Release Date: March, 2001
Set Size: 6 Buttons (Sold in pairs as Torg/Bun-Bun, Zoe/Kiki, and Riff/Aylee, or as a set of six)
Publisher: Pete Abrams, Sluggy Freelance
Designer: James Ernest
Artist: Pete Abrams
After nearly a year in the works, the Sluggy Freelance set of Button Men originally scheduled for release in the summer of 2000 finally shipped in the Spring of 2001. It would originally have been the first set with Option Dice, but Button Men: Fantasy beat them to the punch. Still, Sluggy Freelance is a popular comic and these characters should do well. You can read the comic online at www.sluggy.com.
Tom Ricket, head of merchandise for Sluggy Freelance during the period the Button Men set was released, said the following via email:
"Sluggy Button Men started out in the same way that a bunch of Sluggy projects did: someone who enjoyed the Sluggy comic was also a creator of something neat, and had the idea that maybe our chocolate could get in their peanut butter. In this case that was James Ernest, and he asked Pete if we'd be interested in working with them to do a set of Sluggy Button Men. The primary reason that the set was delayed longer than we first expected was due to Bun-Bun. At this point, the Sluggy universe had evolved enough that Bun-Bun was shown to be a very powerful force for chaos. We had to cross this concept with the Button Men values: both James and Pete wanted something that got across the essence of the bunny, while at the same point not just being a totally over-powered, "if you have this button, you win," sort of thing. So we went around for a while testing different sets of numbers that both felt right and didn't unbalance the actual game. Once we finally had the first pass ready, we did a couple different sets of play testing to hit the set from both angles: one set of people that James Ernest knew, who were very familiar with Button Men as a game, and one set of Sluggy fans, who knew the character and 'feel' of the universe. They managed to get along with killing each other more than just in the game, so with a few minor tweaks, we were able to get through that stage relatively unscathed.
Beyond that, we had the usual time finding or creating the right graphics for the buttons (mainly Pete, of course). Basically, what worked as a shot for a comic panel didn't always work for artwork on the button, so that took more tweaking than you'd expect. Our whole Sluggy Store was a mom-n-pop operation that my wife and I ran out of our tiny apartment, so we needed to be able to make the buttons in-house rather than pay lots of money to a vendor -- something that was way different back around 2000 than it is today! We got an awesome button making machine ... which had one tiny bit of damage that caused about half the buttons to tear. We finally figured that out, and the company fixed it, but that cost us an extra two months or so, with packing and shipping and testing and all those annoying things.
The Sluggy Button Men were a popular item for several years, especially at conventions. The other Sluggy items we sold at the time were books and T-shirts, and one nice thing is that we could add in Button Men to existing orders without needing to increase shipping, which was a nice bonus. At the same time, the overlap between people who knew Sluggy and people who played Button Men was never huge, so it was never the kind of thing where we could turn it into a billion-dollar business."
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