The streets come alive in the Big Easy, otherwise known as New Orleans, and it’s your job to mesmerize the crowds with beautiful music. Feel out the mood, play a signature tune, and reap the rewards of adoration – and financial success. But what’s that sound down the street? It’s another band coming to steal your crowd! Welcome to the jazzed-up area control game of Big Easy Busking. There’s only space for one Next Big Thing in New Orleans – if you’re not up to the task, someone else will be.
What’s In the Box?
Big Easy Busking comes in a colorful, appealing box which contains the following:
15 Crowd Cards
33 Song Cards
5 Player Cards
5 Turn Seqeunce Cards
2 Robot Cards
5 Sets of 15 Energy Tokens (75 Total)
14 Mood Tokes
4 Standard Tokens
50 Dollar Tokens (including $1, $5, & $10 coins)
and 11 Storage Bags
The elements here are all quite nice. The cards are especially vibrant, featuring lovely art that doesn’t get in the way of each card’s gameplay features. The tokens are all nice to handle, especially the wooden energy tokens which are satisfying to move around the board. The only possible gripe is that the ability cards, which form a subset of the song cards, could feature an alternative back for easy sorting, given that they’re never supposed to be mixed up with the other song cards. But for a game at this price that has so much else to offer, that’s quite a minor complaint.
How Does It Play?
In Big Easy Busking, each player controls a band whose members each have a limited amount of energy. Over the course of three nights your band will play songs on the streets of New Orleans, learn new songs, and, hopefully, earn big money and tips. Each night consists of turns that the players take until every player has passed.
Each round begins with each player going through a special turn where they may play or purchase a song, essentially setting up for the first ‘real’ turn. You play a song by placing it on your street with the required amount of energy, or learn a song by discarding a set amount required to do so. The game involves using various processes to turn your energy into board control and money for your band.
After this special segment, the first phase of each turn sees players finishing the song they began playing on previous turn. If the song you played matches the mood of the street, you may either place your energy cubes on the board and earn some extra money or use the energy of the crowd to refresh your own band’s energy. Both options offer players a substantial advantage. Otherwise, you simply place your energy on the street. Either way, you’ll end up discarding your song card, which you’ll regain at the start of the next round.
The next step, the shortest and simplest of the lot, offers you the option to tip your band to add energy from your reserve to your player board. This allows you to easily convert money earned in previous rounds into performance boosts in the current round.
The final phase of each turn sees you either spending some time and energy to learn a new song by adding it to your hand or playing a song from your hand onto a street. After each player passes, the round ends. The number of each player’s energy cubes is tallied street by street. For each street, the player with the most energy on that street wins the crowd over and receives bonus money, as well as a token representing their victory on that street. Other bands who have placed substantial amounts of energy on the street, but don’t have the most energy there, may receive money as well if they cross the street’s indicated threshold.
Successive rounds see the number of streets available to your bands increasing as your reputation spreads in the city. Each street card has a different mood and money amount available to the bands which play there. Because players can win both the winner’s bonus and the threshold bonus, spaces that offer lots of money for both become highly contested.
Big Easy Busking is a fun and thematically-rich game for all ages. The strategy is involved enough to delight more experienced gamers, and the gameplay is simple enough for young children. Though the gameplay loop of each round is repetitive at first blush, the extra available money and greater variety of streets in successive rounds evokes the spirit of an engine-building game and gives enough variation to stop the game from feeling monotonous.
There’s no wasted space here. Every element, from the streets to the songs to the energy is in service of and is enhanced by the theming. It is clear that the designer, Joshua Mills, has a deep appreciation for jazz, and the artwork, by Adrienne Ezell and Andrew Thompson, is expressive and, frankly, gorgeous. It’s difficult not to get swept up in the magic of Big Easy Busking. By the end of the song, you’ll want to play it all over again.
Big Easy Busking plays 1–5 players in 45–60 minutes. The regular version can be picked up for $29 and the deluxe version for $45 at the Weird Giraffe Games store or as a print-and-play file for $8 from PNP Arcade.
Images courtesy of Weird Giraffe Games
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