DropMix is a musical board game from Hasbro and Harmonix, the makers of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, which tasks players will competing alone or in groups in toe-tapping contests where songs blur and some old favourites transform into new creations. On the one hand, it's as simple as playing your cards right and listening to the resultant music, on the other, there are a few rules to master and a technical element to factor in. To its credit, though, the game works effortlessly, despite the reliance on tech.
We played DropMix with a bunch of additional cards as provided for the purposes of this review, and straight away it's worth noting that you're going to have a more limited experience with the game if you don't splash the cash and stock up on additional decks (which, of course, ain't cheap). You can pick up booster packs that include songs of a particular kind, though, so if you prefer crunching guitars over disco then you'll at least be able to target your purchases (although to be fair, it's undeniably poppy overall, and fans of alternative music will find less longevity as a result).
If you're playing the base game your musical creations won't have the potential variation, and we think it's a better game if you've got the extra content. Frankly, it's a shame there isn't more in the box, especially considering the rather hefty price tag, as for your investment you get the 60 NFC-chipped cards required to play and a game board. It's on the board that the cards are then played, with each one representing a different tune (some more popular than others, at least to our old ears; younger players will undoubtedly know the setlist better). Then, via to the app needed to make everything work, as cards are dropped on the board, the music begins to play.
It's not a game of skill, that's an important thing to note. You're not throwing down cards at the right moment to get the perfect mix; it's not Rock Band the board game. The concept itself is really simple, though, even if the implementation is actually more complicated than you might expect. Simply put, you drop the chipped cards on the five designated pads on the board and then the musical beats associated with the song listed on the card are then integrated into the music that plays out of a smart device that rests in the stand at the end of the board. There are different types of cards that work together to create new music, with the beat of one song effortlessly blending with the vocals of another to create something new and unique. If like most people these days, you've got the means to play these hybrid tunes through a speaker, then the increased volume certainly helps elevate the experience. As does a tipple or two.
To that last point, DropMix is a great party game, and we found we had the most fun with it when sitting around a table with friends and drinks, playing our tuneful cards while enjoying the company of our comrades. That said, good company and friendly banter can enhance any experience, which is worth bearing in mind, and we can't see too many people spending time with the board game mixing tunes by themselves. Dance music fans will undoubtedly take away more from playing than someone into, for example, discordant folk music, but even if the tone is directed towards pop, there's enough general appeal and the concept is well-executed enough that we can imagine most people having at least a bit of fun with it. Presumably because of the language in some of the songs, there's a higher-than-expected age rating (it says on the box 16+), which is a strange decision as we'd argue that younger players will really enjoy DropMix, and we can see it being a big hit at parties with larger groups taking it in turns to play; not only is it a social game, it could also provide you with the evening's soundtrack. Also confusing is the price tag, which seems at odds with the game's primary audience, and we much prefer the US pricing ($85 / £63) to the current UK pricing (£120 / $160).
At it's most basic level, it's accessible and impressive, and anyone will be able to get the general gist, even if they don't know exactly what's going on at first. The gameplay itself should be relatively straightforward, but we actually found it a little cumbersome when getting into the swing of things, and we'd recommend all players watch the tutorial vids made by the game's creators. For the most part, it's a race to 21 points, with cards added to the board having effects that go beyond their musical properties, such as causing your opponents to remove their own cards and lose points in the process. There's also a big button on the board that, when pressed, can throw some game-changing twists into the mix (pardon the pun). There is some tactical depth, but perhaps not quite enough, and in the end, we felt it was difficult to learn but easy to master, and ideally it should be the other way round.
We don't want to sound overly negative, though, and we certainly enjoyed our time spent playing this tuneful board game, even if it didn't hold our interest in the long term. A lot of that comes down to musical preferences, and we've tried to reflect that in the score, because we have no doubt that someone more invested in the songs included will have more fun with DropMix. It's a good ice breaker, great for parties, and the fact that you can even save your home-brewed creations and listen back to them later is a smart move that fans are going to take full advantage of (you can even share them via social media). The question is, however, whether it's worth the sizeable investment asked. We'd be tempted to say no, especially as here in the UK where it's very expensive. Then again we have to concede that we're not the game's core demographic, and we can see how it might appeal enough to draw in a younger crowd. DropMix has plenty to offer, particularly to a younger, pop-loving audience, whereas folks who like delicate guitars or crunching riffs should probably steer clear.