I have a new article up covering Billy Wagner, arbitration offers, and other random stuff. I did a rambling hit with Mike Salk on AllNight last night. It certainly sounds like I said the Dodgers didn’t offer arbitration to “Woof.” Maybe he’ll sign with the Phoenix Desert Dogs next week.
I’ve had the Italian card game Bang! for over a year now, but finally got around to opening it the other day, since it requires four people to play and we always reach for Ticket to Ride or Carcassonne whenever we’ve got a group of four for game night. We ran through Bang! twice, and I’m guessing the game is better with more than four players, but I thought I’d offer a quick take.
Bang! has a simple object but the game play is a little complex. Each player gets a role: one Sheriff, one Renegade, two to three Outlaws, and one to two Deputies. Only the Sheriff’s role is revealed. The goal of the Outlaws is simply to kill the Sheriff. The goal of the Sheriff and any Deputies is to kill the Outlaws and the Renegade. The goal of the Renegade is to be the last player standing, so he’s the least likely to win although he’s fun to play because of the greater potential for deceit. Each player also gets a character who has one specific ability that deviates from the standard rules of the game.
The game is entirely played with cards, with nearly half the cards in the deck devoted to shooting opponents (called, appropriately enough, Bang! cards) or cards used to deflect shots aimed at you (Missed!). The remaining half of the deck comprises special-use cards, from Beer cards used to regain a life point lost to a bullet to weapons that allow you to hit players farther away from you at the table to the Jail card that you can use to try to force an opponent to skip his next turn. Some cards are played once, but others remain on the table in front of you for use in future turns until someone plays another card that takes yours off the table.
On each turn, a player can play all of the cards in his hand with the restriction that he can only play one Bang! card – that is, only fire one bullet at an opponent – per turn, unless he has another card that invalidates that rule. Turns move quickly, since you only start each turn with as many cards as you have life points remaining, and neither of our games lasted as long as a half an hour. The bulk of the strategy revolves around deciding whom to attack and which cards to hold in your hand, since there are various situations where having a Bang!, Missed!, or Beer card in your hand when it’s not your turn is beneficial. For example, you can play a Beer card even though it’s not your turn if you lose your last life point, thus keeping you in the game a little longer.
We found three problems with the game, one of which is easily fixed – a player can be eliminated or nearly eliminated before he gets a turn. A house rule that no player can be eliminated before he gets a turn is apparently a common solution. The second problem was that tying the card limit to the number of life points remaining means once you’re down a few points, you’ll find it hard to stay in the game without some luck or some help from an ally. The third problem was that a four-player game created something of an imbalance, with two outlaws against a renegade and a sheriff; two players are trying to kill one (the sheriff), while the other two players are trying to kill two targets. That imbalance means the sheriff is going to see his point total slip quickly unless he and the renegade happen to take turns before the outlaws do, and even the rule giving the sheriff one bonus life point didn’t help, as he was on the ropes quickly and eventually was killed in both games.
That said, I’d love to try this with five to seven people, since the next role added is a deputy, which should rebalance the game. The company’s site includes rules for a two-player variant, and the Dodge City Expansion expansion adds 3- and 8-player possibilities. (The online consensus seems to be that buying the complete set, Bang – The Bullet, which includes the expansions, is the best way to go.)
Boardgamegeek has a great forum post on Bang! where three kids, ages 9, 11, and 13, respond to some of the major criticisms of the game, and do so intelligently and sometimes humorously. The site also offers a Word doc that, when printed on both sides of a page, creates a handy player aid with condensed rules and card actions.