Sunday 14 December 2014

Bang! The Bullet! (Deluxe Edition)

After The Settlers of Catan, this is my second most influential game that veered me onto this adventure of collecting games (=

I thank Uel, Shannelle and Lael for showing me this Spaghetti Western, which is a cult classic (of sorts) for them. They knew this game long before I got into the hobby :)

Name: Bang! (La Pallottola!) The Bullet! (2007): this is the deluxe edition of Bang!.
The original Bang! was released in 2002.

Differences: The deluxe The Bullet! edition contains the original Bang! along with three expansions called "High Noon", "Dodge City" and "A Fistful of Cards".

As a special bonus 3 special characters called "Uncle Will", "Johnny Kisch" and "Claus "The Saint"" have been included in The Bullet!, along with 2 'new' cards for High Noon ("New Identity" and "Handcuffs").

There is also the very handy and cool Sheriff's badge.

Designer: Emiliano Sciarra

Publisher: dV Giochi amongst others

Players: 3 to 8 (in the original Bang! only 4 to 7 can play as presumably only 7 role cards are provided). The rulebook has special rules for 3 players, though I'm not sure I would recommend this game with any less than 5 players (this is debatable).

Age: 8+

Time to play: 30 mins

Price Range (AUD): $57 to $130 for the Bullet, but if you ordered the normal Bang it would be about half this price (around $40 including shipping). The lower end of this scale is a bit hard to find, just from a quick search of online retailers. I got the Deluxe Bullet edition for $52 including shipping sometime June last year, which just goes to show how expensive everything is now.

The reason the price has changed so much must be because of 1) the AUD dropping in value relative to the USD at the time of writing and 2) there being less copies of the Bullet floating around.

Availability: Available online and I've seen it in a few hobby game stores - but it's quite expensive

  • Mafia (kind of anyway)/ Social Deduction
  • Card
  • Spaghetti Western
  • Teams/Hidden Alliances

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

7.9+/-* out of 10. (Great for mafia lovers,  but not everyone will like it or agree with this score - See my Rating Scale)

I want to keep this short and simple: Bang! in itself is a great card game if you enjoy mafia-style games and hidden team alliances or partnerships. Bang! The Bullet! is just that much better as it includes so much bonus content in a cool-looking case. 

In the base game Bang!, Players basically are sorted into one of 3 types of teams: The Sheriff's team, the Outlaws and the Renegade(s). The Sheriff's team includes the Vice Deputy and the Sheriff. Everyone's identity is unknown EXCEPT for the Sheriff. This is where it gets interesting, as the Outlaws want to kill the Sheriff; whilst the Renegade is the most complicated character as he/she wants to kill the Sheriff at the very end (after eliminating everyone else; because if they kill the Sheriff before the end the Outlaws win).

The tension as each player tries to figure out which team everyone else is on is gold. Often inferences will be drawn based on actions done in relation to the Sheriff. For example, shooting the Sheriff is seen as an obvious indication that you are bad (but this isn't necessarily so - people have strange, weird and other reasons for shooting the Sheriff!! Ridiculous I know but it HAS happened before). People, often Outlaws or Renegades, will bluff and try to make friends with the Sheriff, and the Sheriff will have a hard time deciding who his/her real friends are (and, likewise, the Sheriff's real allies, the Deputies, will have a hard time proving their allegiance to the Sheriff).

This is a good game if your game group likes this kind of tension. The variety of action cards provided in The Bullet is staggering and will keep you interested for hours. The overwhelming number of character cards, all with special abilities, is extremely fun and provides diversity to the game. These unique abilities make all the difference and add to the whole Wild West theme and flavour of this game.

However, this is not a game for those who don't enjoy a bit of conflict; nor is it a game for those who can't be bothered learning rules or the effects of different cards, including character cards (it's not a game where you can easily pick up the meaning of all the cards as not all the effects of the cards are immediately obvious, as they are depicted by symbols). It's also not a game for the impatient as sometimes players can take a long time to decide what they want to do.

* Great game but suffers from that drawback common to player elimination games - where those eliminated have to wait until the next round starts before they can play again (much like King of Tokyo - except Bang! arguably offers a bit more variety and tension than that game)

The Good:
  • The hidden team alliances/partnerships are really fun aspects to this game - you don't really know who is on your team! All you have to rely upon are inferences, which are drawn from people's actions taken in relation to the Sheriff (who is the only known identity). This uncertainty causes chaos and you do get funny situations where people are attacking their own team mates without even realising it! You will find that some people just attack each other out of spite that is unrelated to the dynamics of the game.
  • The role of the Renegade, who continuously swaps sides (as his aim is to kill the Sheriff himself at the end, one-on-one, in order to become the new Sheriff and be the last person standing) is what makes this game. The Renegade cannot kill too early or else the Outlaws win (as they win if the Sheriff dies at any time so long as the Sheriff does not die to the Renegade at the end). Thus the Renegade is likely to side with the Good Guys (ie. the Sheriff and Vices) if the Good Guys are outnumbered by the Outlaws, because the Renegade doesn't want the Outlaws to kill the Sheriff first. This tentative "alliance" changes quickly when the circumstances change.
  • Considerable strategy for players because of the above dotpoint, as each team, including the Renegade on their own, tries to figure out what needs to be done.
  • The variety of character cards and special abilities is awesome! Where else will you find cool fellows like Calamity Janet and Tequila Joe?
  • Contains two good expansions (High Noon and Dodge City) as well as 3 great character cards (Uncle Will, Johnny Kisch, Claus "The Saint"), for, assuming you look for the cheapest option, a combined cheaper price than what you would pay if you bought the games separately.
  • Flavour of the Wild West is really felt here, and the Spanish/Italian (?) words used on the cards make the game seem more exotic

The Bad:
  • Obviously luck based due to cards - but that's the nature of the game.
  • You can get bogged down in explaining the rules and the effect of cards - it is slightly convoluted for those new to playing card games. I wouldn't recommend showing this to those completely new to games, unless they are friends willing to learn!! :)
  • Apparently "it's not a game for everyone" so I was told; probably for the above and below reasons
  • Sometimes indecisive players can take up a LONG time in this game on their turn, especially if they are new to the game
  • As with all mafia or hidden identity games, accusations as to who is on what team can cause offence and hurt. Be careful playing this with sensitive people such as loved ones.

What makes this game fun? 
The confusion and strategy associated with figuring out who is against the Sheriff and who is with the Sheriff makes this game a blast; if you enjoy this kind of social deduction - although in a different, and slightly more convoluted, format to The Resistance: Avalon - give this game a go.

- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -

Rules & Components (Photos courtesy of my mum, Joanne)

I won't show you the High Noon and A Fistful of Cards expansions just yet (see the very end of this review), but otherwise the contents of the game are depicted as below:

The game (or, at least my copy of it) provides 12 role cards:

  • 2 Vice/ Deputy Sheriffs; 
  • 2 Sheriffs or "Sceriffos"; 
  • 3 Renegades or "Rinnegatos" and 
  • 5 Outlaws or "Fuorilegges"

However, despite the supply of these 12 role cards, note that the game recommends play for only up to 8 players - which makes sense because it would be chaotic playing the game with 12 people (as you probably wouldn't have enough cards to do so - you are welcome to try though of course).

Role Cards Explained

There are essentially at least 3 teams in this game constituted by 4 different types of roles:

Sheriff: The Sheriff is on the Sheriff's own team where the aim is simple: Kill all the Outlaws and the Renegade(s) without letting yourself (the Sheriff) die first. [Note that the Sheriff starts off with 1 additional life point, as indicated by the + Bullet symbol on the bottom right side of the Sheriff card]

Vice/Deputy: The Vice or Deputy Sheriff(s) is on the Sheriff's team. The Deputy's job is to protect the Sheriff and kill all the Outlaws and the Renegade. This may sound easy but it involves obtaining the trust of the Sheriff, which is extremely difficult to secure at the start as others will seek the Sheriff's allegiance.

Outlaw: The Outlaw is on the Outlaw's team, and their aim is simple: Kill the Sheriff. If the Sheriff dies at the hand of another player, they still win. A dead outlaw still wins if the Sheriff dies after they die. They can achieve their aim directly through brute force (by attacking the Sheriff head-on) or through cunning (by pretending to be the Sheriff's friend and attacking the Sheriff's enemies, to gain the Sheriff's trust - much like what the Renegade would do).

Renegade: By far the most complicated character, the Renegade is on their own team. Thus, if there is more than one Renegade in the game, each of the Renegades are on their own separate team. The Renegade's aim is complicated and, perhaps, two-fold.

The Renegade's aims are to:

1) Be the last-person-standing in the game (ie. eliminate everyone else in the game) subject to the proviso in 2);

2) Ensure that the Sheriff is the last player to be eliminated; that is, the Sheriff cannot be eliminated until the very end. Therefore, if the Sheriff dies when there are 3 or more players left in the game, the Renegade(s) loses and the Outlaws win.

Character Cards

Character cards are equally important as they determine your special abilities and life points.

Role cards - the bottom two are from the original game. The top left is from Dodge City (as evidenced by the bull symbol); Teren Kill and Greygory Deck are actually from the Wild West Show expansion (not included in Bang! The Bullet!) - I mix them up with the normal characters and forgot that they were an external expansion

Here's a selection of a few characters found in the game, some clearly more powerful than others.

For example, Teren Kill (not included in the Bullet!) draws a card when he is about to be eliminated and if he draws something that isn't a Spade he stays at 1 life point and draws 1 card. He basically gets a 75% chance of coming back to life, assuming an even distribution of suits in the deck. For such a strong ability, he only has 3 lives.

As another example, Calamity Janet can play Bang! cards as Missed! cards and vice versa, which is a crazy ability to have.

Representing life:

The backs of the character cards are used to indicate life. For example, if you chose Teren Kill (who is from the Wild West Show expansion, which is not included in this game), you'd cover up the bullets like so to indicate your starting health of 3 bullets. (If you were the Sheriff you'd start on 4).

The Concept of Distance

Usually, unless the card says otherwise, each player can only shoot or attack someone one distance away from them at the start of the game. That is, you can only shoot people directly on either side of you. Distance can be increased or decreased with the aid of various Blue Equipment Cards (discussed below)

So in this 6-player game, the Sheriff would need a gun of range 3 to shoot the furthest person in this game (the player on the bottom), assuming that no one has any special equipment cards that increase their distance away from other players (see below).

Brown Action Cards

These cards perform immediate actions, such as shooting other players, discarding or drawing cards.

For example the Moncato! or Missed card (top left) is a reaction card that can be played when a Bang! card (top right) is played. Note that under normal circumstances only 1 Bang! card per turn may be played, although the Volcanic gun lets you shoot an infinite number of Bangs (at the cost of only being able to shoot to those immediately adjacent to you). If you are hit by a Bang you lost a life point, and reduce your health by 1 bullet by sliding your card over to cover a bullet.

Beers or Birras (not shown above) can be used to regain life points but may not be used to help others.

The Cat Balou card is used to discard a face-up card in front of a player, or a random card from another player's hand (you blindly pick in this latter option).

Blue "Equipment" Cards

These cards are played up in front of you. You cannot have 2 of the same card (I think - I know this is true of weapons, but I am assuming the same for Blue cards in general).

Green Dodge City "Delayed Action" Cards

The green cards are delayed action cards, which can only be played 1 turn after they have been put down.

For example the Sombrero (top left) and Iron Plate (bottom left) help you dodge a Bang! card if you have played them down 1 whole turn before you use them (ie. you play them down and, after everyone else has taken their turns, it comes back to your turn).

The pepperbox is upside down but lets you

High Noon and A Fistful of Cards

These cards are additional cards that change the scenario in an unexpected way each round (someone draws one card whenever it is their turn again - and this replaces the effect of the previous card drawn). The game advises you to choose one deck or the other, but you could choose to draw both if you were feeling a bit crazy.

For example, the Hangover card in the High Noon deck makes all characters lose their special abilities for the whole round!

The Judge from A Fistful of Cards prevents any player from playing cards in front of themselves or another player

Special Character Cards

Three special character cards, evidenced by the gun symbol, are added to this game. They all have some pretty crazy abilities.

Claus the Saint is a favourite - he gets to distribute cards to all players including himself on his turn.

Notably, the game also includes blank cards for you to create you own custom cards or characters.

General Gameplay (Without going into too much detail)

On your turn follow these three steps:

1) Draw 2 cards

2) Play as many cards as you like so long as you do not play more than 1 Bang! (shoot) card per turn and do not play the same card twice

3) Discard excess cards over the hand limit. Your hand limit is equal to the number of lives (or bullets) you currently have.

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