Released in 2002, the original Bang! was a card game that put you in the thick of a wild western shootout. Players take turns shooting at each other, though hidden roles made it so that you weren’t sure if you were shooting at friends or foes. After the dust has settled, the winner or winning side would be determined based on whoever was left standing. While Bang! was beloved by many who played it, the game was also criticized for taking too long to complete. Over a decade later, the solution to that problem arrives in the form of Bang!: The Dice Game. This re-imagining of the card game captures the thrills of the original in 15-20 minutes.
At the start of each game, players randomly draw one role card and one character card. The role card indicates what side of the conflict you’re on and is kept hidden from others unless you’re the sheriff. The sheriff is a good guy, and he wants all the bad guys dead. The deputy wants to protect the sheriff at all costs. Outlaws want the sheriff dead. Last but not least are the renegades. In order for them to win, they must be the last person standing. Since renegades are generally the fewest in number, it can be very hard to win as one. However, because they don’t have any clear allegiances, it can be very hard for their opposition to figure out who they are.
Your character card defines which person you are in the battle. These roles are mostly parodies of fictional and real-life western personalities, with names such as Willy the Kid, Jesse Jones and Bart Cassidy. Each character is unique in terms of the number of hit points they have at the start of the game, as well as their special ability. I didn’t get to try all of the roles myself, but from our sessions, they all added a unique spin to the action without appearing to be overpowered or weak.
Once roles and characters are set, it’s time to bust shots. Players take turns rolling the 5 dice that can be used to trigger assorted actions. Like Yahtzee or King of Tokyo, you can re-roll almost any combination of dice up to three times in hopes of amassing the right combination of resources. Rolling 1’s and 2’s allow you to shoot opponents that are one or two seats away from you. Rolling three Gatling guns lets you shoot everyone at the table once. Locking in beer allows you to heal yourself or someone else of your choice.
Some of the die faces, however, cause adverse effects. Dynamite cannot be re-rolled, and collecting three of them will cause you to lose one health point and end your turn immediately. Rolling an arrow forces you to immediately pick up an arrow from the centre pile. If the last arrow is taken, this triggers an Indian attack. all players with lose a health point for each arrow they have in their hand. When this occurs, most people at the table are bound to eat a considerable amount of damage.
Because of the risk and reward factors in play, each roll of the dice is tense for every player involved. Also, players that aren’t rolling should still pay close attention to how their opposition resolves their dice. By making notes on who they’re shooting and who they’re helping, you may get a better idea of who your friends and foes are.
While the game supports 3-8 players, it’s best to play this in a larger group. In groups of four or less, it’s not very hard to determine who is who, which kills much of the mystery that comes with hidden roles. Since the game moves at such a brisk pace, playing in a large group doesn’t slow the game down all that much.
Bang!: The Dice Game was a huge hit with our group. It’s very easy to learn, quick to play, and is lot of fun. The game strikes a fine balance between luck and strategy that makes every turn exciting. Also, due to the nature of the action, you’re bound to get a lot of quality smack talk and laughs as you play. Whether you’re a fan of the original game, new to the series, or new to tabletop games in general, this is an excellent title to add to your collection.