Banditos caught my attention while I was visiting my favorite local game store. The idea of players crossing the Mexican border and robbing banks just sounded too interesting, so I took the plunge and purchased the game.
I was quite pleased when I opened the box. The game board was bigger than I thought it would be (at a budget price of $39.99 I was expecting quite a small board.) The board, at 33.5 x 11 inches, serves its purpose very well. The top half portrays a map of southern Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. The lower half portrays numerous cities in Mexico. The map graphics are nice and visually appealing.
Also included in the game are tons of cards (250 to be exact,) one twelve sided die, two wooden cubes per player, a gas gauge for each player, forty plastic heat tokens, and a wooden car that apparently has no use for this game but is used rather for an upcoming expansion. The cards are good sized (3.5 x 2.5 inches) and are fairly good quality. The rules, on the other hand, are just basic text printed on regular white paper.
The object of the game is to acquire a vehicle and a weapon and rob as many Mexican banks as needed to steal 100,000 pesos, and then return home.
There are twelve character cards; each player is randomly dealt a character who starts at a particular U.S. city. Some characters have special abilities, for example, Yum Yum can smile her way past border guards. Some characters start the game with “stuff” needed to rob the Banco de Mexico, like Granny, who starts with a 1975 Norton 850 motorcycle.
This card driven game has a large deck of cards consisting of: American money cards, vehicle cards, weapon cards, Inside Information cards, and Fortune / Unfortunate cards. The American money is needed for seed money in order to purchase a car, gas, and weapons. The Inside Information cards let you rob a specific Mexican town for greater rewards and less risk. The Fortune cards give you bonuses, and the Unfortunate cards are events played on opponents to slow them down.
Player Actions Each Turn: Illegal Actions
Each turn players must commit their illegal actions first (or they can skip this phase.) Illegal actions consist of: Robbing the discard pile, stealing gas, and conducting a heist of the Banco de Mexico. Every time a player performs an illegal action a red plastic heat marker is placed on his character (or automobile if stealing gas.) The more heat markers a player collects, the harder it is to succeed with future illegal actions. (During the game, if a player commits no illegal action on his turn, he may remove one heat marker.)
1.Robbing the Discard Pile: A player can rob one card from the discard pile by placing a red heat token on his character card, then rolling the twelve-sided die. The result of the die and the number of heat markers the player possesses determines how far down the deck he can draw.
2.Stealing Gas: Players must move their gas meters down one level each time they move their vehicle (regardless of the actual number of spaces moved,) and sometimes cash to purchase gas is not all that available! Players can attempt to steal gas by placing a heat token on their vehicle and then rolling the twelve-sided die. To succeed in the theft, the player must roll an amount higher than the number of heat tokens on their vehicle.
3.Pull a Bank Heist: Players may rob a Mexican bank if they own a vehicle, have a full tank of gas, own a weapon, and are located in a Mexican town. To rob a bank, first place a heat token on the player’s character card, a token on the vehicle used in the heist, and a token on the Mexican city. Roll the twelve-sided die and the amount must be higher than all the red heat tokens. (Heat tokens remain on the robbed Mexican cities making it increasingly harder to rob the same place over and over.)
If successful in the heist, players draw two Peso cards and speed away (explained later.) Peso cards are in denominations of 10,000 and 15,000. To win the game a player needs to collect 100,000 pesos.
If not successful in the heist, the player goes to Mexican jail where he can possibly get out free (with a Fortune card,) be deported to his home town (he loses his automobile and pesos,) or stay in jail and try to draw a card to escape.
Player Actions Each Turn: Legal Actions
As stated above, players first perform illegal actions (which is optional) and then they may perform any of the following actions: (1) draw two cards, (2) play cards from their hand to their play area (3) move (4) buy or sell cards (5) stash their pesos at home.
1.Playing Cards: Weapon cards, vehicle cards, and Inside Information cards have a cost associated to each one. To use the benefit of one of these cards the player pays the cost printed on the card and places it face up in front of him.
2.Move: A player may move the number of spaces according to the vehicle he owns, which is displayed on the vehicle card. A player may also speed. The number of spaces a player may speed is also displayed on their vehicle card. Before speeding a player must roll the die and can speed without getting caught as long as a 1 is not rolled. If a 1 is rolled the player must pay $50 before he can move again, and his turn is immediately over. A player may also take a train for $20 (for beer and burritos, it’s a long ride) and quickly move from any U.S. city to another, however, he must abandon his vehicle to do so!
3.Buying and Selling Cards: Players may buy and sell cards from each other. Cards in player’s hands can be bought and sold with no restrictions, but cards face up in front of players can only be bought and sold if players are on the same space.
4.Stash Pesos at Home: Players may move their pawn to their hometown and safely store their stolen pesos. Players may instead hold all their pesos while continuing to rob different Mexican cities, however, if they get busted in any one robbery they lose all of their pesos.
MY OPPINION OF THE GAME
1.The special abilities of the character cards seem unbalanced.
2.Keeping track of gas is fiddly, we often found ourselves forgetting to move our gas gauge down after each move.
3.I think there should be some slight adjustments in the rules for a 2 player game. In our 2 player game it seemed that we were drawing too many Inside Information cards as well as Fortune and Unfortunate cards. We removed some of them and it made the game better and faster.
4.Players use cubes to move about the board. A more creative meeple would have been ideal.
Squabbling aside, the most important factor is the fun factor, and Banditos is indeed fun. It has multiple mechanics that I really enjoy:
1. Stealing from the discard pile is a brilliant mechanic for this type of game.
2. A new heat token is placed on each city every time that it is robbed, making it harder to rob the same place over and over.
3. Riding the train is really cool, it gets you around extremely fast but you have to abandon your vehicle.
4. The game has a "press your luck" mechanic. A player can lose all of his or her pesos if they don’t take them back to their hometown for safekeeping. This is an awesome "press your luck" mechanic that really ups the suspense in the game.
5. The 80s theme and the humor in the game cannot be left unsaid. It spices up the game and we found ourselves laughing at the cards numerous times.
I have not played Banditos with more than two players. With just two, the buying and selling of cards between players seemed irrelevant and we never did it. I assume that this mechanic is best with three or more players in order to gang up on the leader.
Over all this game is too clunky, too fiddly, feels like it needed more play testing. So disappointing as it has so many great ideas.
EDIT: Updated final thoughts after repeated plays.
Not only that, but there are two Diversion cards that allow one to "Put the sugar in the tank of the Sheriff's car" (1min 56sec) and to "Slash the Deputy's tires so he won't get very far." (1min 59sec)
This is hardly a coincidence...
(Also: excellent song. I was just finishing high school in 1996 when it came out, and remember listening to it over and over while studying for my final exams. Ah, nostalgia.)