Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Strategy: Possible for Outlaw to Openly Team Up with Sheriff?

While it seems incredibly unlikely, I was curious if it is possible for the Outlaw to openly solicit the help of the Sheriff. When would this happen? Perhaps when there are only 3 roles left: Outlaw, Sheriff, Renegade. The Renegade has full health and the Sheriff/Outlaw are down to 3/2 health. The Outlaw knows he could be teamed up on for the 3 card bonus. But perhaps he could convince the Sheriff that the Renegade is enough of a threat that he ought to help him lower the Renegade's health first. After all, no Beer works once there are only 2 players left. The issue is that it is not clear why once the Renegade's health was down that the Sheriff would not return to gunning the Outlaw (3 card bonus). And then the Outlaw would be wasting his ammo on the Renegade. So I don't think this would work. It could work as a 1 time juke move--convince the Sheriff to gang up, let the Sheriff take a turn against the Renegade and then turn on the Sheriff right away. That way you get 1 turn without the Sheriff gunning at you. Of course, don't expect it to work again. Can anyone else think of a situation where an Outlaw might team up with a Sheriff?

Monday, December 27, 2010

BANG! Crossplatform Video Game Now Available for $2-$6 depending on Platform

The new BANG! video game by Palzoun is now available for purchase: $6 for PC, $2 for Iphone/Ipod Touch, $3 for Ipad HD, and $5 for the Atom notebook. So far, it is available on the following platforms: PC, Ipod/Itouch, and the Samsung Bada. It is a pretty reasonable price for BANG!, so you might buy right now before any sale. A blog entry from Palzoun informs us that the multiplayer function of BANG! will not be available until January. Thus, current purchases will provide single player functionality solely.

If I find any reviews, I will be sure to post and comment on them. In the mean time, check out the cheesy live action trailer below:

There is also a Facebook album showing decent screenshots of the BANG! video game.

BANG! video game screenshot

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Alternate Gameplay: Order of Scenario Cards Known at the Beginning of the Game

For those who did not read my statement of purpose post, I mentioned an interesting gameplay variant with the scenario cards that I think is worth considering. I wrote:

Many of my friends and I do not enjoy the randomness of the global effect or "scenario" cards played at the beginning of each round in High Noon and a Fistful of Cards (Wild West Show cards are similar, but these scenarios do not occur at the beginning of a round for a round, but rather begin and end when certain cards are played). However, we still enjoy the idea of these scenario cards. Our solution is to pick the deck(s) we wish to play with at the beginning, shuffle this deck, and flip these cards over in a sequential order (with High Noon and Fistful of Cards being last in this order). At the beginning of the second round, the effects start to occur each round in this sequential order. When a card is used up, it is flipped face down to indicate that it has ended. This way players can prepare for future rounds, and yet still have variety added to BANG! with these cards.

This might be worth trying out if you are frustrated by the randomness of these decks too.

Alternate Gameplay: Varying Agendas for Renegade

Over at Board Game Geek, there was a post discussing how a Renegade could have a random goal assigned to him at the beginning of each game for him to accomplish. The brain child behind this idea described it thus:

At the start of the game a die is rolled to determine the objective of the renegade.

1 and 2-Normal renagade objective
3-be the first player to die if not roll for a new objective
4-bootlegger: try and get 3 beer cards in your hand
5-murderer: kill 3 players
6-Normal Renagade.

He specified also that the Renegade is not the person who rolled the die; it declares the objective for the Renegade and everyone knows that that is the Renegade's goal.

Some general comments: Why bring a dice role into the game? Just "draw!" and use the playing card values in the bottom left corner to determine his role, or the suits. Scraps the need for dice. Second, I don't think the alternate agenda will work for 2-3 player games; I would say it only counts for 4+. And how about these alternate agendas? I think we can universally agree that (3) is stupid. Be the first player to die? It is dumb for the game to end so soon if he does die, and since it is so easy to avoid (3) being the outcome, does the Renegade automatically lose if (3) is not accomplished? I would scrap it. In fact, many of these might have that problem. As a murderer, I have lost if other players have killed others over X (whatever my specified amount is); what is my incentive to keep playing? It might be helpful if I had 2 victory conditions instead (normal renegade conditions OR being a murderer), that way if the 1 condition becomes eliminated the Renegade can change to achieve the regular victory condition. The fact that he can always default back on this helps him serve as the buffer for the Sheriff like he should.

(4) is a little fascinating, but it will be brutal to accomplish this when all the other players know that that is the Renegade's goal. This probably should scale with different amounts of players, as chances of getting beer in 7-player are not high. You can imagine that in General Stores everyone will be grabbing to keep away the beer from the Renegade. On the flip side, he has a high chance of collecting beer when he plays the General Store. The game will probably last longer, giving him more time to collect on beers. I know I would be brutal on whoever collected the beer on a General Store. I would simply make that person my target, shooting at them until they used the Beer. Since I haven't play tested it, it may also be too easy of a win. It could be made much more difficult if he had to get the Beer, Whiskey, and Tequila cards.

(5) is interesting, but simply specifying 3 is not going to work. I would rather call this alternate condition "Headhunter" and say he has to personally eliminate a certain number of players depending on how many there are:
4-5 player: Kill 2 other players.
6-8 player: Kill 3 other players. You might put 4 for 8-player, but with too many other bullets whizzing around, I doubt he could do it.

It might be more interesting if the Renegade's alternative victory condition was not public. His alternative victory condition could be determined by the first card that he draws for the game: use its suit/value to specify that condition. Then part of the intrigue of the game could be discovering what that other condition is by seeing how he behaves. I would simplify the alternate conditions by having the first card draw's value determinations be:
2-7: Normal Renegade
8-10: Bootlegger (However best to determine this alternate role) + Normal Victory Condition
J-A: Headhunter + Normal Victory Condition.

I made 2-7 Normal because the higher value cards are more common in BANG, so a greater range had to be used to offset that. I think it is fun that you can be a Normal Renegade and yet have to convince other players that you do not have another conditions for winning. Or have 1 condition, and convince them that you have another. Anyway, I think this idea still needs a lot of work, but it has some potential.

The only thing that makes me laugh is that the Renegade is an interesting role already... this only increases his fun. What can we do with the Deputy to make him more interesting, and not have his role be revealed?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Strategy: Playing against Gary Looter

When playing against Gary Looter, it is important to discard as many cards as you can to get under your limit. One often overlooked rule to help you out with this is your ability to use Beer even when you are at full health. Although it doesn't add anything to your health, it keeps you from giving a Beer to Gary Looter! Here is what the BANG FAQ says:

Q16. Can I play a Beer if I am at full life points?
A. Yes: the Beer will simply have no effect at all.

Good thing to know. On the flipside, if you are on Gary Looter's team, you can support Gary Looter fantastically by discarding cards that will help him when you are over your limit. So discard a Beer for Gary Looter to draw the card so he can regain health. The Sheriff-Deputy combo here is ridiculously OP.

Strategy: Outlaw Suicide through Duels

Sometimes as an Outlaw, it is best to try to cash out and try to get the card bonus to your team mates. One great way to do this is to Duel another outlaw who has a BANG!. Initiate the duel against them, let them fire the BANG! back and then don't play any other cards. Take the hit, die, and give the card bonus to your team mate. I found this to be extremely helpful in a game when Bone Orchard made two Outlaws come back to life with 1 health each. Since there were no other roles dead, every other player knew we were outlaws and that there would be a card bonus for killing us again. So I dueled my fellow outlaw and let him kill me so that one of us might survive.

NOTE: Now that I have read the official BANG FAQ, I am not sure if this strategy is legal anymore. Read Question 23:

Q23. If an Outlaw plays a Duel and loses, does the player who won the Duel draw the 3 cards reward?
A. No. The reward goes to the player who played the card which was responsible of the elimination of the Outlaw. But since that card was played by the Outlaw himself, no one can gain the reward.

While this clears things up, it is still confusing. The card responsible for eliminating the Outlaw is not the duel, but the BANG! card that another player used to respond to the duel. After all, the other player did not have to play the BANG! If so, how was the Duel responsible for the death? It provided the opportunity, but that does not mean it was responsible for my death. I dispute this reading, and think it can be played either way (house rule at least). It does open up a new interesting strategy. You can duel anyone when you are at your last rope, not respond, and no one gets the card bonus. Thus, a duel suicide is still useful; you just can't help your buddy under the official rules. Though it may not be a rule, just a FAQ, as I think you can read it either way. Under their reading, Dynamite explosions should give you card bonuses too, as the player laid the card that was responsible for the elimination.

Production: Playing Card Stock

When you are making your own custom cards for BANG! it is important to consider the card stock you are printing on. You want your cards to general fit in with the original game cards and you want them to be durable, work well for shuffling, and be able to handle a good print job (the ink sticks to them and the paper doesn't jam). You can of course get your cards professionally made through a service. But most of us don't have that kind of money to throw down. As far as I can tell, the only real option is to print them yourself unless you have some buddy. Card stocks for printing that you can grab from Michael's, Office Depot/Office Max, Staples, and Hobby Lobby really don't do the trick. I visited all my local stores and was unimpressed. Even copy stores like Kinko's don't have that heavy of stocks for printing. I turned to looking online. You can probably purchase heavy stock yourself and make your own custom guides to cut them with. I went with playing cards from PlainCards.com, and bought their kit.

Their small kit comes with 18 sheets of playing cards, with 8 cards a sheet (144 total), and also a can of playing card coating, 2 plastic card boxes, and an edger. It cost $20.50+ shipping. A little pricey, but not terrible. Each of the card sheets is microperforated for where the cards are to be printed. So you can print the cards on a template to match the sheets. After the printing, the cards can be spray coated and then popped out. Edge the corners, and then you're done. Well, if only it was that simple. That would work in some games, but not BANG!. There are some complications with the PlainCards.com card sheets. For one, you can't get microperforated cards that are the same size as BANG! cards (the two available options are 2 3/8" x 3 1/2" or 2 1/2" x 3 1/2"). So this requires card trimming and corner rounding, as I have discussed in previous posts. It also makes you have to be real careful with resizing the card template you make for the cards, so that the graphics are centered after the trimming. Second, you have to use an inkjet printer to print on these sheets. I tried doing a laser printer at Kinko's, and while half came through, the other half jammed, smeared, or what-have-you-that-could-be-bad. Wasting card stock is a bad idea when it is pricey too. I was able to calibrate a home printer to do a great job, but remember that the ink adds a new cost. Kinko's would have been cheaper. Overall, the PlainCards.com card stock is really nice, and the coating is good to get. It just takes a lot of extra work to get the cards to be the right size and shape. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any easier options.

I read on some forum that EAI Education has some decent playing cards. Their cards are better sized at 2 1/4" x 3 1/2", but they will still require some trimming if they are to match the BANG! cards and get into card sleeves. They are also a cheaper option at $1.65 for 50 blank playing cards. However, there are some downsides. The EAI Education site requires you to spend $15.00 for an order, so you may have to purchase 500 cards from them to get a good rate. Of course, you may find some other items on there that you would like to purchase to offset this. Second, the cards do not come in sheets, but are precut. While this saves you the headache of punching out, it makes printing more difficult. One, your inkjet printer probably does not have two manual guides to keep the playing cards from slipping around. You may be able to tape it to something to keep it in place, but this clearly removes much of the benefit of having them precut. Second, from the image on their website, it isn't clear that the cards are meant to be printed on. Markers are shown all over them. This makes me wonder how well ink will stick to the cards, and what kind of finish they will have. I haven't yet bought these cards, but I may try them out. I just have my concerns. If anyone has tried these or other cards out for printing let me know. It might be best to just buy really good, heavy card stock on line and make your own from scratch. It will take time to make the goods and cut them out, but when you have to trim the other cards down anyway, is it really that big a deal? You will probably save money in the long run.

Strategy: Aggressive Renegade against Deputies

After concluding in a prior post that the Renegade that perma-covers as a Deputy is a bad strategy, I wanted to bring up a Renegade strategy that I like for games with 5-7 players. The strategy is to be very aggressive against the Deputy(ies) almost immediately. Watch for the Outlaws to gun the Sheriff and then a player to respond against them, or a player(s) who shoot at other players besides the Sheriff. Chances are this is your Deputy. Even if the game is overbalanced with Outlaws against the law (like in 6-player), shoot at the Deputy first. If he is a 4-health character, try to knock his health down to 2. A 3-health character, try to knock his health down to 2. Don't knock him too low or the outlaws might pop off the Deputy. However, on the whole the Outlaws are so focused on popping off the Sheriff that they will not waste firepower on the Deputy. The Deputy will have plenty of Missed! and Beers to use before you get him down, so don't worry too much. But you need to get him down some or the law can overpower you later on. The deputy might fire back at you, but he can't do too much or he won't be able to cover the Sheriff. In 5-player, it's not bad to pop off the Deputy right away unless the Sheriff is too weak and the Outlaws strong. Besides this, once the deputy's health is lowered sufficiently, then turn to weakening the outlaw team by killing one of their players. Immediately turn to knocking off or lowering the health on the Deputy again. You want it so that even if the Sheriff isn't completely weakened by the time all the other Outlaws are gone, finishing off the Deputy (if he isn't already) is no problem.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Production: Cutting Cards

Regardless of which cards/card stock you print your custom cards, it has always been the case for me that you will need to trim your cards some (which also required printing the cards off-center, so that when you cut the sides they become centered). Otherwise the cards will not be the same size as your other BANG! cards, nor will they fit in the same card sleeves. Using scissors is a bad idea, giving you some poor edges that will be easily identified as not belonging to the original game. I recommend using a paper cutter instead. It will have a ruler built in that will help you cut the cards at the same, consistent spot.

For this job, I recommend the Fiskars Premium Paper Trimmer 12". If you click on that link, prices range from $29-$41 for total price (shipping include). I think scrapbook.com's prices are almost always better. Another good bet is searching your mail for a Michael's, Robert's, or Hobby Lobby coupon. They usually have a coupon for 40-50% off any item of your choosing that is not on sale.

An even easier option might be to just on their website and find their local ad coupon and print it off (Links to this for Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Roberts). Grab/print this and go into your local store and buy the paper trimmer to save yourself some cash. Then go about cutting your cards to the right size (I'll get into more detail on this in the future). Then round the corners on the sides that have been trimmed (and other corners that need it), and then use an edger to smooth the edges.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Design: Srab's BANG! Card Generator

Srab at www.bang.cz has created a BANG! Card Generator.

BANG! card generator

Users simply pick the card color type they would like to use and then input a few bits of information:

1. A title for the card (no numbers or symbols allowed)
2. A title font size
3. The card's value (playing card value that is on the bottom left of the card)
4. The card's suit
5. The card's function (you select from amongst a variety of options that include attacks, defenses, range, distance enhancement, etc.)

Then you upload a JPG file (1:1 ratio) to go with the card. If you click "OK," Srab's generator will create a BANG card customized to your settings in Adobe PDF. The card's title is in the Perdido font that matches the card game's font, your uploaded image is centered in the right place, the card's function is centered underneath, and the appropriate colored border frames the card. A card is also created to the right that immediately gives the appropriate back side (for either characters or playing cards). Sounds great, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, there are some downsides to this generator. Some are aesthetic: the resolutions are poor so they don't make the most convincing print, the colors are off so they don't match others of their kind in the real game too well, and the suits and fonts used in the bottom left are not a good match either. Perhaps more problematic is the limited functionality of the cards. If you want to create a brown-bordered card that has two functions (like Dodge), this isn't an option. Your best better is to place the rules book symbol in the center and explain it to those who you are playing with. This is still irritating. Next, there is a printing issue. The front and back of the card is placed directly next to each other when produced, so there is no easy printing solution. They also have a black border surrounding each card. So you will have to cut and paste the produced images in the right areas to make sure that you can print off the front and align it so the back prints off correctly on it too. These collective faults make me applaud Srab for his efforts, but keep me from using his card generator. I'll stick to making my own templates in InDesign, Publisher, etc. and then inputing the pictures and information so that the colors are right, the fronts and backs aligned for printers, and all card functions are available. For those less serious about making close matching cards, however, this could still be a good option.

Strategy: Outlaw Shot Early on by Sheriff

Many aggressive Sheriffs will shoot on their first turn. They likely will not have a gun, so they will shoot either to their immediate left or right. Shooting the one to the immediate right can be devastating for that player. If they weren't dealt a card that allows them to avoid his attack, taking the hit summons all other players to shoot at him like a pack of bloodthirsty wolves. First blood is vicious. Even if you are the left player, getting shot at at the beginning of the game can be difficult as you haven't had times to build a good hand, and if you are an outlaw, neither have your team mates. How to deal with this situation?

I think one of the big things an Outlaw can do when he is shot so quickly is NOT to declare his role right away by shooting back at the Sheriff, but giving some time for his team mate(s) to prepare by shooting the player he is next to (or another player that is not the Sheriff who is in range). If you have a gun, it can be a good idea to shoot at a player that the Sheriff cannot reach, so that if you do shoot a team mate, they Sheriff cannot gang up on him. Why is this in general a good idea? The Sheriff knows that he has a Renegade/Deputies out there who he should not kill, and so by acting as they would to divert the Sheriff's suspicion (shooting other characters besides the Sheriff), the Sheriff could be convinced you are not a threat. This can work especially well if the Sheriff does not have a gun, since he will not be able to hit the player you shot at. Thus, even if you shot an ally, it is not as problematic as the Sheriff will not be joining arms with you yet. The aggressive Sheriff's only choices are then either to shoot the other player who is next to him, or wait for a gun. I think salvaging your life in the first round is very important for the Outlaws, so do what you can to convince the Sheriff he has made a mistake. This is crucial if your character is someone who packs fire power, like Slab or Willy.

Strategy: Dealing with a Renegade that Pretends to be Deputy

One of my friends has a strategy he always plays when he is Renegade, and I know many others employ this strategy too. I am, however, convinced that on the whole it is a failing strategy. I will describe its counter here. The general Renegade strategy that I will be portraying as poor is where the Renegade tries to completely mirror a Deputy (This, of course, only applies in 5+ player BANG!). In other words, they think of any possible move that a Deputy would do in their situation and they do it. They follow it through, if they survive, until all Outlaws are eliminated and then they shoot the real Deputy, claiming the whole time that they are the real Deputy. They hope to either get the Sheriff to kill off his own Deputy(ies), or knock off the Deputy(ies) and then go after the Sheriff. I think this is a poor strategy, whether there is 1 or 2 deputies or not. The deputies are unlikely to have low health as the Outlaws were likely directing their gunfire almost exclusively at the Sheriff. Of course, the Renegade would not have poor health either, but the issue is that the Sheriff can always play it safe. He can just weaken each of the characters down to 1 health and let them kill each other off and reveal who they are. With 2 deputies still around, the Renegade will most likely be gunned down in the crossfire. With 1, the Renegade may survive, but will become very weak in the process. The deputy still wins as long as the Sheriff lives, so it is not a big deal if he dies. With the Renegade down to one health, and getting no card bonus for killing the Deputy(ies), the higher health Sheriff is almost guaranteed to be able to finish him off. Hence, I don't think the complete pseudo-Deputy Renegade strategy works. He will have to gun at lawmen at sometime if he is going to win the game most of the time. If someone has some reason why this strategy should work, and can point at something I have neglected, please chime in.

I will discuss the Renegade strategy that I prefer soon.

Interview on Upcoming BANG! Video Game

The Koalition has an interview with the developers of the upcoming BANG! cross-platform video game for the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Atom Notebook, and PC. For those who read my previous post on the BANG! video game, I had some concerns about how the game would work with the different screen resolutions for 7-8 player. This interview answered this question, but maybe not to players' liking. Smaller devices will only be able to be involved in or initiate 5 player games. Although 5 player games are really fun, it is unfortunate that they will not be able to participate in the larger games. But for those of us, like myself, that don't care for these mini devices and stick with their laptops, this shouldn't be a problem. Apple users should find BANG! to be a nice addition to their selection of games.

BANG video game preview

The interview has a few interesting points worth looking at. One is that the developers claim that the computer game will make it is easier to know who you can shoot on your turn as the program puts an icon over those who are within shooting range (in the image above, it is the icon of the outline of a man in cross-hairs). They claim that the game has the benefit of crunching the numbers for you, so you don't have to figure out who you have to see. I admit that this makes it easier, but that doesn't mean I like it. I think a crucial part of the game is paying attention to what is on the table and making those computations. I know how I have lasted through difficult parts of some games because certain players didn't recognize that I was in range. The last thing I would want is for something to point this out for them! I don't see anything wrong with making humans do some grunt work to figure things out. Oh well. KBang doesn't have this problem, so if it urks you enough, go play that.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Alternate Gameplay: Killing Horses, Carcass Covers, and Blowing up Hideouts

The folks over at Dice Hate Me have posted some interesting house rules for BANG! (other house rules here). I will share a few that intrigued me here.

The first is the ability to shoot another person's horse directly with a BANG! Indirect attacks like Gatling or Indians! cannot target the horse. In response, the horse-riding player can try to avoid the attack in the usual ways (Missed!, Dodge, Barrel, etc.). If it gets hit, he loses the horse (no last second beer for your horse). I think this is fun, but I wouldn't allow you to directly target the horse at any distance. I think that only if the player is seen for one more distance beyond your reach then you can target his horse with a BANG!

Of course, there is the problem of horses being less useful with this house rule. There are some ways to remedy this. Perhaps the horse could have 2 health. The suggestion that the Dice Hate Me people give is for the horse to die, but it becomes transformed into a Barrel. Turn the Horse sideways and now you can hide behind its carcass! The dead horse can be panicked and discarded just as a Barrel would. If you already have a Barrel, the horse doesn't stack, but is discarded.

Their next idea is to allow Hideouts to be blown up. So the horses can be shot, and Hideouts can be destroyed with dynamite. If a player has dynamite in his hand, he can play at like a brown card on another player's Hideout to immediately destroy (discard) the Hideout. I don't know if I like that it is immediately discarded, as you can avoid the attacks with the horses. A good balance might be for the player to "draw!" If black, his Hideout is destroyed. Otherwise, it is fine.

In general, I like house rules that allow you to target cards that are in play in front of other players.

Alternate Gameplay: Renegade can become Sheriff

This is a recent idea that I have tossed on my mind that can change the gameplay for both the Renegade(s) and Deputies. The Renegade, if he wishes, can choose to kill the Sheriff before he kills off all the other players. If he personally is the one that kills the Sheriff, he becomes the new Sheriff, has the new health limit bonus and gains 1 health. His mission is of course to survive like the deceased sheriff's mission was. If he only damages the Sheriff and the Outlaws or something else like Dynamite kills the Sheriff, game over and the Outlaws win. So it is a very risky move on his part, but it can be a way for him to shift the balance of the game and do something different. Imagine if a Sheriff is getting blown away and he will not be able to fend off the outlaws before the Sheriff dies. He can now kill the Sheriff and resume this role, so the Outlaws don't immediately win. But he wouldn't want the Sheriff to be overwhelmed every time because if he did, then he has no Renegade of his own to back him, and so might get overpowered himself. Think of how stupid this would be on his part in a 4-player game. I think this is a fascinating change to the Renegade role. It might be worth specifying a certain amount of players that need to be killed before he can do this, but it could be good on its own too.

As for the deputies, I think there is two things that could happen here. One, they could have to defend the Renegade who has become the new Sheriff. I think a more interesting variant is that they were loyal to their old Sheriff and won't side with the new Sheriff. They become Renegades themselves! Now, they might have the opportunity to become the new Sheriff as well if they depose the prior Renegade, or it could be that only the original Renegade has the capacity. Anyway, I think this could be an interesting way to switch things up.

Storage: Card Sleeves

When you're done producing your cards, you will likely find out that your cards have a different feel than the others (if not also a visual difference in terms of some color outputs and gloss). You can help balance this out by sticking all of your cards in card sleeves. This also has the benefit of protecting your custom prints, keeping your cards clean, and helping them last longer.

When it comes to card sleeves, I recommend Mayday Gamers' Standard 2 1/4" X 3 1/2" sleeves. They fit BANG cards like a charm, and should work for your custom cards if you trimmed and rounded them correctly. The sleeves come in a 100 pack, and cost $2.25 on the Mayday site. As always, check Google shopping for the sleeves. When I checked both Fair Play Games and CCG Armory were selling them for $1.50 per 100 pack. I got mine for around that price at the local comic book store, so you might want to check there yourself and see if you can avoid shipping costs for something as small as this.

Shuffling with card sleeves is a little irritating, but you'll get the hang of it. Check out this video, which makes it seem a little worse than it really is (at least for me):

If anyone else knows of any better card sleeve options, feel free to post a comment here.

Production: Rounding Corners on Playing Cards

Since BANG! cards are a strange size (something like 3 13/32" X 2 7/32"; I can't remember off the top of my head, I will correct this later if I am wrong), you will almost always have to trim the custom card stock that you print on if they are precut, microperforated, or what-have-you. However, after you trim the sides of the cards the corners will no longer be rounded. You will have to make up for this yourself. I would strongly recommend against doing it by hand; you will not do a convincing job. I dropped by local stores like Michael's, Robert's Crafts, Hobbytown USA, and Hobby Lobby to find a corner rounder that was small enough for playing cards, but it was to no avail. The smallest thing you'll find is 1/4". I would suggest ordering online a small 1/8" corner rounder that matched the original cards decently well. I ordered the Paper Shapers small corner rounder and was very pleased with it. Here is a picture of it:

You can easily order this online, just check Google shopping for the corner rounder. The cheapest option right now prices total price (shipping include) at $6. That's very affordable. I am sure there are some other options, but this is the one I recommend.

Storage: Custom Tuck Boxes for Cards

As you mod BANG! by adding new character and game cards to the deck, you will soon find that your cards exceed the room in the BANG bullet. You may store the cards in bags, plastic boxes, or make your own custom tuck box. If you are interested in the latter, here is a cool link that provides a generator for tuck boxes. Here is a sample:

custom tuck box

There is another site that provides PDFs for tuck boxes exceeding 2 inches in thickness if the generator is not to your liking. Anyway, you will have to find some way to manage your excess cards.

Alternate Gameplay: "Loaded Gun" House Rule

Another house rule I have heard for the BANG! card game is to allow players to "load" their guns. This means that on any player's turn, that player can reveal a BANG! card from his hand and place it in front of him face up. The BANG! is now "loaded" into their gun. The BANG! cannot be used until the player's next turn, meaning it cannot be used for duels, Indians!, or for other cards or scenarios. This BANG! does not count for his card limit, nor can it be stolen or discarded by another player. However, at his next turn, the player can fire his loaded gun. This BANG! does not contribute to his 1 BANG! limit, allowing him to use 2 BANG! that turn (the loaded gun's BANG! and a BANG! from his hand).

Alternate Gameplay: "1st Turn Grace Period" House Rule

I heard of a house rule that I really like. It stipulates that players that kill another player before that player had 1 turn to play in the game (if Jail skipped a turn, this counts as that player not having had a turn to play yet) have to discard all their cards in hand and in play.

BANG! can be a long game and it is lame when you get destroyed first round. I know this has happened to me several times, and I think this house rule is a good solution.

Alternate Gameplay: Counter Rule

Eludiac has suggested adding a "Return fire" or "counter" rule. The idea is that each player can equip two gun cards. The first gun card is your primary range for shooting and the second for your counter range. When you are attacked, if the attacker is within the range of your counter weapon, you may "draw!" If the card's suit matches the suit of your weapon, then you fire a BANG! back at the player whom attacked you. To distinguish between the primary and counter weapons, he suggests placing the primary on top of the counter, so just the counter weapon's range shows.

Later, Eludiac suggests a different variant on this rule. If you play a Missed! that has the same suit as your 1 weapon, then you can counter your attacker. He feels this is simpler as it eliminates the two weapon equipment.

I think this is an interesting variant on the game. I actually made a custom card, "Evade," that allows you to not only avoid an attack, but also bang your attacker. Of course, Evade adds a Missed! to the counter, but it is a similar idea. Eludiac's variation allows you to enjoy the counter without having to add new cards to the deck. As for critiquing his rules, I think there is some problems with his suggestions. First, the suit conjunction. Missed! and Gun cards' suits actually don't align that well, and it looks like he forgot to check this component. I don't think this is going to work. I don't like the "draw!" suggestion either. Too many "draw!" can really eat up cards in the game and make John Pain OP if one is not careful. Especially when the "draw!" unnecessary.

Personally, I like the two gun idea, as it is annoying to just have to discard these cards. I would have your primary gun card to the left of your character card, and the counter card to the right of your character card to distinguish them. Instead of "draw!", or having a Missed! activate the counter, I would require them to discard a BANG! to counter. A Missed! would have to be played in addition to avoid the attack. This makes it useful to have two gun cards, and you can imagine cat balouing the counter gun before attacking a player. I don't think it makes the counter character OP, as he is still having to discard BANG! to counter. As for gun card replacement, you could or might not allow swapping of guns. On each player's turn you might allow them to rearrange their primary and counter gun cards until their next turn. Or you could make them locked in their places until you replace them with a gun card from your hand. I could see it going either way. Anyway, this could create some interesting game play, and I think it is worth considering. Thoughts?

BANG! Online Computer Game Site

Although an unofficial computer game version of BANG! has been released in the past (which is great despite a few bugs, and only containing the original game with no expansions), there is an official version being created by Palzoun that looks really cool. They have posted some trailers on their site. Here is their gameplay video:

Check out for more information at Palzoun's blog or at the official site.

From my initial look at the gameplay video, it looks graphically very nice, and seems to explain the game and its rules pretty well to newcomers. My concern is that the game looks abysmally slow. I don't want cards shaking in anticipation for a "draw!" or long graphical effects for Duels. Perhaps this can be customized, sort of like Hasbro's Star Wars Monopoly, so that you can cut it to the nuts and bolts if you want it to. I sure hope so because I won't be able to tolerate the long waits otherwise. KBang doesn't have this issue, and may be a much more enjoyable game than this official version if this continues. Besides this, players' cards seemed a little hard to see, even scrunched. I am curious how well you will be able to see things on an iPhone in a 7-player match. But we'll see how it turns out when it is released. Supposedly it is slated to come out this Christmas, but that looks doubtful as it is already December 12.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Statement of Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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