Rock the Beat reminds me a lot of a rapid gesture game I played at camp called Whap-Bam-Bonk. I’ve been assured by other game tasters and Major Fun himself that games involving the rapid passing of hand signals or sounds have a rich tradition. A tradition within which Rock the Beat carves out a particularly addictive niche.
The game has 36 gesture cards. Beautifully, comically illustrated gesture cards with simple names like “Time Out” and “Conductor.” The gestures are used to communicate between players until someone makes a mistake and receives one of the ten penalty cards. But I get ahead of myself (a common mistake in the game).
Each player starts with one gesture card. All players then start the BOOM-BOOM-clap rhythm that the rock legends Queen used to synchronize all feet and hands in every gymnasium around the country. Two booms on the table. One clap in the air. Once the rhythm of “We Will Rock You” is firmly established, the lead player substitutes a gesture for the clap. Twice. The first time, the player uses the gesture on his or her own card. On the very next BOOM-BOOM-clap, the player uses a different gesture, one from an opponent’s card. That opponent must then repeat their own signal and send a new gesture to someone else at the table. Play stops when someone makes a mistake.
And there are lots of ways to make mistakes. Off beat? Too early? Too late? Wrong signal? PENALTY CARD for you!!
Play proceeds rapidly and the game ends when all the penalty cards have been used up. Keeping the beat is hypnotic and remembering what gesture is yours is hard enough if it wasn’t for the game switching things around all the time and the constant pounding like the ticking of some doom clock. The penalty cards often require the loser to switch cards with someone else or move cards around. The loser also gets to give a card to one other player and draw a brand new gesture card. This allows the loser to punish someone who doesn’t have any penalties—making the game balanced and challenging for all.
Thought keeping track of one gesture was hard? Now keep track of three or four! Don’t give up. And keep rockin’ the beat. That Major Fun beat!!
Rock the Beat game design by Gabriel Ecoutin. Artwork by Olivier Fagnere. © 2010 by Playroom Entertainment.
William Bain, Games Taster