There is an archetypal card game that goes something like this:
At least 4 players each draw cards at the start of the game. Each card represents different roles. One role is the bad guy, one role is the good guy, and one role is the victim. There may be helper roles for the good guys or the bad guys.
The trick: only one of the roles is typically public knowledge. Everyone else’s role is secret.
There are other names for this type of game, and many variations. You may know it as Werewolf, or Mafia.
Bang! pits the known role (Sheriff) versus unknown bad guys (outlaws). Don’t worry, the Sheriff may have Deputy helpers, and in all variations there’s an Outlaw who just wants to watch the world burn.
Overview and theme
Bang! is a game of Italian design, and as such emulates the “Spaghetti Westerns” of the 1960s. The art work and tropes are straight out of cheesy Westerns. For example, you can heal yourself by drinking beer, and you can attempt to hide from bullets behind a barrel. You can carry more than one equipment card, including hiding behind a barrel while riding a mustang to safety. It’s unclear in the rules if you kind of hold the barrel while riding, or if the barrel is so damn big that it protects the horse, too.
The game supports 4 – 7 players. I find the game to be most enjoyable with the maximum number of people. There are 16 characters, and 4 distinct roles. The characters all have different abilities, and while none of them are game-breaking they do give each character a unique feel. Bonus points if you talk in an accent while playing.
Different characters have different life totals. Most of the time it’s three or four, represented by bullets. The Sheriff gets an extra life for being the toughest hombre in town.
Players are dealt cards equal to the number of life they have.
Each character starts out with a revolver. You can shoot one position to your left or right (range of 1). You can get weapons that allow you to shoot longer distances (meaning, other players) and you can get equipment that protects you from harm, either by providing a chance for defense (barrel) or moving you further out of range (mustang).
At the start of your turn you draw two cards. You can play any number of cards that you like, except for a Bang! card. Bang! cards allow you to attempt to shoot another player. If you succeed they lose a life. There are cards that allow you to Bang! multiple times in one turn.
As you can see, part of the fun of Bang! is saying Bang! all the time and that you’re going to Bang! other players in the face and they will try to keep you from Bang!ing them.
It’s like high school all over again, and between the innuendo and the backstabbing there’s a lot of swearing and laughing going on.
Just like high school.
Play continues until the Sheriff (and any deputies) kill all the outlaws and the renegade, or until the outlaws kill the Sheriff, or until the renegade kills the outlaws and THEN the Sheriff.
Reception and replayability
We host a wide range of people every Sunday for our Board Games and Burger Night. We can have anywhere from three to twelve adults at the table, and that demands a lot of gaming flexibility. Flexibility in theme, flexibility in number of players, flexibility in complexity.
Bang! is right about in the middle. It can scale up pretty well unless the house is packed. At 30 – 45 minutes it can take longer than some of our games, but is definitely not as long as Zombicide. It’s not as easy to teach as King of Tokyo or Forbidden Island, but much easier than Elder Sign.
We don’t reach for Bang! every time we have folks over, but it’s fun for a playthrough or two every once in awhile.
For less than $20 delivered on Amazon Prime I think Bang! deserves a spot in your gaming home, especially if you host mid-sized groups who have a juvenile sense of humor. I really enjoy sitting around the table, throwing the cards down on the table, hearing everyone shout and laugh and point at each other.
Just like high school.