The very first Unplugged column I ever wrote for Snackbar Games featured the 2002 spaghetti-western shootout card game Bang!. In the eight years(!) since that column, Bang! has received numerous expansions as well as several spin-offs. Perhaps most relevant to the general Snackbar audience is Bang! Halo Edition, but I wanted to revisit Dodge City to talk about 2013’s streamlined Bang! The Dice Game.
The biggest failing of the original Bang! is that it tends to overstay its welcome. Games can drag out due to the interactions between various effects, drawing suboptimal cards or whatever. That simply does not happen with Bang! The Dice Game. Games are usually over in the space of twenty minutes or less. This is no high-noon spectacle, this is a frantic bar fight!
In keeping with the general Bang! mechanics, each player is secretly assigned a role. The Sheriff is the only revealed role and wins, along with any Deputies that might be out there, when all Outlaws and Renegades are dead. Outlaws simply want to kill the Sheriff, and if there are any Renegades out there they only win by being the last player left alive, which often means they have to work with the lawmen to eliminate the Outlaws first before the Sheriff falls. Additionally, each player receives a random character card that gives them unique abilities and specific life totals.
Like most dice games, on a player’s turn they roll all five dice three times, keeping whichever results they like along the way. Dynamite results, however, cannot be re-rolled. If a player ever has three Dynamite results their turn immediately ends (no more re-rolls, but resolve your other dice) and they receive one damage. Additionally, Arrow rolls force the player to take an arrow token whether they keep the die or not. When the last arrow token is taken, every player takes damage equal to the number of tokens they have accumulated to that point and then all tokens are returned to the central pool.
The remaining results are straight-forward. Bulls-eye results force the player to damage an opponent sitting either one or two seats away from them (depending on the actual face rolled), while each Beer result allows the player to heal one point of health to any player. Finally, if a player has three or more Gatling Gun results, they shoot every player for one damage and discards all arrow tokens they might have!
As you can see, bullets (and arrows) fly freely when dice are in charge. No ducking behind barrels here! This often results in you aiming at players you might not want to hit, but bluffing your role is still important so you don’t draw undesired attention too soon. It is also useful to remember that, unless you are a Renegade (or the Sheriff in a game with fewer than five players), you are technically part of a team. You still win if your team’s victory is met even if you have personally been eliminated (and you are not the Sheriff).
Note that this even applies if everyone on your team is eliminated! It is not uncommon for the “Indian attack” from arrow tokens to eliminate all remaining players, resulting in a technical Outlaw victory (as the Sheriff has been eliminated) — although my group considers this a victory for the Indians because it’s more fun that way. Eight-player games also feature two Renegades in the mix, and should they accidentally eliminate the Sheriff too soon the Outlaws will win there as well.
While it can be frustrating to lose when the dice make you shoot the wrong target, a session of Bang! The Dice Game is over so fast there’s no time to get upset about it. Just gather everything up and have another shot at it! The best part is that the number of players is pretty much irrelevant to the length of the game. Unless a lot of Beer results are repeatedly hit, someone is going to be taking damage every turn, or at the very least banking a dangerous amount of potential damage in arrow tokens. Those arrows and the occasional Gatling spray really spread around the pain, too.
I enjoyed Bang! eight years ago, but its appeal wore off over time. Bang! The Dice Game, however, will always be welcome at my table. It comes and goes swiftly, leaving nothing behind but a good time. Ending your game night with a bang has never been easier.
Bang! The Dice Game retails for $18.