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[Review] Battle of the Bands and Backstage Pass

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  • Tom Vasel
    Anyone who reads my reviews should be able to tell that I m a big fan of fluff and theme. I believe that a light, fluffy game can be a lot of fun,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2004
      Anyone who reads my reviews should be able to tell that I'm
      a big fan of fluff and theme. I believe that a light, "fluffy" game
      can be a lot of fun, especially when playing with a group of like-
      minded people. These light games that have themes, especially
      humorous ones, can really appeal to people who are not huge board
      game fans. I have found them particularly affective with teenagers,
      other game genre fans (CCGs, RPGs, miniatures, etc.), and people
      who've never had much contact with games before. Hardened gamers
      often sneer at these games – and often, the mechanics range from
      simple to horrible. But if the theme is good enough, it can
      overshadow game play and make the entire time enjoyable. And
      sometimes, when the game play is actually fun, and then a good theme
      is added – the game can be a real winner.

      Such is the case, in my opinion, of Battle of the Bands
      (Third World Games, 2001 – Dan Smith), and it's expansion Backstage
      Pass (Third World Games, 2002 – Dan Smith). Both of them will never
      make it into the top 200 great games of all times. However, they
      will probably both make my dime list this year. And the reason for
      that is that they are small and easily portable, greatly themed, and
      extremely fun to play. I'm reviewing both of them in the same
      review because the expansion adds no new rules to the game other
      than some new cards. (still worth getting!)

      Battle of the Bands simulates getting a band together, and
      trying to become the most famous band in history (or that year, or
      whatever.) Each player playing is given a "Me" card, and the left
      over "Me" cards are discarded out of the game. The remainder of the
      cards is shuffled into one draw deck. The players place the "Me"
      card in front of them (this card represents themselves – the main
      player in their band). Five cards are dealt to each player, and the
      game is ready to begin! One player goes first, and then play
      proceeds clockwise around the board.

      On a turn, a player first draws up to six cards. They can
      then take ONE action. These include:
      - Playing a band member: Any band member can be played onto
      the table in front of a player, joining that player's band. Each
      band member has a certain amount of Hip Points (HP) and a few have
      special abilities. A band can only have four members max (including
      the "Me" card – which has one HP).
      - Playing an instrument: An instrument card can be played on
      any band member that the player controls. Each band member may only
      have one instrument. Instruments add HP to the band member who is
      playing them, and may give other special abilities.
      - Playing a Reputation card: A reputation card can be played
      on any band member in play, even other players' members. However, a
      die must be rolled, and the result compared to that member's current
      total HP. If it is that number or less, the reputation is added,
      otherwise, the card is discarded. Reputation cards can be flipped
      to give a positive or negative affect. For example, the
      reputation "Wild!" which gives a bonus of +2 HP, can also be played
      as "Confused", which gives a bonus of –2 HP. Only one reputation
      card can be played on a member at one time.
      - Playing a Contract: A player can play a contract on their
      band. Only one contract can be played on a band at one time.
      - Playing a Gig: A player can play a Gig card, but all
      players can participate. Only one player can win the card (worth
      points). Starting with the player that played the gig, each player
      plays as many cards as they want/can. They can play band members
      and instruments – that can temporarily exceed the limits, but must
      be discarded after the gig. They can also play "Monkey Wrenches",
      cards that help their band and hinder others. After all cards have
      been played, each player totals their band's combined HP and adds
      the results of one six-sided die. The player with the highest total
      wins the gig and keeps the gig card. In case of a tie, the player
      who played the Gig card is the winner.
      - Playing a Hit Single: A player can play a hit single on
      their band, as long as they have either a contract or a "Signed" gig
      in play.
      - Play a Music Biz card: A player can play one of these
      cards, which have a one-time use (usually negative for another
      player), which is then discarded.
      - Discard three cards.

      Some cards – mostly Contracts, Gigs, and Hit Singles,
      give "Superstar" Points. The first player to accumulate a certain
      amount of Superstar points (determined by the amount of players) is
      the winner!

      Some comments on the game…

      1.) Components: The cards in the game are a bit thinner than I
      would like, but other than that, they were fairly functional. I was
      extremely happy with their design, however, as they are VERY
      uncluttered, and keep the game on a nice, simple level. The artwork
      is very, very good – and really adds to the theme. The expansion's
      cards are of better quality, and there is a SLIGHT difference in
      card size, although this didn't affect the game at all, and I think
      I'm the only one who noticed it. Each type of card is a different
      color – and this helps out a lot for ease of game play. The cards
      are pretty clear as to what they can and cannot do, with the
      exception of the Hit Single cards, which need the Contract or Signed
      Gig to be played, and do not say so. I don't think it's a big deal,
      but some in the group weren't too happy with it. The box for the
      original game is okay, but the box for the expansion is superior.
      It has the bottom of the box glued shut, so that cards can't slip
      out. When are other companies going to do this simple, yet ever-so-
      nice task? A die is need, but not provided. I doubt it would be
      hard for most people to find one, however.

      2.) Rules: The rules in the original game were functional, but
      a little unclear. We missed two major rules in our first playing
      because of this. When I added the expansion, I found that the rules
      were entirely rewritten, and were much easier to understand. The
      rules are pretty basic, anyway – and people can understand and play
      the game in a few minutes. The only time any questions might arise
      is when certain card combinations are played (typical of any CCG-
      like game). A small FAQ is included in the expansion rules that
      answered all questions we had, though.

      3.) Expansion: The expansion, because of the revised rules, is
      pretty nice to have, but most folk don't like a game that "needs"
      the expansion. Fortunately, the revised rules are up on the
      website, at www.thirdworldgames.com, as well as a faq, and a promise
      of a revised game – that includes the original and the expansion.
      I found the cards in the expansion a welcome addition to the game,
      as they added a lot to the humor.

      4.) Humor and Theme: The game is funny, as long as nobody at
      the table is taking it seriously. Yes, if your mom has joined your
      rock band, and then runs off with another band and becomes an
      alcoholic in real life – that's not funny. However, for some reason
      in a game a lot of guffaws are heard when it happens. And then,
      having a crazy ape playing the bongo, Johnny T with his guitar, and
      Santa Claus with the air guitar and a "dictator" mentality all in
      the same band is even funnier. Of course, with some people, this
      humor would drop dead on the floor. However, my recommendation is
      just to not play with those folk. I don't like rock music much, and
      think a rock band is very close to the last thing I would ever want
      my kids involved with. For this reason, I doubt I'll play this game
      with my teens much. However, for a group of adults with a funny
      sense of humor, this game can really take off!

      5.) Fun Factor: This game is a lot of fun. I know I'll be
      criticized for liking a game with poor mechanics. Yet the mechanics
      are very similar to "Family Business", another classic game whose
      theme is so fun it overshadows the mechanics. And I really did
      enjoy playing the game – it was that much fun. People watching the
      game at the convention I played it at were clamoring to play in the
      next game – and that's ALWAYS a good thing.

      So, if you like humor, theme, and fun – then this game is for you.
      If you think having the words "Rock Band" in your house is mortal
      sin, then you might want to pass. Also, the stodgy folk who think
      that theme and humor means nothing, they may wish to take a
      different route. However, if playing a short, fun, fun, fun game is
      your idea of an excellent time, then this game – especially for the
      price and portability, is probably one of your best bets! Now
      you'll have to excuse me while I go mourn the sad demise of Pezz, as
      he played the Boom box at a Children's Party. We were glad that he
      produced a Crossover hit, but his foolish personality was just
      ruining our reputation!

      Tom Vasel
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