Calvin’s Commentaries: Take your band to the big time

For many of us the dream of heading out on the road with a rock band and becoming the next Green Day or Guess Who or U2, has at least been a daydream while listening to some tune – even those of us who can’t play an instrument, or hold a tune vocally.

But, now at least we can live out the fantasy – at least a little – with the release of On the Road from designers Gabriele Bubola, and Leo Colovini and publisher Helvetiq.

So you likely have guessed already that in On the Road, you play music bands.

In this case, you want to be the band to reach the Sunshine Festival with the most fans.

“Sunshine is the biggest music festival on the planet. People from all over the world have been flocking to it since 1968, which is why the festival always has the hottest line-up! The festival combines almost all known genres and for one week a year, Sunshine is the musical epicenter of the world. Your band has been invited to play at the next edition, and you are up for the challenge! You have one year to rehearse, build a fan base, and become a headliner of this world-famous event,” explains the publisher’s website.

“As an amateur music group, it’s time to leave the old family barn of your first rehearsals and travel the country in search of your first fans. Your goal: to perform at small festivals to rally as many fans as possible, and to be the band with the most at the big festival in a few months, where you’ll be voted Band of the Year.

But don’t be fooled by the fact that you’ve got to win over a lot of fans along the way – you also have to get to the final stage early enough to get them there. The band that strikes the right balance between making as many stops as possible and reaching the final stage on time will see its name go down in legend!”

So the game has rather straightforward mechanics. A set of tiles is laid out, and you move your piece – the band – along the path trying to gather the most fans on the way to the main stage.

There is a touch of strategy – do you move forward or maybe go back a few tiles to set up something better – but no fear this is not a brain burner.

This is a rather leisurely game that ticks off a lot of boxes if you want a quick-to-learn, likely to satisfy a varied crowd game.

Designer Gabriele Bubola of course enjoys games when time allows.

“I would like if I would have time! Having three kids makes it quite difficult,” they offered via email. “Even for this reason, I prefer filler and family games. Some of my favorite games in my collection are the ones I would have loved to invent: Dixit, Kingdomino, Lost Cities, Jaipur, Ra, Azul, Seven Wonders, and Duel). Not to mention the ones I designed.”

This is a game we would rate as very family-friendly, at least until the kids hit mid-teens and then the ‘band experience’ here might seem a bit thin. Admittedly, we wondered if there shouldn’t be some bus breakdowns, venue canceling on the band, broken guitar strings, and such here, but as a starter family game grab it.
Ditto for a game you could teach at the next family gathering, or a rainy day friends drop in at the cabin.

In that regard, the game fits with the designer’s initial vision.

“I was trying to create a game that can be played by families in 20 minutes where children can easily play with probability without any help. I would like to design a light game with increasing tension where the dilemma would be entered as first with fewer cubes to extract or as last with more cubes and more possibilities to extract your cubes,” they said, referring to what they see as a key to the game drawing cubes.

“. . . The best physical element is the bag. It is nice and emotional to draw from a bag hoping to reveal one of your fans!. . In the first phase of the game, you try to put as many of your fans in the bag whereas in the second phase, you hope to extract them.”

Of course, the bag draw is the equalizer or randomizer depending on your viewpoint, as it adds a huge element of luck which casual gamers tend to like.

Overall, On the Road is at its heart a rather chill, simple, light board game that can fill a niche in a collection. This might not hit the sweet spot for hardened gamers seeking a deep game requiring lots of thought, but if you want to relax some night at the game table, this one is it.

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