Review: Bang!

Bang! on Board game geek

Here’s a gem for the card game lover; Bang! is a excellent table top game for any collection, representing the inevitable shootout of any spaghetti western film. It’s a charming and fast paced game that has players making alliances and enemies based on guesses and luck, generally by liberal application of bullets.

Bang!’s premise is simple, players are secretly given random roles, Sheriffs and deputies, outlaws and renegades. The Law wants to defeat the outlaws and the renegade; the outlaws want to kill the sheriff and the deputies, and the renegades want to be the only person left standing; with the exception of the Sheriff who is revealed at the start of the game, all the roles are secret until that player is killed. Much of the game is about determining the roles of the other players. Additionally; the players are all assigned random characters, each with their own special abilities and variations in health.

Inside the playing deck are a number of cards, most of which are ‘Bang!’ cards, used to shoot your opponents or ‘Missed!’ cards, used to dodge the shots. Filling out the rest of the deck are cards that offer variants on those two cards, as well as cards to let you draw, to steal cards from other players, to force them to discard, regain health and a host of other special effects.

With that; Bang!’s game play is quite straightforward and takes only a few games to get the hang of. It does have a host of add ons, which are easy to get and entertaining (Lately I’ve only seen the collected set of Bang! in a novelty bullet, which comes with all but one of the published expansions) which is generally worth the low price of the set. The expansions all include more effects and card types, mixing up of the game a little more, and additionally two of the expansions, A Fist Full of Cards and High Noon both include events which can thoroughly interrupt the game in interesting ways.

Foremost: Bang! is a lot of fun, and it’s very playable. It works well in large groups, and has a lot of strategy. I highly recommend it to any board game enthusiast.

Do not be deceived, however; Bang! isn’t a perfect game, despite it’s strengths and ingenuity. It is possible (and in some groups, common) for players to be killed before their first turn, which is lame when some games go on for 30 minutes or more. Additionally, the different characters players are given are not exceptionally balanced, and having a good or bad character can make the game significantly easier or more difficult, randomly. In several playgroups I’ve played Bang! in, many characters are removed to level the randomness of the game.

Bang is also cursed with the usual problems with card distribution in almost any card game — while Bang! does manage to avoid it most of the time, there will always be games where the luck of the draw is what wins it, not player skill.

As a last note; Bang! is an exceptional title because of a lot of the clever things it does. In part with some of it’s randomness mechanics and keeping in the wild west theme, each of the cards has a suit and value on it like a playing card. (I can’t say for sure about the whole set together, but it’s not quite a fair distribution of cards — I wouldn’t play poker with them.) This is played on in a number of effects that get you to draw the top card of the deck and check its suit to verify an effect, like if Dynamite explodes or if you dodge behind a barrel fast enough to avoid a bullet. There are more as well, including a character who is immune to diamonds, and the like.

Bang! Also uses character cards in a novel manner to track health with imagery, not unlike tracking score in Euchre. Plus, it’s a game that caters well to large groups (you need 4 to play it proper, but with some expansions, 10 or 12 isn’t difficult to do) and it does create teams that are surprisingly fair as part of it’s MO, giving players a distinct interest in staying on each other’s good side (and making the game all the more bitter sweet when you kill a friend by accident — or to accomplish your goals more quickly). Perhaps the last interesting idea they use is that of distance, where the number of seats you sit away from another player can affect your ability to interact with them, primarily when it comes to shooting, making it often vital to eliminate people between you and your target or  to acquire guns that have a better range.

Ultimately, Bang! is a game that could stand a few improvements, mostly in balancing characters and removing some unneccessarily overpowered cards from the deck, but certainly stands above most card games in being easy to learn and a lot of fun. If you haven’t played Bang!, you ought to get a copy ASAP.

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One Response to “Review: Bang!”

  1. Table of Contents « The Art of Game Says:

    […] Review: Bang! Review: I Wish I Were the Moon I may never play a game this good again Review: Amorphous+ Review: […]

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