Since majer63 broke the ice on talking about card games, I thought I’d take a chance to dedicate an article to one of my first gaming loves, Bang!
Growing up, I had a huge circle of people at my house at any given time.We had the opposite problem of most gaming circles; we couldn’t play games limited to 2-6 players, we needed something up to 11 people could play at the same time. As one of the few games capable of handling that many people, Bang! was a mainstay in our repertoire, though it also works with as few as 3 players.
Drawing its cues from the party game Mafia, the players begin by drawing a character card and a hidden identity card. One player reveals to all that their identity is the Sheriff, and this informs everybody of their win condition; Outlaws win if they can kill the Sheriff, Deputies and Sheriff win if they kill the Outlaws, and Renegades win by being the last one standing. Since originally nobody knows who’s who (except the Sheriff) there’s a lot of acting involved as players try to determine who’s on their team and who might backstab them when the time is right. Gameplay involves playing as many cards in your hand as you wish, and common actions involve shooting other players, healing yourself or others, laying down defensive cards and playing debuffs on others.
The game also takes player distance into effect; every weapon in the game has a range from 1-5, and sometimes you won’t be able to target the player you were hoping to. This was always a major factor in the giant super slams at my house, especially when you factor in cards like scopes and mustangs which could either increase your effective distance or set you further from all other players. And for the most part, that’s the entire game. It’s deceptively simple, and the rounds can go very fast, which is part of its appeal. It’s a great game to keep around for parties because it only takes a few rounds for a brand new player to figure out what’s going on. But if you want to get more complicated, the game has expansion packs that adds additional decks with new features. Dodge City adds green-bordered cards, which behave like blue-bordered cards but must survive a whole round before they can start taking effect, and the other three are shuffled together to make an environmental deck that changes something about the playing field every turn.
The primary downside to Bang! is the fact that dead players are effectively removed from the game. Considering it’s possible to die before it even reaches your turn, this proved to be a real headache for our double-digit playercounts, but luckily one of my favorite bloggers in 2007 had me covered. Martin Pulido of The Bang! Blog was one of the first people who ever opened my eyes to the idea of game blogging, and his blog is an absolute gem if you fall in love with Bang! like I did. He has detailed analyses of loads of the character cards, reviews and comparisons between the various cards and their effects, and in 2011 he ambitiously set out to make his own fan expansion.
Mindful of the laws against profiting off someone else’s intellectual property, Martin Pulido setup a system whereby one could buy a set of Death Mesa cards from a third-party card printing site, ensuring the dollar amount was exactly the cost of printing so he didn’t make a nickel. That didn’t stop the actual publishers from canning his enterprise in just a few months, and I’m super thankful I ordered a set when I did, because Death Mesa did a great job breathing life into the endgame for the deceased players. If that concept sounds appealing, you probably should get the Gold Rush expansion, which was the publishers attempt to fix the dead players problem by adding shadow-gunslingers who can take turns from beyond the grave. Sadly I can’t review that expansion because my house has always been perfectly happy with Death Mesa. If you’re okay with fanmade expansions, you can still download Death Mesa from his blog and print it out for your own use.
All in all, Bang! is a great game for any group (even if it’s not as large as ours!) If you’re not inclined to go chill with peeps in the real world, it’s got a mobile app that actually broke major ice back in 2011 by being one of the first apps to ever support cross-platform multiplayer. I used to play it and it did a great job translating the card game into a fun time-killer, though I haven’t had an iPod for years so I can’t play it anymore.