Bang! the Dice Game
(2013 dV Giochi)
In 2002, designer Emiliano Sciarra released the popular, western-themed party game, Bang!. The original game provided players with secret roles within an Old West setting. Players would act out a shootout by playing various cards from their hands, attempting to shoot one another. Based on their opponent’s actions during the game, players tried to deduce who was loyal to them and who was truly their enemy, all while trying to keep themselves alive. Since its initial release, Bang! has seen a handful of expansions, while becoming one of the most popular party games in the hobby.
The Yahtzee-styled King of Tokyo, released in 2012 and designed by Richard Garfield (Magic: the Gathering, Android: Netrunner) received numerous end of the year awards for its streamlined and creative gameplay. Co-designers Michael Palm and Lukas Zach have taken this remerging Yahtzee-style dice drive gameplay and successfully combined it with the theme and mechanics put forth from the original Bang!, with a all new game entitled, Bang! The Dice Game.
In Bang! The Dice Game, players take on the various roles of an Old Western town. Players keep their roles secret while attempting to eliminate their opponents using a dice rolling Yahtzee-style mechanic. Each facing on the dice allow the player different types of actions that can range from dealing direct damage to another player, receiving wounds from an oncoming Indian attack, as well as taking a few swigs of ol’ grandpa’s moonshine to help ease the worst of wounds. Each player is dealt a particular Character at the beginning of the game that will grant them an additional special ability throughout the game. Each role has a different Victory Condition, and the first player to meet this condition wins the game.
- Action Dice
- Role Cards (Sherriff, Deputy, Outlaw, and Renegade)
- Character Cards
- Bullet & Arrow tokens
- Summary cards
At the beginning of the game, Role cards are randomly dealt in the following way, depending on the number of players in the game:
- A 4 player game consists of 1 Sheriff, 2 Outlaws, and 1 Renegade.
- A 5-player game consists of 1 Sheriff, 1 Deputy, 2 Outlaws, and 1 Renegade.
- A 6-player game consists of 1 Sheriff, 1 Deputy, 3 Outlaws, and 1 Renegade.
- A 7-player game consists of 1 Sheriff, 2 Deputies, 3 Outlaws, and 1 Renegade.
- A 8-player game consists of 1 Sheriff, 2 Deputies, 3 Outlaws, and 2 Renegades.
The player who was dealt the Sheriff role will immediately reveal his Role card, showing himself as the Sheriff. All other players however, must keep their roles secret throughout the game.
Each player then randomly receives one of the 16 available Character cards. These cards provide the player a unique special ability that can be used throughout the game, as well as notes how much health that particular player has. Usually, the more powerful the special ability, the less health available to the player, and vice versa. The player will take a number of Bullet tokens equal to the number listed on his Character card. Bullets will represent the players current health value; basically how many more times he can be hit with damage until he has been killed. The Sheriff player receives 2 additional Bullet tokens on top of the number listed on his Character’s card.
All of the Arrow tokens are placed into the middle of the play area. These represent an oncoming Native attack on the town. When no more Arrow tokens remain in the central play area, this attack will commence. After setup, the Sheriff player will take the Action dice and start his turn. The play area should look something like this:
Before we get into how the game plays, let’s first take a look at what is required for each Role to win the game. This is important to understand beforehand, as each player will have a particular set of opponents they are trying to take out during the game.
- The Sheriff wins the game if all Outlaws and Renegades have been killed.
- The Deputy’s job is to protect the Sheriff. The Deputy shares the win with a Sheriff victory.
- The Outlaws win collectively, if at least one of them is still alive when the Sheriff is killed.
- The Renegade wins if he is the last player standing. This means that he will need to make sure the Outlaws, Deputies, and any other Renegades are killed before taking down the Sheriff himself.
Beginning with the Sheriff and moving clockwise, each player will roll the set of action dice, and choose to take actions from those dice. Similar to the mechanics found in Yahtzee and King of Tokyo, players can choose to keep or re-roll any number of dice up to two additional times. The player will then resolve the various actions shown on final set of rolled dice. Let’s take a look at what actions each of the die facings represent, and how they resolve:
When a player rolls a die facing with an Arrow, he must immediately take an Arrow token from the center of the table, even if he chooses to roll that dice again. From the beginning of his turn, until he resolves all of his action dice at the end of his turn, he must take an Arrow token for each Arrow facing that appears. These Arrow tokens are kept by players until all Arrow tokens have been removed from the central area. Once the last Arrow is removed, the Indians attack the town. At this point, players will receive 1 damage per Arrow token in front of them. Then all Arrow tokens are placed back into the central area again.
For instance, Player A (the Sheriff) currently has 2 Arrow tokens in his inventory. He rolls another Arrow during his turn, and although he can choose to roll this dice again, he must immediately resolve the Arrow facing by taking another Arrow token from the center of the table. Since there is only 1 Arrow token left, a groups of Natives attack the town as soon as he removes this token from the play area. Since Player A has a total of 3 Arrow tokens when this attack takes place, he would take 3 damage (thus removing 3 Bullet tokens from his inventory).
While there are a few Character special abilities that can help a specific player deal with removing Arrow tokens from their inventory, the main way to do this is with the Gatling Gun. When resolving his final set of action dice, a player must have 3 or more Gatling Gun facings for the action to take place (1 or 2 do not gain the player anything). By taking this action, the player hits all opposing players for 1 point of damage, as well as discards all of his Arrows. With only 5 dice, gaining the Gatling Gun ability can be a bit tricky, however if a player has a lot of Arrow tokens and the central supply is running low, he might have to risk it.
Players can do short range damage to their opponents by resolving the “1” facing on an action dice. When doing so, the player can choose to deal 1 point of damage to either the player to his immediate left, or immediate right. If the player resolves multiple “1” facings, he could even choose to deal a damage to each opponent, or multiple points of damage to a single opponent. It’s important to remember that the numbers on the dice represent how many spaces away the player can fire (short range vs. long range), and does not represent the number of damage dealt. Each “1” and “2” die facings does only one single point of damage.
Player B is sitting between Player A (the Sheriff) and Player C (unknown role). Player B is secretly the Renegade player, so while he needs to kill the Sheriff to win the game (the game ends when the Sheriff has been killed), but does not want to do so until both Outlaws have been killed, since if the Sheriff is killed and there is at least one Outlaw, the Outlaws will win, not the Renegade. His final roll has provided him with two “1” short range pistol shots. This means he can fire on either Player A or Player C. Since he doesn’t want the Sheriff to die yet, he chooses to deal both points of damage to Player C. The Renegade player is really not concerned with who Player C is, since his only goal is to kill everyone, saving the Sheriff for last. By protecting the Sheriff however, Player B raises suspicion that he is the Deputy, thus possibly gaining the trust of the Sheriff. How conniving!
Players can also do long range damage to their opponents by resolving the “2” facing on an action dice. This works exactly the same way as resolving the short range “1” action dice, except that the player will deal one point of damage to a player, or players, directly 2 spaces away from him. Once there are less than 4 players in the game, all long range shots (“2” facings) are treated as short range shots (“1” facings).
As players take damage, they will need to mend their wounds while trying to hold out through the shootout. It doesn’t seem that any of our Characters are necessarily skilled at removing bullets or bandaging wounds, therefore their sole remedy is the bottle. With each Beer facing a player resolves, he gains 1 health point back (thus adding a Bullet token back into his inventory). He can also choose instead to use this facing to heal one of the other opposing players, if he wishes to. However, the player can never exceed the number listed on his Character card, unless he is the Sheriff, whose maximum limit is the amount listed on his Character’s card, plus 2.
Player D is secretly the Outlaw. He is playing as Jesse Jones, and only has 2 more Bullets left, meaning that his Health is down to 2. Once these are both removed, he will be dead. He tries to focus on rolling Beer facings in order to heal himself a bit, and ends up with 3 Beer facings. This would normally heal 3 points for Player D, however his Character (Jesse Jones) has a special ability that states, “if you have four life points or less, you gain two if you use a beer facing for yourself”. This means that his 3 points health would turn into 6 points of health. Therefore he would receive 6 Bullets, and his total health would increase back to 8.
The Dynamite facing on a dice is the only facing that cannot be re-rolled. Once a player rolls a Dynamite, he must place it to the side until he is done re-rolling his other dice. If at any point during his turn, a player has 3 dice with Dynamite facings in his play area, that player cannot roll any more dice, receives 1 point of damage, and has to resolve the rest of his dice as they are.
After rolling his dice for the first time, Player E currently has 2 Dynamite facings, 1 Beer facing, 1 Pistol facing, and 1 Gatling Gun facing. He is not allowed to re-roll the Dynamite facings and decides he would like to keep the Beer facing to heal himself, and the Pistol facing to shoot one of the other players. The Gatling Gun really does him no good, since he won’t be attempting to get 3 of them. He could therefore re-roll the Gatling Gun facing, but if he were to roll another Dynamite facing, he would receive 1 damage, and could not re-roll any of his dice for the 2nd time. Even if he did roll a 3rd Dynamite facing, he would still be able to resolve the Beer and Pistol facings before his turn ended.
As mentioned before, each player receives a Character card that represents the persona of who they are playing as. All of the names are humorous takes on famous Old West characters, and each card includes the health value of the Character, as well as the particular special ability that they provide a player. While I won’t go over all 16 included in the game, let’s take a look at a few, just to get an idea of what’s available.
Willy the Kid
The player using Willy the Kid only needs two Gatling Gun facings in order to resolve the Gatling Gun action, as opposed to the full three normally required. This not only makes it easier for that player to perform the Gatling Gun action, but it also frees up an additional die to be used elsewhere, when doing so. Willy the Kid provides 8 points of health to the player.
The player using Black Jack is allowed to re-roll Dynamite facings, but cannot do so if he rolls 3 at one time. In this case, the normal rules of having 3 Dynamite facings would apply. This can be a huge advantage, as this player will be able to re-roll more dice. At the same time, it also makes him more susceptible to gaining Arrow tokens.
The player using Suzy Lafayette is allowed to gain two health points if that player did not resolve any pistol (“1” facings) or rifle (“2” facings). This gives a large advantage in the category of healing for this player, since she would be able to gain health from Beer facings, as well as from this special ability. Of course, when doing so, she would not be allowed to attack other players.
When a player is eliminated, he must reveal his role and can no longer take any turns. There are two ways in which the game will end. If the Sheriff is killed at any point during play, the game immediately ends. When this happens, if the Renegade is the only player still alive, the Renegade player wins. If however, an Outlaw is still alive, all Outlaw players win collectively.
The game can also end when all Outlaws and Renegade players have been killed. In this case, the Sheriff and all Deputies would collectively share victory.
While the Yahtzee dice mechanic found in King of Tokyo and Bang! the Dice Game are quite similar, that’s really where the comparisons end. Bang! the Dice Game incorporates a much different feel than King of Tokyo, especially in the way secret roles provide for a strong deduction element. The inclusion of dice also provide for a more “push your luck” aspect that was not apparent with the regular action cards found in the original Bang!. The game also plays much faster than its original counterpart, with games usually clocking in less than 20-30 minutes at most.
While the game can include as few as 3 players (with specialized rules), the game really shines with 5 or more players. With 4 players, there is no Deputy included, automatically allowing the Renegade player the knowledge of all other player’s roles. The inclusion of the Deputy role is essential to the balance of how the various roles work together. Since the Deputy will always protect the Sheriff and the Renegade wants to keep the Sheriff alive until the very end, it can make for some interesting and hilarious bluffing on the Renegade’s part to try and convince the Sheriff that he is his true Deputy. The Outlaws on the other hand, have a more direct goal of ousting the Sheriff. With multiple Outlaws working together, the goal of killing the Sheriff can be achieved quickly if not protected. The Renegade player can attempt to convince one Outlaw that the other is actually the Renegade, causing confusion and dissent amongst the Outlaws themselves. As you can see, killing the Renegade early on will make it that much easier for the Outlaws to win. The Sheriff on the other hand has the disadvantage of everyone knowing who he is, while having no knowledge himself of anyone else’s role. The Deputy doesn’t need to know the roles of his other opponents. He simply needs to lend assistance in killing everyone else, while helping to protect the Sheriff. He must do so however, while convincing the Sheriff that he is not the Renegade player.
In addition to the broad amount of bluffing and deduction elements taking place, are the player’s character abilities. These provide unique and clever ways for a player to strengthen their role. For instance, if the Deputy players has the ability to heal another player every turn, and does so to the Sheriff, this will not only help to keep the Sheriff alive, but will also help to earn the Sheriff’s loyalty. Having this ability as an Outlaw however, creates a whole different use in trying to figure out who the other Outlaw is, being careful not to heal the wrong individual.
As with the original Bang!, character abilities play an important role in bending the rules to help player’s reach their intended goal. Fans of the original game will be pleased with the ways dice have been implemented in this version. While most of the core elements found in the original game can also be found in the new game, the addition of these action dice has in many ways, made a great game even better.
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Gaming is for having fun. Fun requires clear rules.
One note: Outlaws can win even if all are dead.