, repeatedly over the course of many turns. Weapon attacks may be countered with Block or Dodge. They can also be countered by the otherwise useless Disarm, which forces the attacker to discard the Weapon. Persons playing Disarm are not allowed to capture the weapon for their own use.
Defense cards either negate Attacks, allowing the target to avoid taking damage, or repair damage already taken. Dodge may be used against any attack card: Block against any attack other than Grab. Freedom is useful only against Grab attacks, and may also be used to escape from Special Attacks that do ongoing damage, such as Headlock. First Aid "heals" two points of damage when played. Any number of First Aid cards may be played at the same time, either on a player's turn, or as a last-ditch defense if a player takes enough damage from an attack that he or she would otherwise be out of the game.
Humiliation, the trump card of the game, is usually used as a Defense since it immediately cancels the effect of any single card. However, since it can be played at any time and for any reason (without the player needing to wait for his or her turn), it can also be used offensively to, for example, cancel another player's successful Dodge or use of First Aid. Humiliation cannot be countered except with the use of another Humiliation.
According to the game directions, Humiliation, when played, should always be accompanied by a detailed description of what has been done to thoroughly Humiliate the victim. This is an example of the way the game encourages boasting and trash talking as part of the fun.
This is truly a game that should be with you at all times for those moments when you have about a half hour to kill.