Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Emiliano Sciarra


No. of Players:
3 - 8



While games for four, five or six players are quite easy to find, it was always a bit more problematic to find suitable games for one or two players more. Some outstanding games for up to eight players are Formula De or Die Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg, but when you try to compile a list of good games suitable for up to eight players it becomes quite difficult to come up with a decent number of titles.

A game which should not be missing on such a list is the classic Wild-West-cardgame BANG! which has been marketed in Germany by ABACUSSPIELE for quite some time. Over the years the basic game of BANG! was expanded by the Dodge City expansion which allowed up to eight players to participate in a round of BANG!, and some further enhancements were made through the High Noon and A Fistful of Cards expansions which brought changes to the regular proceedings of the game through the introduction of a turn-based event-card system.

Especially the small expansions have been sold out for quite some time, but due to the unbroken popularity of the game ABACUSSPIELE has decided to bring BANG! back in a new De Luxe Edition. Coming in an impressive bullet-shaped metal-box, the BANG! De Luxe Edition now features the basic game plus all expansions, and in addition the publisher even has thrown in a Sheriff's Star and three promo cards which had been distributed at various events.


But why does BANG! still rank high in the popularity of many gaming groups? Apart from the fact that the game can be played by up to eight people, one of the really important factors is that the game offers an interesting implementation of its background story (a Wildwest-shootout) while at the same time keeping a fast and easy-going gameplay. In principle, a player's turn is rather limited due to the fact that a player simply draws two cards at the beginning of his turn, then plays as many of his cards as he desires and then discards unplayed cards until the size of his hand matches the number of lifepoints remaining with his character. However, as you will have guessed the deck of cards contains quite a variety of different cards, and especially players who have become used to the composition of the deck will start speculating which cards might still come up and which cards could be worthy to keep, so that seasoned players like BANG! for being a bit more than a simplistic "draw some cards and play them"-game.

Most essential element in the deck are the "Bang" cards, and a player may use one Bang card during his turn to announce that he has caused one hit to a player within his weapon range. Each player is basically equipped with a simple Colt with a range of one, so that a player using a Bang-card can just pick his left or right neighbour as a target for his attack. So, another type of cards comes in - the weapons. The deck of cards contains a choice of different weapon cards which a player may place in front of himself. Such an openly placed weapon does not count against a player's hand anymore, but it usually increases a player's attack range so that a player may use a "Bang"-card against a player who is further away in the sitting order around the table. However, there also is a possibility to increase or decrease the ranges between some players through the use of horses. Just like weapons, horse cards are placed in front of a player, and as indicated they will either increase or decrease the shooting range for the horse's owners or for players trying to hit the rider.

A player who becomes the victim of a "Bang"-card usually will have to reduce his character's lifepoints by one, but there also exist some reaction cards which might be used to save a character from receiving a hit. As might be guessed, such cards may only be used once and must be discarded after use. If a character looses his last lifepoint his character is removed from the game, but to prevent an early removal it comes in quite handy if a player has saved a "Beer"-card for this moment, allowing him to retain his last lifepoint at this crucial instance.

Further spice is added through a wide choice of special cards, offering the delivery of additional handcards by a Stagecoach, a private Duel against just one other player or a simultaneous attack against all other players by using a Gatling-Gun. Other cards give players the possibility either to steal an open card (weapon, horse etc) from an opponent, or to force an opponent to discard one of his cards. The choice of special cards is rather wide, and so each round of BANG! will bring up surprising situations, depending on the time when such a special card is used.

As indicated, each player is using a randomly assigned character during the shootout, and each of the characters possesses his own special ability which the players will try to use to their best profit. However, the most interesting factor for the game's good replay and entertainment value is the fact that BANG! requires a group with more than three players to go for teamplay. At the beginning of the game each player secretly was assigned an alignment card which identifies the player either as being the Sheriff, a Deputy, an Outlaw or a Bountyhunter. Only the identity of the Sheriff is known since that player has to show his alignment card and take the Sheriff's Star. The identities of all other players must be guessed through their actions, and here the course of action of each player might not be too clear. Thus, the Outlaw-players will try to win the game through the elimination of the Sheriff, whereas the Sheriff and his Deputies will win if all the Outlaws and the Bountyhunter(s) have been removed. However, the role of the Bountyhunter is rather ambigious, since he will only win if no other players are left standing, and so the Bountyhunter will choose to change sides he sees fitting.

All expansions included in the BANG! De Luxe Edition add variety to the game, and it should be mentioned that the game's author partly refrained from simply expanding the deck of cards with each expansion released. Here a danger could be seen since the composition of the deck of cards in Bang!certainly is not as sophisticated as in Race for the Galaxy, but as indicated this danger was avoided by focusing the comparatively small expansions High Noon and A Fistful of Cards simply on the introduction of new events. Each turn a new event is activated, and each such event brings a small change of the rules so that the players will face new playing conditions during each new turn. This is an admittedly randomized procedure, but the expansions are rather enjoyable if you want to have some additional variation.

While BANG! might not be appraised as being as funny as the somewhat similar Red Dragon Inn from SLUGFAST GAMES due to its more conventional and sketchy artwork, many players have come to the conclusion that on the long-run BANG! recovers all the lost ground through its more various gameplay and especially because of the nicely implemented teamplay rules. If played for one or two rounds, Bang! is the perfect appetizer to start a longer gaming session, and looking at the rather reduced market of games for up to eight players Bang! certainly takes a top-ranking in the category of fast-paced, entertaining games.

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Copyright © 2010 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany