Bang! 2nd Edition
A game by Emiliano Sciarra
Published by Mayfair Games, Inc. and da Vinci Games
Players: 4 to 7
Ages: 10+
Time: 20-40 minutes
Reviewed by Susan Rozmiarek

Bang! is a card game themed after those old Spaghetti Western movies. It was first published in a 2002 by daVinci Games, a small Italian company. A second edition is now being published in the U.S. by Mayfair Games. The game comes with cards and rules in both English and Italian.

In Bang!, players play a character from a colorful western cast, with names like Vulture Sam, Slab the Killer, and Willy the Kid, each with a special, unique ability. Each player's character is randomly assigned the role of either a sheriff, deputy, outlaw, or renegade. The identity of the sheriff is known, but the other players' roles remain secret until they are eliminated from the game. The goal of the game is simple, but different for each role. If you are the sheriff or a deputy, you (sheriff and the deputies) win when all the outlaws and the renegade are killed. If you are one of the outlaws, you (and the other outlaws) win when the sheriff is killed. The renegade wins if he is the sole survivor. How do you eliminate your enemies? In a blaze of gunfire, of course! The question is though, can you tell your enemies from your friends?

Picture courtesy of Mayfair Games
The gameplay is fairly simple. On your turn, you draw two cards, play any number of cards you wish, and discard down to your hand limit. The cards come in two basic types - cards with an immediate effect that are discarded after play (these have a light brown border) and cards that are kept in front of you with a long-lasting effect (blue border).

The key to killing your opponents is by playing Bang! cards successfully. These represent taking a shot at somebody and generally, only one Bang! card can be played per turn. However, you can't just shoot at anybody; the chosen victim must be in range. This is a rather clever mechanism of the game. Players seating on your immediate left or right are at a range of "1." Players seated two away from you on either side are a range of "2," and so on. At the beginning of the games, all players start with a Colt-45 that has a range of 1. There are additional guns in the deck that you may play in front of you to give you a greater range and horses that put you either closer or further from people. Victims of a Bang! card can avoid being hit by playing a Missed card. Each character has a certain number of life points represented by bullets. For each successful shot, the character targeted loses one life point. When a character's life points are gone, he is eliminated from the game and must reveal his role. (Unless he can heal by drinking a beer!) There are penalties for the sheriff for killing his deputies and rewards for killing outlaws. A player's current life point total is also his hand limit.

Some Bang! cards
Several of the Bang! cards
All the cards have a number and suit in the corner. Certain cards require you to flip cards from the draw pile to see if the effect takes place. For example, if you have a Barrel in front of you to hide behind, you can avoid a Bang! card by flipping over a card with a Heart. You can challenge a cowboy to a duel, put someone in jail, causing them to miss a turn, or drink a beer to regain a life point. There is also the Dynamite card, which gets passed like a hot potato from player to player until it explodes, costing the unlucky victim to lose three life points. These are just a few of the many cards with different effects.

This game is an absolute hoot with the right crowd, which is one that doesn't take it too seriously. If you can't take some chaos and a fair dose of luck in your games; you are not going to like this one. There is a great deal of bluffing and trash-talk as players get in the spirit of the game and roleplay their characters. I'd almost, but not quite call it a party game. We've had a lot of fun with it and it's become a popular filler with our friends, both gamers and non-gamers alike. Because it takes up to seven players, it is ideal to pull out with a bigger group. With all the special cards, it can be tough to explain, but fortunately the cards have symbols on them that indicate what they do and to whom, and there are reference cards describing these symbols for each player. Most people catch on quickly after a few turns, although expect to be referring to the rules frequently in the first game.

Despite the chaos and luck in the game, there are plenty of tactical card-play decisions to make and experienced players will soon develop strategies based on their character's special ability and role. The author of the game has written a very good article about the various strategies of the roles with differing numbers of players at

More Bang! cards
Kit Carlson the Sheriff
We did find that, in our games, the game seemed weighted towards the outlaws winning. This is especially true in the four and six player games where the outlaws outnumber the sheriff and deputies by one. In about eight games, I've seen the sheriff win twice, the renegade win once and the rest were outlaw victories. Perhaps we have not played enough to discover better strategies for the sheriff and deputies. Games are about 20 -30 minutes which is short enough that the game doesn't overstay its welcome and helps to mitigate the fact that it is an "elimination" game. We did have extremely odd, very short seven player game that ended with the sheriff's death before the last person in turn order even got to take his first turn!

We do have one little variant that we like to play with. Instead of being randomly dealt a character card, we deal out two to each person and they choose between the two.

Second Edition changes:
The first thing I noticed about the 2nd edition is the box. Gone is the extremely flimsy box with the flaps that get caught on the edges of the cards. In its place is a very nice box with a lid and bottom made out of heavy stock, very similar to Amigo's card game boxes albeit slightly larger. The cards are of good quality and are exactly the same except for the reference cards having a back now instead of being double-sided.

Most of the changes to this new edition are minor tweaks. The official page describing the changes and the reasoning behind them is on the BoardgameGeek.

Here is a summary of the changes:

  1. Play now moves clockwise around the table. This change has no effect on the game itself, but we did find going counter-clockwise in the first edition to be confusing at first and totally against nature.
  2. The Jail card changes. If a player is unsuccessful at escaping jail, the card is discarded and he just skips that one turn. Also, in order to escape, the player must now turn over a Heart card instead of a Heart or a Diamond card. This increases your chances of spending a turn in jail, but at least it is only one turn at most. This is a very good change, in my opinion. As a matter-of-fact, we had already made this a house rule. Too many times, someone had been a victim of bad luck and languished in jail for several turns in a row, which is not fun at all. And above all, this game should be fun.
  3. The sheriff now gets one extra life point. Since the Jail card is a powerful card in the sheriff's favor, this change was made to compensate for the now weakened Jail card.
  4. Some cards change from "must" play to "may" play. There are certain cards like Duel and Injuns! that, in the first edition, required you to play certain cards from your hand. Now you can choose not to play the cards and just take the penalty.
  5. Kit Carlson now has four life points instead of three.
  6. Sid Ketchum's special ability is now to discard two cards for a life point instead of having to discard three.

    Theses two changes presumably make these characters stronger. I must admit, I have not seen these characters in action enough to comment on the changes.

  7. Several cards have been renamed. Horse is now Mustang. Mistress is now Cat Balou. Injuns! is called Indians!
Fortunately, all these changes are compatible with the first edition, if you don't mind marking the changes on the cards or just remembering the new rules. Care must be taken to change the direction on the Dynamite card should you choose to play with the new clockwise play order. Personally, I found the new edition to be worth getting just for the better box. Those flimsy boxes with the flaps really irritate me, but that's a personal pet peeve and some people may not mind.

It's a shootout!
It's a shootout at the Double R Corral
Bang! is a delightful little game that involves skillful bluffing, tactical decisions, and a whole lot of laughs for the right crowd. Experienced players will uncover some general strategies for the various roles, but luck-of-the-draw (no pun intended) will still be a large part of the game. Therefore, this game will not be for everybody. If you don't enjoy lighthearted games with these kinds of features; this one is not for you. I found it to be a fun, light game for a larger crowd that gives a lot of Bang! for the buck (bad pun intended).

Ed's Comments: Any game where you heal by drinking beer gets a thumbs up.

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Copyright © 2003, Ed Rozmiarek