Battle of the Bands
Battle of the Bands Capsule Review by Erik A. Dewey on 14/03/02
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 3 (Average)
The perfect thing to break out when you have less than an hour to kill and are looking for something to do. This is one of those games where the game itself is fun, but you play it more for the witty interaction between the players.
Product: Battle of the Bands
Author: Dan Smith
Category: Card Game
Company/Publisher: Third World Games
Page count: n/a
Year published: 2002
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by Erik A. Dewey on 14/03/02
Genre tags: Modern day Comedy
Battle of the bands is an entertaining card game poking fun at the rock and roll lifestyle.
When I play this game I always remember a not-too-funny joke: Q: Who loses a Battle of the Bands concert? A: Everyone who enters.
Anyway, this is a fun, light card game for 2-4 players. The average game takes around 45 minutes. The cards themselves are full color on the front and have a black and white marshall stack on the back. The art is all excellent, done by the game's creator and well-known game artist Dan Smith. Since the game is satirical, you should expect the art and content to be as well.
Each player in the game starts with a Me card in play. This is the first person in the band and can never leave the game. The object of the game is to be the first player to accumulate a certain number of superstar points. These are gained by having hit singles, producing videos, and yes winning Battles of the Bands. Be warned though, just because you've earned a superstar point does not mean you will necessarily keep it as the cards can quickly change hands.
In addition to the superstar cards the deck contains band members, instruments, music biz events, monkey wrenchs (for screwing up opponents gigs), and reputations. A band can have up to four members in it and each member can play up to one instrument, although an instrument is not required (Do it Rockapella!). Each band member has a number of Hip Points that are used to help determine who wins a band battle. The choice of band members is interesting. While there are a few parodies of well-know rock & rollers their are also some surpises, including Mom, a gorilla, the Grim Reaper, and that wizard with the Theromin, Santa Claus himself.
To increase a members Hip Points, you can place an instrument on them and you can attempt to play a reputation card. The rep cards are a very interesting part of the game. Basically you need to roll a member's current Hip Points or less to sucessfully place the Rep card on the member. Fail and it is discarded. What this means is that a great band member has a much greater chance of increasing his Hip Points than a crummy member. Since each member can only have one Rep card, you tend make many attempts to roll a 1 or 2 on a band member in the hopes he will improve.
Another interesting aspect of the Rep cards is that on each card there both a positive and negative aspect of the same reputation. Normally you would play a positive reputation on your members, but there are plenty of cards that rotate the card around. While once you had lots of groupies, now you have becomed diseased (which kind of freaks me out when it happens to Mom).
When an actual Battle of the Bands occurs, all players total up their Hip Points, roll a d6 and add it to the total. Highest grand total wins the points. Before dice are rolled, all players get the opportunity to play monkey wrenches (like broken guitar string) on each other to lower their Hip Points which increases the amount of interaction the players have, always a necessary aspect of any satirical game.
Their are a few problems with the game, but none of them are very glaring. The first is that there are references to sex and drugs. This is not really a problem, as it is a game about rock & roll, but obviously impressionable children should not play with those cards. The FAQ makes a great statement that if you don't like the card toss them out and it will not affect gameplay at all.
Next if a player has a band with significantly higher Hip Points than his opponents, it is difficult for the opponents to come back. There are cards that help, but the game itself is not incredibly well-balanced. A lucky card draw can help you as much as great playing.
Finally, the two-player game much less satisfying than a game with multiple players. While this is true of most games, I find light hearted games suffer from this more.
In the end, the game is fun to play. These problems are fairly minor as this is a card game about rock and roll, not Advanced Squad Leader. It is the perfect game to break out when you have less than an hour to kill and are looking for something to do. This is one of those games where the game itself is fun, but you play it more for the witty interaction between the players.