Review: DropMix


Where worlds collide

When I found out that Harmonix was making a music-themed board game, I was all in. I am a gigantic fan of the Rock Band series (I bought an Xbox One specifically for Rock Band 4), and eat up as many music-heavy games that I can. After seeing DropMix in action, I knew I wanted to get my hands on it.

If you're a fan of music and music games, you'll want to do the same.

MSRP: $99.99 (Game board and 60 cards), $14.99 for additional playlist packs
Release Date: September 24, 2017

One big caveat that always has to be made in instances like this is that not everyone will love the music selection available. The genres of hip-hop, rock, electronica, pop, and country are represented quite well here, though country has the fewest current cards (I have none, for example). I was provided with four playlist packs in addition to the sixty cards that come with the game itself. Personally, I very much enjoyed the music selection in DropMix, but obviously, everyone's tastes will vary.

When it comes down to it, it doesn't matter too much how well you know or even like the songs that are available. In DropMix, players only play one instrument from songs, combining them into a (hopefully) badass sounding mix. The board itself is made up of five slots, each with one or two colors associated with it. Each card also has a color on it and must be played on a space with the corresponding color. Yellow cards are lead melodies (usually vocals), red cards are melody loops, blue cards are beats and rhythms, and green cards are bass and harmonies. In addition, there are special wild cards and white FX cards that can be played anywhere.

Each card also has a level on a scale of 1-3. This has an effect on some of the gameplay modes and also measures how prominent a specific card is in the mix. In general, vocals are often very prominent simply due to their nature while it can be difficult to hear what many of the green cards and especially FX cards sound like. The FX cards are exactly as they sound: they make smaller sound effect noises during the mix. Each card has an NFC chip inside of it that the board recognizes and plays. Cards can be placed right on top of one another and the board doesn't miss a beat. There are some reading issues as the cards stack up, but this is only an issue in Freestyle mode and quickly remedied. 

In order to play, you'll need to download the mobile app onto your phone/tablet. The board itself has a little angled notch to place your device since you'll need to see the screen to play the game itself. I highly recommend that you employ the use of a Bluetooth speaker unless your device has some really great speakers itself. This game is really only as a good as the speakers being used to blast your mix. With my phone (Nexus 5X), it was too hard to hear the individual tracks and appreciate the music I was creating. When I casted to my Google Home, the experience was leagues more enjoyable.

As a fan of many of the songs included in DropMix, I enjoyed myself the most just messing around in the game's Freestyle Mode. This is exactly what you'd expect: you can place any cards onto the board to simply create some exciting new mixes and listen to them. I've spent hours within this mode at a time, just creating background music while I watch sports on TV or work on the computer. Every once and a while, I'll search through the deck and throw some new cards on the board and see what happens. 

It's possible to play with the tempo and key during Freestyle Mode as well. Pressing the large "DropMix" button will remix the sound a bit and choose a (seemingly random) bpm and key. Many times, this yields an awful result, but it's still great fun to see what comes out in the end. There are also wild cards that can be played on any space and will reset the tempo to match the song's intended tempo. There's also a little flourish from the song as you put these down; placing down Disturbed's "Down with the Sickness" plays the iconic "ooh, wah-ah-ah-ah!" and yes, it is as amazing as it sounds.

There are two game modes: Party and Clash. Party Mode is a cooperative experience for up to five players. The screen on your device will show requests that any player can meet by playing an appropriate card. Requests start out harmless enough -- asking for specific colors, instrument types, or levels. Eventually, the requests will ask for two things at the same time, like a level 2 card of any color, and things start getting hectic. It may also ask to remove cards or to press the DropMix button, which will then select cards to be removed from the board and discarded.

There's a surprising layer of strategy involved in which cards are played. A major rule is that players cannot place a lower level card on top of a higher level one. Early on, as the game asks for cards of any level, it is up to the players to discuss who's card is best to place down as the time quickly ticks away. The quicker someone places down a card, the more points the team gets. Not placing a card (or placing an incorrect card) causes the team to get a strike and prevents "encores" (extra requests for more points) from happening. I personally had a really hard time distinguishing between the red and green cards on both the screen and in my hand, especially with the time limit in Party Mode. This is basically hard mode for colorblind players, and I avoid it entirely for this reason.

Clash Mode is the head-to-head gameplay mode for either 1v1, 2v1, or 2v2 scenarios. This is a much slower-paced game type which also has the benefit of allowing players to appreciate the mixes more. In Party Mode, I barely get to listen to what's being played since I'm looking at my cards or discussing the request. In Clash, everything is turn-based and it's possible to sit and listen whenever you prefer. Each team gets two actions on their turn. They can play a card (obeying the same level rules as Clash Mode) or press the DropMix button to potentially remove opponents cards.

While not as tactical as Party Mode, Clash offers a nice and relaxed competition that can create some interesting mixes. Playing cards grants teams points and occasionally specific colors will light up on the screen, rewarding bonus points for playing those specific colors. FX cards can also grant bonus points; each one has a unique modifier that might add extra turns or point rewards based on playing specific cards. Many of the same strategies from Party Mode also work here, but with as much time as you want to discuss things with a partner. 

It's possible to save your mixes for when you've got an awesome jam going. These can be played back at any time and even shared with others. Just using the share button sends a link that requires the actual DropMix app to play. I don't know about your friends, but mine certainly won't be downloading the app just to listen to my mixes. Luckily, there is an option to create a one-minute video and save it to your device to share however you want.

For better or worse, card collecting is at the heart of DropMix. There are "playlist packs" that include complete 15-card playlists and help keep the "booster pack" addiction to a minimum. I'm actually not even 100% sure that the discover packs function as random booster packs -- the store doesn't do a great job of describing them. Judging from the in-app compendium, there are a lot more cards either out there or coming, so if you're a completionist/collector, just be aware of the investment there. 

While you don't necessarily have to love every song chosen as part of DropMix, you do need to have an appreciation for music as a whole. The whole thing is quite expensive -- $100 for the game itself. It does come with a good amount and selection of cards, but seeing how many you're missing out on is bound to leave people feeling as if they need to get more. The three modes cover a wide amount of playstyles and it's always great to jump into Freestyle and just mess around.

Not many board games have a long lifespan in my house. They get played for a while but eventually find their way into the closet, with a chance of seeing the light of day during small get-togethers and parties. DropMix is different. We'll set it up while sports are on TV or we're just killing time for 30-40 minutes. The uniqueness of each mix is exciting, and I'm constantly excited to find enjoyable combinations. DropMix feels less like a board game to me and more like a (sometimes competitive) music simulator. If you truly do love music, creating and listening to new mixes will never get old.

[This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.]

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DropMix reviewed by Patrick Hancock



Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
How we score:  The Destructoid reviews guide


Patrick Hancock
Patrick HancockContributor   gamer profile

During the day, he teaches high school kids about history. At night he kicks their butts in competitive games like Rocket League, Dota 2, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike. Disclosure: I've persona... more + disclosures



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