Preview: Band Manager – Backstage Clash

captureBattle of the Band Managers

New, from a trio of designers (Original Content London) out of London, comes Band Manager: Backstage Clash, now on Kickstarter!
Band Manager is dedicated to musicians who are still striving to make music in the ever-changing music industry.
The game places players in the role of managers who cobble together musicians to form bands, then sending them out on tour to play and gain fans, ultimately becoming the greatest, most famous, band of all time.

Author’s Note: Band Manager: Backstage Clash was originally titled Battle of the Bands, but due to a copyright claim, the name was changed. My photos will reflect my review copy, which was originally branded as Battle of the Bands. Please dismiss the branding on these photos. Thanks!

Learning to Play


Will your radio interview show off your talent?

The game begins with players receiving two passion cards, with various phrases like: midlife crisis, heartbreak, talent, etc. Each player must describe how they broke into the music industry, using those cards as turning points in their lives. It gets excessively silly, and exceedingly hilarious. These cards also act as wilds.
On their turn, players can stay home and practice (draw a card), or go on tour, thereby completing a row of card, including: hype, chops, gear, riffs, passion, and fans. When a player goes on tour, they may invite other players to join them, as adding more musicians allow for filling more rows and increasing exposure and spoils.
After a successful tour, players will draw cards based on numerical success from played cards, granting either fans (value 1-4) or career cards (hype, chops, riffs, and gear). These cards will be discarded once the tour ends, so players can place badges on played cards to determine which order they draw cards from the spoils pile, as well as guarantee they can take that card back into their hand instead of losing it.
Play continues until one player has gathered 27 fans, making them the greatest musician and tour organizer of all time… Oh, and they win the game.

All The Fixins

This badge shows off the card you get to keep.

This badge shows off the card you get to keep.

While potentially gimmicky, Band Manager stresses the appeal and flavor of desperation to make it in the music biz. The game board is literally a t-shirt, and players actually use badges that high schoolers would clip onto their backpacks to show support for whatever various bands were in style. I realize this is a relic from the late 90s and early 2000s at this point. Kickstarter pledge levels also include a hard flight case to store your game inside, rather than a cardboard box.
Band Manager is also clever in pop culture reference (This Is Spinal Tap, for example) and boasts a delectable selection of pixel art featured all throughout the game. Each instrument or style of music is accentuated through the detailed artwork, and as an old-time SNES gamer, the art style speaks to the games I hold dearest. While pixel art is growing more commonplace recently, I think it fits here, and it fits very well.
Band Manager entirely loses any sort of family-friendly potential with silly expansion cards referencing a “sex tape” or one passion card depicts a psychedelic drug trip, which brought that player into the music industry. In addition, the Kickstarter expansion ships with an obligatory NSFW pack that makes the game more rude, sexual, and violent. Figure out whether you would toss out the NSFW pack upon arrival, or play with it, but aside from new art, I’m not sure it adds anything to the game.
If you decide you want more content and variety to gameplay, you could instead choose the Entourage pack, which includes patches. These patches give variable players powers. Some might allow a player to draw two cards when practicing instead of just one. This adds a lot of re-playability to the game, and gives players different methods to reach their goals.
I think the Entourage pack should be a necessity for each KS copy of the game, as it’s a request among the people I’ve played with. The gameplay itself allows for lots of “take-that,” backstabbing, and kicking players off your tour whether it’s because they are annoying, or you don’t want them to get the cards they need. While I think this negotiating is the core of the game, additional player powers can add more strategy and variety.

People Who Will Love this Game

Two full levels of cards.

Two full levels of cards.

In my game sessions, players would keep track of how many fans other players had, and refuse them on tours. Other times players would say things like, “If you let me go on tour with you, AND let me put my badge down first, then I will fill up the next two rows, and sacrifice two of my fans.” Of course, this was followed by everyone at the table objecting and screaming their distaste of the situation, but the band manager would quickly agree and accept the offer. These are the shining moments of Band Manager.
When going on tour, the game recommends players name their band, so there is a bit of storytelling, and of course, humor. How do you name a band that has bagpipes, electric guitar, plays R&B and classical music, all piled into a pickup truck? It’s quite hilarious, though the band naming might grow tired with a group that isn’t specifically creative.
I think Band Manager: Backstage Clash will be a successful group game with players who like the silliness of Munchkin, or the non-committal nature and raunch of Cards Against Humanity. The game is not stacked towards strategy, but I think the addition of the band patches will be huge towards making the game more strategic in nature.
The game also excels at five players, and with people who like coming up with silly stories and like silly content. If this is you and your group, then Band Manager is for you!
Of course, if you have any musician friends, consider this a fun gift idea.
The Kickstarter page is live at this link!


Chris Hecox

Chris enjoys the simple things in life, like teaching his wife the newest review game, looking up Ketogenic recipes, and playing 10 hour long indie games on Steam. If he's not thinking about the oil drum components from Manhattan Project: Energy Empire, playing Player Unknown: Battlegrounds with his college buddies, or dwelling on the release of Daredevil Season Three, he's probably shooting or editing video, because that's what he does for a living.

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