The Closet Report: Battle of the Bands

Battle of the Bands

"We are the Champions, my friend, and we'll keep on fighting ‘til the end....No time for losers, 'cause we are the Champions—of the World!" — Queen

I am Jonathan Albin, the Game Market Guru, and this entry of "The Closet Report" is a part of my in-depth and detailed analysis of tabletop games of every stripe. The Closet Reports capture and outline the merits, values, and details about these games in terms that a casual player or a die-hard veteran will appreciate. By providing not only the "straight skinny" on the product in terms of the big 3 (Class, Character, and Creativity) but also in terms of Materials, Marketing, and Mechanics. In doing so, I identify areas of imagination, innovation, and ingenuity.

This time, I’m going to play a riff or two about a resurgent card game, seeking to start climbing the Kickstarter charts very soon: Battle of the Bands, a light and enjoyable card game. This easy-to-play, easy to understand game of one-upmanship and musically playful competition hits all the right chords, and will become a pop hit instantly.

Overview

Game setup is the usual five-card hand, with a draw – play – act  turn sequence that is intuitive for card game players. The field of play for each player in effect represents the band’s stage presence, where the player you choose (or, in early games, are assigned) a band leader, and then go about building their band play after play.

The cards in the deck beyond the "me" card — the band’s leader, that can never leave the band, or be removed from play — include prospective band members, instruments for those band members to play, performances (called Gigs), and Music Business cards.

The primary mechanism is twofold — the band-building portion, and the performance portion, determined by the play of the Gig cards.

Prior to the Gig cards, players take turns either adding members to the band or equipping band members the variety of instruments, some of which will amplify (yeah, intentional pun there) their effectiveness in performance. The Music Business cards have a variety of effects, some positive for your band, others impeding your opponents. All of the band-building parts of the game feel like a garage band forming, with a variety of characters and iconic band member concepts to flavor the experience. Even without the competitive portion, the Gigs, the game is pretty enjoyable, just envisioning how that Goth chick on the flaming bagpipes would sound with the dog playing the tuba. But I digress.

The real action of the game occurs when a player declares a Gig card. In a stand-up gig, the two bands just compare total point values to determine who wins. But like any good competitive game, BotB throws a monkey wrench in the works — quite literally. These cards, only used in a band battle, can cause real havoc — perhaps the band has to leave their instruments out of the competition, or someone has a terrible hacking cough. The actual effects of the Monkey Wrench are sometimes silly, sometimes catastrophic. Fortunately, there are cards to prevent or nullify a Monkey Wrench, and others that increase the value of either band. That is where all that band-building pays off.

In the end, only one band can win the Gig, and earn the points toward victory. Reach the objective number of points, and your band wins the Battle of the Bands.

Currently, there is no direct plan for organized play, but the sets, with a relatively high card count, and expected boosters to be released over time, will keep this game fresh and playable ad infinitum. As it is a remake, the designers did not change the rules substantively, just updating the look and the flavor of it. Battle of the Bands will be Kickstarted soon, and thereafter, will be coordinating for nationwide distribution.

It is priced at $30, the low end of the Eurogames price points, and well worth every penny.

Below are the somewhat wonky, somewhat useful characteristics the Closet Report reveals about the product, and of its game play.

Statistics

  • Total Time to Play – TTP: 21:00
    Total time including OBT, PT, and BiB.
  • Out of the Box Time – OBT: 0:30
    Time from closet to playtime, including setup, shuffle, and deal.
  • Play Time – PT: 20:00
    Time from beginning of game to resolution, i.e., winner, draw, or quit.
  • Back in Box Time – BIB: 0:30
    Time required to put game back in the box configuration and return to the closet.
  • Time Per Turn – T/T: 15 seconds
    The time a turn takes to play. The only delay was in deciding where to play a tile.
  • Turns per Game – TPG: 20
    Number of turns in an average game
  • Turns to Engagement – TTE: 4-8
    Number of turns until one player’s action can negatively affect another player.
  • Fun Per Turn – FPT: 98%
    Percentage of the turn that feels like fun.
  • Work per Turn – WPT: 2%
    Percentage of the turn that feels like work. Even the difficult decisions were playful and lighthearted in nature..
  • Turns Before Fun – TBF: 0
    Number of turns that must elapse before engagement with the other players occurs. Band building is itself a hoot
  • Self-teaching time – STT: 2:30
    Time required to learn the game by only reading the rules – no demo. Rules are clunky to read, and could be smoother.
  • Closet Time – CT: 3-4 weeks
    Average length of time between plays.  This value may vary, as the theme can be cloying after all the cards in the deck are known, and the combinations get to be familiar and almost expected. Further, if you are not a big follower of the music scene, the theme and card text ca be either confusing or seemingly pointless.

Play Ratings

Numerical ratings from 1 to 10 on various aspects of the game. See each for a scalar definition.

  • Aggression (categorizes the rules by oppositional dynamics)
    Scale from cooperative (1) to stridently adversarial (10) – Score: 3
  • Beauty (categorizes the rules by sheer aesthetics; is it “pretty”?)
    Scale from functional (1) to art gallery quality (10) – Score: 7
  • Complexity (categorizes the rules by how easy or difficult to comprehend)
    Scale from expected (1) to intricate beyond comprehension (10)  Score: 3
  • Depth (categorizes the rules in terms of subtlety)
    Scale from shallow (1) to unbelievably nuanced (10) – Score: 5
  • Engagement (categorizes the rules in terms of player interaction)
    Scale from parallel play (1) to strong need for teamwork (10)  Score: 4
  • Fun (categorizes the rules in terms sheer derived pleasure)
    Scale from mildly amusing (1) to fall on the floor laughing (10) – Score: 7
  • Innovations Quotient (IQ) (identifies any characteristics that make the game unique)
    Numeric rating, and each “point” is defined that make this product memorable – Score: 6

Miscellaneous

Breakout Events are the times and circumstances where this game may shorten its Closet Time, or otherwise help it "break out" of the closet.

  • This one will find its way out of the closet when we have a short play window, and every time a rock song gets stuck in my head.

Shelf Rating is the overall game shelf rating, when compared with every other game in the closet. Scores will vary as new games come into being, and based on other characteristics such as marketing and promotions of similar games.

  • Battle of the Bands will remain in that front pocket on the back of the closet door, for a quick play opportunity or for travel to play elsewhere, due to its compact nature and generally exceptionally fun experience