Gameday First Play – Battle of the Bands
You know, I have a really tough time finding new bands.
Battle of the Bands is a love letter to the music industry: players feel the pressure of becoming more mainstream to survive, and must navigate the uneasy balance between companionship and headcount in a touring band.
Starting with nothing but pure passion, players go on tours to win career opportunities and fans. However, tours are expensive and risky. The risk may be mitigated by cooperating with others, but then players must split the spoils, so band members must earn their place or be left out.
Early in players’ career, tours are niche; poorly promoted with obscure genres & unusual instruments (bagpipe reggae?). As the game progresses, players gain success by selling out to more mainstream music and learning how to do effective marketing. As their careers take off, the incentive to cooperate with other players fades away, leaving nothing but a desperate race for fans.
So let’s get the obvious point out the way first. The board is a T-Shirt and the player pieces are badges… I feel this initially takes over the focus of the game and even when I asked on Facebook, “Who wants to play Battle of the Bands”, the first reply was “Whos wearing the board?” 🙂
But this isn’t a T-Shirt game, it’s a card game.
The art is that pixelated 1980’s look and quite humorous if you look closely… Each player is dealt 2 random ‘Passion’ cards with the building blocks of you bands backstory on them… I had ‘Heartbroken and ‘Talent’ and with these you’re supposed to make your bands backstory… we did not.
The ‘Best Backstory’ is the official first player though which could be fun, we just went randomly by shaking the badges and dropping them.
Before game play, a quick note to say the other cards are shuffled into 2 piles. In the main deck, called ‘Career Cards’, these are Hype, Chops, Riffs and Lead cards in 4 different colours and valued 0-4…
The other deck is made up of ‘Fan’ cards of various values and your goal is to get to 27 fans first.
So you start the game with 2 Passion cards (These are wild cards) and can either ‘Stay Home and Practice’ (Draw a Card and end your turn) or ‘Go on Tour’ (Become the Tour Manager and Play Cards).
When you go on Tour you need to fill a Row with a card of that columns colour, using your Passion cards as Wild cards to fill any slot. Some slots (The black ones top left of the grid) will give you fans and the light grey ones will give more Career cards.
If you can’t fill a slot yourself you can ask other players to go on tour with you to hopefully fill the gaps for you. But why would they?
Well, the value of the card played will give that many cards of that type as the ‘Spoils’ that will be drafted by all Band members. Also, anyone who goes on tour can put their badge on a card and claim it as their own, as long as no one else is already in that column, I’ll explain why in a bit.
After the bottom row is filled, you can go to Stage 2 which is the same as Stage 1 but requires a Fan to complete in it’s own slot on the right. Stages 3 and 4 are the same.
Once players have negotiated playing cards, placing their badge and which level to stop at, cards are revealed and drafted.
At this point if the Tour fails, players take back their cards and the Tour Manager will have to Stay Home and Practice instead.
A number of Fan and Career cards are laid out face up depending on the value of the cards on their spaces. These are those ‘Spoils’ I mentioned earlier.
The Tour Manager picks first, then drafting occurs from left to right depending which column players have their badge in. (This is why you can’t have 2 badges in the same column.)
Obviously if you tour alone you get all the spoils.
After drafting, players take back their badge and the card it’s on, all the other cards are discarded.
The Tour Manager then discards down to 7 cards and can also ‘Bank’ Fans by placing them to one side face up.
Once someone has 27 fans the game ends and they win.
So first the negatives. The rule-book needs work but it was a beta copy so hopefully this will be fixed before general release. The images are good but it needs more words and a bit more info on different situations.We played it slightly wrong (We started with 4 Career cards) and had a few questions while playing that the book couldn’t clarify. (The designer did say to email with questions but I didn’t have a signal and the shop I was in no longer offers Wifi!)
The T-Shirt and Badges are fun! but off putting to some people so a board option and ‘Proper’ counters as a stretch goal/optional buy/alternative when this comes to Kickstarter would be good.
The game needs to be played in the right spirit. Like Munchkin, if everyone is nice an polite and helps out then the games just follows rails to the end. You need everyone to say “No, no one wants to tour with you” if they’re winning but I can see people ignoring that to get Fans and place second. (Which happened in our game) Games being played in the right spirit is one of the hardest things to get right at the table.
I’m not sure if going on your own is always better? You spend 4 cards but then draw a handful. If you have a Red ‘4’ card you draw 4 Fans and keep them all plus other Career cards you can hopefully set your next turn up with. It’s doubt
Personally, it’s like Chinatown for me and I’m not a big negotiation game fan. I’m not mean or ‘selfish’ enough and I don’t enjoy it if that’s what the game is.
But for the Positives, unlike Chinatown it’s fun to do the negotiating. I loved saying things like “Your Band is OK, pretty decent, but you need my Riffs… your Riffs a great, but mine are Godlike!”. Even mentioning the specific things on the cards too like “Who needs Bagpipes when you can have a Harmonica?” 🙂 I enjoyed that.
I like art and ‘things’ on the cards and that each card is different so you can work it in to the story of your Band or Tour and work it into your negotiations…
“Thank you, but a Saxaphone isn’t the sound we’re going for in this band.”
Overall I think it’s good it’s just not for me. If you have a group that likes to tell stories and be a bit mean to each other you’ll love it 🙂
Note: The copy I played was a review copy. It is self published by Sam Ballard and Ed Saperia, big thanks to them for this game. Look for this on Kickstarter September 2016.