Battle of the Bands Encore Edition/Backstage Pass Expansion -- Third World Games -- 2004
With Battle of the Bands: Encore Edition, designer Dan Smith and Third World Games give you the chance to live out your own Spinal Tap fantasy (or would that be nightmare?). Form a band, grab some instruments, and replace your drummer who just died in a bus crash… it’s all here.
Battle of the Bands is a light, humorous card game about creating your own band and winning gig “battles” that give your band Star Points. The first band to get a certain number of Star Points (it changes based on the number of players in the game) wins the game.
Players win gigs by creating a groovy band that is hipper than their opponents’. Players start with a Me card in front of them, representing themselves in the band. During the course of the game, players will add new members to their group (up to a maximum of four), eventually creating their own tabletop motley crew. But of course, some members are cooler than others, which is represented by each member’s Hip Points. Every band member can have is or her Hip Points changed by playing Instrument cards (positive) or Reputation cards (both positive and negative) directly on the members. For example, Johnny T. with a Sampler (instrument) and a positive Fan Club (reputation) has a total of 4 Hip Points.
The band’s total Hip Points helps determine the winner of each Gig. Once a Gig card is played, players have a chance to play various Monkey Wrench cards, cards that have some effect on the outcome of the gig and are then discarded. Some are good and help you win the gig (such as High Voltage), while others are played to screw your opponents (such as Lip Synching). Once all the Monkey Wrench cards are played, add up the total Hip Points for each band and role d6 (handily included in the box), the band with the highest total sum wins the gig and get the gig card, along with its Star Points.
Bands can also sign Contracts, which allow them to release Hit Singles, both of which contribute to the player’s Star Points.
The final card type in the game is the Music Biz card, which functions as your basic “action” card. A common effect of these cards is to discard another card in play, such as a band member (Crash) or a Hit Single (Bootleg).
The gameplay itself is simple: draw a card, play a card. During the course of the game, each player will place his band members, Contracts, Hit Singles, and any Gig cards he won up in front of him. The cards that provide Star Points are conveniently marked with large star symbols, making it easy to determine how everyone is doing at a glance.
Battle of the Bands is fun to play, and a big chunk of that fun comes from the running commentary made by the players as the cards are played. Instead of just playing a Crash card (killing a band member) and discarding your opponent’s hippest band member, expand on the card. Where did the crash occur? How did it happen? Were drugs involved? The theme provides fertile ground for each player to make the game that much more fun and interesting by cracking jokes (some tasteful, some not) from start to finish.
Unfortunately, Battle of the Bands suffers from the same weakness as many other light, humorous card games: once all the funny cards have been seen several times, does the game lose some shine? Invariably, yes. But the running commentary I mentioned above should go a long way towards keeping the game fresh and fun.
All in all, our group found Battle of the Bands to be a lot of fun. It’s not a deep game, by any means, but it is an entertaining one that functions well as a filler-type game between your more “serious” games (though the game may be a tad bit too long to be considered filler for some). I recommend Battle of the Bands highly.