Designer: Emiliano Sciarra
Date Released: 2002
Number of Players: 4-7
Age Range: 11 and up (8 and up on the box)
Setup Time: 5 minutes or less
Play Time: 30-45 minutes
Game Flow and Review:
Take a social game like Villagers and Werewolves, add a card element to it, and you get this fun old-fashioned spaghetti western shootout.
Each player randomly receives a character card that will determine their special ability and a secret role card to determine what it’ll take for them to win the game. There are four roles: Sheriff, Deputy, Outlaw, and Renegade. The Sheriff needs to kill all the Outlaws and the Renegade, while the Deputy—whose life isn’t as important as the Sheriff—protects the Sheriff and kills any Outlaws. Outlaws need to kill the Sheriff—plain and simple. Renegades have to be the last person standing.
With the exception of the Sheriff, these roles are secret, so you won’t know who has which role until the player does something to reveal who they are. Since the Sheriff is known to everyone at the table, if someone attacks him on their turn, you can guess that the person who attacks the Sheriff is an Outlaw or Renegade—unless they’re the world’s worst Deputy.
Then, there’s the social game element of players throwing off other players as to who they are. The Renegade has the largest mountain to climb for victory, but he or she can pretend to be anyone but the Sheriff as they have to eliminate all of the players at the table. There are moments when a Sheriff can off all of his/her Deputies and have to face the Outlaws and the Renegade alone.
All of the deck cards have Italian names as a tip of the hat to the great Italian directors who popularized spaghetti westerns, and each one has interesting abilities. The most common cards are Bang and Missed. You can only attack another player with a Bang card, and as you can probably surmise, Missed cards are played in defense and cause your opponent to miss.
Usually you can only fire once, but the Volcanic weapon card allows you to fire as many times as you have Bang cards. A player’s hand is determined by how many bullets (or life points) the player has, so you want to stay as healthy as you can—Sheriffs gain an additional bullet, since they’ll be the target of a lot of players. Other cards can send one of your opponents to jail, give you a barrel to hide behind, or even a mustang to ride away from danger.
I played in a large and a small game of Bang!, and I must say that a larger game beats the chaps off of a smaller game. If you have fewer players, your games will devolve into a cutthroat game of everyone trying to kill everyone else without the benefit of figuring out who is playing which role.
The core game mechanics of Bang! are simple hand management, hit point and player elimination, but it’s the added element of a social game that makes it shine. As such, you should only play Bang! if you intend to play it in larger groups.