Top of the Pops: The Game Review

Top of the Pops: The Game is the new party game from Big Potato Games. Pitting two teams of players against each other, everyone will be attempting to prove their knowledge of all time chart topper songs and artists from the 1960s up to modern tunes. Lasting around half an hour, the game is broken down into direct head to heads and team play, with plenty of singing and humming along the way. However, will this be an all time high or will it be another party game to bite the dust? Let’s find out!

Taking out the board and buzzer, and shuffling decks of cards, is the extent of the setup. Splitting into two even teams, in ability not necessarily numbers, the game is ready to begin! There is no set number of rounds, with play continuing until a winning team is found. At the start of each round both teams nominate a player to take part in the buzzer battle, also called the head to head phase. This pits two players against each other answering back and forth on a topic.

The topic is determined by flipping over the top head to head card. For example, the topic may be songs that mention a day of the week. The first player gives an answer, say Rebecca Black’s Friday, before hitting the buzzer. Their opponent then has 15 seconds to respond with a different but also correct answer – perhaps Whigfield’s hit Saturday Night. This continues until one play cannot respond in time and the buzzer rings.

Whichever player wins the head to head round gains an advantage for their team in the artist phase. They draw 9 cards from the top of the artist deck. With artists from the 60s, 70s, 80s, all the way up to pop stars of the future, the artist cards have a bit of everything on them genre wise. Reading through the cards they choose 3 for their team to guess, placing them onto their side of the board facedown. They pass the remaining 6 cards to the opponent they beat in the head to head – who then chooses 3 cards for their team, discarding the remaining 3.

The active player puts their selected cards onto different categories, with the options being; one word, Lyrics and Kazoo. When both teams have selected their cards it is time for the artist round to start, starting with the team with the advantage from the head to head phase. Hitting the buzzer the player has 30 seconds to give the clues to the artist cards, using only one word, singing or saying lyrics from the song or humming it – depending on which category the card was placed on.

If the rest of their team correctly guesses the answer the card is won by the team. Rarely will a team manage all three but if they do they are allowed to start on their opponents remaining cards. When the buzzer rings their time is up and play passes to the other team, to guess their artist cards.

After the artist phase each team can steal one card from their opponent by discarding three artist cards from the same category. This is not only a way to get an artist card your team might struggle winning but it can also stop the other team from winning. If at this point either team has collected an artist card of all 8 categories they win! If not then the board is cleared down and a new round begins with new nominees from the teams for the next head to head buzzer battle.

Top of the Pops is crammed full of what I often refer to as good tension. Whether it is being put on the spot for the head to head round, with the buzzer ticking down, or not even being the clue giver in the artists phase but manically trying to shout out what might be the right answer the game is full of pressure. The ticking buzzer certainly drives some of that atmosphere but simply competing in teams always evokes everyone’s competitive side. Those who don’t like being put on the spot can sit on the sidelines if the teams allows them to, only jumping in for the artists phase. Still, most will get an exhilaration from being part of it all, especially when their team manages to get all three of their artists cards in a round – cue cheering and applause.

Including artists and bands from all the way back to the 1960s, with the likes of The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel, through to current artists, like Ariana Grande, everyone should know at least a few. This makes it ideal for a family gathering or friends with varied music tastes, as teams can be shuffled up nicely to include all ages and such. The way that giving clues works it doesn’t always have to be a band you’ve heard of. Dinosaur, for example, could be the perfect clue for T-Rex.

If players want a quicker game then there is a speedier variant, and one that those less confident with their music knowledge may get along with better. Rather than needing to collect an artist card from each of the eight music categories, it is simply a race to be the first team to win artists cards. Being first means there is even more of an advantage for the teams which win the head to head rounds, but this only makes them have more of that good tension. Some will prefer this as it negates the stealing aspect, and can be made to be any number of cards if the teams just want to keep on playing.

While a buzzer is in the box no batteries are included, so prior to the first game you’ll need to get a couple of AAAs. To get into the buzzer a small screwdriver is also needed, slowing the process of getting Top of the Pops to the table the first time. It can also be awkward if you aren’t aware of this when you try to play. Thankfully, Big Potato has developed a way around this. On the App store there is a buzzer app that can be freely downloaded. The UI is a little fiddly but does the job as a digital replacement.

Top of the Pops was the family music show and this has translated perfectly into a great party game for families. Much like Big Potato’s Blockbuster from 2019, what players must do on their teams turn is never complicated. Instead, it’s silly fun: singing a song or attempting to Kazoo it with your teammates dumbfounded as to what the tune you’re “perfectly” playing is. While Blockbuster was brilliant for film fanatics, Top of the Pops brings the music of many generations and squeezes it all into a fun filled party game for all of the family.

(Editor’s Note: Top of the Pops was provided to us by Big Potato Games for the review. It is currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)