I wasn’t a music major in school. I don’t really consider myself a musician. But one of my favorite classes was music theory. My first music theory class was during my senior year of high school. It was a full-year class, and it was amazing. It was also full of terrible music puns, delivered by both the students and the teacher. So when I recently saw an article about a new card game called Lord of the Chords that began with “I Hated Music Theory…”, it caught my attention. When it turned out to also include corny puns, I was locked in.
Jonathan Ng has just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the game, and I’m all the way in. While I may not be able to play any instrument in any way that would work in a performance, I love music. A lot. I love mentally collecting songs with odd time signatures like the Halloween Theme or that weird section of The Sixth Sense soundtrack that’s phrased in thirteens. I love listening to the tight jazz instrumentals in Steely Dan music. I love trying to pick out melodies on a piano even if I do so badly. So while I’m no musician, I’ll concede if you want to call me a music nerd.
Lord of the Chords was designed initially just for Jonathan and his friend, later for other musicians, and eventually for anyone with an interest in music theory. The idea is to help in music theory education by being accessible while still including concepts useful to students and engaging to musicians.
During the game, there’s always a key signature in play, and players are tasked with playing note cards to form chords in that key signature. You can play accidentals to make your note flat or sharp, and you can play a seventh on top of the chord to prevent it from being stolen. It’s been a long time since I studied the circle of fifths, but the game includes a cheat sheet. What’s great is that if you do know scales and key signatures, you get a minor advantage in that you don’t need to consult the cheat sheet. And you might find yourself memorizing those key signatures as you play.
Beyond the basics, you can play the game with a different instrument each time, and they work like character classes, giving you different advantages and abilities each playthrough. You can make plays to draw extra cards, steal opponents’ cards, or restrict what they’re able to play.
If you’re interested in the history of the game’s creation, there’s a great article about it over at Medium.com.