We have a seven-year-old nephew who loves all the things that little boys typically love at that age, so wehn we recently received a Starter Pack of Senario's new game Battle Bands, we thought it would be right up his alley.
You might be familiar with the Silly Bandz craze (if not, click that link and learn!). Battle Bands basically takes the same concept and turns it into a collectible game for boys ages 6+ where shaped, wearable bands worth varying numbers of points are launched at a playing mat to score even more points. The game is set in its own little universe and the 70+ character-shaped bands (dragons, monsters, and nijas, oh my!) come in water, earth, fire, and special rare band categories. Each band has an accompanying card with stats and information about the character (our favorite is, of course, the Red Panda Ranger!).
Red Panda Ranger says: "More after the jump!"
We brought the game along for a test run when our family got together for Thanksgiving. When I first opened the package, I was a little underwhelmed by the contents. For a decently-sized box (about 8 inches tall), the entire contents fit in the palm of my hand. The first thing that really caught my attention was the flimsy plastic “battle mat” – and ‘flimsy” almost doesn’t do it justice. Honestly, it’s probably not any thicker than a few sheets of Saran wrap stacked together. The seven shaped bands and corresponding cards were of a much higher quality, though, and seemed like they’d hold up to a decent amount of abuse from little boys.
The playing mat
The basic game is easy enough to understand – build your army, fling the bands at the mat, tally your points – with a number of details and circumstantial rules that are easy enough to edit out for younger kids, but that can make it more interesting for the slightly older ones.
The armies are built on a standard point system, and I was a little disappointed that the Starter Pack didn’t really include enough bands to make two armies for the minimum-sized battle they recommend. We just went ahead and divvied the bands randomly between Paul, my nephew, and me, letting the kid have the extra one.
We finally got all the bands onto the mat!
We all initially had a really hard time getting the hang of making the bands actually land on the mat, even when using the wall as a backboard, so we allowed re-throws until we made it. The shapes don’t exactly make the bands LESS aerodynamic than a plain round rubber band, just different; they don’t always go where you expect them to. I think learning how each band flies might be part of the skill that develops as you play more (though my older sister later showed us all up with her natural talent). While my nephew was a perfectly willing guinea pig, it quickly became obvious that he was not nearly as excited about the game as we hoped he would be, disappearing into the other room before we were even done tallying the score.
When we asked him if he could match the bands up with which cards they went with, he obligingly matched them into piles of the four element colors, but was completely uninterested in flattening out the bands to ID the shapes. He also said he didn’t think he would ever wear the bands, eventually citing the reason as concern that they might get lost (I got the impression that he was trying not to hurt our feelings). He was actually much more interested in the character cards in general – specifically, in his own little game he invented with them (I didn’t catch all the rules, but it involved randomly finding his favorite card (which varied each time), and it was pretty much impossible for anyone to win).
Making his own special game
My nephew is above all a polite kid, so it was tough to get really honest feedback with all the waffling he was doing. The true test of his opinion came when we asked if he wanted to take the game home with him, or if we should keep it at our house: “Um… I think you should hang on to it. I don’t want anything to get lost. Then when I come over, we can watch that one movie I like.” (Seven-year-olds are truly the most random of all age groups).
After we concluded our testing on the little guy, my sister wanted to offer her opinion as both a mom and as a retail manager who’s been front and center during the whole Silly Bandz craze. She said she could definitely “get what they’re going for” with taking the fad and turning it into a game for boys. She was impressed with the quality of the bands, noting that they felt thicker and sturdier than the typical fashion bands that are sold. She loved how portable the whole game is and noted that all of the components would easily fit in little pockets, making it perfect for running around the neighborhood.
Her primary concern was, again, the quality of the battle mat – “I know my kids, and that would get torn and destroyed in two days” – and suggested that a fabric mat might be a sturdier alternative without losing the fold-and-go portability. She also pointed out that it seemed unlikely that kids would keep track of both the cards and the bands and predicted that the cards would likely be left by the wayside in exchange for a simplified rules system (which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing, especially for the younger kids).
Collect them all!
So my final conclusion? While I personally don’t get the Silly Bandz thing in general, I appreciate that Battle Bands is at least actually a game. And while my own nephew is on the same page as me with not really “getting it,” there’s definitely potential here if you’ve got a kid in your life who’s into collectible games like Bakugan or Yu-Gi-Oh.
Battle Bands is produced by Senario and is available at major retailers like Target, Walgreens, and Rite Aid. It runs $6.99 for a Starter Pack (7 bands and cards with battle mat), $3.99 for a booster (5 bands and cards), and $9.99 for a Rumble Pack (15 bands and cards with a “deluxe” Battle Board).*
*If you’re thinking about trying it out, my opinion is that it’s worth the extra $3 for the Rumble Pack, since you get a sturdier board and more than twice the bands. But that’s just my opinion!