Okay, so here's the backstory: This review has taken months and months to write. Last year, Senario -- the company that makes Zibits -- offered us their newest toy for review on the site. We jumped at the chance because we were so happy with the personal remote controlled robots, we thought we'd love their game Battle Bands, too.
Sadly this is not the case. They sent us a big pack of stuff in November, all part of their Battle Bands line, so Laura and I could cart it to Mid-Ohio Con and maybe find some kids who wanted to try it out. Battle Bands appeared to be taking advantage of children who liked Silly Bandz and also Fantasy adventures (because it involved rubbery bracelets shaped like mythical creatures.) It seemed straightforward enough, but when we opened the box and started reading the directions, we became hopelessly confused.
Here's an example:
If the band lands on the same ring as another player's band, the two creatures fight. The results of the fight are based on the colors and point values of the Battle Bands involved. If the bands are in one of the three city spaces, there is no battle. If there are two or more enemy bands in a ring, the firing player chooses which band he will fight. An earth band defeats a water band, a water band defeats a fire band, a fire band defeats an earth band, a darkness band defeats all bands. If the bands are the same color, the one with the highest point value defeats the other. If the bands are the same color AND point value, both creatures are destroyed and removed from the board.
You can read the full instructions here. I drifted away after the first couple of paragraphs. I thought this was going to be as simple as "pick out some cool rubber bracelets, open target, shoot rubber bands at target," but I was wrong.
The real problem here is not just that there are different bands with different colors and different point values -- even within their own little color classification (Earth,
Wind, Water and Fire) -- but the board has different point rings that aren't much like a dart board (which you would expect) and then also different "cities" within the rings, different colored sections add to the value of the band's points, and certain spots mean the board has to be rotated and moved...
Remember when toys were as simple as Matchbox cars? Vroom vroom, I'm throwing you down the staircase now, whee!
So, there we were, two thirty-something women, and we were being stumped by a game aimed at 6-12 year olds. All we really wanted to do was shoot the bands at one another and pore over the "character" cards that accompanied each game set.
There were some really fun ones in there, like Red Panda Ranger, Flaming Zombie, Robo Snake, and Battle Squid. There are over 70 characters, including the "Darkness" bands (which are just black and apparently trump all other bands, but you can only use one per game), and they all have their own little biography card letting you know what their point worth is. So, not only are you hauling around the bands (presumably wearing them,) but you've got the cards and also the game board. Check.
...remember how, when we were kids, we used to just play outdoors? You could whale on one another with sticks picked up off the ground.
In the end, the game was just way too bewildering for us to try and explain to anyone with a kid attending the convention. So we decided to pass it on to Francene's kids, Alice and Hunter, aged 6 and 9.
Were your kids as confused by the point keeping system as I was?
Francene: They initially were very excited about it, but once my son starting reading the rules, he didn't want to play anymore. I kept trying to get a full game going, and they were not interested. They just liked shooting them, but the game was too confusing.
Did you think the bands actually looked like the things they were supposed to represent? I only occasionally thought that the dragons looked like a dragon or whatever.
Francene: The bands vaguely resemble what they are supposed to. My 6 year old didn't even want to steal the bands to wear, and she always steals that stuff.
Did they like the card things despite the confusing rules?
My son did like the cards, because he thought they were very Bakugan-like. We were buying for a classmate's birthday, and my son saw the Battlebands and said no to buying them for someone else. There are more fun, less confusing games out there.
Selling things like bracelets all butched up for boys is a tough one. Look at the Zhu Zhu pets aimed at boys. Still silly.
So there you go. Despite Laura and I being three times as old, our opinions of Battle Bands matched up with the game's actual demographic. My advice is, if you want to get some geeky-themed silly band bracelets for your kids, the $4 "Booster" packs would be a decent investment. It comes with five bands and the matching cards. If you want a plastic foldable game board / target thing, get the "Starter" pack for $7 instead, it has 7 bands / cards. The full set (The "Rumble Pack", $10) has a more durable actual board for a game board, but if they're going to just end up wearing or shooting the bands at one another and not trying to play the actual game, that wouldn't be worth the money. However, it comes with 15 bands and cards, so if you have more than one kid in the house and want a $10 game to force your children to share their confusion, have at it.
In the end, if your kids aren't interested in the bands at all, bypass this game and stick with the tiny robots.