We decided to ring in the New Year by bringing a handful of games to the New Year's Eve party we attended last night. The only game that made it to the table, though, was Bang! No one's any the worse for it, though, as only a few of us were "gamer" gamers. Between the two games, we taught four new players the game, and I don't think anyone had a bad time. Especially when the table is full of married adults and the game box and half the cards say "bang" on them.
In the first game, I drew the sheriff for the first time in any game I've played. Wavering, I eventually took Sean Mallory over Vulture Sam; being the sheriff and holding ten cards is just too good to pass up. Other characters around the table included Slab, Calamity Janet and Claus the Saint (we played with the base and Dodge City from the bullet).
I won't elaborate much on the details of the game, as there's not much that would surprise anybody: people playing bangs and misses, barrels getting panic'd around the table, oh noes Dynamite, etc. But this game gave me a little additional insight into some of the factors that can cause games to drag, as the veteran players at the table were apologizing and explaining that a typical game is only 20-30 minutes.
Obviously, when you have new players, it takes time. They need a couple rounds to understand the flow of the game and what the cards do. That's to be expected. So chalk that one up and move on.
A downside to that is that the outlaws were also gunshy about attacking the sheriff. What ended up happening instead was a Mexican standoff where everyone was taking potshots at everyone else, while each turn I was deciding what cards to keep besides the 4 bangs and 4 misses I always stockpiled. The outlaws ended up dying one by one, and the last outlaw was in no hurry to submit herself to a slaughter by attacking me late in the game. So memo to outlaws, especially when you have three at the table: gang up on the sheriff. You have to do it while you have strength of numbers, or else you're all toast. Disclaimer: the outlaws were all across the table from me and had difficulty holding on to ranged weapons. But several times they had chances to shoot at me. But no one fired a shot at me other than Indians and gatlings.
I also learned something about how the positioning of the roles can affect the game. Aside from my own well-defended position, it turned out that the renegade and the deputy were on either side of me. So to my left and right were two players who were both invested in keeping me alive. I think this presented an even bigger wall, both in their reticence to shoot at me and the increased distance from all the outlaws.
Lastly, the game made it even more clear to me the difficulty in ascertaining roles, especially in a low-conflict game. Random potshots tell me nothing, and no one shot at me. As two characters eventually ticked down to zero life, they each turned out to be outlaws. So suddenly, I have three players left in the game, and they are all different roles, making my chances of shooting the "right" person even lower. The only clue I got was when my deputy (to my right) gave a HUGE hint by using Cat Balou to discard the Dynamite before it came to my turn. The problem was that only told me who he was NOT (the outlaw). The possibility that he's the renegade still exists, and this game turns us all into champion bluffers (an outlaw had Claus and deliberately passed me a beer one turn).
So what makes Bang! take so long for some people, when our games always seem to go quickly? People have already mentioned turtling, but this game taught me that there are a lot of factors that unto themselves can extend the game, and when they're all taken together, it can last an hour or more. Very unusual for our group, but as I said, there weren't really any complaints.
I know I mentioned two games but the second game I drew the Renegade and Vulture Sam, went out first, and the game went considerably faster. There's not much to report from the second game, compared to what I learned in the first.