The game’s concept and mechanics merge very well ... There’s just enough fantasy and band-ness to it to get your groove on.
Theme and What is it?
Shine your tambourine and weave your illusions about it is Battle of the Bards! Build your band from basic players to a truly rockin’ group with those elusive troubadours, the Veteran Bards. Roll the dice to earn benefits from your performance and get the audience on your side. Finish the night with an encore to see who truly is the great band in all Tessandor.
The goal of Battle of the Bards is to acquire the most victory points from capturing audiences, Veteran Bards, winning the Encore, and remaining Performance tokens.
Shuffle the Audience deck and turn over the top three cards to the right of the deck as the available audiences to woo. Shuffle the Veteran Bard deck and turn over the top four cards to the right of the deck (card closest is the Newest Bard in Town) and the Veteran Bard indicator.
Give each player their starting deck of Basic Bards and each gets a random Lead Singer with 2 dice and Performance token of its color. Then they are given a random Encore card that is kept face down though the can look at it. Determine the first player and give the person the First Player token.
The game is played in a series of rounds, only to stop once a player gains his fourth Audience card. During a round, each player takes 2 actions (even the same twice) and play continues to the left until each player passes. The possible actions are: Create a Performance, Use a Bard Ability, Hire a Veteran Bard, Capture an Audience, and Tune (free action).
To Create a Performance, a player discards a 3-dice straight to gain a Performance token.
Use a Bard Ability has a player place a die on the card that meets the condition identified to gain the benefits (bonus die, draw a card, etc.).
To Hire a Veteran Bard, a player discards a Wanted Poster and another card from his hand along with either 2 or 3 die with the same value.
Capturing an Audience has the player discard 3 tokens as shown on the card and discarding a card if the Audience card is on top of the Audience deck.
To Tune your band, discard a Tune token or card from your hand to either re-roll your unassigned dice or change the value of a single die up or down by one value but 6 can’t go to 1 and vice versa.
Once the round is complete following a player capturing his fourth audience, the Encore phase occurs where players can only roll dice based upon the Veteran Bards they’ve collected that match their Encore card. The highest total wins the bonus points.
I love the concept of the band battle concept along with the artwork really captures the flavor of the game. I’m also a sucker for dice + card games.
Game Build Quality
The components of Battle of the Bards comprised cardboard tokens, playing cards, and a dice bag (nice bonus). The weight of the cardboard for the tokens is decent and its finish is a light linen texture. The playing cards had the same light linen finish to them but the card stock was flimsy, no core that I could tell to support lots of shuffling, but the edges held up. The dice are nice, reflective of their colors on the cards. There is a little oddness with the overlarge first player token and Veteran Bard indicator as they don’t fit well into the box with the divider in it, making it a concern that they might get bent.
The artwork in Battle of the Bards is great, just right for the age range of the game and interesting to say the least. There are unique depictions for each unique card name that show a lot of love for the game.
The concept and mechanics of Battle of the Bards merge very well so you’re able to immerse yourself into it. There’s just enough fantasy and band-ness to it to get your groove on.
Age Range & Weight
The age range (10+) and medium light complexity married with the theme make Battle of the Bards spot on in this category. All the battling is done with music and there is no directly confrontational mechanics besides swapping dice and Encore phase. Playing with kids would make me think of getting out the movie School of Rock.
Battle of the Bards was one of the games I most looked forward to after GenCon. Ripping off the plastic, I couldn’t wait to take it all in. I love the art — it’s cute and fun. Playing the game, it felt well-tested and balanced. The game even lived up to its play time and learn time estimations which never happens with my group, so kudos to that.
The amount of balance, though, could be felt as a detriment to the game because the path to victory didn’t really offer the ability to use different strategies. You needed to make sure you had Veteran Bards because they were worth points and also for the Encore to get dice to try to win the bonus points. Yet by getting those bards, you had to sacrifice turns and dice that kept your from creating performances and capturing audiences. It is easy to criticize this but it also what feeds the low complexity of the game.
Regardless, fun was had by all and it is a worthy addition as an appetizer for any game night.
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