Review: Battle Bands

Having been in a few bands over the past 30 years or so, the idea behind Battle Bands really appealed to me. Add a few extra ingredients like the fact it’s a song-themed deck builder, has an awesome soundtrack and actually plays beautifully on my slightly ropey PC and before you even dive into a game you’re already winning.

In Battle Bands you set out with your band mates, touring around while taking on other bands in one-on-one rock-offs to see who can build the most hype over the course of a song. As you battle you’re playing cards alongside your band mates, building up song segments which build up your hype as much as possible before passing off to the other team for their turn. Playing different cards uses different amounts of energy, and at the point where your band is either out of energy or can’t play any more cards that’s when your turn ends, but that doesn’t mean you only need to focus on your own energy – resources can be passed between band members so if you have a card that’s worth playing but can’t play it, just rope in some help from the drummer who’s been sat there staring into space, the way drummers often do.

Eventually one team reaches the hype limit, wins the battle and it’s the end of that contest. If both reach the limit on the same turn whoever ends up with the highest total hype will take the victory. It means you need to be grabbing every last point you can all the way to the end – on more than one occasion I smugly ended my turn with more than enough points to win, only for the other band to rack up a massive final round score, finish of a huge song section and leave me feeling a bit stupid for not checking the additional effects on my cards that might have ended their song section early or given them another disadvantage before the final moments.

As you play more games it becomes clear there’s quite a bit of strategy involved if you don’t want to keep having these embarrassing losses against your name. Checking your cards carefully for added effects that either benefit your band or impact the opponents becomes far more important than just chucking as much hype into a turn as possible; it only needs the other band to draw a luckier hand of cards and if you haven’t prepared properly you’ll be looking less like a stadium sellout gig by Muse and more like a Butlins set by Timmy Mallett.

So the actual card mechanics here are great, but Battle Bands also looks and sounds brilliant as well. The cartoony visuals work really nicely with some truly bizarre musicians to come across as you run through your tour – a living potato playing the keyboard anyone? The game would also fall flat if the music itself wasn’t up to scratch, but there’s some really good tunes for you to rock out to while you’re battling, and as the band members rock out while the battle goes on, chances are you’ll find yourself bobbing your head along to the beat as well. And if you’re getting bored of being on your own while you battle, you can even invite friends into your band for them to join you as well. Pretty cool.

Battle Bands, then, is a really fun and well put together deck builder. There’s strategy in there to give depth, there’s some really neat ideas in amongst how the cards build up segments of the songs, and the music itself is pretty banging as well. Very much worth a recommendation.

Reviewed on PC