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While others quest deep into the night, fight epic wars across huge battlefields and evolve entire civilisations, Quickfire Gamers seek a different gaming experience. For us a 'filler game' is known as a 'game'. These reviews are written for gamers who like their games to be short, relatively simple, and to include as many players as possible; but still want them to deliver in terms of strategy and theme.
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-- Bang! The Dice Game: Old Saloon –-
In the interests of full disclosure, I am a HUGE fan of Bang! The Dice Game, so much so that I rate it as my top game of all time (see my review here http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1153394/quickfire-gamer-revi...). But does B!TDG actually need anything added to it? Isn't part of what makes it so good its simplicity?
With an equal mix of trepidation and excitement I grabbed a copy of Old Saloon as soon as it was available and have been testing it out with a group of B!TDG veterans. The expansion is modular, bringing 5 new modules (though I'd argue it's really 4 modules) which can be added to the base game individually, all together or any other combination. Here are my thoughts on the various additions to this most hallowed of games:
1) New Dice
Yes, that's right; new dice. This is unquestionably the headline addition Old Saloon brings to the table. What you get is the 'Coward' dice and the 'Loudmouth' dice (yes, I'm English and say 'dice' in the singular as well as the plural, live with it). At the beginning of each of your turns you may choose to swap out one of the base dice for one of the new ones (but not both).
Low on health? You can now take the Coward dice which substitutes its (2) result for a double beer and replaces its gatling gun result with a broken arrow which works like a normal arrow except you may discard an arrow each time it comes up.
Want to cause some carnage? The Loudmouth dice if for you! All of its 'hitting' sides have been doubled. So you have a double (1), a double (2) and a double gatling gun! This is balanced out by its beer side having been swapped for a bullet icon which works like an arrow except you lose a life point each time it comes up.
Right away I will say that even if I hated the rest of this expansion, the new dice in Old Saloon are well worth the price of admission alone. They give players an interesting new choice to make each turn and can provide a little 'catch-up' for players who have been riddled with holes before they have even had a turn.
2) The Chief's Arrow
The smallest addition to the game is a new arrow token which is yellow rather than blue. You simply chuck it in the pile with the other arrows. If you must take an arrow (and if it's still available) you can choose to take the Chief's arrow instead. This arrow will do you two damage when the Indians attack. But if you have the most arrows when the Indians attack and you have the Chief's arrow then you suffer no damage at all, just return all your arrows to the middle.
This provides another great little twist on the classic Bang gameplay, offering a push-your-luck option. Again, adding a nice new decision to make. Sometimes it's worth taking the Chief's arrow just to stop somebody else who has a lot of arrows from being able to take it. All this I like very much.
3) New Role Cards
Don't panic, the new role cards are the same as the old ones (Sheriff, Deputy etc), just with one difference. When using the new role cards you may at any point during the game reveal your role in order to take the one-time power printed on the card. These include an Outlaw who can stop a player using any beers on their turn, a Renegade who can stop a player from being killed and a Deputy who can become the new Sheriff (the Sheriff in that case becoming a Deputy). Each card is different, so there are 3 different Outlaw powers etc.
This module was one that on reading the rules I was unsure about. Was it going to change the game too much? Well, the answer is no, it's another great addition. Nobody really wants to reveal their role too early as they become a target, so you really have to wait for the perfect moment to use that power, or sometimes not use it at all.
4) Il Fantasma (The Ghost Cowboy)
This is the module which veers away from the original gameplay the most. Now the first player who is killed becomes a ghost version of themselves, helping their team from beyond the grave (unless the first killed is the Sheriff of course, in which case the Outlaws win). If a Renegade is killed first then they become a ghost Outlaw or a ghost Deputy, depending on the number of players.
On the ghost player's turn they roll two standard dice, getting two rerolls as usual. They may then choose one of the results they have rolled and give a token with that symbol on it to any player they choose. When it comes around to that player's turn they must lock one of the dice they are rolling on the symbol the ghost gave them. If the ghost player rolls two of the same symbol then they may force a player to lock two symbols on their turn.
This is a fun addition, especially in a game with 7-8 players. It gives you something to do if you are unlucky enough to go out early, especially if you were killed without even having a turn. As a ghost Outlaw it's fun to force the Sheriff to lock two dynamite symbols.
5) New Characters
Honestly I don't see this as a module really, it's just a few new characters. They are a very welcome addition to the game and some of them have powers relating to the Old Saloon stuff, but they are not bringing new rules or anything like that. I don't see why you would ever not include these when using the expansion.
Bling in the Box: 3.5/5
The two new dice are just as great quality as the originals and made in a sandy coloured plastic to differentiate them from the base dice. The new cards are also of equal quality to the original but one flaw is that mine have noticably different backs. This is not a gamebreaker as your choice of character is not nearly as important as your choice of role, but it's not ideal.
Initial Infodump: 4/5
Existing B!TDG players will pick all of this up very easily. With the exception of Il Fantasma, all of this feels immediately as though it was always part of the game. The ghost player has their own set of rules which I suppose adds to the rules complexity slightly, but not much.
There is nothing here which makes the game less immersive than before for me. Some people I suppose could argue that the ghost player adding a supernatural element detracts from the original Wild West theme, but I'm cool with it.
The inclusion of the ghost player could make the game slightly longer, as could certain Role powers such as bringing players back to life. But this is still firmly in the Quickfire category.
Skill vs Fate: 3.5/5
It's still a dice rolling game with all the luck that goes with that. But you will usually live and die by how good you are at seeing through your so-called-friends' lies.
Banter and Backstabbing: 5/5
Still simply the best banter/backstabbing game ever.
I rated B!TDG a 5 for longevity 2 years ago when I fist reviewed it and we're still playing it pretty regularly. Now we have a bunch of new stuff to mix in and freshen it up! Full marks here.
Fun, fun, fun. Fun.
If you're in a hurry, just read this bit!
A fantastic addition to the game that anyone who likes the original should get straight away. I don't think I will ever play without the two new dice, Chief's arrow and new characters ever again. They are easily worth the price. The other two modules I'll probably throw in maybe half the games we play, time will tell. But overall this makes my favourite game of all time even better, you can't say much better than that.
Overall score: 9/10