Once Upon a Time in the West there was Bang! – the now more than 20-year-old card game published by DV Games. In Bang! it’s always High Noon for a total of Magnificent 7 players (sadly not Hateful 8) that get to face each other in a true Mexican stand-off. For A Few Dollars More, a bunch of outlaws try to beat the Sheriff, but which of your friends is now The Good, the Bad or the Ugly? With a Fistful of Dynamite and A Bullet for a Badman, you Unforgiven try to bring your opponents to an end. To survive this Wild Bunch, you need to have True Grit. Will you shoot faster than your shadow, or will you trade your spurs for wings?
Background and goal
Perhaps Bang! is the oldest (card) game we have reviewed on Dice Daniel. Ever since 2002, this card game has been available in several languages, a number of expansions have also been released, a dice game has been published and also a very special edition with a metal box in the shape of a huge bullet was released to much fanfare. New expansions are still being released and soin 2021/2022 the latest expansion was published: Bang! The Great Train Robbery (also a title of a classic western film). In Bang!, each player is given a secret role and a character card – during the game, players play different cards to eliminate each other and achieve their goal.
“Bang! bang!, they shot me down… Bang! bang!, I hit the ground… Bang! bang!, that awful sound… Bang! bang!, my friends they shot me down…”
In the base game of Bang! there are four different reels available and each reel has a unique victory condition:
Sheriff – Kill all Outlaws and the Renegade.
Deputy – Protect the Sheriff and kill all Outlaws.
Outlaw – Kill the Sheriff.
Renegade – Be the last person left.
How is Bang! set up? Each player is given a secret role at the beginning of the game. Which roles are used for a round and how many depends on the number of players. A bit like a game of Mafia or Werewolf. This player’s role is kept secret during the rest of the game, except that of the sheriff. The sheriff must play at the beginning of the game right away with open cards, but receives an extra bullet (life point) at the beginning. So the roles of the rest of the players remain secret until they are shot and then you will see whether they are good, bad or the renegade.
Besides the secret role, each player also gets a character card from the pile of different character cards. These characters all have a unique ability that players can use during the game. Each character card is placed face-up on the table. The character card shows how many bullets a player gets. Bullets indicate life force, but also your hand limit (for the cards). Don’t forget that the sheriff receives an extra bullet. These cards and the bullets can be placed by players on their own tableau for easy and quick overview. Each player also draws some cards from the draw pile and the game can begin.
At the beginning of your turn, you draw 2 new action cards from the central draw pile. During your turn, you may play as many action cards as you like with a few restrictions. For example, unless an effect indicates otherwise, you may only play 1 Bang! card. Bang! cards are used to shoot at other players. When shooting, but also for the effect of other cards, the distance between players is important. Adjacent players generally have a distance of 1 and so on. When using Bang! cards, you can shoot as far as the range of your weapon. At the start of the game, everyone has a Colt-45 with a range of 1, but as the game progresses, you can unlock better weapons.
Besides Bang! cards, there are weapons and other permanent bonuses and obstacles (blue cards) of which you can only have 1 per type placed (active) in front of you. Weapons give extra range or special effects. Other blue cards also provide extra effects. The brown cards are direct actions. You may (taking the restrictions mentioned earlier into account) play as many cards as you can during your turn. You can take away cards, draw extra cards, receive bullets or play special cards to increase or decrease the distance between players to protect yourself. The Bang! cards are the primary way to damage other players. Fortunately, there are cards that make other players miss. Once one of the above goals is achieved, the game ends!
The Great Train Robbery
This expansion includes some new characters, a set of train cards (train set and locomotive) and some cardboard station tiles. With the train cards, players create a track with railcars and a Locomotive card. Players can buy cars, but each of these cards is linked to a Station tile; each time it is the Sheriff’s turn, the train moves forward across the table and the value (what players have to pay for a card) changes depending on the Station tiles. During their turn, players may pay the cost depicted on a Station to take the corresponding car. When a car is taken, the other cars in the train slide forward to fill the gap, and then a new car is added to the end of the train. Once the car behind the locomotive passes the final station placed on the table, the special effect of the locomotive card is activated (this effect applies to all players). After activating the locomotive, a new track of 5 station tiles is placed in the centre of the table and a new train is built from the train cards.
Bang! has been around for a while and that’s because of its simple gameplay, high level of take that and degree of interaction between players. With Bang! don’t expect a complex, serious and strategic game, but a relatively short game with a lot of luck and silly fun. Bang! is a game where a large group can bully each other with the effects of different cards, lead each other astray and shout BANG loudly when you want to shoot someone. So you can (aside from gameplay which is different) compare it to games like Munchkin and Werewolves. A light-hearted and approachable activity for a larger group. Players will laugh when they manage to play just that one card to thwart someone else, cheer when they manage to take out the right player, yell when other players get screwed, and boo when they themselves are victims of certain effects or when they are taken out themselves. That is a drawback, by the way: players can be eliminated, but the game does not last too long and therefor it is less frustrating than a long game of Werewolves.
The Great Train robbery adds an interesting twist and extra variety through the extra actions. Like the base game, this thematic expansion hits all the targets! Pew pew pew!