Okay so my first review. To put this into some perspective I signed up for a game of this at Conception 2010 just because it was a game that let you run a heavy metal band. I am a massive metal fan and the subject matter appealed to me.
I'll try to give an overview of how the game runs and my thoughts and summaries as I go along.
Umläut: Game of Metal is what I'd probably call a freeform RPG. It's rules light on the whole and is all about telling the story. It's an Indie game and borows from (and acknowledges such in the book) Contenders - another game well worth playing.
The book - that's it like most RPG's all you get is the book. You do need a bit more to play - a single deck of standard playing cards (jokers removed) and some 'Style Cards' for your gigs. The style cards can be photocopied from the book in black and white or printed from the website in colour. I have to say though that they're not 100% necessary - you can just make a summary sheet about the styles and use scraps of paper to show which ones your using. That said I printed mine off earlier today as I do like the look of them. The rulebook itself is an 80 page soft back book (the last 6 pages are blank pages). It's all in black and white with the rules text interspersed with photo's of people playing instruments and 'album covers' and the like. All in all of a good quality and well worth the price I paid.
The rules are straightforward and well presented with no real room for confusion. The game plays up to 8 players and is designed for 4 'bands' for best results. With more than 4 players you start to pair up to run a band together. This is a GM free game as none is needed for the game to run - which is good if you want to actually play one of the games you've bought - something I've always found difficult as I generally have to run them.
Each band has 2 sets of scores. Stats and performance traits. Stats are Hope, Ego, Fanbase and Cash, whilst the performance traits are Power, technique and Stagecraft. Each limits or opens up what you can do.
Statwise all are important but you don't want your ego to get too big otherwise you open yourself up to a band split - which will then lower your performance traits.
With the performance traits you want to go for a fairly balanced split and try to increase them fairly equally else you will fail when it comes to gigs. A high score in 'technique' reads like an obvious choice but in practise you'll find it won't actually score you any glory (more on that shortly)
Before things kick off you must come up with a band name and a band style. You can then start to think of band members and their role in the bands - none of this is strictly necessary but is where the creativity and humour starts to run wild. You can also come up with songs that your band will be playing.
Play goes around the table in a clockwise direction and each turn the 'band' must decide on which 'scene' they will take part in. All of the available 'scenes' (bar one) will increase either one of your stats or performance traits. However often if you fail in the 'scene' you won't get the stat that you wished for but Ego instead. If your Ego is at least 3 higher than your Hope then another 'band' can target you for a 'Split Scene' which will cost you a band member and performance traits if you lose. One scene allows you to get cash, which you need to activate most other scenes.
To resolve the scene you and the player to your left (your roadie for the turn) are dealt a number of cards based on your stats/money spent. The cards are then revealed and whoever has the most blacks wins. A draw means the Roadie wins. However (and this again is where the creativity comes in) whoever has the highest card get's 'narration rigths' for the scene and can tell the story of how the scene resolves - whether positively or not.
One of the scene options is to challenge another band to a gig. You will then go through the gig round. This is where your performance traits and style cards come into play. You go through 3 'songs' each gig and have to pick a 'style' for each. This is done one song at a time so you could play the same stong style three times. Each song has a poetry and a shred rating and these are added to your performance traits to calculate how many cards will be dealt to you. Each song is resolved in a similar way to the scenes above, but will reward glory rather than stat/trait scores.
After the three rounds whichever bamd has the most glory 'wins' the gig - resulting in hope, fanbase and cash increases. The band that loses get's ego and fanbase rewards.
There are the options of Showboating (the best all round style) and calling for an Encore for the band wich goes into the gig with the most ego. These can boost you massively, but cost you a lot if they backfire.
The endgame usually comes after 3 hours of gameplay. Everyone gets one last round of scenes. Then the bands pair off for a final round of gigs. This pairing off is based on fanbase the highest two challenge each other as do the lowest two. The play off gigs play exactly the same as the other gigs. Once this is all done you find out whio wins by deducting Ego from Hope - whoever has the highest score wins (this does mean that through a good final gig the 3rd or 4th place band can win if things were very close).
A great, fun game. This game is very much designed to be a complete game in a single 4 hours session and is one that could be used if your normal game can't be run for any reason. It's all about creativity, humour and storytelling fun. The more outrageous your band and the crazier the stories you tell about them the more fun you'll have. This is definitely a game to let go of many inhibitions and just have fun telling a story.
The game we played for example my fiance and I created a Battlemetal/Folk Metal band called the Children of Apollo, Their song list (and most band members) were things from greek myth - apart from the drummer Dave of course, and they got up to all sorts of crazy things entertaining ourselves and the other 6 players along the way.
I highly recommned this game to any metal fan and also any roleplayer who every now and then wants to just let go and have fun telling outrageous and ridiculous stories aout a bunch of - well whatever you can come up with really.
I look forward to playing this many times with friends and will hopefully continue to get as much fun out of it as I currently do.
Score: 9 out of 10