Once upon a time in the West, outlaws and renegades roamed the plains of Mexico and California searching for ill-gotten gains. Brave lawmen, sheriffs and their deputies, were the only thing that stood between the bandits and anarchy. Sergio Leone and other Italian directors have made many classic films in this setting, and Bang!, from publisher Da Vinci games, tries to recreate the tense one-horse town showdowns those movies are known for.
Bang! is not a new game. It gathered awards faster than Jonah Hex collecting bounties a few years ago. It was released back in 2002, and is now in its newest printing after a long period of unavailability. This is one of the earliest games I know of that put players on unrevealed teams; you can see how this game may have influenced the Battlestar Galactica board game and Are You the Traitor?
With a fistful of dollars, I picked up Bang! expecting a very straightforward game of guns-a-blazin’ shootouts. I was thinking of something like Munchkin without monsters, which is true at first. The basic gameplay is shooting the other players, and you gain better equipment throughout the game. What I wasn’t expecting was how the game added the covert teamwork.
Each player is given a role: sheriff, deputy, outlaw, and renegade. Everybody hides their identity, except for the Sheriff. In fact, we played with the Sheriff donning a badge and cowboy hat. It’s good to have the Sheriff loud and proud because he is the key to understanding what the other players’ goals are. The idea is that the outlaws want the Sheriff dead, the Sheriff is hunting down the outlaws, and the Renegade wants to be the last man alive. Initially you can only shoot those to the right or left of you, so who attacks who is the biggest tip off you can really get. You can get around the limitations with several items. New guns let you shoot further, and nothing panics a renegade more than a fistful of dynamite that goes around the table until it randomly detonates.
For a few dollars more you could pick up a big box game full of teamwork and betrayal, but Bang! packs plenty of value at 20 pesos. The art on the cards themselves is nice, but the game also comes with colorful play-mats that are different for each player and depict a tense shootout. The game allows up to a magnificent seven players, and twice as many character cards with different abilities keep the game from getting stale.
If you noticed all the name drops to some classic spaghetti westerns, then you may also notice I neglected the greatest of them all. Well Bang! is good, certainly not bad, and definitely not ugly.