Bang! is the card game of the Sphagetti Western. You’ll take on the role of either Sheriff, Deputy, Renegade or Outlaw in this fast moving, large party card game. It’s a ton of fun, though the descriptions on the card hold something to be desired (fixed in the Bang! the Bullet full edition release). As the Sheriff or Deputy, your job is to keep the Sheriff alive. As an Outlaw, you’ll need to finish the Sheriff off and the Renegade has to ensure he’s the last one left alive. True to the spirit of the Spaghetti Westerns, Bang is a mainstay for large groups.
Appearance: Bang! comes in a small box that fits all the necessary cards together. Graphcics on the card reflect the comic and Western motif with individual character pictures leaning towards the often seen ‘Wanted’ pictures. The Bang! original card versions are minimalistic with only symbols depicting what each card does. Overall, graphically there’s nothing to complain about.
Rules / Ease of Learning: This is probably the most problematical part of Bang! The rules have obviously been translated from another language, badly in some cases. While the game itself is simple, the rules take too long to explain these simple rules and worst, are at times confusing in their explanations. Definitely not the best part of the game.
Worst, the cards for Bang! all use symbols to depict their actions, which means in the beginning you’ll need to constantly reference the rule-sheet to understand what the various cards mean. It would have been easier and better to just put the rules on the card, making the game run much smoother with new players. I understand that the Bang! the Bullet release has solved this problem thankfully.
Rules are simple – survive and kill the others. At the beginning each person is dealt a random character, each of whom have different abilities. After that, you will be dealt a ‘role’ card and the equipment/Bang cards. Everyone but the Sheriff keeps theirs hidden with players using the remainder character cards to help keep track of their lives (which vary depending on the characters).
Cards come in three main varieties – Bang! cards that allow you to hurt/kill other characters, equipment cards that let you more easily hurt/kill other characters or heal yourself (Beer!) and a few special action cards (marketplaces, force discard cards, etc.).
The biggest rule that players will need to understand is range – which is how many players from you that you can shoot. This is particularly important when you need to kill that Sheriff but all those other pesky Outlaws are in the way!
Actual Gameplay: Bang! is a fun card game, especially once you get over the learning hump of the various symbols. The hidden roles make it interesting in large player games as players will be scratching their heads on whether anyone is a Renegade. There’s also some good reasons to ‘kill’ others on your side if you’re an Outlaw so that can always keep things interesting. Gameplay can go pretty fast, ranging from 10 to 30 minutes per game we’ve found.
Our major issues as a gaming group, beyond the bad design on the cards, is the issue of game balance. Specifically, there are some characters who are much more useful than others and due to the random provision of the roles can seriously distort the game. Also, to a lesser degree, bad luck on the draw of cards can cause major issues for players. I have seen games where the Sheriff has no Bang! cards and is just torn apart from multiple ‘Duels’.
Conclusion: Bang! is a fun party game for a large group, especially those who are into Western’s. Minor changes to the way the game is played (removing all the ‘horrendous’ characters) make the game much more balanced and fun to play especially after the initial learning curve is over.
Edit: The new 4th Edition of Bang! comes with additional information on the card, removing the complaint about the lack of information (other than symbols) in this review.