Thursday, February 22, 2018

Dropmix - DJ Color by Number

Harmonix is no stranger to the game scene, Rock Band flooded plastic toys into our homes in 2007. Recently they have taken the board game route, sticking with what they know best; music.

Their latest game, Dropmix, is a competitive card game in which four players split into two teams, drawing cards from their own deck of fifteen cards to overtake the other team on the mix board. Drop a card on the board, that's +1 point, and the first to 21 wins. While imposing at first, you soon realize this is a simple game of colors, numbers, and a hint of luck; all the while mixing famous tracks together as you battle it out.

The empty board looks like this; five spots in total with color bands around the edges. Only the corresponding color card occupies that spot; yellow are vocals, blues are typically drums, red is guitar, and green your bass line. There are also two white special effects cards and a single rainbow card in each deck that can be placed anywhere on the board.

Each card has a "power" or amplitude ranging from weakest (1) to strongest (3). Placing your card in the spot requires you to check if the color matches and if the amplitude is equal or greater than the card that occupies that spot. Single power cards are typically played at the start on blank spots but as you progress you soon find yourself needing higher ranked cards to overtake spaces you require, replacing their track music line with your track music. If your opponent drops a level two red card, you would have to play a level two or three to overtake that part of the mix. Overtake the entire mix, and you get an additional point.

Turns consist of two actions, one for you and one for your partner if you are playing head to head with a teammate. Placing a card is one action, but white special effect cards can allow the placement of multiple cards, even using combos with your teammate's deck to up the score as much as possible.

The other action you can do is hit the Dropmix button. This spins a wheel and selects an amplitude of one, two, three, all of the above (rare), or none. If it lands on three, for instance, any level three cards will be wiped from the board and subtract points from the enemy team for each card taken. This becomes a gamble, but if your opponent is gaining the lead you can wipe their entire board in a single strike and clear the way for your weaker cards.

While all of this is happening, the game is mixing the guitar, drums, bass, and vocals of cards you put down. Thus, the appeal of the game; the more you play, the more mixes you come across. Some work surprisingly well together, and any you prefer can be saved for listening later. The game automatically works the bpm and settings for you as you drop cards, so everything seamlessly melds together.

The base game comes with the tabletop and four decks to start with but if you play it for a couple of weeks, they tend to get old fast. There are subsequent decks that you can order for $15 to expand the playlist and provide new special cards into the mix. These range from country music decks, to pop decks, to rock and roll decks.

Mixing different cards from decks together can be difficult, as you have to have a "legal" deck for versus mode so you are not stacking high level amplitudes. In this respect it can be tough to mix multiple cards between multiple decks, but mixing two decks together for one versus one is as easy as shuffling them together.

There is also a party mode game where everyone races to put cards down as fast a possible for a high score, as well as a freestyle mode where you can just plop cards on the table as you desire. These hold your interest, but are less interesting than the base head to head mode.

At its core, the game is easy to get the hang of, and the shear number of mixes you can make with the sixty base deck of cards is astounding. Add in the additional decks and you start to see the longevity the game can hold as you figure out what each deck's uniqueness can do and how to counter their white card effects. While the base game can wear after a while, the expansions breathe new life into the game if you have the ability fork out a little more cash.

As it stands, Harmonix is working on new game modes, features, and ways to play. It has life to it yet, and the time we played with friends hooked in new players and board game veterans alike. It's simple, enjoyable, and the feeling of dropping a rainbow card to overtake a mix is eternally satisfying.

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