Publisher: SolarFlare Games
Game Designer: Dave Killingsworth and Dave Ferguson
Artwork: Andora Cidonia
Ages: 8 and up
Playing Time: 20-45 minutes
For those about to rock!
After millennia spent ruling the universe, the gods found their powers diminishing and began having a sort of mid-existence crisis. Determined to once again reach the pinnacle of power, they came together and agreed to battle it out for total supremacy.
Deciding that ruining eardrums was better than destroying worlds, the pantheon’s formed into rock bands, spandex was donned and flowing manes were upheld by copious applications of Aqua Net. Songs were mastered, set lists were formed and venues chosen for a galactic battle of the bands to decide who would hold dominion over the universe. This is the Lords of Rock!
Rock and rule
Lords of Rock is a fast-playing, lite card game where players gather a rock band of mythical gods to win the souls of their adoring fans. The band that has captured the most souls at the end of the tour is the winner and will rule the universe forever!
The game comes with four pantheons to choose from; Egyptian, Aztec, Norse and Greek gods are all in the base game with more to be added as stretch goals. Each pantheon has 10 gods and two extra ‘lead’ gods, one of these lead gods must be chosen when assembling your four member band of singer, guitar, bass and drums.
You won’t need to wrangle much with your decision on which pantheon to choose, simply pick the art that you like the most. The pantheons are all nearly identical in skills and values, the two lead gods from each being the exceptions as they are slightly different, but they too pair up with gods in other pantheons in skill sets and values. I think that the designer’s desire for balance here proves to be more of a negative than a positive, while it can keep the game close together in score, it really inhibits the pantheons from gaining a sense of separate identity.
Players receive four venue cards and then select gods for their bands in secret to be revealed simultaneously. Everyone draws seven set list cards and then the first player begins the tour by placing a venue card from their hand in the center of the play area. Only one venue card is played by each player through the tour, so keep that in mind when assembling your band.
The pantheon and venue cards are beautiful; artist Andora Cidonia has done an excellent job at blending the traditional look of the gods into the cartoonish and fantastical poses of rock stars. The venues are likewise handled, with my favorites being the Miskatonic University, Devil’s Reef and Atlantis.
When choosing a venue to play, you’ll select the one that best plays to your bands strengths and can garner the most points from your set list cards. Selecting venues that are associated with your pantheon can also score you an extra soul stone or set list card if you win the show. This is the same for all pantheons across various venues, except for the medium size ones which have no bonus attached.
After each show, you’ll draw three new set list cards into your hand so you will never run completely dry if you throw a bunch down in the early rounds. Using multiple good set cards at an extra-large venue is generally a smart move because you score about three times the points you get at a small venue if you finish in first place.
If someone follows up with another XL venue, you’re still going to be in decent shape in the lower tier with how close together the scoring is set up. Again, this goes back to the balance issue I mentioned earlier which is both a good and bad thing about the game; the scoring is pretty tightly balanced so there’s not a high degree of risk vs reward to be concerned with.
Set list cards are played one at a time face down, either in front of themselves if they are positive cards or in front of an opponent if they are negative. No one can have more than two negative cards in front of them; this eliminates players ganging up on just one player and helps keep things close. Negative cards can be mitigated by the use of ‘roadie’ cards, so don’t look down on getting a couple of those in your hand. Of course, if you get a bad luck draw and have more roadies than you do songs, it will hurt your chances at doing well.
At any time during the show a player can choose to pass and not place another set list card in front of themselves, ending their turn until scoring. However, if another player plays a negative card in front of them, that player can respond by playing a positive card if they choose. This continues until everyone passes and then things move on to the scoring phase.
Scoring is very simple; everyone flips over their set list cards and totals up the values of the primary or secondary skills used that are applicable to the venue. For example, at a small venue like the Chichen Itza, only the guitar skill would be counted whereas a medium may score vocals and drums all the way up to the extra-large venues where all skills are counted.
Players total their scores and determine the rank of each band in the venue’s scoring tier and are awarded the number of soul stones that match their place in the show. After everyone has played a venue card, the tour is over and the soul stones are totaled to determine the overall winner and new ruler of the universe!
Hit or flop?
SolarFlare has a knack for developing some light-hearted, fun family games and here Lords of Rock is no exception. It’s an easy to play game adorned with some fantastic art that is easy and fast to play for all ages. It’s a great game to play with kids because it teaches some simple matching, reasoning and basic counting skills as they select which set list cards to play for themselves or use to hurt others. With how tightly balanced the game is, unless you luck out with a bad hand or make some very poor selections, the scores should be pretty close together at the end of the game.
With the pantheons nearly identical in skills and values, the venue and set list cards are where you’ll concentrate your strategy. It’s all fairly minor as expected in a filler but here it’s simply all about the math, as you compute which cards to play to score the most points for you while taking away one or two from another player. Generally, things get their craziest in the final round as there’s no reason to hold onto your cards and everyone will lay down most if not their entire hand which can at times lead to some swings in the score.
Lords of Rock would have really benefited by the addition of some variable player powers, allowing the pantheon’s personalities to come alive while also tying in the game’s fun theme better mechanically. As it is now, I find the game a bit thin with very little depth making it fall flat for me which is disappointing because I see how some changes would have added a touch more depth and improved the game exponentially. It’s not that it’s a bad game, it’s just not for me.
Casual gamers and families will enjoy Lords of Rock the most I think, which is where this game is squarely aimed and it does a good job at being a fast and easy to play game that will be entertaining for the right audience. Mainstream gamers looking for a quick and lite filler that’s not taxing on strategy may find this lands right in their wheelhouse too, if that sounds like you then give this one a look when it comes to Kickstarter next month.
Lords of Rock goes live on Kickstarter on August 1st.
Company Website: http://solarflaregames.com/
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/bravefrontier
Note: A preview copy of this game was provided to me.