BATTLE OF THE BANDS
Designed by Ed Saperia and Sam Ballard. It is dedicated to all the Bands who have yet to make it.
BATTLE of the BANDS is a card game for 3-5 players, aged 14+ (according to the details on BGG). Games lasts between 30-60 minutes. The box contains 120 Career cards, 60 Fan cards, 10 Passion cards, 5 Badges, a Rules Booklet and a Tee-shirt.
The rules of the game cast the players as budding musicians who are trying to put together tour bands, but that actually makes them Agents or Tour Managers rather than actual musicians. If things work out on the tour the Fans will bring great opportunities to go further on down the road towards success. Actually there are no opportunities except that gaining 27 fans is the way to win.
In the game there is a tee-shirt which I suggested my wife wear when we went to a friend’s house to play the game. She almost did put it on, and then she realised that the tee shirt is also the game board and that she would have to take it off so we could play – well it almost worked, but please don’t try this at home unless you fancy wearing the game box.
The Passion cards are shuffled and dealt two to each player. These have some flavour text on them, such as Mid Life Crisis, Broken Home, Mentor, Talent etc plus the number “1”. This is the only part of the card that is of actual use in the game for the Passion cards are basically a Joker, capable of taking the part of any other required card.
The artwork and the card design are pretty mundane, and the badges are unique to the game (5 different) but otherwise nothing special. The tee shirt/board is an unusual idea and works very well, except that it is wasted as a tee-shirt that could have been used to promote the game. Of course you could always take turns in wearing it and lying very still so your friends can play the game. Seriously, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to have had a paper board included, and I’m sure it would be appreciated. The box is of a size to get good shelf space but otherwise too large for the current amount of components, though it wouldn’t surprise me to find that expansion packs soon become available.
Any Passion cards remaining once all players have their two are placed back in the box and not used in the game. The Career cards are shuffled and placed as a draw deck next to the board on the left. The Fan cards are shuffled and placed beside the board to the right. Apart from the two Passion cards the players are not dealt any other cards to start the game. I assume that this is because if the first player laid their two Jokers down and asked someone else to do the same, a Tour could be formulated. This is highly unlikely to happen as it would be of very little use to anyone. It would ease everyone into the game if players were also dealt 3 or 4 Career cards each, as well as the 2 Passion cards, at the game start. This is how nearly all of our games begin, we decide on a first player and then we all take the Stay at Home option for the first three or four, mostly four, turns; games continue so smoothly once you have cards in your hand.
The players now take turns in clockwise order. There are two options, Stay at Home and Practise or Go on Tour. The game mechanic is that simple. But of course there is more to the game.
To go on Tour the players require a minimum of 4 cards, one of each type (colour). For the first tour, on the lowest row of the grid, only four cards are required, there is no space in the Fan column for a card. All the other rows require four Career cards, still one of each type, plus a Fan card.
The Grid is arranged to take 16 Career cards (4 rows and 4 columns) plus 3 Fan cards, one each for the top three rows. Cards must always be played in the correct column (by colour) and filled in from the lowest level upwards. Players may organise a tour on their own, in which case they keep all the rewards to themselves, or they can ask for assistance in which case the spoils are shared.
Depending on where the cards are placed on the grid, the rewards are either Fan cards or Career cards. Career cards placed on Fan slot spaces produce Fan cards as rewards, and Career cards placed on Career slots spaces produce Career cards as rewards. The Grid is shaded to show which positions are which. The number of cards created as rewards depends on the number of the card on the grid space. Thus a 4 value card on a Career grid space will provide 4 Career cards as a reward. The number on the cards does not indicate which row on the grid the card has to be placed.
There are 8 pages of rules sandwiched between the front and back covers. The rules are mainly examples, diagrams of the grid in various stages of the game, and apart from collecting cards to form Tours the only other rule is the hand limit is always reduced to 7 at the end of the player’s turn. To get their hand size down the players can either discard cards or place Fan cards face up in front of them. These will count towards the player’s Victory Point total and not as part of their hand, however once placed in front of a player these Fans are no longer available to go on Tour.
Cards collected as spoils/rewards are taken into the player’s hands and used to form part of the next tour they organise. To form a tour the player places from his hand the correct number of cards. If they are holding enough cards they can organise more than one tour, though to do this they then have to ask for the other players Assistance. Once the tour or tours have been created the players take it in turns to put their badges on one of the cards on the grid – they can put it on any card on the grid whether they played it or not, and they will get this card back after the rewards are collected, but all other cards on the grid will be discarded after the rewards have been dealt out.
The order on columns on the grid is constant, the first column is always Red (Hype), the Yellow (Chops), Green (Riffs), Blue (Lead) and finally Purple (Fan). Only one badge is allowed in each column and badges may not be placed on the Fan column. The badge on the Red column not only takes the red card it sits on but it also indicates that the owning player has first pick of the spoils, then the player with their badge in the yellow column and so on. Only players who assisted in forming the tour may place their badges, so logically only 4 players can be part of the tour (it is possible that 5 players each put one card in to the tour but only 4 can gain any reward).
When we first saw the game cards and read the rules we were not impressed, not because of the quality, we knew we had a beta copy, but the idea just seemed so nothing somehow. It lacked something but none of us could say exactly what. The general consensus was that we were about to play one of those games that you really don’t want to play. Oh boy! Were we wrong!
Yes, the mechanic is beyond simple, just either collect a card or play some cards, but whatever that something was that we thought was missing was suddenly there in spades. We still cannot say what it was but all of a sudden our collective ears pricked up and the interest level rose. It was as if a light bulb had gone on in each of our heads as the game became more challenging and a lot more fun. With the first game behind us we set up and played again, and then again, the simple family card game had now become a thoughtful, fun game.
The blurb on the front of the box says it is about solo careers, selling out, comeback tours, concept albums and becoming a musical legend, but to be honest that’s pushing it a little. I am guessing that, by stretching the imagination, the “solo careers” are the solo tours; “selling out” I figure means asking other players to join you on tour; “comeback tours” has me stumped as does “concept albums” and becoming a “legend”? Well maybe in your own lunchtime amongst your friends and peers, but otherwise I’m not sure.
BATTLE of the BANDS is a good fun, slightly abstract, merry and enjoyable game. It can be played and enjoyed by anyone, whether they are interested in music, bands, and tours or not, or whether they just simply enjoy a well structured card game whatever its theme.
Note: As far as I can ascertain, this game is not related to Dan Smith’s 2001 Battle of the Bands card game, the title being the same is just a coincidence.
BATTLE of the BANDS is self published and so I am not certain whether it will be available from your local game store. It is due to be on general release about the beginning of September 2016 so you can always check by locating the store and asking them