At the height of its popularity, I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours I spent banging on plastic drums and guitars in the video game Rock Band. As silly as you looked while playing, all that went out the window when you and a few friends got together to “make some music”. The gameplay was just that entertaining. I haven’t played any music game in a while, so I was pretty shocked to learn that Rock Band developer Harmonix actually released a hybrid board game last year that completely missed my radar.
Enter DropMix, a music mixing card game that will have you creating new music tracks from the songs you love. Yet the question remains, could this longtime video game developer actually release a tabletop game that can engage music fans from the get-go? To find out, Harmonix sent us a DropMix board and 4 playlist packs to test out.
There are actually three different ways to play DropMix, the most addicting of which is Freestyle. No rules, no challenges, just play cards and create awesome mixes (hopefully). How does it work? The DropMix board connects to your mobile device (phone or tablet) and uses a free app.
Each DropMix card is embedded with an NFC chip that, when played onto the DropMix board, quickly mixes that card into your song. Cards come in a few varieties/colors: Yellows are lead melodies (usually vocals), reds are melodic loops, blues are drums and rhythms, while greens are bass tracks. Each card must be played into a matching colored slot on the board. Should you want to change a card, you can just play a new card on top of it. Finally, there are a few special and wild cards that can be played anywhere and really change things up.
Once you are ready to play with others, there are two options: Clash and Party Mode. Clash is a 1v1 or 2v2 mode where players are trying to be the first to hit 21 points. Players get 2 actions on their turn to add cards or spin the DropMix wheel to try to remove their opponents cards. You gain a point for every card you play into the mix, with bonuses for adding a new color or controlling the board. The FX cards will grant special powers when played.
Finally, Party Mode is a fully cooperative game that acts like the coolest version of Go Fish you’ll ever play. Each player gets a deck of cards and the app will call out things it wants. This is usually a specific color, level, or instrument. Players must quickly play the appropriate card into the matching color slot. Play the wrong card (or don’t play one at all) and you’ll lose points and the option for bonus turns. The goal here is just to get the highest score possible (the app keeps track of the high score).
If you are curious as to how the cards interact with the board, check out the short video below:
A lot of times reviewers will use the term unique to describe a board game. Never has that word been more appropriate than when applied to DropMix. I truly have never played a tabletop game like this in the past. DropMix works amazingly well at what it’s trying to accomplish: bring music mixing to the masses in a fun and accessible format.
Given their history with music and rhythm games, I’m not sure anyone else could have pulled this off quite like Harmonix did. Playing cards onto the board works seamlessly and is very intuitive. Want to change the vocals of a track? Drop in a new yellow card. The color coding system was brilliant and it makes even music novices like me able to create a compelling mix.
I have probably spent the most time in Freestyle mode, just adding and removing parts of my mix, and I think this is probably where most people will hang out. It’s addictive, and instantly gratifying to hear the new cards activate with only a slight pause. And I love taking things up a notch when I drop a wild card into the mix. For example: When I drop in Blink 182’s All the Small Things wild card, the game waits for the right moment before syncing the track up and belting out their familiar “Say it ain’t so” line, and then changes the tempo of the mix to match that song.
Moving on, of the two gameplay modes, I’ve probably spent the most time in Party mode. With a game like this and a group of people, we naturally gravitate to a corporative mode, and Party is surprisingly fun. Sure, it can be a tad random, but it’s also frantic and full of a lot of energy. While Party mode caps out at 5 players, I think the sweet spot is 3-4 players. Above that and things just get a little too chaotic.
Clash mode also works well, especially if you are looking for something a bit more laid back. While not a deep experience, there is actually some strategy to be had here as you try to set yourself up for bonus points a turn. For this mode, I’d probably stick with just a 1v1 affair, as with 2v2 didn’t really feel like it added anything to the gameplay.
Overall DropMix was relatively free of technical issues. On a rare occasion, a card didn’t register, but those were few and far between. However, I did end up sleeving my copy as the cards felt a bit thin and felt like they were about to bend while shuffling. The app also lets you save your mixes, should you want to play them back later.
You can see the first mix I made here (no judging):
Harmonix pulled off a game that probably only they could have made. It’s fun, energetic, and highly addictive. I’ve spent more time creating mixes then I ever thought I would. I’ve yet to show DropMix to a player who hasn’t wanted a turn at creating their own song.
I will say that the music selection isn’t going to be for everyone, with it mostly being regulated to Pop, R&B, Electronic, and Rock. However, even a dinosaur like me was able to find songs in there that I enjoyed. If you are looking to get DropMix, steel yourself for the fact that you will also be buying expansion packs. The 60 cards that come with the game just won’t feel like enough. Even with the 4 expansion packs Harmonix sent us, I still find myself craving more options. Which I’m sure will be making their way to my tabletop once released.
Final Score: 4 Stars – A great hybrid tabletop game that makes music mixing fun and accessible to just about anyone.
• Excellent integration
• Addictive gameplay
• 3 ways to play the game
• Relatively free of technical issues
• Expensive, especially once you add in expansions
• Party and Clash will be hit or miss, depending on your group