Yacht Rock – More Like Musak
Yacht Rock or Musak?
It’s 2020. We all desperately need some time to sit back and relax. The easy going 1970’s laid back styling of yacht rock seems perfect. Resting in beats powered by Beach Boy roots, kick off your shoes and turn up the Kenny Loggins and Steely Dan. Or, you could reach for Yacht Rock, a 25-minute game for 2-6 players. Play as a 1970’s musician looking to impress southern California power brokers with your impeccable sense of style and smooth beats.
Set the game board and score track in the middle of the table and give each player a guitar pick representing their chosen color. Put the cubes matching those colors in the starting spot on the score track.
Shuffle the style cards and set out a certain number depending on player count. There’s a grid in the book, but the number is player count times three, plus two. Deal one style card from the deck you counted out face up to each of the five style slots on the game board.
Put out “single” cards and “soiree” cards in the designated spots on the game board. Make sure the names on the two cards don’t match.
Put the singles tokens next to the board. The most relaxed player goes first.
In Yacht Rock you need to draft cards to make up your outfit, or to record singles. Take all of the style cards from one slot of the game board, then deal a style card to that spot, and one to the spots on either side.
Style cards are either clothing cards or styles of music. The backs of the soiree cards show two colors (or styles) of clothes (or a color and singles) that will be considered in vogue at that party at the end of the round. Your goal is to put together an outfit that matches those styles as much as possible, and/or to have recorded singles when you attend the party.
Create a set of clothing with the clothing cards you’ve drafted. You can only have one of each clothing type, so “sell” the rest to the discard pile for one point each.
All clothing is worth one point except for gold clothes, which are always in style, and are thus worth three. Soiree cards might also have a clothing accessory that is in vogue (like hats or sunglasses) but you won’t know what those are until the round is over.
You may also elect to record a single on your turn, if you have the available musical style cards. If you have the cards to match all three musical styles you can record a solo single: score eight points and get a single token. If not, you can record a duet with any other player. This duet has plenty of star power, so between you, you only need to match two of the symbols. Each player gets three points and a single token.
Once everyone has gone three times, the Drafting Phase ends and the Party Phase begins. Pick a party by placing your pick (get it?) on the party card. Once each player has picked a party, flip the parties over and score them.
There are various types of bonus: Bonus for clothing color, bonus for recording singles, bonus for particular articles of clothing, or bonus for clothing color sets. Hats and sunglasses have two colors in their borders and can count for multiple color bonuses.
Add up your points and move your scoring cube up on the tracker. Discard all of your clothing style cards but keep your musical style cards. Discard all remaining styles on the five spots of the game board.
Rinse and Repeat
You’ve played one round. Now refresh the style deck (remember the player specific count from the beginning) and replace the Soiree cards. Play two more rounds. Whoever has the highest score wins!
It’s hard to understand the right target demographic for Yacht Rock. The game tries to do a lot of different things, but it doesn’t do any of them well enough to stand out.
The rulebook has a lot of unnecessary details that slowed us down when we played. Remember all that stuff about a style deck? Why is this important? Just have each player go three times. Counting out cards by player count is a nuisance. There aren’t enough cards to have separate decks for each round, so you’re going to mix them and re-count them anyway. It’s completely unnecessary.
Similarly, the rulebook contains a lot of details that don’t really matter, like where the extra decks and tokens go. To be blunt, who cares? When you need them in the game, you’ll find them.
There are really only three decision points in the game: choosing your style pile, choosing your clothes, and choosing how to perform your songs. The choice of a party isn’t much of a choice – With the hints you have from the fronts of the cards, it’s usually obvious from your clothing which party will be better for you.
This stands out because the game plays unbearably slowly. The only thing you can do when it’s not your turn is hope someone wants to perform a duet with you, but if you don’t have style cards that match the singles that are out, it doesn’t matter anyway.
Though Yacht Rock is the right weight for kids to play, the theme couldn’t possibly be more boring for them. We had to drag them to the table or bribe them to play.
The art is… Fine. It gets the point across, usually, but it’s not too many steps past a well-designed clip art library. It certainly doesn’t stand out and evoke a strong connection to the theme.
All of this adds up to tell us this is an entry-level, casual game. But entry level casual games need a strong theme or something of driving interest within the gameplay loop. Yacht Rock has neither.
The thing that’s really disappointing here is that Funko and Prospero Hall can really kill it when they want to. Pam Am, also released by Prospero Hall and Funko this year, is an absolutely stellar masterpiece of design that we ranked our best game of 2020. It leans into its theme and excels at it.
Board games are in a modern renaissance. At a time when it’s not good enough to be “fun sometimes” or to merely be “fine”, that’s exactly what Yacht Rock is. It’s board game musak: Filling the empty space, but ultimately forgettable.
Funko Games provided The Family Gamers with a promotional copy of Yacht Rock for this review.
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Age Range: 12+
Number of Players: 2-6
Playtime: 25 minutes