The Gig Preview
Disclaimer: I was sent a demo copy of the game. All components, rules, and artwork are all subject to change.
The Gig is a new mixture of genres to me. When it comes to board games, regular readers know I love roll- or flip-and-writes (I refuse to call them verb-and-writes), and while I’ve tried lots of different kinds, I’ve never played one with a real-time element. That kind of lunacy goes hand-in-hand with the Jazz Fusion vibes the game’s art gives off. Have Braincrack Games got Ron Burgundy’s jazz flute in their hands, or something more like Ross’ keyboard?
The idea of The Gig is novel. Each player is a musician in the same band, but it’s a jazz improv band, and they all want to be the centre of attention. Each player’s instrument board is different, and the aim of the game is to cross out polyomino shapes on it, in order to score the most points. The biggest score at the end, wins. You know the drill.
In most games, the shapes you draw or place would be dictated by a symbol on a card, á la Hadrian’s Wall, or a cardboard tile, like in The Isle of Cats. In The Gig, however, each song (round) is a blank sheet of music. All players roll their dice at once, then the craziness begins. After rolling, you can pick up any number of your dice and plonk them on the row of the song which matches their values. It’s first come, first serve, so you need to be fast.
When all the dice are used, and your friends have stopped cursing each other for claiming the one place they desperately needed, it’s time to get your Bob Ross on, and get drawing. The shapes formed by your dice are the shapes you can draw on your instrument board, following a simple set of rules. Fill in your board, claim the bonuses, and get out under that spotlight as often as possible.
The Gig is another departure from the more serious Euro games we’ve seen from Braincrack. Ragusa, Venice, and Florence are all great games, but after the light-hearted Last Resort, I’m really pleased to see them trying something different again. Not only trying, but succeeding. Before I go any further, I want to give a special mention to the artwork through the game. The styling is very cool, and so thematic, I love it.
The first song or two that you play feel a bit chaotic, but once you get the feel of it, and the way the dice interact with your boards, it’s a chaos you can embrace. It’s the difference between listening to freeform jazz and wanting to plug your ears with cheese, and suddenly understanding it and snapping your fingers in nodding appreciation, daddio.
It’s worth noting that there is an alternative, turn-based way to play the game. It’s great for teaching new players the game, and also if you’re playing with anyone who feels too pressured trying to place dice on the song sheet. If you can though, the real-time mode is definitely the way to go, it’s frenzied and hilarious.
One of the things I really like about The Gig is the asymmetry. Each instrument’s board is laid out differently, and each has its own way to score bonuses. It’s a really nice way to do things, as it’s going to take you a long time to figure out how to do each of them well. There’s this wonderful feeling that’s like doing the Hokey Cokey as a kid (or Hokey Pokey as my Transatlantic friends might know it). You all descend on the song on the centre of the table, rushing in to try to claim the spots you want, especially as many of them carry bonuses when claimed.
After that comes the calm, as your focus turns towards your instrument board, and trying to work out the best way to use the shape you created. It means there’s tons of interaction between the players, but there’s never any meanness or spite in it. You’re so focused on what you want to achieve, on your board, that any clashes on the song sheet are the result of both wanting something, rather than trying to deny someone of something. It’s a small, yet important detail, which makes the game a fun experience for everyone around the table.
I really like The Gig. When Lewis (one of the designers and heads of Braincrack Games) tweeted about a new game that was a real-time roll-and-write, my interest was immediately piqued. When you consider the fact that the game is in no way a reflection of playing music at all, it’s remarkable that it feels so thematic. A lot of that is owed to the presentation and artwork. It screams ‘jazz club cool’, and it’s gorgeous. The songbook pages are really clear and easy to read, and even the box lid looks like an aged LP.
It does a great job of simultaneously feeling like a party game and a clever roll-and-write, which is no mean feat. There’s a stupid amount of variety in the game too, not just because you’re at the mercy of the dice gods, but also through the sheer number of combinations of songs and instruments. There aren’t many games around at the moment that give that same feeling of being a ‘proper’ game – for want of a better word – rather than a filler, and do it in half an hour. But that’s exactly what The Gig does.
Dávid Turczi has once again got his mitts on a game to make a good solo variant. While the solo mode is decent enough, and a good way to practice, the multiplayer mode is how to get the most out of it. So much of the fun and laughter comes from the madcap scramble to roll and re-roll your dice, over and over again, willing them to land the way you want. The Gig isn’t going to melt your brain, and I’m sure the theme might not land with everyone, but grab some friends and some smooth tunes, and you’re going to have a great time.
The Gig launches soon on Kickstarter. Register here to be notified when.
The Gig (2022)
Designers: Jamie Gray, Dann May, Robb Smigielski, Lewis Shaw
Publisher: Braincrack Games
Art: Dann May, Robb Smigielski, Lewis Shaw
Playing time: 20-30 mins