Over the past few years, cartoony deck building games have been very popular. Most games stick pretty closely to the kill the arrow formula, but I don’t think I’ve seen one who’s tried to change things just as drastically as battle bands. The premise is simple: you play as the sole member of a four-person rock band against another rock band. It takes one of two forms. The first is a random mode where you create a party and fight AI boss type enemies. And the other has you in a series of matches against other human players.
Once you’ve started, battle bands introduces you to the tutorial. You are put in a pre-made band as a guitarist. The bottom line is that both groups must compete for one of them to emerge victorious. Your group must reach 100 hype. To gain Hype, a band must have an active Song Section card. There are four members in each band, consisting of a guitarist, bassist, drummer, and keyboardist. Each of the four has instrument-specific song sections that they can set up, or common song sections that can be in anyone’s deck.
Once a song section is defined, a number of performance cards can be played. Party members have a certain amount of energy, which allows them to play cards in their deck. Each performance card increases the hype of a group. You can also play certain cards that reduce the hype of the opposing group or have other effects. If a party member runs out of cards but still has energy, they can choose to give that energy to another member. It’s an interesting setup that makes some sense, given the premise.
rock and reign
When you start a campaign, you can create a new group or join an existing one. This mode allows you to join three other players or just play with bots. You can even tell the bots what to do via battle bands‘ chat functionality. The campaign puts you in a van and has you choose places to go on a map. These tend to provide opportunities for new maps or enemy warbands to face. Opposite groups often have fewer members, but they are thematic. One is the Goo Fighters, which is a group made up of slimes. Another has you scrambling on a trailer on the open road as the background scrolls by. There is a fair amount of creativity involved.
The thing is, whether or not battle bands worth picking up at launch is based purely on playerbase size. I like the concepts and the systems are interesting. But this game is not so fun in single player. You can really only play a few cards here and there before spending a few minutes waiting until you can get going again.
It would certainly be different with seven other people in a session, but finding that many people might be difficult at launch. The game will need a lot of people for anyone to find matches. That’s a pretty big risk and there’s not even a full comments page in the general discussions on the game’s Steam forum. Of course, word of mouth could definitely grow. battle bands, as it just entered Early Access. It might also be worth it for people playing through the campaign with three friends, but the focus is obviously on the larger multiplayer. One thing’s for sure, though: it’s a long way to the top, if you want to rock ‘n roll.