[Review] Battle of the Bands and Backstage Pass
- 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
- 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
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!