Monday, May 30, 2011

Character Guide: Johnny Kisch

Johnny Kisch BANG! card game character

Character Name: Johnny Kisch.

Inspired by: While one might expect Johnny Kisch to be a reference to country guitar player Johnny Cash, the true inspiration for him is Jo Nikisch, CEO of Abacus Spiele, the German publisher of BANG!.

Life Points: 4.

Ability Type: Neutral.

Ability: "Each time he puts a card into play, all other cards in play with the same name are discarded."

Activation: During his turn, when he plays blue/green cards with the same name as blue/green cards in play in front of other players. Thus, if Johnny Kisch already had a Barrel in play, and then another player plays a Barrel, the new Barrel is not discarded because Johnny Kisch already has in play. The discarding only occurs at the event when Johnny Kisch plays the card himself.

Cards enhanced by Johnny Kisch's ability: Iron Plate, Jail (depends on circumstance), Mustang, Remington, Rev. Carabine, Schofield, Volcanic, Barrel, Panic!, Conestoga, Rag Time.

Cards less powerful when played against Johnny Kisch: Iron Plate, Mustang, Remington, Rev. Carabine, Schofield, Volcanic, Barrel.

Cards more powerful when played against Johnny Kisch: Jail.

Good roles for Johnny Kisch: Sheriff, Renegade.

Characters that counter Johnny Kisch well: José Delgado (he tends to play his blue cards; not put them into play, thus limiting the effectiveness of Johnny Kisch playing blue cards against him), somewhat Bella Star (While Johnny Kisch can nullify her cards, his ability to generally alone possess the cards in play in front of him does little good to protect himself on her turn).

Characters that Johnny Kisch counters well: Lucky Duke (easier to remove his Barrel benefit), somewhat Slab the Killer and Willy the Kid (Johnny Kisch can significantly impact their gun ranges), somewhat Sid Ketchum (Discarding the cards in play in front of him removes cards that Sid Ketchum can use to regain life points), somewhat Vulture Sam (It is hard to turtle up when Johnny Kisch plays cards that remove his ability to build up a good defensive/offensive mix).

2-player value: Decent; there are still many important blue cards that Johnny Kisch can discard through his ability, especially guns and Mustangs.

General Strategy as Johnny Kisch: Johnny Kisch's ability allows him to remove powerful cards in front of other players. On the whole, his ability will tend to remove important defensive cards (such as Barrel and Mustang), and other players' guns. The latter is especially useful in countering other players' ranges: he is able to shoot at other players, but they cannot reach him. However, since Johnny Kisch has no choice which players are influenced by his ability (it impacts all), he needs to be careful not to severely harm one of his allies by removing one of their crucial cards. This is less important when Johnny Kisch is the Renegade or even the Sheriff.

Johnny Kisch also has to consider when to play blue/green cards when he gets them. Green cards are not that problematic, since only 1 (Iron Plate) has a duplicate. However, several blue cards do have duplicates. If Johnny Kisch plays blue cards in play in front of himself immediately, then he is able to reap of their benefits right away. However, he does miss the opportunity to remove the cards with the same name in front of other players. Thus, he may wish to keep a useful blue card in his hand until another player lays one down. For instance, if he is not being shot at yet, the Barrel is not too crucial to play down. It might be good for Johnny Kisch to hold on to the Barrel until another player has one in play.

If Johnny Kisch chooses to play a blue/green card without any others having one in play, he should remember that he can still use Panic! cards to pick up this card later. It is unlikely that Johnny Kisch will always play cards in front of him when other players already have the same cards in play. Likely, other players will play cards that Johnny Kisch already has in play. In this latter situation, Johnny Kisch can use the Panic! to his advantage (and similarly the Conestoga and Rag Time cards, although it is unlikely he would want to use those cards in this way as much as he would with the Panic!). Using the Panic! card on his card in play that other players have in play allows him to take that card into his hand and replay it in front of him. Doing so will now discard the other duplicate cards in play in front of other players. This can be helpful in discarding an important card from multiple players (such as Barrel or Mustang), or discarding an important card from a player who is out of the Panic!'s 1 range.

The Panic! card can be used in other useful ways (as well as the Scope and Binoculars, which can extend its range). If two other players have the same card in play, and Johnny Kisch can reach one of them with a Panic!, then he can steal one of the cards and then play it to discard the card from the other player.

If Johnny Kisch picks up a Jail card when an ally has been placed in Jail, Johnny Kisch can play the Jail on one of their rivals to not only place the rival in Jail, but also remove the imprisonment of his ally. Johnny Kisch's ability does not claim that the card put in play must be put in play in front of Johnny Kisch. If he brings a card in play in front of any player, it nullifies the others. Thus, it applies to Jail as well. This is admittedly a rare instance, but still useful when it comes.

Other players should also consider how their abilities interact with Johnny Kisch, and Johnny Kisch should consider how he can impact others' abilities. For instance, if Johnny Kisch's ally was Pedro Ramirez and positioned to his left, he could give Pedro Ramirez a good blue/green card by playing a blue/green card that was already in play in front of some other player as his last move. That way the card would be discarded and be on top of the discard pile at the beginning of Pedro Ramirez's turn for him to pick up. If Kit Carlson was an ally on the right of Johnny Kisch, then he could place on top of the deck a blue/green card for Johnny Kisch to pick up on the beginning of his next turn. This could be useful in discarding cards in play in front of their rivals. If Uncle Will was an ally to Johnny Kisch and close to his right, then Uncle Will could play a card as a General Store in the hopes of revealing a blue card that Johnny Kisch can play to discard cards from other players.

Playing against Johnny Kisch: Johnny Kisch's ability does not apply to all blue/green cards in play in front of characters, as not all blue/green cards have duplicates. Thus, it is safer and more important to play blue/green cards in play in front of you that do not have duplicates. The Winchester is the only gun that doesn't have a duplicate (There are 2 Volcanics, 3 Schofields, 2 Remingtons, and 2 Rev. Carabines), so it is the safest gun for you to play in front of yourself. Replace other guns if possible with the Winchester. You can also increase your gun range by also getting the Scope or Binoculars; there is only 1 of each. Card counting the number of certain cards that have been discarded can also let you know if you are in danger of Johnny Kisch playing a card that you have in front of you. Be careful when you play a General Store. Check if there are any cards that can be picked up in the store that are the same as an important card in play in front of you or an ally. If there is such a card, work to insure that Johnny Kisch does not pick this card up from the General Store.

Other cards with similar effects are important to consider. There are 3 Mustangs in the deck, but only 1 Hideout. There are 2 Iron Plates, but only 1 Sombrero, 1 Ten Gallon Hat, and 1 Bible. Thus, if a General Store is played and cards with similar effects are revealed, pick those which lack duplicates (Sombrero v. Iron Plate). Similarly, if you use a green card to defend yourself, use the Iron Plate before the Sombrero. That way, if Johnny Kisch plays the Iron Plate later, you won't lose another defensive card. On the whole, green cards are very safe to play against Johnny Kisch. The Iron Plate is the only green card with a duplicate. The rest are one of a kind, so do not fear playing them. In some ways, Johnny Kisch is a more powerful character when playing without the Dodge City expansion because of this.

Johnny Kisch's ability to discard a card by playing a card with the same name does not always work to his advantage. Take the case of Dynamite. If one is already in play, it does not really help Johnny Kisch to play another. While it may stop "draws!" on Dynamite for a round, the "draws!" will continue again the next round, starting with Johnny Kisch. Since the "draws!" are random, there really comes little benefit from Johnny Kisch playing it instead of someone else. So Dynamite is a decent card that can be put into play that Johnny Kisch's ability does little to correct. Johnny Kisch's ability will not work against Jails played against him. Since he can discard other Jails through his ability only by playing other Jails himself, he will not have the opportunity to do so if he is in Jail himself.

Besides being careful about which cards you play/pick up, and the order in which you play them, you can also try to weaken Johnny Kisch's advantage when he has discarded some of your cards, by stealing/discarding the card he played. This at least levels the playing field after he has done his damage.

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  1. This is actually a really bad price for modders. $99 for a 6-pack? You can do far less with other PODs for short runs. Yours is only okay for larger runs, and even then, far from competitive with the prices.

  2. Personally, I don't find Johnny's ability very useful at all. Whilst it is very handy under the right conditions, the opportunities always present themselves few and far between. I had even contemplated a house rule which granted Johnny an extra life in order to make him more worthy to be chosen. I continuously preach that his ability is just novelty, a similar way to which I regard Uncle Will. Of the three Bullet promotional characters, I would consider Claus the Saint only because it gives him a tremendous amount of control. However, I still condemn him and keep him along with Uncle Will and Johnny Kisch out of the character deck because he has a nasty habit of slowing the already long games, a trait he shares with Uncle Will.

    On a side note, I have a generation of custom characters which I've been developing for well over a year now and each of them have gone through several permutations and still testing. I was wondering if you'd be interested in hearing about them and sharing your thoughts. If so, shoot an e-mail to . I'd love to discuss them with a neutral third party (as opposed to a group of close friends) with experience such as your own.

  3. I sent you an e-mail. As for Johnny Kisch, I think he is an okay character, slightly better than Lucky Duke. Some games, when he is played by a veteran player, he is awesome. But he definitely isn't a great character for the beginner (like Elena Fuente).

  4. I am surprised how much you like Claus the Saint. I think he is terrible! Probably in my estimation, the worst character in the game. The fact that his ability must be used on his drawing phase, not by choice, is nasty. And with 3 life points, he doesn't last long.

  5. I have faith in your statements about him, though. Just like I agree with Gary Looter having five lives (people who are not on his side avoid perpetuating his ability like the plague whenever he is in play), I know Johnny Kisch was deemed good enough to be a four life character. I just dislike playing as him, because I feel his ability is too sparse, a little to patient for my tastes. I share this preference and usually choose offensive characters over defensive ones when available (which is ironic, since I enjoy playing defensively in almost every other medium).

    I believe Claus' ability is the most powerful of the three simply because of how many cards he gets to deal with. I agree with you in saying he is terrible, but not in the same respect. I also greatly dislike the fact that it must be used, regardless, because like I said, it's terrible for the length of games and only gets exponentially worse as the amount of players increases.

    I will argue with the life points issue though on behalf of my usual group. Uncle Will had been, to my chagrin, in the character deck for a few months before I finally took him out. He is cherished among the group I play with and he is usually played so conservatively, on top of other players not attacking him to keep up the General Store flow, it just brings the game to a stand-still. I can only imagine how bad this would be with Claus the Saint. In games with more hardcore players, both cases I have no doubts that the two characters would be ruthlessly targeted as needed regardless of the potential loss of extra cards for other players.