Bang! is a curious game. When first looking at it, it is quite hard to decipher what the game is exactly about. The focus is immediately drawn to the spaghetti western theme represented well in each and every component of this clever little game. Perhaps you would think it is a simple card game showing its love of spaghetti westerns by trying to invoke that special feeling of Mexican standoffs and shoot-outs well known in western flicks and culture – the aesthetics are pleasing to the eye and the designer’s obvious love of westerns shines through the artwork and all the small texts decorating the cards. Yet in truth Bang! is so much more than a mere card version of a shoot-out. It is a game of deduction and skill, one where the player is tasked to deduce the roles of other players and mask their own to achieve victory.
The main gist of the game is quite simple. To start things of the players are assigned roles at random. There is one sheriff, some deputy sheriffs, some outlaws, and one renegade. The number of deputies and outlaws depends on the number of players playing. The sheriff and deputies aim to eliminate everyone else from the game, the outlaws try to remove the sheriff and the renegade aspires to be the last player left in the game. What makes things interesting, however, is that only the sheriff will inform the other players of their role. Though the other players will check what role they were assigned, the players cannot know which role was given to whom. Everyone must deduct who is a friend and who is a foe.
After the role cards, everyone is given a character card with a unique ability that can affect the game immensely. There are several character cards, all named fittingly to the theme, with a wide range of abilities giving each character a slight edge in one way or another. Finally, all the players are given a set number of playing cards before the game begins. The playing cards will affect the game directly, some can damage other players, some give you boons, some make the gameplay more difficult for someone else, and so forth. Through the play of these cards the players are given vital information with which to deduct who is who. After all, someone taking a potshot at the sheriff is unlikely to be a deputy.
A player’s role card is hidden by placing it face down. Character card, weapon card, and health (bullets) are for all to see.
Each game will feel different with the rotation of roles, characters and with the pure chance of drawing the playing cards. Trying to deduce who to gun down and who to protect is fantastic fun with a like-minded group of players. And frankly, managing to eliminate the opposing player to clinch victory is delightful.
I would heartily recommend Bang! to anyone. Though it takes a while (and perhaps one test run) to get familiar and comfortable with all the mechanics and mind games present in the game, the joy of throwing one of your adversaries to jail while taking shots at the other is wonderful well worth the effort.
Designer: Emiliano Sciarra
Publisher: dV Giochi
Release date: 2002
Number of players: 4 to 7
Playing time: 20 to 40 minutes.
Pictures taken by the author.
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