English language edition
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(Worth 800 Funagain Points!)
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Your radio station has so many kinds of music to play: hip hop, jazz, rock and more!
Pick the bands your station should play, and use requests to affect the band’s position on the hit parade. Will your skillful play predict the next Megastar to bring fame and profit to your station?
I never know what to expect from a Friedemann Friese game, as they often have strange themes, but he usually makes a very interesting game with unique mechanics. Megastar (Mayfair Games, 2006 - Friedemann Friese) is one of his newest card games; and while the theme actually makes perfect sense (players are attempting to play the best songs on their radio stations), the game mechanics are familiar, yet still unique. Players are attempting to influence the popularity of songs, while attempting to have the most songs of that type on their station.
I enjoyed the card game quite a bit, even though some players I tried it out with just didn't quite "get it" until the game was over. It's simple enough on the onset, and players have to make choices on which cards to keep, and which to use - making those cards more valuable. You can watch the songs go up and down in popularity over the course of the game, and I found this to be an enjoyable game - one that takes about thirty minutes and has a lot more "meat" than initially might appear. You initially might think that you have no control over the game, but that's merely a clever disguise, as the players who soundly beat you will attest.
Seven cards are placed in a vertical line on the table - each representing a different band or musical artist, differentiated by color and picture. This is the "hit parade", and the highest card is the number one song at this point in time. Eighty-four band cards are shuffled (twelve for each band), and eleven of them are laid face up on the right of the hit parade, in the "requests". These cards are organized together in groups by artist, then each player is dealt five cards from the deck. Players choose one card and place it face-down in front of them, and the player with the largest CD collection takes the first turn, with play proceeding clockwise around the table. Depending on the number of players, not all the bands may be used, and a certain number of cards are removed from the deck.
On a player's turn, they first reveal the face down card in front of them, placing it to the left ("music market") of the hit parade. The player then draws any card of their choice from the music market, adding it to their hand, as well as the top card from the draw deck. They then choose one card from their hand and place it face down in front of them. Play then passes to the next player.
Whenever a band has three requests, or all cards from the music market are drawn, a "countdown" is triggered. Starting with the number one band, each band moves up the hit parade one space for each card in the "requests" area. This means that the top card doesn't actually move upwards, but will most likely move down. The cards in the request area are then moved to the music market, and play continues. The game continues until the last card is drawn from the deck, at which point all players play their final face down card for a final possible 'countdown".
At this point, all players total their scores by revealing the sixteen cards in their hand (thirteen in a five player game). For each band card that matches the current band in the # 1 position, a player scores five points, four points for the band in # 2, three points for the band in # 3, two points for the band in # 4, and one point for the band in # 5. All other bands are worthless! The player with the most points is the winner!
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The card game comes in a small box with a lid (which pops off occasionally), and a picture of a deranged teen playing an air guitar. That artwork is typical of that shown on the band cards, although each one is a stereotype of a popular (or once popular) artist. The cards themselves are of good quality - the hit parade cards showing a CD cover of the band, and the band cards showing the same picture and color, as well as a symbol to help keep them separate.
2.) Rules: The rules are on two sides of a long sheet of paper that folds up easily in the box. They are printed vertically, for some reason - it's actually a bit annoying - but have color illustrations and examples. The game itself is very simple, but people have a hard time figuring out which card to throw down, and several new players play randomly for a while, because they have a hard time figuring out what bands are going to do well.
3.) Control and Strategy: At first, I wondered myself if the game suffered from a lack of control, as it seems that the hit parade moves around a bit randomly. But really, players have a good deal of knowledge about what is going to happen. Every time there is a countdown, the # 1 song is going to go down - it's fairly inevitable. And players can play three cards on the song that they want to go up - but at the same time, risking the fact that they'll have no cards for that song at the end of the game. In my first game, I worked with all my effort to get one artist to the top of the list, and almost succeeded (they were # 2). I then realized that I simply didn't have any cards left in my hand for that artist! As I played them, and countdowns occurred, other players picked them up into their hands, and I was left with nothing to show from it. The "recycling" method of cards is really a nifty mechanic, as any cards used to move a band are then available for other players; but if they are ignored, they can be grabbed by the player themselves.
4.) Time and Players: With three players, the most control is available in the game, since your turn comes up so quickly; but I found the game enjoyable even with five. Classified as a "filler", I will agree somewhat; as the game certainly looks and feels like one, taking only a little over half an hour. But I really think that it's deeper than first appearances.
5.) Fun Factor: To increase a band, you must play cards from your hand; but to have points for that band, you must have its cards in your hand. This is the dilemma that keeps the game interesting and fun; and I also enjoyed watching the hit parade shuffle around, as a result of the cards I and my fellow players placed down. Once you realize that you DO control the outcome of Megastar, the fun factor increases tremendously.
Megastar is a unique card game that forces players to make tough decisions, with an eye out on the end of the game. Players have a direct say in how the parade cards move up and down and can exercise a decent amount of control over the outcome of the game. There is some luck in the draw, but it's mostly mitigated by players drawing cards from the music market, and watching how other players play their cards. If you're looking for a unique and meaty card game, Megastar is one that may surprise you!
"Real men play board games"
Each Spiel in Essen, hundreds of folks eagerly descend upon Freidemann Friese’s 2F booth to see his latest creation. Herr Friese has quite the reputation of developing creative designs, often with somewhat loony themes. He has shown with Funkenschlag that he is more than capable of developing a deep strategy game, but most of his games are on the lighter side. Lately, his creations are reaching an even wider audience, as many larger gaming companies are beginning to release his designs.
I somehow managed to overlook one of his latest creations at last year’s Spiel. Megastar was released by Amigo and Mayfair Games. Even though I did play most of the Amigo releases, this one escaped my attention until recently.
Borrowing heavily from the theme and mechanisms of Schrille Stille, Megastar places players in the role of radio director of a local radio station. Players attempt to maneuver bands on the radio’s “play list”, attempting to balance the requests of listeners and the parent company. The objective is to position your preferred bands at the top of the play list at game’s end.
Seven cards depicting musical acts are placed in a row known as the “hit parade”. Each card is a different color, and the remaining cards each match one of the bands. A handful of cards are removed from the game, and a further eleven are placed to the right of the hit parade in an area called the “music market”. Finally, each player is dealt five cards, and places one of them face-down onto the table. The musical tussling begins.
Each player’s turn is usually extremely quick, and can almost be performed mindlessly. Players place the card that is face-down before them to the left of the hit parade row into an area known as the “requests” area. Like cards are grouped together. The player then draws one card from the music market and one card from the deck into his hand. He concludes his turn by placing one card face-down onto the table, which will be the card they play into the request section on their next turn.
Once one band accumulates three cards in the “requests” section, a countdown is held. Beginning at the band that currently resides at the top of the chart, each band is moved up a number of spaces equal to the number of matching cards in the request area. So, if the pink band is currently rests in the fourth position on the hit parade and has two matching cards in the request area, it will move up two slots to the second position. This makes it a bit easier for bands at the bottom of the list to move-up, and makes it more perilous for the top band as there is no way to go but down. Once this countdown procedure is competed, all cards in the request area are moved to the music market, and the game continues.
The game concludes when the deck is depleted. All face-down cards in front of the players are placed in the requests area, and one final countdown is conducted. At this point, each player reveals the cards they have in their hands and calculates their value, which is dependent upon the final position of the matching band in the hit parade. Points earned range from a high of five for the band at the top of the chart, to a low of 1 point for the band in the fifth position. Bands in the sixth and seventh positions yield zero points. The player with the most points rises to the position of producer and wins the game.
As mentioned, the game seems to borrow the theme and mechanisms of Schrille Stille. Bands climb and fall on the chart based on the number of “votes” they receive. The objective and end-game scoring, however, is also lifted from another game – Reiner Knizia’s Honey Bears. Players must play certain cards to move bands up the chart, but score points based on conserving those same cards. So, there is a balancing act that must be performed, playing some of the cards to increase the positioning of preferred bands, but also conserving some of those cards for end-game points.
Sadly, the borrowed mechanisms seem to work much better in their parent games. Here, they seem lost in a game that offers very little control. So much is ultimately determined by the final two countdowns, that everything preceding it seems almost pointless. The strategy is obvious: collect cards from a few bands, and try to manipulate those to the top of the chart. There doesn’t appear to be any other options. That one strategy, however, is largely beyond one’s control.
Each turn is virtually the same as the last. A player’s turn takes only a few seconds, and begins to feel extremely repetitive. Each game I’ve played I felt I was performing the tasks in a robotic fashion, without much thought or care. Interestingly, I finished either first or second in all of those games, and didn’t feel I did anything special to deserve those lofty positions.
Megastar may fit just fine within a group that enjoys playing games such as Phase 10 or UNO. It is light, quick, and doesn’t require much, if any thought. For folks looking for games with a little more thought, strategy and control, I’d recommend changing the dial.