In my reviews, I’ll try to give a brief overview of the game, then talk in depth about three main things: the components, the rules, and the gameplay. These are the things I care most about, so I’ll offer my perspective on those areas.
Dodge City is the first large expansion to Bang! I’ll write this review with an assumption that you know what the original game is all about. For my review of Bang!, click here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/207828. For a more detailed description of Bang! or the Dodge City expansion, I suggest reading the rules online at Da Vinci’s website and/or checking out one of the reviews that spends more time explaining the game.
That said, Dodge City offers a few new things to the standard game: 15 new characters (bringing the count to 31), three new card types (green cards, “action + draw” cards, and “discard penalty” cards), and options for three or eight players. Additional “regular” cards are included to balance out the deck. Smart move.
The cards are of the same quality as the original set, which is to say quite good. The only difference is that all of the Dodge City cards have a buffalo on them, which makes for easy sorting. Again, a smart move. Rather than just adding one Renegade to the seven role cards from Bang! to support eight players, Dodge City actually gives you eight new role cards. Necessary? No, but it’s pretty nice. There are still some problems in translation (on the character cards), and rather than a new set of roles, I would have preferred a new set of reference cards with the new symbol (“discard penalty”) on it. Bang!’s rules can be hard to get the first time or two for a lot of people, so this would have been helpful.
The rules for the green cards are simple: play the card in front of you, and you can play the card immediately after the turn during which you played it. Basically, they are brown cards with a delayed action that must be revealed to be played. The “action plus draw” cards let you perform an action (like evading a shot) and draw a card. Nothing earth-shattering, but they help keep cards in your hand, and having options generally makes the game more enjoyable. The “discard penalty” cards are a bit stronger than normal cards, but force you to discard another card with them in order to play the card. Sometimes you get to throw away an otherwise useless cards, and sometimes you might have to throw out a good one. Overall, the new rules for the basic game are easy to understand and don’t detract from the game.
The new characters work just like the old ones, but obviously have new abilities. The new characters integrate fairly well, with only a couple points of confusion (e.g., when does Apache Kid’s ability not activate?). [Note: The rules for Jose Delgado, Pixie Pete, and Sean Mallory have changed – read about it on the Da Vinci website.]
The rules for the three-player variant are clearly written and easy to understand. To win, the Outlaw kills the Vice, the Vice kills the Renegade, and the Renegade kills the Outlaw. If a player (or dynamite) kills his non-target, the game is decided by a duel between the surviving players. Fairly simple and pretty good fun for what it is. It’s also a bit easier to learn the game mechanics this way and then later worry about the roles (which is more fun when you’re not distracted by learning the rules).
The eight player variant is very easy to understand, as it’s basically the same game, but just with more people.
Since my review of Bang! covered the way the game plays, I won’t restate that here. Instead, I’ll address what the similarities and differences are with the Dodge City expansion.
What stays the same?
Bang! remains a light game with the Dodge City expansion. It adds new cards, but doesn’t significantly alter the gameplay, and the interaction between players also remains essentially unchanged. The flow of the game is still primarily determined by the luck of the draw, as the new cards are more to add variety than to change this. Playing time is about the same once you are familiar with the new cards, which should only take a round or less.
All in all, the general feel of the game is the same as the original, which is a good thing.
A bit of luck is removed, since the green cards are on the table for everyone to see. Instead of drawing/discarding randomly, there are more things on the table for you to choose. You can also plan your turn based on what people have showing (to some extent). The “discard penalty” cards also add a bit to the game, as you have a good way of getting rid of cards you don’t want or can’t play. None of the new mechanics significantly change the way the game plays, but they make things a bit more interesting.
The new three-player game is accessible, quick, and actually a lot of fun. There’s a fun balance between trying to kill your target yet not leaving him close enough to dead that the other player will finish him off to prevent you from winning. In many ways I prefer this to the regular four-player game. (Of course, you don’t actually need Dodge City to play the three-player game...)
Ultimately, Dodge City won’t change your opinion of Bang! If you really disliked Bang!, that won’t change. If you really liked Bang!, Dodge City adds more to enjoy – new characters, new cards, new mechanics, and the option for an eighth player. Nothing here is revolutionary, but as with the original game, the focus is on just having fun. For such a low price, it’s hard to go wrong with this expansion. Definitely recommended for Bang! fans.
We usually use character and play cards from this expansion, leaving the green cards out. The game feels already a bit fiddle and it gets only more confusing by having another type of cards, especially with the newbies.