Lords of Rock
(1 - 4 players)
I recently had the chance to play a few games of Lords of Rock; a game where each player represents a pantheon of gods battling for control of the universe. They are not armed with their traditional lightening bolts, tridents, and staves, however. This weapons for this conflict are guitars, drums, basses, and vocals.
At the start of the game each player constructs their band using the available members of their pantheon. Each god card has a primary skill consisting of one of the four instrument types (guitar, bass, drums, vocals) and a secondary skill consisting of another. To begin, each player chooses one of their two band Leader cards. These are characters such as Zeus and Isis and they have higher primary skills than the other gods belonging to the pantheon. Once you have chosen one leader card, the other is removed from the game. Each player will then complete their band by choosing three other god cards, each with a different primary skill. Additionally, each player will be dealt four venue cards (there is a varient to draft these) and seven set list cards.
One player will then play one of the four venue cards in his hand. Venue cards come in four sizes; small, medium, large, and extra large. This will be the battleground for this round. Each venue will have a number of instrument icons on it, based on size. Any of your band members which contain that instrument as their primary skill will participate in this round. Additionally, any band members whose primary skill does not match an icon on the venue card will use their secondary skill, if it matches the venue. This will determine your starting value for the round. Additionally, when a venue is first played, each player has the option of discarding one to three set list cards and drawing new ones.
In turn order, players may then play a set list card from their hand either on their band or on another player's. Set list cards provide a bonus or penalty to one or more instruments. Postive cards are played on your own band facedown and represent songs your band is performing such as "Stairway to Olympus" and "You Give Aphrodite A Bad Name". Negative cards, such as "Hungover" and "Blown Amp" may be played on others. There are Roadie cards will allow you to cancel a negative card played on your band and each band may only have a maximum of two negative cards played on them each venue. You may also pass, but once you pass you may no longer play any set list cards with the exception of playing one positive card on yourself if a negative card is played on you. Players continue playing set list cards until everyone has passed.
Then each player's total band score for that venue is added up and points are awarded based on their placing on the venue card. For example, "The Rainbow Bridge" venue awards 1st place 3 points, 2nd place 2 points, and 3rd place 1 point. Some venue cards will also give the 1st place winner and additional benefit such as an extra set list card draw for the next round. No matter how many cards a player played that round, they each draws 3 new set list cards (and discards down to 10, if nessessary).
Then the next player in turn order plays a venue and set list cards are played out again. The game continues until each player has played two venue cards. Then victory points (souls) are added up.
First off, the card art is very good in this, even better than many games from much larger publishers. The god cards in particular look very nice.
Lords of Rock, for being what I consider a medium light game has a suprising amount of simple addition and subtraction. Combined with the theme, I think this would be a very good game for parents to play with their children and reinforce basic math skills. The nonviolent, kid friendly theme, combined with the attractive artwork will appeal to parents and kids alike. There is a bit of a take that element around the negative set list cards so that is something to consider when playing with children. The game makes fair use of symbology and has very little language dependence.
There is a decent amount of strategy when you put together your band. Do you choose the gods with balanced primary and secondary skills, or do you choose ones with a high primary but low secondary? You also need to decide how many cards to play on a venue. If you go "all in" you'll only have three cards to play on the next venue and it's possible you won't draw the cards with the needed instruments to match the next venue. If you're playing the next venue card, perhaps you'll want to save your cards, play an extra large venue where all instruments count, and then play all your cards, not only winning first place, but giving you an extra card draw for the following round. There is a press your luck element when deciding how many set lists cards to play on any given venue.
In conclusion, if you're looking for a medium light game with great art and unique theme that plays in roughly 30 minutes, you should check this one out, especially if there are some kids in your family who could use some encouragement to work on their math skills.