Monday, June 29, 2009

Test Drive Update - Bang!

Bang! is a great game with some quirks and our latest test game bore this out. In the game of Bang! people sit in a circle and are assigned roles- sheriff, deputy, outlaw, and renegade. The roles are secret, only the sheriff identifies themselves. The person sitting next to you could be an outlaw or a deputy, there's no way to know. The sheriff wants to survive the game. The deputies want to protect the sheriff. The outlaws want to shoot the sheriff. The renegade wants to be the last player. As you can see, each player may have a different objective for winning.

In our recent game the play started out awkwardly. The players weren't really sure what to do. I realized that I needed to get the ball rolling and play to teach rather than play to win. I was an outlaw so I played a "Bang!" card and shot at the sheriff. At that moment people began to get it. The players who were deputies realized they probably had to shoot at me but knew that then the other outlaws would shoot at them. The outlaw players realized they probably should act to help but also knew than once they did the deputies would know who was who. The renegade player decided to sit low until the dust cleared and then go after the survivors.

Quickly the flow of play began to speed up and the fun began. One player played the "dynamite" card. This card is passed around the table and each round it may or may not explode. Of course when you're the one holding the card things are quite tense. Then you pass it to the next player and hope it goes off on their round! The dynamite made its way completely around the table and blew up the person who had played it in the first place. Truly if you live by the dynamite you die by the dynamite.

Bang! is a well designed game in that no one can win or lose suddenly. You can play a "beer" card to heal yourself and each player can be shot at several times before they are out. In our game we took unsuccessful potshots at the sheriff but eventually the deputies removed the outlaws from the game. At the end there were two players and the sheriff. One player was a deputy, one was the renegade. The sheriff held his fire and waited to see who would be the last standing. At last one man fell. He flipped his identity card for us- it was the renegade! The forces of law had triumphed in Malden that night.

Once the players understand Bang! they have a lot of fun with it. I would tell new players "look, this may seem odd, just follow my lead," and then do Something. If you're an outlaw just shoot at the sheriff. If you're a deputy then decide someone looks shifty and announce that you think they're an outlaw and open fire. Just by demonstrating a role you may get the action started. This is absolutely a learn by doing game. Get over the first hump and people will want to play again.

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