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Every once in a while, I receive a game in the mail that immediately causes me to start salivating - either because of a cool mechanic, or a cool component. In Ca$h 'n Gun$, there were six of these components - foam pistols to be exact. A game that involves pointing guns at each other may not be the most politically correct game in the world but certainly is a "blast" to play. Come on - the idea sounds like fun, looks like fun when watching, and actually IS fun.
Bluntly, Ca$h and Gun$ is one of the most fun "fillers" I've played in a long time. It has the silly drama of a movie in which an "Mexican standoff" is taking place, adding in special abilities and a dash of Werewolf intrigue. It's fast, funny, and unlike many games of this genre, really doesn't seem to hurt people's feelings. Player elimination is possible; but if you die, it's really your fault, and the game only lasts a little longer anyway! Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!!
Each player (maximum of six) is given a pistol, a character standup card, and eight cards that match that character. Five of these cards say "click" on them, two say "Bang!", and one says "Bang! Bang! Bang!" Piles of “coward” tokens and wound tokens are placed in ready reach. A pile of money tokens ($5,000 - $20,000) are shuffled, and the first round is ready to begin.
In each round, the top five money tokens are flipped over, revealing the loot available that round. Each player then chooses one of their cards and places it face down in front of themselves. One player counts to three, and then each player immediately points their gun at another player. Everyone looks around at the guns pointed at them, while a player counts to three again. At “three”, players must either drop their gun immediately (which means that they receive a “coward” token), or stay in the round. Players who drop out and the players who were pointing at them discard their cards played face down. Then if any player has played a “Bang! Bang! Bang!” card, they reveal it at that point. The player they were aiming at is “hit” and must drop out of the round, taking a wound marker. This player must also discard their card that they played face down. Anyone still in the round then reveals their card played. “Click” cards do nothing, but “Bang!” cards cause the player on the receiving end to take a wound marker and drop out of the round. A player can take more than one hit per round.
Players who are still unhurt and in the round then split up the loot evenly. If they cannot do so, the loot (or a portion of it) stays in the middle of the table, adding itself to the next pot. All cards are discarded, and another round begins, with all players who were shot or took the coward’s way out back in. If a player ever receives three wounds, they are immediately out of the game – dead. After the last round, all money is counted, (Each “coward” token is worth -$5,000) and the player with the most is the winner!
In the “Superpowers” variant of the game, each player is secretly dealt a “power” card at the beginning of the round. These cards give a player either a permanent or one-time special ability, including:
- Four wounds, instead of three.
- + $10,000 for every player killed in the game
- Retrieve the gun of a dead person, having two for the remainder of the game
- Use the Bang! Bang! Bang! card twice
- And more, including a grenade!
In the “A cop in the Mafia” variant, each player is given a role card at the beginning of the game. Most of the cards say “Mobster”, but one card denotes that player as a policeman. These roles are kept secret until the end of the game. Gameplay proceeds as normal; but whenever loot is split, all players involved in the split secretly pass a phone card under the table. If the cop wants to call HQ, they simply flip the card over. If the card, when placed back on the table, is flipped, then the police have been called (one of three phone cards is flipped over). All the players then realize that the cop is one of the players involved in the split. After the first call, the cop can only drop out voluntarily once more during the game. If the cop is killed, then the mobster with the most money wins at the end of the game. However, if he manages to call the police three times, then he is the sole winner! This variant can be combined with the “superpower” variant.
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: Of course, the most striking components of the game are the six black foam pistols, which while they look basically like silhouettes of real guns, still give the feel of a toy gun when pointed at someone. The artwork on the game is very cartoonish and stereotypical of mob movies, although some may object to the extremely scantily clad Jade character. All the tiles and cards are of very high quality, and everything (even the guns) fit easily into the large square box. The game takes some heavy play and has stood up well in our games – a proof of high quality.
2.) Rules: The rules are in French but are available online in a .pdf file in English. The booklet clearly explains the rules – in fact, the basic game can really be played quite well from the first page, which gives a short summary of the rules. Each card in the game is fairly language-independent (most people know what "Bang!" means), and the special cards use icons to help explain their function. After only a round or two, most people understand the entire game quickly (although sometimes just how the Bang! Bang! Bang! cards work can confuse some people.
3.) Speed: I must mention that the speed of the game is quite quick, with games lasting around twenty minutes or even less! Today I played or moderated seven games of it, and I didn't even think that was that long! I've already played it over a dozen times, and expect it to see much play this year - if only because it really provides a lot of fun in a short time frame. The shortened game length also diminishes the effect of player elimination. If you die, you only sit out five or ten minutes; and you can laugh at the rest of the game anyway.
4.) Superpowers: The special cards add a lot to the basic game, although I don't feel that they were necessary. Whenever I teach the game, I always teach the "vanilla" method first then go on to the special cards. With very few exceptions (and I've played with scores of people), most want to continue to play with the special abilities and never go back to the basic game. Everyone wants the grenade, or two guns, or the ability to point their gun after everyone else - it gives you a special thrill to do something no one else can. I even got a limited edition foam shotgun (you can find the rules for it online), that one player can use. The shotgun allows one to point between two players, hitting them with one "Bang!" card. Everyone wants to use the shotgun, disregarding the fact that the player using it is effectively painting a huge target on themselves. Either way, with or without the shotgun, the formula is basically this: Basic game = fun; Special power = even more fun.
5.) Cops: The variant that causes one player to be the undercover officer brings a whole new meaning to the game. Players are still trying to grab as much money as they can, but at the same time figure out just who the policeman is. The passing the card under the table might be a bit inelegant, but it works; and the game almost has a Werewolf feel to it. Each time the policeman calls/doesn't call, the suspect list grows smaller. Knowing that three calls can be the end for all the gangsters, players can get frenzied as they try to "off" the person they think is betraying them. In the games of this I've played, I've seen the cop both win and lose and think that the odds are fairly decent for a smooth operator to pull off the win. This is my personal favorite variant, although some folks disagreed; while they enjoyed it, they simply wanted to play with the special cards. Still more rabid folk wanted to play with both, which is almost too much complication for such a simple game.
6.) Theme: My wife remarked to me that that the theme of the game probably wouldn't fly in certain places - for example, would the game work in an American school, where parents would undoubtedly rise up against the fact that their kids were pointing guns at each other? Living in Korea, I'm not sure how to respond to this - other than to say that I think the game is harmless, although I could certainly understand people's objections with it. The game is modeled off of scenes in movies, in which all the crooks are having a showdown; and that really comes across in the game, which is meant to be silly.
7.) Fun Factor: My main joy in Ca$h and Gun$ is watching people's expressions right after the guns are pointed, and then again after the cards are revealed. There are audible sighs when a "click" card is revealed, and loud yelps and groans when people are shot. Table talk is high ("He's winning, shoot him!", "You shot me - I'll never forget that, you're going down!"), and there is lots of laughing and fun. I have yet to see this game be anything but sheer fun with groups - even the most demure people smile wickedly, as they point the gun at the other players.
Ca$h 'n Gun$ delivers an hour of fun in twenty minutes. It's a game that people immediately want to play again, and again. It's like playing a childhood game of guns, but with a purpose, and with rules. It's meant to be taken silly; and when done so, provides a lot of enjoyment. I expect to play this game dozens of times this year and bring it to many parties, where it will be certain to be a "hit." With three different ways to play, and a short, action packed playing time, Ca$h 'n Gun$ should hit your purchase list immediately.
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Great review, as usual, Tom. I have the 2nd edition (with the orange guns) and I think the rule in the Cop version is not as you stated.
After the first call, the cop can only drop out voluntarily once more during the game.
I think the cop can only drop out voluntarily once more after the reinforcements have been called in (the third call). I may be wrong, but that's how we interpreted the rules.
BTW, I am an avid listener to The Dice Tower - congrats on 100 episodes.
I really like the game and I think your review is spot on.
Just need to make the comment that I think it is very revealing of the American hypocrisy that they have more problems with seeing a scantily clad female form than with pointing guns at each other's heads.