Edit (8/10/11): Added some information from Sciarra's designer's notes.
Emiliano Sciarra, the designer of BANG!, has started publishing online an account of the development of his famous western card game. So far, it is a pretty good read. Currently, the account (there may be multiple parts to the story, maybe not) explains how in the late 90's, Sciarra shifted from working on video games to board games, pretty much out of the blue. Despite lacking a background in board game design, he worked obsessively on such projects. In fact, in one month in 1999, he created the basis for over 20 board games!
One of his projects was to create a fast, fun, and replayable board game that could be enjoyed by a large group of players (7+), especially families. He adopted a western theme for this game because it was well known and liked (undoubtedly in Italy: the home of spaghetti westerns), and made it easy to role play as famous western characters. Originally, there were no unique roles; everyone was an Outlaw fending for himself, trying to get the greatest "rewards." This, however, felt stagnant, and so he introduced the concept of distance and the different roles. While he now wanted to have teams of outlaws and lawmen duking it out, one challenge to this shootout team game was achieving balance with an odd number of players. He introduced the idea of the Renegade to address this problem. Sciarra appears to have only worked for around two weeks on BANG! before finishing a prototype. He introduced it first to his family in January 6, 2000, and soon after to his chess club. In both places it was a hit, so much so that he was encouraged to search for a publisher. His chess club friends recommended the name "BANG!" for the game, and it stuck.
It was rejected by a U. S. game agency, but accepted by the newly established daVinci (now dV Giochi) and put at the top of their schedule for release. Sciarra explained how his work with daVinci games changed or added elements to BANG!:
- The Renegade was originally only used in odd numbered games. However, since DaVinci thought it was the most interesting role, the Renegade was included in every game instead, which gave the game uncertainty in 4/6/8 player games [such as replacing a Deputy in 4/6 player and an Outlaw in 8].
- During phase 1, 2 cards are drawn instead of 1.
- Backs of character cards were changed to track life points.
- Cards were used to make the "draw!", instead of with a coin or 8-sided die.
- Limit the deck to 110 cards, besides one-of-a-kind cards and the characters.
- Replace the text on cards with symbols.
- Several character abilities were reworked (look at the changes done to the characters shown above).
All these changes worked out well, except the symbols, which have been criticized. He noted how later editions involve the text reappearing on the cards in part. Regardless, with these changes in place the first run of BANG! included 2400 copies, which were anticipated to sell over the next 3 years. Instead, the game sold out in 3 months! That concludes the first part of Sciarra's account.
Read the full article on the development of BANG!. Some content in this article was also adapted from Sciarra's designer's notes for BANG!.
Found this article interesting? Read the history of the development of Dodge City, High Noon, and A Fistful of Cards.