Big Easy Busking

Big Easy Busking
Big Easy Busking

“Busking” is playing music in a public place to earn money. And there’s no better place in the world for street musicians than New Orleans, the Big Easy.

Use your band’s energy to play jazz standards and new pieces – then gain money and influence from the crowd!

Big Easy Busking is a game for 1-5 players by Joshua J. Mills and published by Weird Giraffe Games. It’s best for ages 8+ and plays in about 45 minutes.

How to Play

Your band will play over three “days” (rounds), earning money each time from your crowd-pleasing performances.

You’ll start each day with four energy cubes on each band member – and three more cubes in your reserve.

Every turn, you’ll either perform a song or learn a new song (or pass, when you’re done with the round).

Perform A Song

Pick a song from your hand or one of the “standards” from the table. Place it next to a Crowd card, and pay “energy” cubes from the appropriate members of your band.

If you play a “standard”, you must spend extra energy – or money – to play. Everyone knows these songs, so you’ll have to put in extra effort if you want to impress the crowd.

Abilities: You may spend $1 to transfer up to 3 Energy tokens from your reserve to your band members / You may take up to two of your Energy tokens on this Crowd and move them to a different Crowd / Earn $1 for every Crowd card that currently has your Energy tokens. /  You may rearrange Energy tokens on your band members. / Earn $1 for each player with Energy tokens on this Crowd card. / You may learn a Song without spending Energy tokens as a free action.
One Standard will be a song with a special ability (shown above) – use the ability when you finish playing that song.

Learn A Song

But maybe the songs in your hand don’t feel quite right for the occasion. Learn a new song from the “melody market” by discarding three energy (one cube from each band member) to your reserve. Then add the new song to your hand.

A picture of a three piece band with saxophone, drums, and trumpet. Each musician is wearing yellow clothing and has 2 bright yellow cubes placed on their location.
Discard one energy cube from each band member to learn a new song.

Finish A Song

If you perform a song on your turn, you’ll “finish” it on the start of your next turn.

Compare the mood icons of the song you played and the Crowd you played it to. If they don’t match, you must leave all your song energy on the crowd. Then you can play another song (or learn a song, or pass).

If the mood icons match, you have a choice: take some of the energy used back to your band, or leave it all on the Crowd and get a $1 bonus.

Big Easy Busking - a mask token on a crowd card, 3 yellow cubes on a song card with a mask icon in the upper corners
The mood icon on this song matches the mood token on this Crowd.


Once everyone has passed, the day ends, and each Crowd card pays out to the performers.

Whoever has the most energy on a Crowd gets the 1st place payout. But all players who have enough energy on the Crowd to meet the threshold requirement also get money – the Threshold Payout, indicated on the top right of each Crowd card.

Set up a new. larger collection of Crowd cards, reset your band’s energy, and get ready to start a new day!

At the end of three days, the band with the most money wins.

An easy choice for Green. If they play on the left Crowd, they are guaranteed at least $6 ($1 for leaving all their cubes under a matching mood and $5 for meeting the threshold), and they might win the $2 majority payout, too.


Big Easy Busking is colorful and jazzy. The art is full of energy and the song titles reference famous jazz standards (and sometimes famous board games too!) The creators have thoughtfully included a link to a Spotify playlist full of New Orleans jazz to set the mood while you play.

Big Easy Busking song cards: Take the Filé Train, Rhapsody in Teal, Wingspanland
Song names are riffs on jazz standards

I love how playing music translates into area control in this game (how much your energy “wins over” a crowd). It’s easy for me to picture my band warming up, playing their hearts out, then moving on to a new song, hoping it’s enough to cover their costs and maybe even earn a little extra.

The kids were not as enthusiastic as I am about Big Easy Busking.

Part of this was the random nature of the Crowds and the moods. Sometimes decisions are easy (of course I will play in this spot that has a high winner payoff and a high threshold payoff!) but sometimes none of the choices look good. If I only have one song to match the moods, I’ll put it towards the highest payouts; but the other songs I’ll need to play carefully, because I can’t renew my energy or earn extra cash if I don’t match the mood.

The starting hands help a bit here (everyone starts with one song in each of the three moods). In these situations, the Melody Market becomes very important. But learning a song always costs the same amount of energy, and you’ll have to decide if it’s worth it or not.

Black cubes on song The Gumbo Mambo, yellow cubes on song North West End Blues
Black finishes their song first. There’s no way they can win the 1st place, since Yellow can play more cubes. Should they leave all their cubes anyway and take $1, then try to play another song here later to gain majority? Or should they cut their losses and pull all but one cube back?

Player Count

In our experience, Big Easy Busking was good at most player counts. We most often played at two players, fighting for the biggest payouts while throwing a few energy cubes towards lower thresholds.

With four or five players, everyone is competing for the small number of starting Crowds, so the players who want to win the first big payouts will need to spend their starting money to “tip” their band and get more energy to use. This can allow players who carefully husband their resources (or learn songs in the first round) to groove ahead later.

There’s even a robust solo mode which feels like a tight two player game.

But at three players, the rhythm is off. A lucky match of mood with the right energy level for a high payout can allow one player to jump ahead while the other two players divvy up whatever is left.

Big Easy Busking - 3 yellow cubes, 2 black cubes, 2 purple cubes on a colorful Crowd card
Yellow gets $7 ($5 for majority + $2 for threshold); a huge advantage over Black and Purple, who each get $2.

Can Kids Play Big Easy Busking?

With minimal reading and fairly simple actions, Big Easy Busking is certainly approachable for kids as young as 8 years old.

The only reading necessary to the game is the special ability song, which an adult can help with. The numbers are clear and the math is simple comparisons and adding single digits. All the other text in this game is for flavor only (but along with the art, it sets the tone very well).

The theme wasn’t terribly interesting to our boys, however – and the complex trade-offs annoyed our daughter, the biggest musician.

I think Big Easy Busking is best for adults to live out a fantasy of busking in the French Quarter. If that’s you, find Big Easy Busking on Amazon, direct from Weird Giraffe Games (and look at the deluxe edition with New Orleans-themed shapes for each player!), or ask for it at your local game store.

The Family Gamers received a copy of Big Easy Busking from Weird Giraffe Games.

This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

Big Easy Busking
  • 8/10
    Art - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Mechanics - 7/10
  • 6/10
    Family Fun - 6/10


Number of Players: 1-5

Age Range: 8+

Playtime: 45 minutes