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Bang! The Bullet Review


Quick Look: Bang! The Bullet

Designer: Emiliano Sciarra
Artists: Toni Cittadini, Stefano de Fazi, Eriadan, Alessandro Pierangelini
Publisher: dV Giochi
Year Published: 2007
No. of Players: 3-8
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 20-40 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


Review:
I first played Bang! when I was in college and grad school. This was before I had fallen into the rabbit hole of gaming, mind you. I enjoyed the game each time I played it, and found it to be very engaging. We played it so often and with so many new people each time that it quickly became a way to meet new people in our apartment complex. The entry difficulty was easy, and the gameplay was just as simple. I loved it.

However, I never did own Bang! or any of its iterations. Rather, I always mooched off friends who had it. When I moved from where I was originally living during my first two years of grad school, I didn’t know anyone else that had the game nearby, so many years passed before I played it again. During that time, I was newly married and playing with my new in-laws and extended family. My father-in-law was sitting next to me, and before it reached his turn, I had effectively eliminated him from the game. How’s that for good first impressions?

Well, ever since then, my father-in-law has always said he wanted to play again because in the last two of two games he’s played (only one of which was with me), he has had a total of zero turns. And now, with this copy of Bang! The Bullet, his wish has been granted.

And so, it is with utmost regret that I must announce that he has made great strides and has actually played the game now.

Since then it was another handful of years before I received this copy of Bang! The Bullet for review. Since it had been so long, I had to relearn the rules. Fortunately, the rules came back quickly and it was just as I remembered it: fast, fun, and engaging. Bang! is one of those games that anyone can play. In fact, I dare say it’s a “gateway” game that can lure in unsuspecting victims into a larger world of games. It caught me by the spurs when I first started playing back when I was young and could stay up past 10:00 at night without issue. Again, that was before I became mildly (understatement) obsessed with board games and found all kinds of things that resonated with me. Games such as X-Wing, Champions of Midgard, Altiplano, and other games with much more depth. But, although I wouldn’t rank Bang! up there with games of deeper strategy, it still holds its own as a fun game for any group of gamers. To this day, Bang! is still one of my favorite card games and is always good as a filler or casual game night with friends and/or family.

With all that said, let’s dive into what this game is all about, and why it works (for me and my family).

Setup:



Setup can be a deterring factor when it comes to games. Fortunately, setup for Bang! is quick and easy. Everyone gets dealt a hidden role (sheriff, deputy, outlaw, or renegade), and the amount of each role is determined by the number of players. Then, everyone is dealt a character (we always deal two and let the players choose which to play as) and then uses the backside of another, unused character card to keep track of life points (i.e. the bullets). Each player is dealt a starting hand equal to their character’s starting value (as shown by the bullets on the front of the character cards). The sheriff flips their card face up, but everyone else keeps their roles hidden. The sheriff begins play.

Gameplay:



Gameplay is also straightforward, but first, a bit on how to win.

Each role has a different win condition. The sheriff and deputy must defeat all outlaws and renegades in order to claim the victory. If the deputy is eliminated from the game but the sheriff still pulls off a win, the deputy also wins in tandem. The outlaws are gunning for the sheriff. They don’t care if the deputy or renegades lives or not; as long as the sheriff is eliminated, they win. The renegade must be the last player alive, which means the renegade will be working with the sheriff at first, because if the sheriff is eliminated before the outlaws are, then the outlaws win, regardless of the renegade. And, in games with higher player counts, there are multiple renegades, so they’ll also need to work together until it’s just the two of them. Of course, that doesn’t mean they can’t take potshots at each other—or the sheriff—while dealing with the outlaws and deputies. The rock-paper-scissors type of conditions makes for some interesting games, some shady alliances, and (as I mentioned in the introduction) some very short games for some people.

Now, on with the gamplay! First, the active player draws two cards. Then, that player may play as many cards as they’d like from their hand. I like this rule—rather than simply “play two cards” and then pass—because it can leave open some risky options. If you have cards in your hand, one may be a “Missed!” card, useful if you’re being shot at. Since your opponent doesn’t know what’s in your hand, you may be spared. 


While players may play as many cards as they would like, they are only allowed to play one “Bang!” card. The Bang! card is basically you shooting someone. Initially, everyone’s default shooting range is range 1. Meaning, you can only shoot at the players immediately next to you. If you want to be able to shoot other players, you’ll need upgrades, such as a scope or a different gun that has further range. Of course, there are ways to mitigate range as well, such as by playing a “Hideout” card in front of you, which makes you at +1 distance. And if the players next to you don’t have any modifiers to increase their range while you’re in the hideout, then you’re safe! (From them, at least…)

After you play as many cards as you so desire, you must discard down to your hand limit. Your hand limit is determined by your starting health (which you can never exceed), or your current health if you’ve taken damage. For each wound taken, use your active character card to cover up a bullet on the back of the ensued character card. Whatever’s left showing is your life points, as well as your hand limit. So, yes, it is indeed possible to have a hand limit of just one card. With the Dodge City expansion (more on that below), you are able to play certain cards in front of you, so even with just one card in your hand, you can still prepare yourself.


Jourdonnais starts with, and has a max of, four health. As long as he has four health, his player can have a hand size of up to four. In this case, however, Jourdonnais is down to two health, so this player has a maximum hand limit of two cards.
Brown-bordered cards are played to the discard pile, blue-bordered cards are played in front of you, the player who played it, and green-bordered cards (from the Dodge City expansion) are also played in front of you, only you can’t use those until your next turn.

There are a lot of cards in the game, and they do cycle through rather quickly. I’ve also found the spread of cards to be pretty good, too. Sure, some people get the cards you really wanted (like a “Barrel” card), but then you’re also blessed with awesome cards others don’t have. It all works out in the end, and as the game progresses—with more and more cards being saved and played in front of players—things can escalate quickly.

Included Expansions


A sample of High Noon cards (top) and Fistful of Cards cards (bottom).
Bang! The Bullet includes the base game as well as three expansions: Dodge City, High Noon, and A Fistful of Cards. Dodge City introduces green-bordered cards. These cards are played in front of the active player, but may not be used until that player’s next turn. On the next turn, you can use as many of those cards as you wish. It’s a way to show your opponents you mean business, while at the same time keeping your hand size down to its limit. These cards are one-use only, so pick your target wisely! Of course, if you save it for too long, someone might just steal the card from you instead!

High Noon and A Fistful of Cards are two expansions that are not added to the main deck of cards. Rather, these cards cycle through each round and add new conditions and effects to the game. Both can be used together or kept separate if that is your wish. I like the addition of these expansions as they add a bit of spice to the game, forcing you to rethink your strategy (at least for that round) or suddenly have a new strategy fall into place. I don’t always play with these expansions, however, as we are still quite happy with the basic rules. Still, it’s nice to have the option.

Theme and Mechanics:


The role cards.
The theme of Bang! and its expansions encapsulate that of spaghetti westerns quite nicely. The cards are delightfully thematic, and while there are some cards that folks might find offensive (i.e. “Indians”), they’re all used in ways that you’d expect from your favorite Clint Eastwood movie. (And no, I’m not talking about his movie Invictus.) If it does bother you, removing those cards from the game altogether wouldn’t hurt the gameplay, which is also nice for options to those who would rather not play with them.

The mechanics are your traditional draw cards, play cards. But, each card does something special to either help you or hinder others. Your character also has a unique ability which also adds more flavor and excitement to the game. There is a lot of “take-that” as players steal from each other and take each other out of the game (also known as player elimination). This type of game is definitely not for everyone, but for those of you who like attacking each other and removing your rivals from the game, this is a classic. 

Artwork and Components:



The art fits the game perfectly. It gives off the old-Western vibe in a stylish way, and it definitely helps add to the theme. Good stuff here.

The components are cards, cards, and more cards. It is a card game, after all. However, Bang! The Bullet includes a special treat: a genuine Sheriff badge! While this badge has absolutely zero impact on the game itself, it is always highly sought after. Unfortunately for everyone else, only the sheriff gets to wear it. Perhaps that’s why some folks are always anxious to be the sheriff? My personal favorite role is the renegade because it’s fun to be a double agent. But I digress…

The game comes in a metallic, bullet-shaped case. While it definitely won’t fit in your Kallax shelving with your other boxed games, it definitely looks cool, so there’s that.

The Good:
  • Easy to learn and play
  • Sheriff badge included!
  • Dripping with theme
  • Great filler game or game for a casual game night
  • Unique character abilities
  • Player interaction is high
  • Three expansions included
  • Eliminating your father-in-law in the first round so he doesn’t get a single turn
  • The bullet-shaped case
The Other:
  • Player elimination (if that’s not your thing)
  • Strategy isn’t terribly deep, but then again, this isn’t a strategy game.
  • If you lose the sleeve on the bullet case, be wary, as it may unexpectedly open and you’ll be playing 197-Card Pickup instead.
  • The bullet-shaped case
Final Thoughts:



Look, I really enjoy playing Bang!, especially with the Dodge City expansion that comes in The Bullet. It’s not one I’d want to play every single time for game night, but spaced out enough, I’ll always enjoy playing it. It’s great for families and casual-gamer friends who aren’t looking for a serious game-relationship at this time. Definitely a keeper if you play card games a lot, or if you’re looking for something more involved than Uno or Phase 10, and that could possibly lure your unsuspecting victims friends deeper down the rabbit hole that is board games. Bang! The Bullet is certainly a classic that will stand the tests of time.

Players Who Like:
If you like highly interactive card games, you’ll love Bang! The Bullet. Fans of Western-themed games and odd-shaped cases will also feel right at home here. Also, there’s a sheriff’s badge in there, too, so your young kids (see also: inner child) can also be appeased. Also also, if you've ever wanted to learn Italian...this game also has Italian text (good luck!).



Check out Bang! The Bullet on:

                  




Benjamin Kocher - Editor and Reviewer

Benjamin hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a certified copyeditor through UC San Diego's Copyediting Extension program. He's a freelance writer and editor, and covers everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Kocherb, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

See Benjamin's reviews HERE.

Bang! The Bullet Review Bang! The Bullet Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on October 24, 2019 Rating: 5

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