Howdy there, pardner and welcome to my “Bang!” board game review. So, if you’ll be inclined to strap a pair of pistols and go shooting up with your posse of friends (I mean this figuratively, of course) all while having a laugh, then I reckon this game is just for you.
|Playing time:||20 to 45 minutes|
|Number of players:||4 to 7(8 with the” BANG! Dodge City” expansion)|
|Genre:||Wild west, Card game, Deduction, Bluffing|
|Publisher:||dV Giochi (DV Games)|
- Easy to learn
- Game length appeals to casual gamers
- Highly thematic, offering a unique and enjoyable gaming experience
- The artwork is a little outdated.
Game Overview of BANG!
Let’s start this “BANG!” review by saying that this is a classic spaghetti western-themed werewolf-type card game, where you take your pick of 16 unique characters and fill the characteristic roles of old wild west tropes such as The Sheriff, The Deputy, The Outlaw, and The mysterious Renegade.
Depending on the role you drew, your end-game objective might vary. The sheriff wants to kill the outlaws and the renegade, the deputies want to ensure The Sheriff survives, The Outlaws in their outlaw fashion want to gun down the sheriff, and the renegade wants to wait until the sheriff is the only one left so that they can become the new sheriff. This makes The Sheriff and The Renegade the most challenging “BANG!” characters to play, especially for beginners.
The game is so thematic, there is even room for a roleplay element. Since its release in 2002, “BANG!” has received many awards and nominations over the years, the most notable ones being the “Origins Awards Best Traditional Card Game Winner 2003” and “Origins Awards Best Card Game Design Winner 2003”.
The rules are not complex, and the artwork is just what you might expect for wild west-themed board games, but more akin to “Lucky Luke” comics. But most of all it’s the basic turn dynamic that fits in perfectly in that High Noon showdown, that we all love and anticipate while watching spaghetti westerns. Each turn makes you feel like it is a second of a ticking clock, and you are just waiting for that moment before all hell breaks loose and bullets start flying. All in all, the game can be quite fun, fast, and immersive.
Fun Game Mechanics
There are two types of cards in the game (three with the expansions, but we won’t get into that now): blue-bordered cards and brown-bordered cards.
Blue cards are played face up in front of you and stay “in play” or until discarded. These usually help the player in some way (all but those damn Jail and Dynamite cards, especially the latter), and make the game a little more unpredictable.
Brown cards are played by putting them directly into the discard pile and applying the effect described with text or with symbols on the cards. These represent the actions that your character does in the turn.
Getting back to cards like Jail and Dynamite, they stay “in play” and require the player whose turn it is to draw a specific card to positively or negatively resolve the card’s effect. This is done by matching the required symbol on the active card to the card from the playing card deck. That means that if miss the symbol – it’s adios, cowboy.
The distance between players is defined by the player sitting order (both left and right) and represents the maximum range your character has at that given moment. The range is also defined by various items in the game, such as those you’ll find in the blue deck, often being various weapon cards. You can only reach players that you have in your range. It’s a simple and effective mechanic, that’s easy to understand.
Player health depends on the character picked at the start of the game and is defined by bullets (the sheriff gets one extra life point total and an extra card at the start of the game). Bullets also define your maximum hand size limit, at the end of the turn. Lose all your bullets and you get eliminated. The Beer card can prevent this if you have it, and it also gets you back your lost health.
Also note, the Beer card (which we can all agree, regardless of whether it’s a card game or not should be more fun) has no effect when there are only two players left in the game and you can have only one weapon card active.
Eliminated players are out of the game (unless as I said, you have a beer card that you can immediately play). When you are eliminated, you must show your role card to the other players and discard all the cards you have in your hand and in play.
The two exceptions to this are:
- If by any unfortunate case, the Sheriff eliminates a Deputy, the Sheriff must discard all the cards he has in hand and in play. Oh, no. Friendly fire!
- Any player eliminating an Outlaw (even if the eliminating player is an Outlaw, too) takes three cards from the draw deck. Pick up them bounties! Yeehaw!
How To Play
To set up a game of Bang, randomly pick your roles and Bang character cards and hand out a game board to each player. Honestly, the boards are not much fun to look at, and they kind of feel too random for me, artwise. People tend to flip over an unused character card and use the bullets on the back to keep track of their health. This is more convenient and aesthetically pleasing since the only items in play are the cards.
Roles are determined by the number of players playing:
- 4 players: Sheriff, 1 Renegade, 2 Outlaws
- 5 players: Sheriff, 1 Renegade, 2 Outlaws, 1 Deputy
- 6 players: Sheriff, 1 Renegade, 3 Outlaws, 1 Deputy
- 7 players: Sheriff, 1 Renegade, 3 Outlaws, 2 Deputies
Shuffle the cards and blindly pick a card for each player: that will be their role in the game. All roles are kept secret except for The Sheriff. And now you see why this can be a little challenging for people that are playing for the first time, and you’ll need to have some experience to play the Sheriff well.
Proceed with shuffling and dividing the character cards. Each player picks and announces the character card that they are playing to the other players. All characters have their own special abilities and a maximum number of health points (bullets) displayed on their card (which are all very comical and thematic). Anyone feel like Jesse Jones (Jesse James), Calamity Janet (Calamity Jane), or Willy the Kid today?
Shuffle the playing cards and give the players as many of them as the number of bullets they have at the start, face down.
The Sheriff always starts first. He draws two cards and plays any number of cards from his hand, except “bang” cards, which can be played only once per round. Some characters do break this rule, adding even more chaos to an already chaotic saloon brawl.
One weapon card can be active at a time and only one copy of any one card in play (no same-name cards in this saloon!). Proceed by discarding excess cards (if any) and then storing the remaining cards up to the maximum number of bullets (i.e. life points) your character currently has. Remember, you can always choose to not play any cards, stock up on ammo, and see who’s who. Sometimes it’s not about who is the fastest draw in the West, but who is the keenest.
Then it’s the next player’s turn, repeating the process, alternating clockwise. As I said, it’s a pretty easy card game to pick up and play.
For a Fistful of Expansions
Since this “BANG!” card game article is focused only on the base game, I would like to make a quick mention of the multiple expansions that have been published since the game’s first release. These add a bunch of new and fun game mechanics, memorable characters, and special playing cards, all with unique themes that will undoubtedly spice up your game. Some are even fan-made! Now if that doesn’t convince you about the game’s quality and popularity, I don’t know what will.
If you ever wondered what it would be like to step into the shoes of your favorite wild west hero, anti-hero, or even villain, all the while dodging bullets, trying to figure out friend from foe, and riding off into the sunset, here is your chance. The card game Bang! Is a fun and engaging way to spend an evening with friends.
I found “BANG!” easy to learn, all the while keeping the players engaged and playing out in less than forty-five minutes. One thing I forgot to mention is that it comes in a small package compared to some board games, making it easy to stash away (as every board game geek knows, shelf space can quickly run out!) or bring along to a board game night with friends.
Also, I just can’t wait to get my grubby little hands on some of the multiple expansions that are out there, so I might continue with my little cowboy adventure. In the end, I will leave you with a little piece of advice and one of my favorite spaghetti western quotes: “When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.” See you later, cowfolk!
BANG! the game can be played between four and seven players. I recommend that you play in the seven-player setting, as the four-player version can get a bit too deadly, too fast.
Yes, you can play “BANG!” the board game with two players, although the game gets a little more of a tag-team duel vibe. The graveyard scene from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly comes to mind.
Both players get two characters, and the game’s aim becomes to eliminate both of your opponent’s characters. One of each player’s characters is “exposed,” while the other one stays in “cover”. The active player can alternate this at the start of any turn. You cannot expose a character who is in Jail, and you can only use the special ability of your exposed character.
Blue cards can be used on either character. Some cards, like Beer, affect just the exposed character, while others, like Gatling and Indians! effect both of your opponent’s characters. At the end of your turn, you discard from your hand any number of cards exceeding the current life points of your exposed character.
When one of your characters is eliminated, you keep playing with the other one. The remaining character always counts as “exposed.” When you lose all of your characters, the game ends.
Like all card games, “BANG!” depends on the number of players, their skill, their experience with the game, and a little bit of luck. An average game will take around 35 minutes.