During our most recent neighborhood game night, I dusted off my copy of Bang! The spaghetti western inspired card game of bluffing in poorly executed old west accents and cowardly hiding behind barrels. Well maybe that’s just me.
We had 7 people who wanted to play a game and after explaining to everyone how problematic 7 player games can often be, I remembered I hadn’t broken out the old Bang! Bullet in a very long time.
Everyone wanted to play the same game, and the group consisted of more casual gamers so I thought this may be a good chance to give Bang! another shot. Previous sessions were hit or mancato (miss) and we previously abandoned the game for a while due to common complaints about this game around player elimination, too much left to chance, and long wait time between turns.
Well, I must say, that I am glad we disregarded these complaints and played anyway because it was really fun. The issues were still there but this game definitely has its time and place and the group had a blast.
Expansions and Licensed Versions
After the game’s initial success, expansions started rolling out quickly. High Noon was released in 2003. Followed by Dodge CIty (2004), Fistful of Cards (2005). Expansion releases continued over the next decade with Wild West Show, Gold Rush, The Valley of Shadows, Bang The Duel, and Armed & Dangerous. If you consider all the expansions, Bang! has over 40 playable characters in the game.
There are also many licensed versions like a Walking Dead version (based on the comics, thank god) as well as a Halo and a Heroes of the Storm version. There’s also Samurai Sword which takes the game mechanics to feudal japan. That makes sense since spaghetti westerns were inspired or based off the samurai films that predate them. I personally haven’t played any alternate versions. I’m sure they are cool but I think I am okay with Bang! just being a western.
There are also mobile and PC versions available.
It’s interesting to note that there’s also a dice version which has a higher BBG score than the card game version. I’ve heard good things. There’s a The Walking Dead dice version as well.
Originally titled Tombstone, the creator’s friends all kept calling the game Bang! and eventually the new name stuck. The rules are easy to teach and this is one of those games where you are best off not over-explaining it and just diving it.
There’s one Sheriff who reveals his role, then depending on the number of players there will be deputies, outlaws, and renegades. The outlaws win if the Sheriff is killed, the Sheriff and Deputies win when all the outlaws are dead, and for the renegade to win he or she must be the last player alive.
I noticed the host had a Google Home speaker so I loudly and clearly enunciated “OK Google, play the Django Unchained Soundtrack” and we were ready to go. I have an extreme fondness for Spaghetti Westerns (and their Samurai movie inspirations) so having some tunes from classic films scored by Ennio Morricone and others really sets the mood.
I recommend having delicious craft beer abundant to accompany this game because a common card played is called “Beer” or “Birra” in Italian and guess what it does? It gives you a life point back and can save you from dying. Just like real beer.
You may wonder why I keep using Italian words and it’s because Bang! is made by an Italian publisher and my edition has Italian words on the cards with smaller English translations. It makes sense for this spaghetti western game and I think it adds character. The game comes with two copies of the rules. One is in English and the other Italian. Hand the Italian instructions to new players and watch while they scratch their heads. In the edition I have, all the cards have both English and Italian.
As previously stated, Bang! comes in many versions and I have the “Bullet” version which I have some opinions on.
First, the bullet looks cool but as a game box it’s not very practical. However people who see it usually remark on how cool it is. Those people don’t have to store it or put it in a bag to transport. The biggest issue is that I opened it to play and the cards were slightly bent. This is unacceptable and maybe user error on my part although I am not sure how I could have put the cards in the bullet differently. I plan to transfer the cards in a different container.
The contents of the bundle are great though. It comes with the Bang! base game as well as Dodge City, High Noon and A Fistful of Cards expansions as well as several additional character cards and a sheriff’s badge. Don’t buy the bullet just for the badge as its cheap plastic and you can get more legit ones other places, but it’s a nice perk included and inevitably the first question asked by whoever reveals they are the Sheriff is always “Can you pass me the Sheriff’s Badge”?
Another nice benefit of the expansions included are that it enables you to play with 8 people if you so decide. Overall, this kit is a great way to buy Bang! the Card Game.
The first game we played the outlaws won. And the second game the Sheriff and deputy (although the deputy died pretty early on) won. I noticed online there’s a fan made expansion that allows dead players to continue playing as ghosts so they aren’t eliminated totally. I might check that out for next time.
The Renegade role is definitely the hardest role. You have to be the last man standing to win. But I welcome the challenge. I like playing as the Sheriff and in future games I think I’ll propose that we go around the table, giving everyone the opportunity to be the Sheriff, instead of leaving it up to chance.
Some advice, since this is a bluffing game, the first couple rounds can be hard to know what to do since no one knows who is who. I say, just shoot each other. It’s fun and let’s not take this game too seriously.
In time, you will get develop a hunch of who is who. If anyone asks who you are, it can be beneficial to pretend you are a deputy. You’ll notice everyone trying to convince you they are the deputy. That is until all out war is declared on the Sheriff. Then it’s pretty obvious who is who.
The Dynamite card is the most fun of all the cards in my opinion. It gets passed around the table and if you have the dynamite, at the start of your turn, you have a the chance that it blows up and you lose 3 life points which can often take a player out. Sometimes it happens right away and other times players will be remarking on how long that wick is. Just like in the films.
The General Store is a really nice card to play too because essentially it gives the player who lays it down it to flip over a bunch of cards from the draw pile and pick the their favorite. It benefits the other players too though with diminishing returns the farther around the table a player is away from the player laying down the General Store card. Its a nice card to keep things social and keep everyone engaged.
The Duel card can be fun, or really frustrating as you waste a bunch of bang cards between you and the dueling player. An astute player will only challenge others to a duel if they know that player is out of Bang! cards. It’s pretty obvious who is out of Bang! Cards after the Indian card is played.
If you haven’t played Bang! before, I say give it a shot. If you are like me and took it out of rotation, I recommend keeping it in mind for casual games with 6 or 7 players when the opportunity arises. And practice making sound effects with your mouth like beer slurping and of course that trademark spaghetti western gunshot.
Not only is Bang! a classic, but there really aren’t many good games for 7 players. Caverna and Secret Hitler are among the few I can think of that even allow for 7.