The year is 1974 and life is good for you and your friends. You spend your days hanging around Southern California, soaking in the sun and sipping on cocktails before heading into the studio to record another smooth hit. At night, you put on your most laidback outfit and stroll off to another sandy soiree. But are you having the most chill time? Are your singles smoother than all your friends? Will you arrive best dressed at the party tonight? These are the hard-hitting questions that plague players in Yacht Rock, a new card-based set collection game from Prospero Hall.
For 2 to 6 players, Yacht Rock is as easy-breezy a game as its subject matter. Players score points by collecting various types of item cards, clothing, and musical style cards, which score in different ways. Then players can record singles if they have the right musical styles, and will score points based on hidden information when they attend soirees. After 3 rounds, the player with the most points is the king or queen of Yacht Rock.
That's it? Really? Pretty much. This game from Prospero Hall leans heavily on its theme, as the core mechanic is an extremely simple set collection kind of game. Cards and laid out on a circular board, and players take turns choosing which cards they want to go toward point scoring. As I was playing my first play through of the game, I found the card-selection a bit strange. There's no penalty to taking a big stack of cards, and there were very few times when my group fought over (or even were hoping to collect) a specific card. This lack of conflict at first felt like a deficiency of the game, but then it hit me, it's the whole point.
This isn't a game about crushing your foes. It's not a game about racing to be the first to win. It's a game where you can try to record a hit yacht rock single on your own, but it's much easier (and encouraged) to team up with your fellow players to record a duet. It's a game about sipping Daiquiris as you stroll in your boat shoes over to the Los Angeles Music Awards. It's a game about creating songs with titles like "Born To Drift," and "Grapes (The Sangria Song)". This is not a heavy game, it never pretends to be a heavy game, and its theme tells reinforces the big message of the mechanics: chill out, friend.
The artwork on these cards are all minimal, but evocative of the era and general vibe of yacht rock. Cards come in 4 colors: Gold, Coral, Lavender, and Teal, clothing style cards look just like what you'd imagine you should wear to a SoCal party, and the musical style cards are painted to look melodramatically like an album cover. It all fits rather perfectly.
If you're not familiar with the musical genre of yacht rock, it refers to music from the late 1970s and early 1980s that would, at the time, have been considered "Soft Rock." It's also a term that wasn't used to describe the music when it was coming out, as it seems to be have coined about 25 years after that music was popular. Think of artists like Lionel Richie, Gerry Rafferty, Hall and Oates, and Michael McDonald. These saxaphone-heavy, groovin' tunes invited the listener to relax and unwind, and so, too, does Yacht Rock the board game.
The folks at Prospero Hall are absolute masters at marrying theme and game mechanics. And, even more importantly (in my book), they're also always willing to take chances on a weird idea. While many other companies would take this core concept of set collection and turn it into a game about, I don't know, purchasing land rites from a Duke in order to become the best shepherd in the glen, Prospero Hall took a leap. Imagine the guts it takes to look at this core mechanic and say "Hmm, this is a very chill game mechanic. What else is very chill? Hey, turn up that Michael McDonald song." This is, by no means, an in-depth game. And I do think some players hoping for more player interaction and "gotcha" mechanisms will bounce off of this, but for the group who likes (ironically or sincerely) the yacht rock genre, and wants to gather around for a chill time, Yacht Rock is a must-try. So put your captain's hat on, button up your floral top, slide into your flip flops, and set sail for an extremely mellow game night with Yacht Rock.
Get This Game If:
- You're looking for a light-weight game to play with friends
- You're conflict-averse
- You're dancing on the ceiling (oh what a feeling!)
Avoid This Game If:
- You're looking for a game with more meat on its bones
- You want a set collection game where you can really mess up your opponents
- You can't go for that (no can do)
The copy of Yacht Rock used for this review was provided by Prospero Hall.