Friday, December 10, 2010

Statement of Purpose

This blog is intended for fans of, or people interested in, Bang! the card game. As an avid fan of Bang! for its variety in gameplay and strategy, as well as flexibility in terms of players, I have wanted to provide a site and hopefully create a community for Bang! players and potential players that will:

1. Discuss and Promote BANG!. This is the most obvious place to start--to explore the game and its mechanics, and help people understand it and the rules. The Wikipedia page already does a great job, so there will probably not be too much to add here. I will, of course, also place resources online for purchasing BANG! and its expansions, and for playing it online.

2. Create a Modding Community and Explore BANG!'s great customizability. I will provide the resources that will show how to create your own custom BANG! cards that can work functionally with the rest of your BANG! deck. This ranges from mod conceptualization to design templates to printing and production (purchasing the right card stock, which printers to use, what tools to use to cut and round the corners on cards) and explaining reasonable prices for producing these cards. While some mods do not need to worry about matching the look and feel of the original cards too much (Character cards for instance are dealt out randomly at the beginning of the game and everyone will know who they are, so it does not matter if the cards look different), cards added to the main deck do need to try to match it. Think of cat balouing cards from people's hands when you know what card it is already, or watching people draw cards when you already know what card they have drawn. This can impact the modded game in a very negative way. Thus, it is important to match cards that have this gameplay issue as much as possible, or create innovative ways to avoid this problem. I will provide graphics, art, and resources to closely match the style of the original game, so that you can make classy looking mods.

Another big important part of modding is including stats for modders who are honestly concerned with keeping cards and characters balanced. BANG! contains many mechanics to be aware of when creating cards:

A. The need to balance suits and their numbers. Think of how dynamite would be affected if many cards of 2-9 of spades were added to a deck, or how the game could become unbalanced for Apache Kid if many offense diamond cards were added.

B. The need to keep certain card types to suits. BANG! was very thoughtfully made; many card types only belong to a single suit or intentionally do not have any of 1 suit.

C. The need to balance the ratio of certain cards to others. You probably have noticed how the original game characters have dropped in their usefulness with the Dodge City expansion. As Slab and Jourdonnais'--many others too--abilities depend on a specific card type "BANG!," adding several non-BANG! attack cards and other cards not only reduces the probably of them drawing or having played against them useful cards, but they also make their abilities less useful. 2 Missed! do not have to be laid for a Punch, nor can Jourdonnais "Barrel" for it. Potential modders might have noticed that Dpdge City added Bang!, Missed! and other cards from the original game in the expansion. Any modder who is going to add a substantial number of cards to the game will need to examine how his additions effect the probabilities of drawing original game cards and how this effects character abilities.

D. The Need to Balance Characters. From poking around in the BANG! community, I have noticed how many new characters are created without thinking about how they relate to other characters in the game. This creates huge imbalance issues. I think it is best to classify characters as Offensive, Defensive, of Neutral (their abilities are useful from either perspective; think of Calamity Janet). Then group characters in their classes. When you are thinking of adding a new character of one of these class types, compare it to the others in the class. If the new character with his/her ability is downright better than other characters regardless of strategy or gameplay, you have a problem. You might think of ways to nerf the character: Having the ability be conditional upon a "draw!" or a certain card or suit type, creating an activation cost (they have to discard a card from their hand or in play in front of them, or a life point to use it), or lowering their overall health (think of the 3 health and 4 health variation amongst characters). Besides this, there is also an overall character balancing issue. The original game had a good ratio of Offensive to Defensive to Neutral characters, which helped the probability of drawing a character that accommodates the role you are randomly dealt. If too many Offensive or Defense characters are added to the game this overall balance is upset. Lastly, you need to consider if a new character is imbalanced not from a general perspective, but when placed in a specific role (see my discussion on Gary Looter as Sheriff below).

Anyway, there are many other items to consider in modding BANG!, which I am sure many others have thought of. I look forward to discussing with others how to tackle these issues, and benefit from their contributions.

3. Discussing Strategy. Each role in BANG! has different objectives, which can be achieved in a variety of ways, especially depending on the number of players available and the characters dealt. Hopefully, posts will explore how to use characters in effective and novel ways to achieve the goals specified in the roles.

4. Balancing BANG! Expansions. Although many of the BANG! expansions were carefully thought out, some parts of them clearly were not. Many of Wild West Show's characters are ridiculously imbal, especially depending on the role. Think of Gary Looter as a Sheriff (6 life) when he has 1 or 2 Deputies in play. Whenever they discard any card over their limit it goes straight to the Sheriff! It's just not fun. Other characters like Lee Van Kliff, Flint Westwood, and so forth can have similar complaints made against them. Wild West Show sadly seems like one of those expansions where they think bigger and stronger is better. I think this is a mistaken way to look at a game. The original is so wonderfully balanced that I get upset how much Wild West Show shakes things up with its characters. However, there is no need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Some of these characters can have additional constraints on their abilities to make them more balanced.

5. Examine Alternate Gameplays. Instead of modding the game through adding new cards, characters, color types, and so forth, BANG! can be altered by using the cards you already play with. For example, many of my friends and I do not enjoy the randomness of the global effect or "scenario" cards played at the beginning of each round in High Noon and a Fistful of Cards (Wild West Show cards are similar, but these scenarios do not occur at the beginning of a round for a round, but rather begin and end when certain cards are played). However, we still enjoy the idea of these scenario cards. Our solution is to pick the deck(s) we wish to play with at the beginning, shuffle this deck, and flip these cards over in a sequential order. At the beginning of the second round, the effects start to occur each round in this sequential order. When a card is used up, it is flipped face down to indicate that it has ended. This way players can prepare for future rounds, and yet still have variety added to BANG! with these cards. Anyway, this is just one way to create an alternative gameplay. There are many others to explore I am sure.

6. Exploring and Posing Solutions to BANG's problems. BANG! is a great game, but there are clearly a few problems with it. Think of those players who don't play with their characters when they are jailed for 2 rounds in a row. The game doesn't have the pace of UNO, so this can be really boring for that player. In fact, even waiting a whole round to do something is sometimes very irritating, depending on who you are playing with. A bigger problem, however, is the down time for eliminated players, who may have to wait over an hour for the BANG! game to end. Frankly, I think the global effect round cards that can bring a player back for a turn or even the game make things worse. Since they may never show up in a game or only show up far later into the game, it makes the eliminated player feel obligated to stay for the duration of the game instead of go do something else. Of course, these cards can simply be removed from the deck, but the point is they still failed to answer the problem eliminated players were having. These are clearly flaws in BANG!'s game play, and I think it could be useful to explore alternative gameplays and customized cards that provide practical solutions to these problems.


  1. So I was playing a game of bang and have a rule question that came up. If you chose to not use your character perk are you allowed to use it again after that. For example, if you chose to not be claus the saint for one turn so your enemy doesn't get a card, are you allowed to be him when it's convenient to you.

  2. Actually, you can only choose not to use your character perk if the ability specifically states that it is optional. So you cannot choose not to use Claus' ability one turn. You always have to use it. This would contrast with Jesse Jones' ability: "During phase 1 of his turn, he may choose to draw the first card from the deck, or randomly from the hand of any other player. Then he draws the second card from the deck." May is the key word there. Claus has no such luxury. Black Jack, similarly, must always show his second card to everyone else during his draw phase. He cannot choose not to.

  3. If optional language is in place, you can of course forego the perk in one instance and use the perk in another.

  4. This is a fantastic blog! Has it closed down, or has there just been little new to post this year? Do you plan on covering the dice game, or Samurai Sword (which seems desperately in need of some FAQ/clarification work that the official site hasn't provided...)

    Thanks for so many clarifications, strategies, alternates, and ideas that have really improved our group gameplay!