Metal Mania is a 2-5 player Heavy Metal themed dice manipulation game that was originally published by GDM Games in 2017. 'Volume 2' is essentially a reprint.
For starters, the artwork and spoof names are great. The cards feature bobbleheaded versions of many loved performers within the metal world. Hats off to Alba Aragon for the artwork. The numbers on the cards setting values for various characteristics (inspiration, charisma, revelry and reputation) are immediately suggestive of Top Trumps but they are actually the numbers below which you need to roll. During the course of play, you'll be rolling regular six-sided dice to activate skills that allow you to manipulate the dice (re-roll or reduce the number rolled) to better your scores. You'll be retiring band members and recruiting new talent, and you'll have to earn enough cash to pay them, but ultimately this is a race game where you're racing along a track to be the first to reach 66 fame points and victory.
Tho' this isn't a complicated game, the rules weren't as clear as they could be. This meant our first play took twice as long as it should, and certainly much longer than the 45 minutes indicated on the box. Once you resolve or house rule any queries, the game should play quicker.
Players all have a band board and starting band members. You'll be able to reassign band members to any instrument or role within their competence and you can sack an artist to replace them with one of the others in a central display. During the course of the game, your band will get signed to a record company, which will boost certain stats.
On your turn, you initially roll two dice to generate a special effect that will either give you a boost or allow you to inflict a setback on another player. You then roll dice equal to the number of artists in your band and you allocate a dice to each, ideally so that they are below the stat against which you are activating. Succeed with two dice against a stat and you can move the 'sliders' on your board, allowing you to manipulate the dice. (They are actually just tokens that sit on your player board, so avoid any head banging that might jog the table!) Matching stats has no effect but if you roll higher than all the stats on a card (always the case if you end up with a 6) then that band member is considered 'troublesome' (unable to earn fame points)... Rolling low is always best for upping the sliders on your band board but the total success roll is also the number of fame points you score, so a super low roll of, say, four 1s will be a mixed blessing; it'll boost your sliders but it won't advance you very far on the fame track race to 66 that will determine who wins the game.
We expected the band board to play a bigger part in the game but, certainly when playing with just two players, it seemed to play very much second fiddle to the fame point race track. The game just ends when someone reaches number 66 on the main game board. It doesn't matter if someone else is maxed out on their band board and you haven't even moved one counter on your band board; if you get to 66 first, you win. It's obvious that designer Fernando Lafuente enjoys Metal. Any Metal fan will adore the aesthetic of the artist cards and game. The box has gone for a classic metal monochrome palette and design. It's lightweight and commendably compact. Be aware tho' that whilst the main game board and player band boards seem small, you still need a reasonable amount of space to play as you have a lot of cards upturned and spread out around them. As a Metalhead myself, I was excited by the theme, tho' for me the game played to the published rules felt a little clunky and ultimately anticlimactic. For those attracted by the theme and looking for a more satisfying experience, however, the designer has offered some suggested variants on Boardgamegeek to make for a more strategic game.
(Review by Natalia Jayne Hull)