New South Wales
Buster Keaton from 'Go West'
I purchased this game about 30 hours ago, and have played it 7 times since then. It's the closest thing to an "instant hit" that I have had, so I thought I should write a review to tell everybody why it is so popular.
I'll start by explaining the game a little. You have a band including "ME" and up to 3 other characters, e.g. Santa, The King?, Mom, Rob (Zombie), Mortisha (Addams), Bethany (Spears) etc. You can give them instruments, such as the kazoo, or air guitar, and reputations, such as Asskicker, Sex Machine, Teen Dream, etc. These all contribute to the band members' Hip Points, which are important when you're playing a gig.
Your band can also get a Contract, which allows them to release Hit Singles. Hit Singles also give you Hip Points. Now gigs are as close to combat as this game comes. When a Gig is played, players may play Monkey Wrenches, which are good things that happen to you or bad things that happen to other bands. For example, Mom was "Too Wasted" to play, so her Hip Points didn't count. And several times we have seen Santa "Banned" because of that sad affair with the pants not being on. Guest stars and borrowed instruments can also be used as Monkey Wrenches. After everybody has had their chance to play Monkey Wrenches, each player totals their Hip Points, adds any Monkey Wrench modifiers, adds the roll of a dice, and whoever gets the highest total wins the Gig. In an interesting twist, if there is a tie, the person who played the Gig wins - even if they were not involved in the tie. All of the hard work of organising has paid off.
So, finally, to the aim of the game. Contracts, Gigs, and Hit Singles are worth Superstar Points - 1 or 2 each. The first player to achieve a set number of Superstar points wins the game. For 2 players, you need 12, for 3 players 10, and for 4 players, 8. You can also get a bonus Superstar Point if you play the right instrument.
There are also Music Industry cards which cause all sorts of "take that" effects. For example, an opponent might reveal to you that your Hit Single has been circulated as MP3s, so it is in fact worthless. Or the tabloids might do an exposé on Santa, revealing that his drug habit is not hip, he is in fact a junkie. There is a lot of screwage going on, and you won't like this game if you dislike being bashed because you're winning. However, we find that by the middle of the game most of the take that cards have been played, and it settles down a bit.
So, how does the game play? Once you've got the hang of what all the different cards mean, it moves quite quickly and nobody gets bored. The high screwage factor means that analysis paralysis is not rewarded - no matter what you do now, it might be destroyed in a moment. I find that there is a low "bash the leader" effect, as once a leader becomes apparent, most of the bashing has been done. However there is some opportunity for that. There is almost no "bash the loser", as there's nothing to be gained. The "take that" effects can destroy an entire band, which can be depressing, but they can't instantly wipe 6 superstar points, so if you think you're about to win, then your fear is of someone else winning, rather than someone wiping you out.
I have played this game with my 8yo son, a 7yo (male) friend, 13yo (female) friend, their dad, and my wife (not all at the same time, it only takes 4 players). I felt it was appropriate for those kids. I personally have no problem if my kid claims that Santa's a Junkie and Mom's a Sex Machine, but I can understand that others might worry about that; so be warned. We had a heap of fun playing this game, and my kid is still wondering how duct tape can help if someone is too smashed to play in the gig.
On the downside, the physical quality of the cards worries me a lot. Several times I have seen cards bend alarmingly quickly, though luckily none have creased. One of the Music Industry cards which specifies "play on gigs", has been misinterpreted several times as being able to be played during gigs. However the rules are generally clear and we have decided on several house rules (you can replace band members, you can replace instruments, and you can replace contracts).
Overall, this is a funny game, in the spirit of Munchkins or Gloom more than Citadels. I wouldn't call it a filler, as it is not really serious enough even for that (Bohnanza might be better), but it is a great after dinner game for a small party of non-gamers. No doubt I will be asked to play it again.