Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tutorial: How to Make BANG! Character Cards (Part 1)

News (8/24/11): The second part of this tutorial is now available! Place your custom character images in card sheets.

Custom BANG! cards

Since dv-Giochi placed blank character and playing cards in their special edition Bullet (and probably before then I concede), BANG! fans have become increasingly interested in making their own cards. My own Death Mesa and Robbers' Roost expansions are evidence of this, as well as El Dorado, O. K. Corral, and numerous images and files on the web. These custom cards come in a variety of formats and styles, and are produced at differing levels of quality.

Today, I wanted to start a tutorial that teaches others how to create a BANG! character card, in terms of conceptualization, design, and production. It will aim to teach you to create the highest quality cards and characters possible (at least, as far possible as I can teach you!). As a consequence, it may seem a bit elitist and daunting. The cards will be designed in both Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator CS3, which do cost a pretty penny. You may not have or be able to afford these programs. Adobe does, however, offer 30-day Trails if that interests you.

The first part in this series will focus on designing an image for a BANG! character card, which will mimic the images on other BANG! cards.

Part 1: Designing a Character Image for a BANG! Character Card

Let's take a look at a BANG! character card, and examine its image. In this tutorial, I will be looking at El Gringo:

El Gringo BANG! character card

In terms of style, the things I notice about the drawing of El Gringo is:
  1. The image is sketchy, perhaps with a pencil, or etched. It has a cross-hatched effect in the sketch.

  2. There is a tannish background which varies in its darkness and lightness around and on top of the sketch.

  3. The sketch is pronounced on this background, not subdued and melting into it.

  4. The edges of the picture are not sharped and pronounced but blend into the white background of the card.

Those are the sorts of effects that we will need to recreate ourselves. I will present how to recreate these effects in a series of steps.

Step 1: Create a Name for your BANG! Character.

Picking a name for your character will help you in the design process. For one, it will help you select a gender, and perhaps also the style of the image and character's attitude (think of what "Slab the Killer" suggests, for instance). You might even think of the name in terms of its role: Outlaw, Renegade, Deputy, or Sheriff. A lot of the BANG! characters, and all of my Robber's Roost characters, are inspired by historical figures, Western actors, or a word pun on a western theme (like my "Loan Arranger" punning on the "Lone Ranger"). If you are having trouble thinking of names, slightly modify the name of a historical figure. You can find a complete list of Old West Gunfighters, Lawmen, Native Americans, Outlaws, Women, and Vigilantes at the Legends of America website. I used this site numerous times as I planned out my characters.

Step 2: Draw or Find a Sketch of a Western Character.

You will need to either draw your own character, or find one online that mimicks well the style of the official BANG! cards. If you opt to draw your own, study the official cards to get an idea of how they draw their characters. Try to create that cross-hatched effect yourself, which is often done in the shadows or dark clothes. In the El Gringo example, the cross-hatched effect goes in one general direction, but this isn't the case in all BANG! character cards. I tried to create this general cross-hatch effect myself with Jack West:

Jack West Robber's Roost BANG! character card

Once you have drawn one or more characters that fit the name(s) of the characters you picked, scan them on a computer. I would not take a picture of them on a camera! Use a scanner that allows you to scan the drawings to a very high quality. Quality is often determined in terms of DPI (data pixels per inch), and I wouldn't scan the images in anything less than 300. I typically scan my images at 600 DPI; this presents less problems for resizing, and allows you to have the highest quality print of your drawing later. Here is the outcome of such a scan on my ScanSnap:

Custom BANG! Character Drawings

If you do not want to draw your own character, do not despair! There are several websites where you can find sketches: Concept Art, Google Image Search, and Deviant Art. As you browser through images (you can always search for "cowboy," "cowgirl," or "west gunslinger" for instance), try to pick images that fit the sketchy and slightly cartoony feel of the original BANG! cards. While it does not functionally matter too much in making your own card, it does create an aesthetic synthesis that brings at least to me great satisfaction. Thus, the picture on the left here is clearly a drawing of a Western character that could work, but it does not have the BANG! style. The picture on the right, however, is much closer, although it is still lacking in some areas.

Sample Image 1Sample Image 2

When searching through other people's images you will have to decide how picky you are willing to be with their images. If you are so picky that you tend to like none of them, it's best to draw them yourself or get one of your artist friends to do some for you (free food for them can go a long way, eh?). Another consideration when browsing through art online is whether the image is large enough and of high enough quality. Since most images online are between 72-90 DPI, which looks horrible on print, you should only select images that are very large. That way you can resize these images later to be the appropriate DPI without suffering loss in quality. You can generally customize searches for larger images when using search engines. Artists on Deviant Art and Concept Art often post their pictures in larger sizes, so this is less of a worry with them.

Step 3: Adjusting your Image to be the Right Size.

Now that you have found or scanned in your drawing, we can fiddle with it to have the same proportions as the original BANG! cards. If you scanned in your image, you are going to want to select the art you are interested in and crop the image. Use the rectangular marquee tool and select the interested art in such a way that you enclose it in almost a square.

BANG! custom characters tutorial screenshot 1

Then select from the top menu Image > Crop. It crops! You probably did not make a perfect square, so let us adjust the canvas size. Select Image > Canvas Size.

BANG! custom characters tutorial screenshot 2

The Canvas Size window should pop open. You should see 2 input boxes for the image's width and height, as well as drop down menus next to them that provide options for the kind of measurement. Your width or height is bound to be larger than the other. It is now up to you whether to make the image larger or smaller by making the smaller size equal to the larger size, or the larger size equal to the smaller size. This decision will probably be made based on whether or not the drawing is running off the canvas, and on which side the image is running over. If the image is not running off the canvas on any size, shrinking the canvas is probably a good idea. If it is running over, you probably don't want to shrink the canvas, unless you are trying to zoom in on a specific part of the art.

Canvas Size Window

When adjusting the canvas size, you wil notice a square with 9 tiles. The inner tile is empty, while the other tiles have arrows pointing out in different directions. These arrows will specify where the canvas will be cut or expanded. For example, if I wanted to shrink the height of an image to equal the width, I could cut off the height at the bottom or the top of the image, or be cut off equivalently between the top and the bottom. The arrows control where the cropping (or expansion) takes place. If I wanted to crop the top of the image, I should select the down arrow. You will notice that the arrows and the inner tile will scoot down when you press the bottom arrow. The top 3 tiles will now be empty. These top tiles signify the area of the image that will be cut off at the top. Conversely, if you had selected up the up arrow, the arrows and inner tile would have scooted up, and the bottom 3 tiles would be empty. This would have signified the area from the bottom to have been cut off. As you can easily deduce, the left right arrows are used for when the width is to be adjusted, and the diagonal arrows are used for when both the width and height of the canvas are to be adjusted. Once you make your decision, press the "OK" button. The canvas will shrink or expand to the parameters you selected.

As you adjust a canvas size, some design decisions do come in. You may choose to crop the image smaller to focus in on a part of the image (if it is of high enough quality), and then shape it into a square with the Canvas Size tool. Or you may choose to simply extend the canvas of the full image to a square. Let's use the Cowgirl picture I showed above as an example. As nice a butt as this cowgirl has, I may want the character image to just show her upper half instead.

BANG! custom characters tutorial screenshot 3

So I select a squarish select from her upper half and crop it (Image > Crop). I edit the canvas size to crop the sides from my cropped selection that was too wide (Image > Canvas Size). The outcome is this:

Cowgirl Possibility 1

Conversely, I could simply take the original cowgirl image and edit the canvas size so that the width equals the height. If I do so, I have this outcome:

Cowgirl Possibility 2

Both of them could make nice character images. Personally, I prefer the first one as it will be larger on the printed card. You will notice that very few BANG! cards show the whole body of each character, but you might prefer seeing the characters in their "full glory."

Anyway, once you have decided how you want the character art to be displayed and made the corresponding canvas size adjustments, you will need to resize the image. From my measurements, the BANG! character card images are approximately 1.563 inches (Photoshop won't let you go further than 3 decimal places, and for the naked human eye any difference beyond this is trivial anyway). We will want to resize our images to those measurements. So, resize the image by using the shortcut ALT+CTRL+I or selecting Image > Image Size.

BANG! custom characters tutorial screenshot 4

The Image Size window should open. In the window, there should be input boxes for the width and height of the Document Size. Change these both to 1.563 inches (the measurement type to the right should be at inches by default). Below the Doument Size area should be an input box for the image's Resolution. Set this to 300 DPI (the measurement type should again be at pixels/inch by default, which is correct). Now, check your Pixel Dimensions, which is at the top of the window. It should list two file sizes right after the colon. The first size is the file size after the adjustments you have entered. The second is the file size before the adjustments you have entered. As long as the file size after the adjustments is roughly equal to or less than the file size before the adjustments (it can be a bit larger, but not much), you should end up with a image that will print very nicely as a BANG! card. If the file size is much greater, you will have to either adjust canvas sizes to have a smaller character on the card, or scrap this image altogether and select another one that will work better. It's a tough world. Once you have made this quality check, press the "OK" button. The image should be resized approriately!

Step 4: Adjusting the sketch's color and brightness/contrast.

Many sketches that you find online or even sketch yourself will be the wrong color and brightness for BANG! cards. In the cowgirl example the sketch is in blue, which is not desirable. Fortunately, we can easily fix this problem in Photoshop. Just select Image > Mode > Greyscale. When a window pops up asking about discarding color information, select Discard. Your image's colors should now adjust to something like this:

Cowgirl Greyscale

We are doing this simply to standardize the colors of the sketches. Now, we will adjust the mode to CMYK, by selecting Image > Mode > CMYK Color. That way we can have more than black and white colors for this image.

The image that we drew or found online may be too bright (and possibly too dark) for a BANG! card. As we noticed with the El Gringo card, the character sketch was pretty pronounced. We can make our image more pronounced by selecting Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast. A window should pop up that allows you to scale the Brightness and Contrast of the image. Since we want to darken the image, we want to lower the Brightness. In my example, I lower it to -40.

BANG! custom characters tutorial screenshot 5

However, as you lower the Brightness of the image you will notice that lighter, even messy areas of the image become more pronounced. Sketches often have a softer layer that they are built upon and you don't want this soft layer to be pronounced. To fix this, increase the Contrast of the image. In my example, I am increasing it by 80.

BANG! custom characters tutorial screenshot 6

Now the main strokes of the image are darker and the softer layer is not pronounced. Good. Press the "OK" button. You now have a darker version of the original image.

NOTE: If doing this step has made the background around your sketch darker, then the sketch you picked was pretty dirty. I would recommend using the lasso tool and selecting the parts of the messy background that need clean up and then deleting them.

Step 5: Adding a Background Color.

The BANG! character images don't have a white background, so we need to find a way to place our sketch on a more tannish background. This is easy to do in Photoshop. First, make sure the Layers window is open (this is typically in the bottom left of the screen. If it is not open, select Window > Layers, or simply press F7. You should notice a window that has the current layer, labeled "Background" highlighted in blue. It should also have a padlock to the right of the "Background" text.

Layers menu 1

Right-click on this layer, and select "layer from background." A New Layer window should upon up; select "OK." The layer should now be renamed, "Layer 0." Next, click on the "create a new layer" icon, which is the page icon that has the left corner turning up. It is at the bottom of the window towards the right.

Layers Menu 2

A layer should then be created that is above "Layer 0." It should now be highlighted blue and labeled "Layer 1." This new layer is the layer on which we are going to create our background. We need to get a good background color from an Original BANG! card. Pulling from the El Gringo image, we should select a color from the background that is not too bright or too dark, but represents a good middle for the colors of the tan background. I am going to use color #ffe1a1 for the background color, but you can always save the El Gringo image, and use the eyedropper tool to select the background color that you like. After you have selected a color, pick the Paint Bucket tool. Click on the image canvas and fill Layer 1 with this color.

BANG! custom characters tutorial screenshot 7

Since Layer 1 is on top, the color should cover up the sketch. To make it show through we need to select from the drop down menu in the Layer window. The drop down menu we want has "Normal" as its default value. This controls the layer's transparency. We want to click on the drop down menu's arrow and select "Multiply." The sketch of the bottom layer should now show through as in the example above.

Step 6: Adjusting the Sketch Colors.

So far, so good. It should be immediately apparent that the sketch is too dark for the original BANG! cards, so now we are going to edit the sketch's color balance. First, select "Layer 0" in the Layers window, as we want to be editing the layer with the sketch on it, not the layer with the background color. Then open up the "El Gringo" image and place it next to the image you are trying to make. This original BANG! card image will function as a color control for your image.

Select the image you are creating and then pick Image > Adjustments > Color Balance from the top menu (or use shortcut CTRL+B). Now the Color Balance menu should open and you should see three different sliding scales for Cyan/Red, Magenta/Green, and Yellow/Blue. You are going to want to adjust these scales until the color of the sketch is close to the color of the El Gringo sketch. You will want to slide the Yellow/Blue scale all the way to the left, and move the Cyan/Blue about a third of the way to the right, and the Magenta/Green about a third of the way to the lift. Then near the bottom of the Color Balance window you should see an area called Tone Balance with 3 radio buttons: Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights. Midtones should have been the one currently selected. Select Shadows, and then alter the 3 scales again until it best matches the El Gringo sketch's colors. Each image will differ some in how much it needs to be adjusted. But you should be able to match the colors pretty closely.

BANG! custom characters tutorial screenshot 8

If you find that your sketch is too dark, fiddle with the Brightness/Contrast controls, and then the Color Balance tools again, until you get the right mix. Your sketch is now complete!

Step 7: Editing the Background to have a BANG!-like Feel.

In comparing our current image with the El Gringo image, we will quickly realize that our background is static; just 1 color. The El Gringo background has a lot of variety to it. We can create some variety to our background by using the Burn and Dodge tools. These tools are located 2 spaces below the paint bucket tool.

Dodge and Burn Tools

In this image, I have the Dodge tool selected. Click and hold down on this tool and slide your mouse slightly to the right. A menu should appear to the right with 3 options. Select the middle one that has the hand icon, which is the Burn tool. Just below the top menu, you should notice some tool options for the Burn tool. The second item over in the tool options should be labeled, "Brush." Click on the arrow to the right of it. A window should appear that allows you to select the diameter of the burn tool.

Burn Tool Brush Menu

Type in 100 px into the Master Diameter input box, and then press the arrow to the right of the "Brush" label again to close the window. Next, look for the "Exposure" label in the Tool Options menu. Input 30% into the input box. Now we are ready to use the Burn tool. Click on the image that you are trying to edit and then select "Layer 1" from the Layers menu. This is the layer that has the background color on it that we wish to edit. Move your cursor over the image; you should see an outlined circle that demarkates the area the Burn tool will affect on the image. By holding down the cursor over the image, and moving the cursor around the image in the areas you wish to darken, the image will correspondingly darken. Fool around with this a bit. If you don't like the move you just did, you can always press ALT+CTRL+Z to move one step back. Once you get the hang of it, darken parts of the background to your liking. For certain parts of your image where you want a smaller burning circle, press [ to decrease the size of the circle (conversely, you can press ] to increase it).

BANG! custom characters tutorial screenshot 9

After you are done darkening the background, you may also want to brighten parts of the background. For this, you will need the Dodge Tool. Click and hold on the toolbar where the Burn tool is selected and move the cursor slightly to the right. A menu should appear to the right with 3 options. Select the 1st option with the black magnifying glass, which is the Dodge tool. The Dodge tool can be customized just like the Burn tool and I would recommend customizing it just as the Burn tool was above. You use the Dodge Tool just as the Burn tool is used. Use it to brighten desired areas of the image to create a background similar to that in the El Gringo image.

BANG! custom characters tutorial screenshot 10

Once you have done so, you should have a background that looks something like this example. We are almost done!

Step 7: Editing the Image Border.

As we studied the El Gringo image, we noted that the edges of the image slowly fade into the white. We can create a similar effect ourselves. Begin by creating a new layer (remember, click the icon that has a page with its left corner turning up at the bottom of the layers menu). "Layer 2" should now be created. Click and drag this layer below "Layer 0" and then let go. Next, select the Paint Bucket tool. You will want to choose the color white. Click on the left pallette near the bottom of the toolbar. In the color gradient that upons up, click and drag the circle in the color gradient to the top left corner (RGB should all be at 255). Then click "OK." Then click on the image with your Paint Bucket. No visible effect should have happened yet. We are doing to have a clean white base at the bottom of our image. While in my cowgirl example the background is already white, this is not the case for all images, and definitely is not the case with full color images used for custom BANG! playing cards. I think this is a good habit to establish when making BANG! card images.

Now select the Rectangular Marquee Tool (the second tool on the toolbar). A tool options menu should open again just below the top menu.

Rectangular Marquee Tool Menu

Look for the label named "Feather" and type in 4 px into the input box. Then, select Layer 1. Next, using the rectangular marquee tool position the crosshairs of the cursor in the top left corner of the image with the top hair of crosshairs touching the top edge of the image and the left hair of the crosshairs touching the left edge of the image. Hold down the cursor at this point and drag it all the way over to the bottom right corner of the image, having the bottom hair of the cursor touch the bottom edge of the image and the right hair of the cursor touch the right edge of the image. Then, release to make this selection.

BANG! custom characters tutorial screenshot 11

You should have a selection something like this, with the selection having rounded corners. Now pick from the top menu Select > Inverse (or press SHIFT+CTRL+I) to invert the selection. Press the delete key. Then, select Layer 0 and press the delete key again. The edges of the image should now fade a bit into the white base of Layer 2. Your image is now complete! Select File > Save As from the top menu (or press SHIFT+CTRL+S) to save the image. I would save it in the Photoshop format (.psd). This format will preserve the layers of the image, which will help you if you wish to edit the image in the future.

Completed Cowgirl Custom BANG! Character Image

Congratulations, you have taken some important steps towards making your own custom BANG! Character cards. In the next part of this tutorial, I will how to incorporate custom images like these into the BANG! Master Template for InDesign.

Paul Regret and Lucky Duke: Character Guide Updates

I updated the character guides for both Paul Regret and Lucky Duke to include Dodge City information. While Paul Regret's new section may be somewhat informative, there wasn't much to add for Lucky Duke. I still hate that character, who is in my opinion the worst defense-type character in the game.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rules: 3-Player BANG!

I have been getting some requests for the 3-player rules to BANG! While these are included within the Bullet and the Dodge City rulebooks, it may be that people either do not have access to these or they only have the original BANG! I will provide the rules here below, and bold important considerations.
Special Rules for 3-Player

Take these 3 role cards: Deputy, Outlaw, and Renegade. Give one of them randomly to each player, but place them face up on the table. Everyone knows the role of all three players.

The goal of each player is determined by his role:

  • The Deputy must kill the Renegade.

  • The Renegade must kill the Outlaw.

  • The Outlaw must kill the Deputy.

The game plays as usual, beginning with the Deputy.

You win as soon as you reach your goal, if you shot the final hit on your target (e.g., as a Deputy you must personally kill the Renegade).

If the other player dealt the final hit, then the goal for both survivors is to be the last man standing. For example, if the Outlaw killed the Renegade, then the Deputy did not win – he must now kill the Outlaw, who must in turn kill the Deputy in order to win.

However, any player who personally kills another one (regardless of his role) immediately draws 3 cards from the deck as a reward.

As there is no Sheriff, the Jail can be played on anyone.

Beer still has no effect when there are only 2 players left.

Personal note: In 3-Player player elimination characters are severely weakened, so I would recommend removing Vulture Sam, Herb Hunter, and Greg Digger from the game.

Character Guide: Bill Noface

Bill Noface BANG! card game character

Character Name: Bill Noface.

Inspired by: I am sure Bill Noface has an inspiration, I just can't think of it.

Life Points: 4.

Ability Type: Neutral.

Ability: "He draws 1 card, plus 1 card for each wound he has." The Dodge City rulebook expounds upon this: "during phase 1 of his turn, he draws 1 card, plus 1 card for each injury (lost life point) he currently suffers. So, if he is at full life, he draws 1 card; with one life point less, he draws 2 cards; with two life points less, he draws 3 cards, and so forth." So, Bill Noface can draw up to a maximum of 4 cards a turn (or 5, if he is Sheriff) if he has 1 life point.

Activation: During phase 1, his drawing phase.

Cards enhanced by Bill Noface's ability: Volcanic (more potential BANG! to draw when you have a Volcanic in play), Duel (more potential BANG! to draw when you have a Duel card in hand), Canteen, General Store.

Cards weakened by Bill Noface's ability: Beer, Saloon, Whisky, Tequila (and yet they are still valuable, needed to be kept in his hand for storage).

Cards more powerful when played against Bill Noface: Jail, Saloon, Dynamite, Cat Balou, Rag Time, Brawl, Can Can, Panic!

Ideal role: Sheriff.

Characters that counter Bill Noface well: Jesse Jones, Pat Brennan, Belle Star, Willy the Kid.

Characters that Bill Noface counters well: Vera Custer.

2-player value: Good. Both players are bound to lose health in a 2-player Duel, but Bill Noface only becomes more powerful as he flames out. However, he will likely not be able to regain health, so he needs to be careful. I probably wouldn't choose to take hits for the purpose of gaining more cards at this point.

General Strategy as Bill Noface: Unless Bill Noface is the Sheriff, he can be one of the most aggrevating, but interesting characters to play. Most BANG! players try to be conservative, having a good mix of cards in their hands to prevent attacks, keep up their health, and plan ahead to make a good move against another player. This strategy favors most characters that they are dealt. This is no longer the case with Bill Noface. In fact, Bill Noface is at a disadvantage to other players until he has 2 life points (3 if he is the Sheriff). At the 3 life points he draws only 2 cards, which all 4 life point characters get to do anyway. So to be competitive, Bill Noface wants/needs to take some hits. Strange, huh? The problem is that taking hits doesn't just lower a character's life points, it also lowers a character's card limit. So Bill Noface needs to be very careful how he plans taking hits, so that he doesn't have only a few important cards in his hand or in front of him that can easily be discarded or stolen.

Besides trying to take 1 hit (which shouldn't be that hard as Indians!, Gatling, and Howitzer should come out soon enough, if not just from a BANG! directed at him from another player) so that he can draw 2 cards a turn, Bill Noface shouldn't try to become a "bullet bag" too early on. Bill Noface really needs to get some defensive cards in play in front of him. These could be distance modifiers (Mustang, Hideout), green cards with missed symbols (Bible, Sombrero, Ten Gallon Hat, Iron Plate), the Canteen, or the wonderful Barrel. Getting a good mix of these will help with protecting Bill Noface if/when his card limit gets low. If Bill Noface gets his hand on a Volcanic, he should store that up for when he can draw several cards in 1 turn.

Getting a beer (This includes other life point regaining cards such as Tequila, Whisky, or Saloon) or 2 in Bill Noface's hand is also a good idea, but he needs to be careful how you play these. Bill Noface doesn't want to sit on his Beer with just 2 cards in his hand and 2 life points at the end of his turn. His opponents will expect him to store Beer in his hand, and when he gives them so few cards to choose from it will be very easy for them to steal or discard the Beer from his hand (a last second beer strategy with Bill Noface does not have as high probability of success as you might think). Thus, Bill Noface should try to store a Beer(s) in your hand when you can mix them with other cards to keep their chances of grabbing it low. The way to do this would be to try to take hits in between your turns to increase your ability to draw cards at the beginning of your turn, and then using the beer you have/have drawn to replenish the missing health by the end of the turn. That way you should not get in card limit trouble, and help you plan ahead to gain a Volcanic. Then, you can choose whether or not to take hits during the next round(s) depending on the defensive cards and health regainers you have in your hand. Of cards to take hits on, I recommend taking a hit from a Duel because you don't want to expend your BANG! and then get hit again from an Indians!

If you are lacking Beer and don't have defensive cards, those defensive cards you had in play in front of you should benefit you for that round. And then you should have some lower health by the time it is your turn, so you can draw at least 2-4 cards. If you survive until your turn with lower health, remember that you have a higher chance of drawing a card that will help you regain health/protect yourself until your next turn. A good card to find a Beer/defensive card on is the General Store, so play close attention when you or other players play one of these. On the flip side, when you are not able to regain health, it can be really painful as you often have to discard many cards over your card limit.

Try to control other player's distance constraints from you so that you have better control on the amount of times you have to choose whether or not to take hits. It is better to keep these "hit opportunities" to the cards that have no distance constraints (Indians!, Gatling, Howitzer, Duel, Buffalo Rifle).

Playing against Bill Noface: Bill Noface is not that aggrevating of an opponent, except when he Sheriff (the same goes with Sean Mallory). As pointed out above, he really is at a distadvantage unto other characters until he has 2 life points. At full health, Bill Noface is particularly weak with only drawing one card, so don't target him at all. Your best tactic with him may just be to ignore him and focus on players who are stronger when they have more health (except in 3-4 player games). Chances are that Bill Noface will eventually take a hit from a card affecting all players except the person playing it (Gatling, Indians!, Howitzer), but don't make that moment too soon if it is not advantageous. When playing General Store, try to make sure that Bill Noface doesn't draw any Beer or life regaining cards.

Eventually, you will want to target Bill Noface and there are some good ways to attack him. First, the Jail is rough on Bill Noface, as it removes the drawing phase in which he could gain his cards. Play that on Bill Noface when he has 2 life points or less. There is little reason to really play that beforehand. Store up strong attack combos that allow you to dish out a lot of damage in 1 turn against Bill Noface. Then wait for Bill Noface to let his life points get low. Once Bill Noface gets down to 2 life points, monitor the amount of cards in his hand. If he has 2 or less, steal or discard cards from his hand where one is likely to be a stored up Beer card. Then, you can nail him with your stored up attack combo cards.

If this isn't working in finishing him off, make Bill Noface very nervous by throwing out a Dynamite. He won't want to be "living on the edge" while that is floating around, and if he does risk it, he could get blown away by it. Other ways to make Bill Noface uncomfortable is to remove the defensive cards in play in front of him. He needs those cards as a back up to protect him when he is experiencing card limit pressure if he cannot regain life points.

Return to the BANG! Character Guides Portal

Monday, March 28, 2011

Character Guide: Vera Custer

Vera Custer BANG! card game character

Character Name: Vera Custer.

Inspired by: Besides the last name that echoes the American Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer that perished at the Battle of Little Big Horn (Custer's Land Stand), Vera Custer has no known inspiration.

Life Points: 3.

Ability Type: Neutral.

Ability: "For one whole round, she gains the same ability of another character in play of her choice." The round language here can be confusing, however, because of how a round is used in A Fistful of Cards and High Noon. One round there counts from one Sheriff's turn to another. The Dodge City rulebook clarifies how round is to be interpreted for Vera Custer, "at the beginning of her turn, before drawing any cards (in phase 1), she chooses any other character still in play. Until her next turn, she has the same ability as that character." So she holds the copied ability from the beginning of one of her turns to the beginning of the next. If placed in Jail, she must resolve the Jail before she is able to choose an ability. Thus, an unsuccessful "draw!" will result in her losing her turn and having no ability until her next turn. The Dodge City FAQ spells this out, "Q13. If Vera Custer is in Jail, can she copy the ability of Lucky Duke (if he is alive) before checking for the “draw!”?
R. No, unless she already copied Lucky Duke’s ability in the previous turn. As a matter of fact, Vera Custer’s ability is triggered during phase 1 (before drawing), but the Jail forces to entirely skip this phase. So, you have to check first if Vera Custer escapes from the Jail: if she does not, then she has no ability whatsoever until her next turn."

Activation: At the beginning of her turn, after dealing with Jail and Dynamite.

Cards enhanced by Vera Custer's ability: Depends on the ability she copies.

Cards less powerful when played against Vera Custer: Depends on the ability she copies.

Cards more powerful when played against Vera Custer: Jail; besides this, it depends on the ability she copies.

Good role: Sheriff

Characters that counter Vera Custer well: This would of course depend on the character whose ability she copies, but as a 3-point character she will be more vulnerable to strong offensive characters like Willy the Kid, Slab the Killer, and Belle Star. Also, Bill Noface becomes a difficult match, as copying his ability doesn't work too well: to draw 3 cards, Vera Custer would have to have 1 life point.

Characters that Vera Custer counters well: Depends on the abilities she can copy.

2-player value: Poor. Since she can only copy the other player's ability, she will be on par with him ability-wise. Thus, if Tequila Joe is the person she is in a duel with, they will both have a useless ability. However, Vera Custer is likely at a disadvantage because she only has 3 life points and most characters have 4, and a Jail has a 75% chance of nullifying even the 1 ability she can copy until her next turn. She is only really on par as a Sheriff (where she will have 4 max life points and cannot be jailed), and only really at advantage when playing against a 3 life point character. Of course, this is considering all things equal, not counting the cards she has in play in front of her and the life points she and her opponent enter the 2-player duel with.

General Strategy as Vera Custer: Vera Custer takes a lot of thought to play well. As she always selects a new ability at the beginning of her turn, she must choose an ability that best suits her hand, current position, and the position of her team mates (if Vera Custer has any). Initially, it makes perfect sense for Vera Custer to pick a character with a defensive (think of Jourdonnais, Molly Stark, Elena Fuente, Apache Kid, El Gringo, Paul Regret; even Calamity Janet) or neutral ability (especially card increasing abilities like those from Black Jack, Pixie Pete, Jose Delgado, and abilities that improve your card drawing selection like those from Kit Carlson and Pedro Ramirez) if possible. Abilities of these types will give Vera Custer some time to get some good offensive and defensive blue/green cards in play in front of her before the bullets really start flying. Hopefully, if Vera Custer is an Outlaw, her teammates won't start attacking the Sheriff right away, but it can never be known which opportunities will present themselves so she should always try to be ready! Once she gets a good set of cards down, Vera Custer can shift towards copying abilities that increase her offensive powers or increase her ability to weaken her opponent's hand or card base (think of Jesse Jones and Pat Brennan). Then she should go after players she must eliminate or is suspicious about.

As the game progresses, Vera Custer should study her hand and the goals of other players. Vera Custer should decide from there whether to pick ability that already increases the cards in her hand (say, having many BANG! in her hand and then selecting Willy the Kid's ability), or balances it if her offensive/defensive side is weak. Thus, you could imagine Vera Custer having no defensive cards and selecting Elena Fuente's ability to compensate; or having many Missed! but no offensive cards and using Calamity Janet's ability to balance this. Vera Custer also has to consider the order in which players should be eliminated. As she can only copy the abilities of characters in play, she shouldn't try to knock any old character out as fast as she can. She wants to eliminate characters in the order that will hurt her copycatting the least. This is very important for a Vera Custer that is a Renegade, Sheriff, or Deputy.

Vera Custer will always have to pay attention to the opportunities that each round presents. Let me give some examples of scenarios: If you have a lot of cards in your hand that exceed your card limit, and you have a pretty good idea that you will have to discard many of them, check and see if Doc Holyday, Sid Ketchum, or Sean Mallory are in play. That way, you can either retain those cards in your hand (Mallory), use them to shoot a BANG! (Holyday), or use them to regain health (Ketchum). If you have excess beer(s), check and see if El Gringo, Bart Cassidy, Tequila Joe, or Chuck Wengam are in play. That way you can be less concerned about spending the cards in your hand and hope to take a hit (El Gringo, Cassidy), gain needed life points back (Joe), or gain cards (Wengam). If a Dynamite is out or you have a Barrel, maybe copying Lucky Duke's ability could be a good idea. If the card on the discard pile is really appealing, check if Pedro Ramirez is in play; if he is, copy his ability and then draw the card. There are numerous other scenarios, but I think you get the idea. The ones I described all centered around events occurring to her, but she should also think of her team mates' (if she has any) situations. If a player is about to be eliminated, see if Vulture Sam, Greg Digger, or Herb Hunter is in play. You can copy one of their abilities to split a player's leftover cards when he dies (Sam; or gain them all if Vulture Sam is the one who perishes), gain needed life points (Digger), or draw cards (Hunter).

The Vulture Sam scenario has been mapped out well in the Dodge City FAQ: "Q03. If Vera Custer has currently the same ability of Vulture Sam and another player is eliminated, who takes his cards? A. The cards of the eliminated player must be divided between Vera Custer and Vulture Sam. Who among Vera and Sam is next to the killed character, in clockwise order, chooses the first card (either randomly from the hand of the killed character, or among her “in play” cards). Then, the other one takes another card, and so on, until all cards of the eliminated player have been distributed between the two."

Finally, if Vera Custer is going to end up in a 2-player duel (definite if she is a Renegade, and possibly is she a Sheriff; for an Outlaw this next part won't matter as she has no control over whom she will face), then she should try to eliminate the players with more life points before ending up in the 2-player duel. She is at a strong disadvantage in a 2-player duel with players that have more health than her (see the 2-player Value section above).

Playing against Vera Custer: Vera Custer is a very difficult character to anticipate, and how difficult she is to play against strongly depends on the strategy of the person playing her. Thus, your most powerful tool against Vera Custer is for both you and other players to not not give her suggestions! However, Vera Custer does have a few strong weaknesses. For one, since Vera Custer's ability activates at the beginning of her turn, she has no ability at the beginning of the game (unless she is the Sheriff). If Vera Custer is further down the line, she can be a very easy player to eliminate in the first round, having no ability and only 3 life points. With the 3 cards dealt at the beginning of the game to her, it is very unlikely Vera Custer has 1, if any, defensive cards. Of course, eliminating someone at the beginning of the game can be dangerous: (1) It can really piss off the human player of Vera Custer who may no longer wish to play BANG! anymore, and (2) you can off a team mate. Neither of those are particularly pleasing scenarios, but many people like a more aggressive beginning, so this might work for them.

Another good way to weaken Vera Custer is to throw her in Jail. Unsuccessful Jail "draws!", as the Dodge City FAQ explained, make Vera Custer both lose her turn and her prior ability. She is not able to retain the ability she copied the turn before. This will leave her very open during that round, making it a great time to try to eliminate (or at least strongly weaken) her.

As with most 3 life point characters, most offensive cards are more effective against Vera Custer. This is particularly true of Duels, Indians!, and Dynamite. If you see one of those in a General Store, grab it, and play it against Vera Custer. Stealing or discarding cards from Vera Custer's hand and then attacking her is always a good idea, especially when she has fewer cards in her hand.

Return to the BANG! Character Guides Portal

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review: Peterson Pack Unofficial Expansion

An unnamed event card deck was created by R. Peterson in 2006 (hereafter calledd the Peterson Pack). It plays just like A Fistful of Cards, High Noon, or the unofficial O. K. Corral. Let me discuss and critique the event cards that this unofficial expansion adds to BANG!

Peterson Pack Unofficial expansion to BANG!

Sawed-Off Shotgun. You can shoot two players sitting next to each other with one BANG! as long as both players are in range. This card and its description are thematically appropriate. It is similar to the "Scatter Gun" event card in the O. K. Corral, but has range stipulations. I prefer this one.

The Old Switcheroo. Immediately after phase one, you can exchange your cards with any other player (all for all). The description fits the card name, but I think this card is OP and messes the game up too much. It really favors the Outlaws who can swap an offensive hand for all of the defensive cards in the Sheriff's hand, and then the other Outlaws can pound him with attack cards. And small hands can trade for bigger ones too of course.

Prison Break. All prisoners are now free. The player(s) that imprisoned them must play a Missed! card or lose 1 life point. If no one is in prison, players must defend against an escapee by drawing! ♠ = hit. This card is thematically good and the conditions are great, accomodating the fact that very rarely will this card be in play when a player is in Jail. Good.

New Sheriff in Town. If you are a deputy and kill the Sheriff, you become the new Sheriff. You get full health and all of the Sheriff’s cards (those in his hand as well as those in front of him). I don't like this card; it has very little utility. The only time I can imagine intentionally popping off the Sheriff as a Deputy would be if he had almost no health and no cards. Otherwise, why would I want one less ally on my team? This card would make more sense if the Renegade killed the Sheriff, but even then, the chances of being able to off the Sheriff in 1 round are very unlikely. I would nix this card.

Iron Will. Each time you are about to lose a card from your hand or in play in front of you, you can choose which card to lose. Fun; very few people will use a card or ability that discards/steals a card from another player this turn, but it is an interesting concept. It will at least keep people from discarding/stealing a card for a round (unless there is only 1 in the hand or in play in front of another player), so it is somewhat useful. Okay I guess.

Kaboom. If you have a dynamite card, you may chose where to start it. It is in play when that player begins his turn and explodes (for that player only) if that player draws! any ♠. I think it is very unlikely that a player will have a Dynamite saved up in his hand coincidentally or waiting for this card to show up. Don't like it.

Mother Load. At the beginning of your turn, you may use any card as a General Store. Instead of other players picking their cards, you decide who gets what. I imagine you get to play any card as a General Store, do so only once, and then get to draw your normal amount of cards. The General Store plays like Claus the Saint's ability, minus the fact that Claus draws 2 (+1 card added to the General Store). This card could be interesting; I would have to see it playtested.

Quick Draw. You can play cards with the ‘add one more card symbol’ without having to add another card. The idea behind this is cool, except that there are only a few cards that require adding one more card to play them, and it is not likely they will be drawn during this round. So this isn't the best event card in my opinion.

Returning Fire. Each time you are hit, you draw—on ♥ or ♦, the player hitting you must play a Missed! card or lose 1 life point. Like this card a lot, except I wouldn't make it a Missed! card, but playing or using any card with a missed symbol on it (including Barrel).

Gypsy Rose. You can look at one other player’s hand. I'd have to see this card play tested to know if it was OP for some roles or not. You could limit it to a set amount of cards in someone's hand to nerf it some.

Green Flash. You can play green bordered cards immediately. While this should say "use" the cards immediately, I like the idea. "Green Flash" is a pretty hokey name for this, though.

Hazard. When you must draw! (dynamite, prison, barrel, etc.), you can discard a card from your hand and use it as the result. This takes a Boot Hill character's ability--Matthew Hazard's--and grants it to everyone for the round. Interesting idea. The title is somewhat confusing, as few people will actually know about Matthew Hazard to recognize the connection.

Poker Hand. Select up to 2 cards from your hand and then draw 3 cards. Player(s) with best hand regain all life points and keep cards. All other players discard their poker hands. I get the idea of this card, but the gameplay is a little confusing. Must all players participate or is it completely optional? It is hard to prep for a good hand when you must select the cards before you see the flop, making the outcome far more random. That could be good or bad. The reward is somewhat obscene though: gaining all of your health back plus the cards. This card needs some rethinking.

Spit Shake. You may give any player one of your cards. That player must then give you one of his. He is allowed to give the same card back. I like this card a lot; well done.

Peeping Tom. At the start of your turn, you draw! If you get a 2-9 ♥, you may take a peek at the role of any other player. This card is terrible, like the Search Warrant in O. K. Corral. Roles should not be directly known until a player is dead and the role card is flipped over. It kills the whole mafia intrigue of the game, which is central to BANG! Boo.

Outlaws Unite. The Sheriff narrates the following sequence: Everyone closes their
eyes. All outlaws reveal themselves by opening their eyes. Outlaws close their eyes. Everyone opens their eyes.
As with Peeping Tom, I hate this card. Role-revealing is stupid, and this card is even worse because people can cheat at it.

Rapture. The first person to die is granted the option of becoming the Sheriff of the next game. This card is interesting, but it doesn't make sense as an event card. This should be a house rule instead.

Indian Poker. Everyone draws! a card and holds it to forehead facing out. Each player discards or holds. Highest card wins and gets cards of losers who must discard all hand cards. Order: A♥-♦-♣-2♠ This card is too strong because all losers have to discard all the cards in their hands. It would be better if the winner just gets all of the cards. If you discard you only lose that 1 card, and if you hold, perhaps the winner gets to take one card at random from your hand.


The Peterson Pack is a double-edged sword; while certain event cards it adds to BANG! are fantastic (Green Flash, Spit Shake, Returning Fire, Prison Break), others are impractical (New Sheriff in Town, Kaboom, Quick Draw) or unacceptably ruin the game's deception dynamic (Peeping Tom, Outlaws Unite). I can imagine keeping some of the cards from this deck and combining them with some of those in O. K. Corral to get a higher quality custom event card deck.

The cards in the Peterson Pack are written pretty clearly, despite some grammatical problems, and they have a very consistent (although bland) format. The problem is more in what gameplay effects they create, not as much in how the cards are written. Theme is followed pretty carefully throughout, but I can't give it points for novelty. Yet it has the best ease of production I have seen for a custom expansion!

Gameplay Enhancement: 2.5/5

Clarity: 3.5/5

Design: 2/5

Theme: 4/5

Novelty: 2/5

Ease of Production: 5/5

Download the Peterson Pack here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review: O. K. Corral Unofficial Expansion

The O. K. Corral is another unofficial expansion to BANG!, available in English and Italian. It was designed by Steve Elmore in 2008, and the expansion functions just like A Fistful of Cards or High Noon expansions. Thus, after the first round, the Sheriff flips over an O. K. Corral event card that stipulates a gameplay change for the round. At the beginning of the next round (the Sheriff's next turn), he flips over an O. K. Corral card that replaces the old one. The old gameplay condition is removed and the new one is in place. For those of you who liked A Fistful of Cards and High Noon, this expansion might work just right for you. If you are not a fan of these, there is a gameplay variation that removes the randomness of these event cards (having them flipped out in order at the beginning of the game), that might make O. K. Corral appeal to you more. Anyway, I'll move on to reviewing the specific event cards added to O. K. Corral.

BANG O. K. Corral Unofficial Expansion Cards

Deadly Deal. Each player may lose 1 life point and discard all cards in hand to "draw" the same amount of cards from the discard deck. I like the gameplay effect for the card's theme (losing a life point is "deadly"), and the picture is nice. I don't know why draw is in quotes for this card. It shouldn't be. The quotations are reserved for "draw!" which involves flipping over cards. This, however, doesn't make much sense for this card. I am pretty sure you are just drawing like normal from the discard pile. Of course, I imagine your discarded cards are not placed on the discard pile and then you draw from it. Otherwise, you would lose a life point and draw the same cards! Rather, it looks like you are are supposed to draw the same amount of cards as cards in your hand from the discard pile; set these drawn cards aside. Then discard all the cards in your hand, and pick up the prior drawn cards as your new hand. In terms of gameplay, this card is a little hard to balance as I can imagine playing a Wells Fargo, drawing 3 cards, using the one's I wish and then losing a health to repick and reuse the Wells Fargo. That seems a little unfair. Of course, the chance of this happening is low.

Gunfight. All players must play as many BANG! cards as they have, one at a time. On a tie, players "draw" a card. The last person to play a BANG! card chooses another player to lose 1 life point. The description fits the title, but it really knocks a lot of BANG! out of people's hands for very little impact in terms of life points. It also really favors the Sheriff. Since everyone is forced to play BANG! until they have none left, this knocks a lot of ammo out of others (most importantly the Sheriff's opponents), and makes many susceptible to Duels and Indians! for the round. I am not sure if I like that. The description isn't quite clear, but this is how I understand it. Immediately after Gunfight enters play, starting with the Sheriff each player in a clockwise order must discard a BANG! This cycle continues until all players but 1 have expended the BANG! in their hand. In case of a tie when multiple players run out of BANG! at the same time, they draw a card. This condition doesn't make too much sense: does each player draw a card until they get a BANG!, and if they both draw and discard BANG!s, do they draw again? At this point, I would have the tied players, "draw!" instead. They call a color for 2-player ties, and suits for 3-4 player ties. After the "draw!" the player whose suit or color it is wins. I guess if there were more players in a tie (unlikely, but possible), they could all call numbers, and whoever is closest wins. The winner of the tie, or the last player with a BANG! in his hand, chooses another player to lose a life point. This card should be reworded to be more clear.

Bullseye. Missed! cards cannot be played this round. This is a straight forward card, thematically appropriate, and favors the Outlaws. This is fine as long as there are a variety of cards favoring different roles. Good image.

Snake Eyes. At the beginning of this round, each player must pass all cards in hand to the player on their right. The description fits well for the title, but this card could devastate and will likely hurt the Sheriff by receiving a hand lacking many defensive cards.

Bushwhack. Each player who is the target of a BANG! card may "draw." On a SPADE, the BANG! card affects the attacking player unless he has a Missed! card. This is an easy card to understand: the BANG!s can backfire. "Draw" should be "draw!" to avoid confusion. I think this is a neat card.

Gusher. When a "draw" card is played, double the amount of cards specified. Hmm, not a fan of this title, but good image. It isn't quite clear what a "draw" card is, but I imagine it is a Wells Fargo, Stage Coach, General Store, and Pony Express (Dodge City). Pony Express is questionable because of the use of the term "play", but I imagine the designer intended "use." General Store opens up a bit of a problem, as there are 2 ways to interpret it. Does the person who plays it flip over double the amount of cards and then pick 2, or does it go in a round twice, with each player picking 1 each time? I prefer the latter interpretation.

Scatter Gun. When a player targeted by a BANG! card plays a Missed! card, the players on both sides of him become the target of the same BANG! card and must also play a Missed! card. Good name for the description, although I prefer "Scatter Shot." The card is pretty straight forward except for 2 things. First, if a player shoots a player directly to his left or right, is he the target of his own BANG!? The description would have this occur, but this doesn't thematically make any sense. I suppose you could go either way on this, but I would make it so the player firing the BANG! is not the target of his own BANG! Second, it doesn't make sense that the players in the "spread" must play a Missed! card. It should say that they must play a Missed! to avoid the attack. But even then, it shouldn't a Missed! card specifically, but that they must play or use a card to avoid the attack or take a hit (thus, they could use a Barrel, Dodge, Sombrero, Ten Gallon Hat, or Iron Plate also to avoid the attack).

Lucky Horseshoe. At the end of each player's turn, they may "draw" 1 card. I like this card: it is thematically appropriate, easy to understand, and a fun variation for phase 3.

BANG O. K. Corral Unofficial Expansion Cards

Wanted. Except for the Sheriff, only the player or players with the most life points can be targeted this round. This card greatly favors the Sheriff, although it is thematically appropriate. It wouldn't impact the game much at the beginning of the game, but could really impact mid-late game, even changing the tide of the whole game. Of course, many players would not fire instead of hit their team mates. Love the picture.

Trading Post. During phase 1, each player may choose any one of their cards in play and trade it for another player's card in play as long as the agreement is mutual. Thematically clear, and potentially very useful. It was good that it was done from the cards "in play" in front of players because this makes discussion less problematic. Of course, it does favor players with cards in play in front of them, but many will have at least 1 unless Trading Post is flipped over at round 2.

Flesh Wound. No player can lose their last life point this round. Very interesting card, even if it is not likely a player will only have 1 life point when it is in play. It helps you save your last second beers too.

The Gambler. Each player draws a card face down. All reveal at once and the highest card regains 1 life point. The theme is a little off as you are not gambling anything, and I would have the title be "The Gamble" instead. The card makes sense, but it seems strange to draw cards face down when you have no influence over these cards nor do other players. Rather, I would have each player "draw!" a card, and the card with the highest value wins. Since there could be a tie with these "drawn!" cards, I would have those who tie "draw!" again. I like the idea of the winner gaining a life point.

Ace Up Your Sleeve. During phase 1, each player may discard an ACE to draw a card from the discard pile. Thematically good, but it doesn't seem to be that interesting of a round card. Having an Ace isn't too likely, and swapping it out for the top card of the discard pile doesn't seem that great. I might make it 2 cards. I imagine the "during" versus "at the beginning of" phase 1 entails that you can discard an ace you draw that turn.

Gunpowder. If a barrel is used, the player "draws" a card as normal to see if it's a HEART. If not, they "draw" another card: on a SPADE they lose another life point. While this card has some merit, it is written poorly. For one, even if you don't successfully "draw!" a heart, this doesn't entail that you lost a life point. You "draw!" for your Barrel and then you have a chance to play a defensive card. So Gunpowder shouldn't say on Spades you lose "another" life point; you just lose a life point. I would reword this card to say: After a player "draws!" for a Barrel, if the "drawn!" card is not a heart, he must "draw!" again. On spades, that player loses a life point. For fun, I think it would be neat if the Barrel exploded (was discarded) after this too.

Reservation. No one may play an Indians card this round. Somewhat thematically appropriate, but not impactful enough for my taste. It seems like a waste of an event card.

Fatal Shot. For this round, if a player is hit, he must "draw" a card: on a HEART, he loses another life point. So, it's sort of a reverse Barrel, which is neat. I would rather have the drawn card be a spade if he is to lose another life point to be more in line with the BANG! suit themes. On the whole, I like it.

BANG O. K. Corral Unofficial Expansion Cards

Search Warrant. The Sheriff may see any other player's identity card. I imagine that "identity card" refers to "role card." I cannot express how much I hate this card. It ruins the game of deception that is at the root of BANG! It can really screw the Renegade trying to play the Deputy, and really helps the Sheriff. I would either remove this card from the expansion or change it to this: "The Sheriff may see any other player's hand." This fits the theme even better in my opinion, as a Search Warrant checks a location for evidence and items. This card is still very powerful, and so I might limit it to 2 cards at random from another player's hand.

Short Fuse. Any Dynamite card explodes if a SPADE is drawn. This card is somewhat like Curse, where all "drawn!" cards are spades. Curse was stronger for exploding dynamite, as 2-9 covers around 50% of the cards. Short Fuse will explode only 25%. This could still be fun, but the chances of Dynamite and Short Fuse overlapping is less likely. Curse's ability to nullify barrels made it more impactful. I might change this card so that, "At the beginning of the round, if there is a Dynamite in the discard pile, it must be taken out and immediately played. There is no round to 'activate' the Dynamite. Thus, the Sheriff immediately "draws!" for the Dynamite. On spades, this Dynamite explodes." This would make Short Fuse far more impactful, but then it might be too brutal.

Closed Sunday. No General Store or other "draw" cards may be played this round. Ugly image. This card lacks significant impact, as the chance of having "draw cards" this round are not very likely. Perhaps the card should be changed to include any cards that steal or discard cards from other players. That would make the card more impactful, but then it would be less thematically appropriate.

Mystery Tonic. During phase 1, each player draws a card. Red-suited cards gain 1 life point; black-suited cards lose 1 life point. This card is very impactful, and I think pretty neat. It is a little unclear whether Mystery Tonic entails each player showing the first card they draw on the turn, drawing an extra card on their turn, or "drawing!" I think it makes best sense for the "draw!"

Rustlers. All horse cards in play must be discarded. This card is vicious, but neat, and thematically appropriate. I might add the Hideout, even though it has little to do the theme. It just makes the effect cleaner in removing all increasing distance modifiers.

Train Robbers. All cards in play are discard. This card is just ridiculous. For one, it stomps on Rustlers, removing horses all over again and affecting all other cards in play in front of others. To help this card, perhaps the following could occur: All players flip the cards in play in front of them face down and shuffle them. The Sheriff selects 1 card at random from these cards to be discarded, and then the player to the left of the Sheriff selects 1 card at random from his card pile to be discarded. The remaining cards are flipped face up and immediately return to play. This would dull the edge from this card, but still make it very powerful.

Moonshine. All players regain 1 life point. Very clear and thematically consistent.

Bounty Hunter. During phase 1, each player must "draw" a Missed! card; if not, they must discard a BANG! and a Missed! card or lose 1 life point. Okay, so each player has a 82% chance of losing a life unless they have both a BANG! and a Missed! (which is very unlikely). I might change this card somewhat: During phase 1, each player must "draw!" Unless the "drawn!" card has a missed symbol on it, they must discard a BANG! and any other card or lose 1 life point. This effect is still vicious, but a little more forgiving.


O. K. Corral ends up being a very prophetic name, for this expansion is just that: OK.

While O. K. Corral adds some really neat event cards to the game, some cards such as Search Warrant and Train Robbers really kill it. A lot of the cards are not that clear, and require a lot of interpretive effort on part of the players. This review is evidence of that. The design, on the other hand, is decent. The green border on the cards echoes well the border of official BANG! event cards, and the Playbill font was a great alternative for the event cards font (which I still have been unable to determine). Many of the pictures are very good: they are thematically appropriate, although many lack the sketchy, cartoonish feel of the original BANG! cards. The biggest fault against the design is the inconsistent size of the text descriptions. Next, the theme for O. K. Corral is very strong, as the card descriptions fit their titles very well. I do have to strike the O. K. Corral expansion in the novelty area, as another event card deck really isn't something that different to add to the game. However, custom event card decks make great unofficial expansions, as their ease of production is so great.

Gameplay Enhancement: 3/5

Clarity: 2.5/5

Design: 3.5/5

Theme: 4.5/5

Novelty: 2/5

Ease of Production: 5/5

Download a zip of the O. K. Corral expansion here.

Italiano (tradotto da Superkaze): scarica ora.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Character Guide: Pat Brennan

Pat Brennan BANG! card game character

Character Name: Pat Brennan.

Inspired by: Pat Brennan, the rancher played by Randolph Scott in the western, The Tall T, who loses his horse during a bet and kills off the outlaw trio Billy Jack, Chink, and Frank Usher.

Life Points: 4.

Ability Type: Neutral.

Ability: "He may draw only one card in play in front of any one player." Admittedly, the explanation on the card for his ability is confusing. Fortunately, the rulebook explains, "during phase 1 of his turn, he may choose to draw the usual two cards from the deck, or, instead draw one card (and this one card only) from in play and add it to his hand. The card can be in front of any player, and can be either a blue-bordered card or a green-bordered card."

Activation: At his drawing phase.

Cards enhanced by Pat Brennan's ability: General Store, Panic, Cat Balou, Can Can, Brawl, Rag Time

Cards less powerful when played against Pat Brennan: Duel, Indians!, Volcanic, Jail

Cards more powerful when played against Pat Brennan: Duel, Indians!, Buffalo Rifle, Panic, Cat Balou, Can Can, and Brawl

Ideal role: Deputy

Characters that counter Pat Brennan well: Jesse Jones (Removing the cards from his hand when he uses his ability), Molly Stark (poses a strong defense simply with the cards in her hand), José Delgado (he can use his blue cards to draw cards instead when Pat Brennan is against him), Sean Mallory (he can keep the important blue/green cards in his hand until it is best for him to play them; especially useful with the Volcanic), Pedro Ramirez (if he can jail bang Pat Brennan it is devastating).

Characters that Pat Brennan counters well: Lucky Duke (stealing Lucky Duke's Barrel and being able to take away the Dynamite he plays spells game over for Lucky Duke), Suzy Lafayette (removing her Volcanic can really hurt her), Vulture Sam (Pat Brennan can steal the important cards in front of a dying player before Vulture Sam can get them), Paul Regret (he can easily steal the guns/mustangs/hideout/scope/binoculars necessary to destroy Paul Regret's distance control), Slab the Killer (he can remove the gun that extends Slab the Killer's range), Willy the Kid (he can remove the gun that extends Willy the Kid's range).

2-player value: Excellent; this is the time where Pat Brennan's ability to control distance is at its best. While he might have bad luck by getting targeted by cards without range, the chances are not high.

General Strategy as Pat Brennan: Pat Brennan is an excellent character for his ability to control the cards in play on the table (this is especially true when he has a card in his hand that allows him to discard or steal a card from in play in conjunction with his ability), but it takes a very skilled player to know when and when not to use his ability. It is always a temptation to use it and annoy another player. But this is problematic because Pat Brennan can hurt his own teammates and make many quick enemies. Furthermore, since Pat Brennan does not get to draw cards when he uses his ability, it can make him very vulnerable to attacks.

To counter this vulnerability, Pat Brennan should try to do 2 things: (1) Pat Brennan should strive for appropriate distance control. He should try to steal a Mustang with his ability and guns that make him reachable with BANG! cards and other ranged attack cards (Knife, Derringer, Punch). Getting a Mustang is particularly important as he does not want the card he just stole to be immediately stolen back by a player next to him! Green attack cards are less problematic, because he will always get 1 round to see if they are coming, and he may choose to steal a particularly dangerous or useful 1 when he sees it played (Derringer for instance) However, Pat Brennan will still be vulnerable to cards that hit all players (Indians!, Gatling, Howitzer) and cards lacking a range (Duel, Buffalo Rifle).

This is why Pat Brennan should (2) try to always have a BANG! and a Missed! in his hand (or a green card with a Missed! symbol in front of him: Iron Plate, Ten Gallon Hat, Sombrero, Bible). Unless there is a seriously volatile card in play (Volcanic, Pony Express), or one of his team mates has little life left, Pat Brennan should resist the urge to use his ability and draw cards from the deck instead. This way he is protected when unranged attacks or global attacks occur. Team mates and others can help him to get these cards when they play General Stores. When Duels are played against Pat Brennan, I generally suggest just taking the hit. It is better to lose 1 life point from a Duel, than to lose 2+ before Pat Brennan's turn if an Indians! follows.

Once Pat Brennan has some distance control and a BANG!/Missed combo, he can now use his ability more freely. I suggest as a next move grabbing some defensive cards, such as a green defensive card or a Barrel. This will help him if he loses cards from his combo in his hand. Then, Pat Brennan should grab useful offensive cards, whether from a Volcanic or green attack cards, and then pummel opponents whom he can reach, but they cannot reach him.

Of course, throughout this Pat Brennan needs to be aware of the other cards that players are putting down and their life points. He is an excellent teammate by removing deadly fire power or defenses from his team's opponents, removing pesky Dynamite, or in increasing/decreasing distance between players. But he shouldn't be a total team player too early on. One, Pat Breen needs to discover who his team is, and second he doesn't want to draw too much attention to himself. He should strive to get that defensive base described above, because many players will quickly recognize that they will need to eliminate Pat Brennan before they can move on to their other target. Better for them to see this after he has some defenses built up.

Playing against Pat Brennan: Few opponents are as irritating as Pat Brennan, especially when he is out of range. Pat Brennan can steal cards in play in front of players at any distance, something you can only do with 1 card in the game, Rag Time. Since Pat Brennan has so much power to influence the game, especially mid-late game, it is tempting to try to eliminate him right off of the bat. The difficulty is that Pat Brennan could be your team mate when he is not the Sheriff, and you don't want such a potentially helpful team mate gone from the game. And it is hard to give Pat Brennan just a slight poke to see if he will show whose side he is on. If you attack or steal/discard a card from him he may start thugging cards from just because you are looking like an enemy. And you can't blame him for stealing a really useful card you played when he doesn't know whose team you are on either (unless, of course, you are the Sheriff). You might be able to draw his role out by seeing how he responds to global attack cards and playing weaker blue cards like the Schofield and Remington in front of you. If he is going to steal one of those guns from you so antsily that should reveal something about who he believes/knows his team mates are. Of course, most of the other players are also going to be giving Pat Brennan pressure to reveal himself, so the job will not fall on your shoulders alone.

Hopefully, you will discover Pat Brennan's mission before he gains too strong a defensive base if he is your opponent. If you an Outlaw and he is the Deputy or Renegade, get used to the idea that you are almost definitely going to have to eliminate him before you can eliminate the Sheriff. Killing Pat Brennan should become the #1 priority on your list. Try to remove the defensive cards in play in front of him, and only play offensive blue/green cards when you maximize their utility. Thus, don't play a Volcanic if you have 0 or 1 BANG!, and/or you cannot even reach a desired target. Save it up in your hand until you gather more BANG! so you can use it at an opportune moment. Then it won't be as devastating when Pat Brennan steals it. Also, use cards that remove cards from Pat Brennan's hand, and be careful when playing General Stores as they will add cards to his hand. Since his ability keeps him from drawing cards, you can make Pat Brennan very open to attacks by depleting the cards in his hand. Of course, getting him in range of fire is also crucial, so remove his Mustang/Hideout.

If you are not lucky in being able to remove his distance modifiers, pummel him with Duel, Indians!, and other global/non-ranged attacks. Duel is almost bound to take a life point off of Pat Brennan. Cards such as these should temporarily neutralize Pat Brennan, as he will need a drawing phase or two to replenish the defensive cards that were in his hand. Jail is an especially useful card against Pat Brennan, as he can only use his ability during his drawing phase. The Jail has a 75% chance of neutralizing his ability. Pedro Ramirez may be your best friend in the world if he can jail bang Pat Brennan.

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Character Guide: Molly Stark

Molly Stark BANG! card game character

Character Name: Molly Stark.

Inspired by: Molly Stark Wood, the Wyoming school teacher in the western, The Virginian.

Life Points: 4.

Ability Type: Defensive.

Ability: "Each time she uses a card from her hand out of turn, she draws a card." The Dodge City rulebook adds that "using" equates to playing or voluntarily discarding (cards stolen or discarded from her are not considered voluntarily discarded). Thus, she draws cards for the BANG! voluntarily discarded during duels. However, the rulebook specifies that "If she discards a BANG! during a Duel, she does not draw her replacement cards until the end of the Duel, when she would draw one card for each BANG! she used during the Duel." Thus, her ability activates after resolving the action. This would apply to playing Missed! or Dodge to a BANG! fired at Molly Stark from Slab the Killer. She cannot play a Missed!, draw a card, and if it is a Missed! or Dodge, play it and then avoid Slab the Killer's attack. She must have two Missed! initially to avoid the attack, and then draws the cards afterwards.

Activation: When she voluntarily plays or discards a card during another player's turn.

Cards enhanced by Molly Stark's ability: Missed!, Dodge, BANG!, Beer, General Store

Cards less powerful when played against Molly Stark: Duel, Indians!, Volcanic, Jail

Cards more powerful when played against Molly Stark: Panic, Cat Balou, Brawl, Rag Time, and Can Can when selecting from her hand.

Ideal roles: Sheriff, Renegade (somewhat)

Characters that counter Molly Stark well: Jesse Jones, El Gringo

Characters that Molly Stark counters well: Belle Star, Pat Brennan.

2-player value: Good; drawing cards from Missed! cards and being able to draw cards from Duels is very valuable at this point in the game. Beer does lose its value here. While Molly could play a Beer as a last second Beer with it having no effect, it will do her no good because she can only draw a card if she has a life point to draw it.

General Strategy as Molly Stark: Molly Stark is a very defensive character, and so it can be very difficult to play her if you are an Outlaw or a Deputy. Molly Stark is nice to have at the beginning of the game when Indians! or Gatling are played and there was not time to build a hand. If she has a BANG!/Missed!/Dodge in her hand, Molly Stark can play one of these to not have her cards depleted before she gets a turn. Once she gets a turn, it is time to start building up a good hand. While it is true for all characters, Molly Stark should especially try to have a BANG!/Missed! combo in her hand, ready to play out of her turn so that she can draw more cards. This combo is even better if she has a Dodge instead of a Missed! because then she can draw 2 cards from playing it. General Stores are great ways of grabbing a needed BANG! and especially needed Missed!. Pay attention when other players use this card.

Duels do not end up being very useful cards for Molly Stark because it is almost always more beneficial for her to have the BANG! in her hand instead of depleting them. Of course, there are times when she cannot reach an opponent, Molly Stark has many BANG! in her hand, and her opponent has a big chance of taking a hit from the Duel. That is important to keep in mind, but it is a rare occasion.

Besides this, Molly Stark should try to get good blue and green cards in play in front of her to prepare for future battles. While distance control is important, one of the strange things about Molly Stark's ability is that its usefulness is increased when she has 1 opponent that can reach her. While she will still be able to play BANG!/Missed!/Dodge and draw cards for when global effect cards like Howitzer, Gatling, are played (or Duel), it is nice to be able to draw cards from ranged attack cards too. That is why being in range of 1 opponent is not necessarily a bad thing for Molly Stark, taking into consideration the cards that are in play on the table. If Molly Stark is able to get some good defensive green cards in front of her, then she can risk getting more offensive. Likely, though, as Molly Stark picks up cards from out of her turn and then draws on her draw phase, she will find that she has some excess cards. Molly Stark should use these offensive cards instead of discarding them!

As your life gets low, having a last second Beer is an especially great thing to have. You regain your last life point and you also get to draw a card. A pretty good bargain for that point in the game. If you can survive until 2-player, you have a decent shot at winning the game, as your responsive card-drawing will especially benefit you with 1 opponent here.

Playing against Molly Stark: The main thing to remember when playing against Molly Stark is to not Duel her unless you know she has no BANG! in her hand (she takes a hit from an Indians! for instance), she has 1 life point, or you absolutely need to take the risk. Molly Stark will be able to draw a card for each BANG! she discards at the end of the Duel. This will not deplete her cards as you might have hoped, and Molly Stark may even get the cards she needs to further her aims. While you will not need to be as cautious with Indians!, you should keep in mind that you are likely giving Molly Stark a card to draw in exchange for a discarded BANG!. Another card to be careful when playing is General Store, especially when there are many players in the game and Molly Stark is not at the end of the pickings. Chances are in these scenarios that Molly Stark will get to pick a card that she can play out of her turn.

While there are less Missed! and Dodge in the deck than BANG!, they apply to a wider variety of cards, and can help her greatly against attack cards. Even the edge of the Volcanic is somewhat blunted against Molly Stark. When she is attacked by a shot from a Volcanic, if she plays a Missed!/Dodge, then she immediately gets to draw 1/2 cards. Each shot from the Volcanic is seen as a self-contained event, so she does not have to wait until the end of the shots to draw her cards. This gives her the opportunity to pick up more Missed!/Dodge, Beer, etc. that can help her avoid shots from Volcanic during this turn and in the future.

So when playing a BANG!, attack card, Duel, or Indians! when Molly Stark is your target, it can be a good idea to steal or discard cards from her hand beforehand in hopes of grabbing a card that she can use to defend herself and then draw a card. If all else fails, a Dynamite can be a nice play against Molly Stark. Her stored up Missed!/Dodge will do her little good in this scenario, and it is highly unlikely that Molly Stark has enough Beer to survive the blast.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Death Mesa: Minor Changes and Updated Page

I slightly modified a few cards, rules, and explanations in the Death Mesa Guidebook, which I will explain below. Of most significance is a modification for the dead Renegade in terms of his ability to affect negations. For those who do not understand what I mean by negation, let me explain by quoting from the guidebook below:
When a ghost plays a card, it is not guaranteed that the card’s effect will occur because other ghosts can thwart their plans. The other ghosts may immediately discard cards that will negate this card’s effect. A negation occurs if the sum value of the discarded cards of other ghosts (who may only discard 1 card each) is greater than the value of the played card AND the discarded cards are of the opposite color of the played card. Thus, if a black card is played, red cards must be discarded if the black card is to be negated. Take the following scenario:

A ghost plays a Spook! on his turn against a living player. The value of the spook is a king of spades (worth 10). Two other ghosts do not want this card to be played, so they discard a “Curse” that is an 8 of diamonds and a Syphon that is a 7 of diamonds. The cumulative value of the discarded cards is 15, and since they are both red and are greater than 10 (the value of the Spook!), the Spook!’s effect is negated. All these cards are discarded.

To help prevent negation, a ghost who plays a card may discard cards from his hand to add to the played card’s value. Doing so will make the played card’s value equal to the sum of the cards’ (played card + discarded cards’) values, a much more difficult value to negate. These discarded cards do not need to be the same color as the played card to add to the played card’s value.

This is where it changes for the Renegade, a stipulation which I added to the updated guidebook:
There is a special consideration for the Renegade. When another dead player plays a card, the dead Renegade may play cards from his hand, of the same color as the card played by the ghost whose turn it is, to add to the played card’s value and help prevent its negation.

The dead Renegade now has a lot more sway than before as a ghost.

As for cards, I made changes or provided further explanations for the following cards:

The East Wind: This card originally read, "Select 2 living players. They must play 2 BANG! to sucessfully fire at each another until your next turn." Unfortunately, this card left a few things open: what about cards that are not BANG! but use BANG! symbols? And what about Duels? I changed the card now to read: "Select 2 living players. They must play 2 cards with bang symbols to successfully attack each another until your next turn. They choose which card occurs when playing 2." To address Duels, I added in the Guidebook: "Since the cards are required to have bang symbols, no Duels can be played amongst them."

Unfinished Business: This card originally read, "The last player you attacked while alive must “draw!” On reds, steal 1 card from his hand and add it to your “buried goods.” On blacks, he is the target of a BANG! If the player is already dead, choose another living player, which your role dictates you must kill, to 'draw!'" One problem with this description is it didn't address the scenario where the last attack you did before dying targetted multiple players (Indians!, Gatling, Howitzer). To include this scenario, the text now states: "If the player is already dead (or if the last attack you executed before your death targetted multiple players), choose another living player, which your role dictates you must kill, to 'draw!'" Like usually, "you must be able to deductively prove, based on the revealed roles and number of players, that this is a player that must be killed for you to achieve victory."

I have also updated the Death Mesa to include these changes and the full rules. Download the updated Death Mesa cards now.