Here’s a quick, easy game, good for just about any group. Completely card-based, it is akin to the party game “Mafia,” in which players take on hidden roles, each with their own goals and abilities.

This Spaghetti Western by Da Vinci Games takes place in the Wild West, where 4 to 7 players represent spin-offs of famous cowboys and bandits. There are 3 to 4 roles, depending upon the number of players, and their goals are as follows:

Sheriff: Kill all the Outlaws and the Renegade.
Outlaws: Kill the Sheriff.
Renegade: Be the last one in play.
Deputy (only in large games): Help the Sheriff kill the Outlaws and Renegade.

The Sheriff’s identity is known to all, but all other character’s identities are known only to themselves. Thus, it is important for players to observe the strategies and actions of their fellow players to help identify who they might be. For example, the Sheriff would want to pay attention to other players, to narrow down who might be the Deputy(s), so as not to kill his teammates, while the Outlaws would want to figure out who each other are, so as to team up on the Sheriff.

The game progresses in a standard, turn-based manner, with players able to shoot other players, up to a certain distance away. This is one of my favorite parts of the game, as it actually deals with the physical distance between players at the table. In a game of 6 players, the two players on my immediate left and right are at a distance of 1 from me, the players next to them are at a distance of 2 from me, but only 1 from them, and the other player is at a distance of 3 from me. As the game progresses, certain cards will modify this distance, such as a gun with better range or a scope that allows me to see farther. On the other hand, there are certain cards such as the “Mustang” that can allow me to be farther from other players, while they stay the same distance from me, meaning, for example, that, if I am on a Mustang, I could potentially be able to shoot the player immediately to my right or left, but they would not be able to hit me. The “Dynamite” card is a nice touch, as it passes around the table like a deadly game of Hot Potato once put into play, where eventually, one unlucky player will end up going “boom.”

Each character also has his or her own special abilities that no one else has, such as being able to shoot multiple times per turn (the standard rule is that only one shot can be fired per player turn) or that it takes two “Missed” cards to dodge a shot from a certain character (the standard being that one “Missed” cancels out one “Bang!”).

Each role has its pros and cons. Being the Sheriff is a lot of fun, but it is very challenging, especially when no Deputies are in play, because everyone guns for you. Being the Renegade is also an interesting challenge, and arguably the hardest role to take on. Because the Renegade’s goal is to be the last one in play and the new Sheriff in town, he or she must plan attacks strategically. In the early stages of the game, the Renegade would want to assist the Sheriff (and Deputies, if applicable) to eliminate the Outlaws first, because if the Sheriff dies, regardless of who kills him or when he dies, the Outlaws win, even if they are all dead. Thus, the Renegade might even build up trust with the Sheriff, perhaps making him believe him to be a Deputy, before he turns around and backstabs him.

“Bang!” teaches children great lessons. For example, a “Beer” card increases a playershealth, and can even save their life if they would otherwise die from a fatal shot (and in one of the expansions, the “Tequila” card regains two life points – the harder the drink, the better you feel). Also, when an “Indians!” card is played, all players must play a “Bang!” card to return fire. Not to mention the fact that it is nearly impossible to get through a game of “Bang!” without SOMEONE making an innuendo out of the game’s title…

On the whole, it’s very fun. The replay value is very high, as there are tons of character/role combinations you can have. It’s very simple to learn, and a game rarely lasts over an hour. The biggest problem I have encountered is finding 4+ people to play a game. If you’re a gamer, you know how tough this can be. The game usually costs less than $20, and it’s well worth it. Also, check out the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch version, seen below!

“Bang!” overall rating: B


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