Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Memories of Bang, fun but imperfect

I have had a copy of Bang in my game collection for a long time. In fact, I wasn't even collecting games the first time I got to play it.

Bang is a little card game about living out a Spaghetti Western. Everyone gets a character with a special power that gives them some kind of special advantage. Different cards gave you access to guns and horses and beer and the ever popular barrel of dynamite.

But, the real heart of the game is the secret roles. Everyone gets a role card which gives them different winning conditions. The sheriff and the deputies want to kill the bandits and the renegade. The bandits want to kill the sheriff. And the renegade wants to be the last person standing, having killed everyone else.

I had played secret role games before, Mafia and Werewolf. Bang, however, gave me a much more meaningful way to interact with the other players, as well as more than just pointing at people to figure out who was what.

And the western theme of Bang made it an easy sell to get people interested in playing and for them to really get into the game.

But Bang has some major issues as well. The biggest one being that the game can really drag and it has player elimination. I have seen folks get killed before they even got a turn and then have to wait at least a half an hour for a new game to start.

Really, I can see setting up a game of Ricochet Robots on the side for all the folks who get eliminated.

There are other fiddly issues with Bang. While the cards aren't complicated, particularly for experience gamers, you do need to consult the rules on what they do. That can be an issue with people who don't play games, one of my target audience is for Bang. And there are balance issues for both the character powers and the roles. Winning as the renegade is an impressive feat.

Some of my earliest exposures to designer games like Settlers of Catan or Puerto Rico or Carcassonne or even Fluxx have continued to hold up over the years, Bang really hasn't. The issues that it has overshadow the positives.

However, it has survived purge after purge.

Frankly, the biggest reason is because it is so small. The box is the size of two deck of cards and that he gets it a lot of leeway when it comes to clearing out shelf space.

Nostalgia also plays a part. I do have a lot of good memories of playing it. Heck, when I was first exposed to it they were a couple of times we played it for hours.

And, when the game does go well, it is fun. But part of the problem is that the more experienced people are playing it, the longer the game can drag. (I've found it it's the opposite case with Fluxx. People who understand the basic strategy of deck milling and know the goals make that game go a lot faster.)

I haven't played Bang the Dice game yet. From what I have read, it solves a lot of the problems. I hope I have a chance to play it and make up my mind for myself.

For now, though, when I am reaching for a light card game that has conflict and theme, I reach for Guillotine and leave bang with the happy memories.

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